Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Hee hee. Last night I went to see The Datsuns at the Hifi. Hee hee. Me so happy. Of course they rocked, blah blah, we had a great pozzie, blah blah, cherished moments of close physical proximity, blah blah. All of which, though fabulous, nonetheless contributed to the sense I always get of being so near yet so far. You can see them, hear them, watch their faces and bodies, appreciate what they are doing, even get splattered with their sweat, but you'll never get to live a life like theirs. They've got something else. Brilliant events like rock gigs, or comedy shows, always leave me split. They thrill me. They give me definitive proof that, at least for a few hours, some people exist. And yet at the same time, such events make me more than usually aware that the lives of audiences and performers don't intersect. Thus for me, gigs reveal both the reason why the performers are part of my bubble, and also provide all that is needed to burst it. Temporarily. You see, whereas for much of the time you can fool yourself into thinking that you have world-class qualities, brushes with the real thing cannot but reveal the gaping chasm between your league and theirs. You live your life forgetting this, and after the gig you will forget it again, but when you are actually there, you can't escape the stark reality invading your world. Also, whenever I am in a crowd, like last night, I become more acutely aware than usual that my body isn't one that invites the random acts of interaction that are required to start something. This poses a problem for me, because, when I go to a gig, I'm usually carrying days and days worth of daydreams in which I somehow (and there are a variety of scenarios) fall into vibrant conversation with the people I have come to see play. These daydreams rely on random acts of interaction. However, as soon as I actually get there, it becomes clear that there is little chance of that happeneing to anybody, let alone to me. Even the cool people have no chance. And then there's me, who has less of a chance than the cool people, who themselves have no chance. This is the truth of rock gigs. Another truth is that The Datsuns rock.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Ohmygod. When I decided to finish today's daytime television run with ET, I wasn't expecting to be so majorly pissed off (even though I had been briefed by Elanor's post). I expected some crap about American Idol with their "special correspondent" Paula Abduul, or something about J.Lo's latest romantic trevail, but not a cover story about Laci Peterson's murder. This is, after all, Entertainment Tonight. So it's now explicit: in America, murder is entertainment. I guess it all started with OJ. But back in the day, when OJ ruled the airwaves, there was at least a (tenous) linkage between himself and entertainment, him being, after all, some kind of celebrity. But to have murdered unknowns leading entertainment bulletins across the U.S. is kinda freaky to say the least. Doesn't anyone in the States notice this?

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

I just saw something ridiculous on Entertainment Tonight. This is not necessarily aberrant, but it pissed me off. Mary Hart had a 'special exclusive interview' with O.J Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clarke. Why? I couldn't really tell. Apparently, because Marcia used to be a prosecutor, it is useful to interview her about what the prosecutors preparing a case against Scott Petersen might be thinking. Rubbish, right? The whole interview is thus purely speculative and pissweak, and more about its participants than its subject matter. It reminded me very much of a great episode of CNNNN last year, where, during Sandwichgate, a wife - who had nothing to do with the events - was interviewed about what might be going on in the head of the wife of the man involved in the car chase that was causing all the kerfuffle. You know, "As a wife myself, I think that this wife might be thinking..." It was hilarious. Mary Hart's interview was less hilarious, because, prig that she is, you could see that she actually felt like she was conducting a serious interview, even though what she was actually doing was talking to someone completely uninvolved in the story who, despite her high profile, was unable to render up to us any blazing insights. Having said all this, these two women were not the weirdest characters to pop up in a 4-minute ET story. Some weirdos actually bothered to stand outside the station where Scott Petersen was being booked, holding placards with witty little interpretations like "Scott is a MURDERER", and proudly declaring that they knew he did it all along. These are just members of the public. They are not even remotely involved. They have no connection to the families. And yet they don't find themselves strange for standing around in the dark next to a police station, waiting for a car to arrive so that they can tell its occupant that they don't like him. They are rabid and vicious and very pleased with themselves for being so. These are moral people. And yet, those with at least some connection to the case aren't behaving much better. The actual District Attorney prosecutor responsible for this case declared Scott's conviction was gonna be a 'slam dunk' before the guy had even been arraigned. These people are professionals, but they appear hard to separate from those outside the police station, who have decided themselves authorities on the case based on what has been reported to them. Also, much of the reporting has been more concerned with updating us on the state of current public opinion, and then going on to speculate what effect public sentiment might have on the case - where it is decided, jury selection, etc - rather than what the case against Scott actually is. Now, I don't know what the case is, either. I don't know who is guilty or innocent. But I think that it is important to consider that a conviction isn't good in itself. And that being able to to convict someone of a crime is no guarantee that you have done your job. That is all.
CLASSIC MELANIE GRIFFITH DIALOGUE FROM THE MOTION PICTURE WORKING GIRL #3: "No, I'm trying to make it better! I'm not gonna spend the rest of my life working my ass off and getting nowhere just because I followed rules that I had nothing to do with setting up, okay?!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

My god, Guy. You are an erudite little smarty man aren't you? Your war stuff is perfection. Truly. But now back to me. I have to apologise for going missing from the pages of this blog for the past week or more. It's just that I have been going to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, pretty much every night, and to multiple shows each night, since the festival began. I know that this has still left me with at least 20 hours in a day to come up with something to blog, but what can I say? I've been filling that time with other important pastimes, such as television, and reading, and concocting daydreams in which I am pretty and intelligent enough to be on friendly terms with the performers who are gracing our city at present. In my opinion, the Comedy Festival is the best reason to live in Melbourne. Granted, the friends and the family are pretty top-shelf too, not to mention the being born into a sort of okay (but not above reproach) society, and into the middle-class to boot, with its private schooling opportunities and disposable income for the buying of important things like CDs, lovely jackets, and yes, Comedy Festival tickets. Those are all valid reasons to be thankful for my life, but the festival is the keeper. Also, despite my middle-class credentials, I would like to state for the record that I earned every penny required to see the more than 30 shows that I've attended so far this festival, by sweating my vast guts out as a waitress (sure, it's only two nights per week, but hey, back off, you judgmental prick). Anyway, I'm going to now attempt to recall some highlights from the shows I've seen thus far. You are forewarned, though, that this is an exercise in futility. Any jokes recalled will most likely lose their flavour when reproduced in their written form, and there's a sizeable portion of 'you had to be there' which my paltry skills will not be able to overcome. Also, frankly, comedy shows seem to fly out of my head the moment I step out of the venue, even if the show has left me flushed and on a high, exalting at the excellence of humanity as a species, and having been elevated to an hyperventilating babbling ball, giddy with pleasure in the knowledge that some... people... exist... and... they... have... brains... that... do... things... good. Oh, the humanity. With the brains and the funny and the thoughts and the hee hee ha ha. By the way, I think I would be a terrible comedy reviewer. If the show was good I would probably write "Do you remember the thing with the...oh man...yeah...ha...snort...wow. And he was good looking". Actually, that last comment is prescient. Well...anyway, it allows me to segue. It seems that the only time my critical judgment is brought to bear on comedy is when it (my critical judgment) concerns itself with matters corporeal - rating the attractiveness of the performer, their choice of shoe, shirt, jeans type, the success or otherwise of their facial hair, etc. Same rules apply for women. Ba-doom ching. Oh I am so ashamed.

Comedy just seems too ethereal to me for me to articulate any understanding of the artistry or technique behind it. The closest I get to considering that aspect of the performance is to just get flabbergasted, a reaction which is followed by the obligatory "HOW DID YOU GET TO BE YOU? Gosh darnit some people are cool". Of course, these reactions are limited to the great shows, because while I don't understand how these people get to be so fucking marvellous and delightful beyond my expectations, I nonetheless think I can find my way to understanding the shit stuff. It sucks. The people doing it believe in themselves to their detriment. They are just like me, or anyone else, but with gumption. And gumption's laudable, to a point... and then it's not. Excellent logical progression, Elanor. Well done.

I think I am a discerning comedy patron, without being dismissive. I think I manage to express my approbation without being that annoying person in the audience whose laughter or self-righteous clapping is more about themselves than the performer. I don't think I am obnoxious or bothersome. I think I get the jokes that some others don't, and I don't fall for the cheap crap. I know I sound like an utter wank, but humour me. Just let me think I'm good at it, please. The only profession I am wholeheartedly committed to is consumption, and I really want to think that I bring a valuable work ethic and flair to it.

So, onto the shows. First night, we saw Noel Fielding. He is a sexy beast, in a fey kind of way. I love to watch him move. He has The Moon in his show. And a character with back-to-front ram's legs who plays referee when all the other woodland creatures are having an orgy, and then he plays another character who likes to sodomise people's shadows. The show is a celebration of childhood, obviously. And you may find, like I did, that the voice of The Moon sticks with you, so that if you happen to be showering late at night, and catch a glimpse of your reflection in the window when you have foaming body wash on your face, you might attempt a little homage. It could happen. Anyway, we're going back for a second perve at Noel on the last night of the festival.

Next we saw Arj Barker. I like Arj, but on this night he was a little disappointing, maybe because it was first night. His show seemed rough around the edges and even though this year it is called something something 'Barkside', or some such thing, he still referred to it during an exchange with an audience member as if it was still called 'A Spaced Odyssey', the title from two years ago. Maybe the name change was only cosmetic anyway, because I had heard a lot of the material previously. But his stuff on Louisiana sodomy law was great (again with the sodomy!). He was talking about the criminalisation of sodomy in Louisiana being justified by defining sodomy as a 'crime against nature', at which he scoffed, before proceeding to show how the phrase might more aptly apply to environment protection law-making. He did it funny, though. He has a way of yelling that is quite endearing, almost Homer-esque, but think more stoner. I guess you just had to be there.

Next we saw Ross Noble, who is always good value, and seems to be on a roll at the moment, having just come from a long tour in the U.K. It is always difficult to tell how much of his material is improvised and how much of it is stock on which he calls when circumstances allow it. Much of the show seemed to be sustained just from ideas he had come to from talking with some audience members, and it was inspired. I thought he overplayed the licking of the stage floor, but it is a minor quibble. I can't really remember many specifics, because the show pretty much follows how his brain associates ideas, rather than mine. I know it left a good impression on me though, and I remember laughing heartily, which capped off a pretty great opening night.

The next night, we saw Dave Hughes, who was better than last year, and Daniel Kitson, who was super fantastic. He has a great dexterity with words, a 'poet's soul' and a misanthrope's tastes, all of which, in him, sit perfectly. His has been one of my favourite shows of the festival. I just really like him and will revisit his show before the festival ends. Can't say fairer than that.

This is taking too long and I've only gotten to the second night of the festival. I might just opt out of the commentary now and provide a list of the shows that I think are top shit, in random order. Dave Gorman, despite the irritating girl in the row in front of me. Mike Wilmot made me laugh harder than anybody else so far, constantly and uncontrollably. A very good time. Glen Wool had a great hat on, and is the first real Canadian I have heard say 'aboot', settling a Degrassi-inspired concern. Boiling Point is such a well-observed take on the media, which also provides a delicious Rock Eistedford pisstake, a man-machine love story, and showcases the lameness of both parties in the Martin Bashir/Michael Jackson interview, which I rather liked. Even though the time travel story had a few holes in it, anything that shows up the final scene of Jerry Maguire makes me happy - its just a personal proclivity. The 4 Noels. Boothby Graffoe. Flight of the Conchords. This also counts as one of my favourites of the festival, and, happily, along with Mike Wilmot, it has deservingly been nominated for the Barry. Please let them win. Please. It is an excellent show and you leave the place just really, really, really liking these guys. Oh my my. I saw this show earlier tonight and I loved loved loved it. New Zealanders are so great, eh? These two just have an easy air about them and their folk/hip-hop parody songs and their gently brilliant interchanges between songs make you wonder how they can be so effortlessly, well, choice. They have a reserve and restraint that would be beyond me were I on a stage. They don't force anything, probably because the show is so well done that they don't need to. Also, they must know how good they are, but you wouldn't know it. The end of almost every song (and the cue for applause) is a self-deprecatory "End thet’s thet one. Thenks". Their Bowie was more Bowie than Bowie. Their bus driver song reminded me of my trip to New Zealand. Also, I'm a sucker for anything that uses schoolboy French in a clearly ironic attempt to seem vaguely sexual and sophisticated. To top it all off, they have created a brilliant new genre-hopping sound; Gangsta Folk. Come on. That's good. Lawrence Leung. Lawrence Mooney. His condensation of Freudian theory into one excited expression was a stunner - "Touch it mummy... touch it, touch it... Oh I did a poo". Also, his stuff about being a parent was excellent - "I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Kids shit themselves. They shit in their pants. That is just unacceptable". Sarah Kendall. Much more assured than last year. Very good. Oh, and more sodomy here. The Homeowners are Very Very Scary. This show is top shit. Hilarious. Really, really enjoyable. Another favourite. With sodomy only tastefully implied.

Some shows have been less enjoyable than others but there has only really been one stinker. Yianni in the USA. Leave it be. This week I still have $200 more shows to see, and I hope they are rip snorters. But just to recap, my favourites are Flight of the Conchords, The Homeowners are Very Very Scary, Boiling Point, Daniel Kitson, Mike Wilmot, Noel Fielding, and on and on until next year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Madonna, American Life

For as long as I can remember, the release of a new Madonna album has been an event of towering importance. You have the magazine covers, the television specials, the Oprah interview, the MTV premiere and the inevitable, although increasingly impotent, controversies. What underpins these media assaults (every two years like clockwork) is not just an album of new material. According to Vanity Fair, Who and Q, what each album signifies is a "new" Madonna: a new outlook; a new point of view; a new personal philosophy; religion; politics; hair colour - whatever. Considering she's "done" sex, racism, female empowerment, motherhood, Eastern spirituality and Argentinean politics, I guess her take on global politics was inevitable, and now, here it is. And considering her track record, maybe this is the new zeitgeist.

However, listening to American Life, you get the sense that La Ciccone's comfort zone remains tied firmly to the identity politics of the early nineties. I mean, how else could you explain statements (sermons?) such as, and I'm paraphrasing, "War to me is all about, like, you know, the craziness within all of us. War is inside us all, and for a country to declare war, it shows that, you know, we all have so many issues inside us that we have to sort out." Let me get this straight: the promise of world peace and geopolitical stability lies in yoga, analysis and macrobiotic diets? Hmmm. Something tells me this girl's stopped doing her own grocery shopping. Get real! Such vomit-worthy pseudo-psychology suggests that maybe this "new" Madonna aint that new after all. In fact, maybe her message is the same as it always has been: "until I learn to love myself, I was never ever lovin' anybody else".

Now, I like American Life. When I hear it (or even better still, watch it), I get that magic new Madonna single rush all through my bones. Its got a great hook, and I dig that Spanish guitar thing. I even don't mind the rap. I am even OK with the fact that she's incorporating "soy lattes" into song. But this is not enough. Madonna and I go way back. I swallowed down my shame and bought Erotica when I was eleven years old. I kept believing even after Evita. I toyed with the idea of Yoga and spirituality through the Ray of Light phase. I have been there for her so I expect a little more back. I want sentiment that doesn't make me queasy. I want boldness (so don't ban your own fucking video). I want politics that is not about pilates. But more than anything else, I want her to not give a damn like she used to. Say that Bush is a twat. Say that this war is wrong. Don't go hiding behind vague symbolism and mixed messages. I'm still gonna buy the album, and I'll still love it. I have to. But more than ever, I think she's a little bit of a loser, and that British respectability has gone to her head.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

CLASSIC MELANIE GRIFFITH DIALOGUE FROM THE MOTION PICTURE WORKING GIRL #2:"I figured that we'd look for a radio network, one with a real high profile. And with the surplus cash, we implement a major stock repurchase. So Trask is protected and their stock goes up, and everybody's happy...or not."

Friday, April 11, 2003

It seems that, reacting to the images of cheering Iraqis reclaiming the streets, the opinion pages have forgotten the dubious foundations underpinning the war. Predictably, the left are being pitted as selfish intellectual elites - willing to sacrifice a victimised Iraqi population to their theory, chatter and ideals. But success shouldn't cleanse this war of its tainted beginnings; opposition to it was never contingent upon the failure of this one (inevitably successful) war. It was based on, in addition to moral and ethical objections, the long-term consequences of a global power launching an illegal, unilateral invasion against another sovereign state. The consequences of this won't be revealed for a generation, and they will largely be shaped by the way in which the international community handles the most important aspect of the war, the rebuilding of Iraq and the creation of a legitimate democratic system. The danger is that, with success being declared so early on, post-war Iraq will be forgotten just as post-war Afghanistan was forgotten. A few congratulatory UN conferences later, and the world could rest easy that the Taliban had been dismantled, and that a prosperous democratic future was all but assured. Without heeding the warnings embedded within Afghanistan's continuing instability, the danger is that America, flush with another surgical military success, will move on to target its next rogue state before the true success or failure of its Iraqi invasion can be judged.

Meanwhile, the absurdity of Howard (implicitly) claiming victory should not be lost on anyone. Thus far, this operation has overwhelmingly failed to achieve the outcomes by which success, using Howard's own official parameters, should be judged. The weapons of mass destruction either did not exist, or have already found their way onto the black market. A humanitarian crisis is brewing. In terms of terrorism, the region is at present further destabilised, and anti-West sentiment at a peak. This willingness to judge success on military terms alone betrays, once more, that this is not an operation founded upon any one of Howard's stated aims. It is not about humanitarianism, nor is it about weapons of mass destruction. Howard's declaration of success as the Iraqi regime begins to crumble proves that it is the one, barely stated, aim that is the only true motivation for this war: regime-change.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

I too am irked by media self-congratulation. I was watching ACA (and why not?), and couldn't believe the questions Ray threw at their woman "on the ground", Jane Hansen (who I happen to think is one of the better TV journalists). Even though she was stationed across the border, enveloped by an entire phalanx of US military muscle, the entirety of the interview was devoted to Jane's experience, as a journalist in a perilous environment: "Are you safe?"; "Do you feel threatened?"; "Have you had to wear a gas mask?"; "How have the Iraqi people reacted to you?"; "We hope you make it home safe - you're doing a great job and are making us proud...". Effectively war becomes a device or a prop that can enhance the "real news" credibility of the reporters churning out this fluff, and the networks that are demanding it. This personality-first style of reporting, as a side-effect, inflates a sense of Western subjectivity while minimising the importance of the lived experience of those actually involved. We're not hearing about casualties, or people who've lost loved ones directly, but rather we're hearing about how these events make our reporters feel. That is not war reporting.
Something rather irked me the other day. But, before that, some background. On late-night television these days we are now treated to two of the American morning shows. Whereas we once only had the pleasure of Katie Couric on NBC Today, now, because 'we live in such troubled times', a second morning show is thought necessary. Channel Nine airs the ABC morning show Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer as part of its war coverage. Now, I love Katie Couric. For some reason she is one of the few American anchorpeople - along with Jim Lehrer and the retired Walter Kronkite - whose face I don't want to smash. But Diane Sawyer is another story. I find her false, mawkish, and without much of a drive to challenge or contextualise the conventional wisdom of the day. And in the brief minutes that I was watching Good Morning America the other night, Diane managed to vindicate my dislike.

You see, in the last few days, the morning shows have begun re-introducing entertainment content into their story line-ups. Thus Katie conducted a charming interview with Colin Farrell, and Good Morning America ran a piece about the making of J-Lo's new Flashdance inspired video clip. No complaints here. But when wrapping up the J-Lo piece before going into an ad break, Diane said something that I found really self-promoting and shitty. She said something to the effect of, "As I explained before, the guys on the frontline told me how much they love those kinds of stories. So guys, that one was for you. We hope you enjoyed it and we'll do our best to keep them coming. We're thinking of you". AARGH.

Her statement referenced her whistlestop visit to Kuwait to show how serious she was to have put herself in harm's way by being 'on the spot' for a few weeks - in which time she filed important stories showing her run to safety as chemical alert sirens sounded, and informatively detailing for the cameras the gear that she and all the 'fighting men and women' needed to put on in a short amount of time in order to prevent exposure. She had been there, man. Her concern was real. Puke, puke, puke. The sheer wrongness of it struck me violently. Airing the J-Lo story obviously had nothing to do with the will of the people fighting the war in Iraq. If they were pleased, it was a by-product rather than a raison d'etre. She needn't have used them to justify the gradual switch back to normal programming that is occurring on every channel. ABC could have just shown it, no apology required. But, because there is a war on, everything has to refer back to it. People can thus gleefully show that the war has effected them too. For some reason, that can't just be a given.

I was only just able to keep myself from screaming profanities - it was late, though, and I had to respect the fact that the rest of the house was sleeping. So, instead of raging, I became dejected. In the days since, I have come to realise that there was more to my reaction than simple annoyance at Diane. That instant may have been so intensely disagreeable for me because it provided a straw to break the camel's back. It was yet another unasked for proof that some people can get away with anything.

It seems that every time an event of significant magnitude occurs, it necessitates that the arts community pauses to evaluate itself, and having done so, to seem shamefaced for a little while because of its lack of seriousness - which everyone is then allowed to point out - in such a time of crisis. Thus, for some reason there was a chance that the Oscars might be cancelled because of the war. Then, when that was denied, it was somehow feasible that some stars wouldn't show up, because of the war. Some actually didn't show, go figure. Perhaps they too wanted to luxuriate in the glory of the war having an effect on them. Whatever. I found the whole Oscars, will it or won't it, thing very annoying. No other professional community has to justify itself to the world. No other professional community has to allow inane debates about the worth of its existence. This annoys me. Because I do think that there is one group that needs to be a little shamefaced about itself. Members of this group serve themselves without regard for the public. They exempt themselves from judgment while piling it onto others. And, when war breaks out, they are not pressured to doubt for one moment their own importance. They gain only strength from the fact of a crisis, without having to provide any aid and without necessarily any skills in the prevention or treatment of bad things. I like to call this group 'the proportion of those with a public voice who display the least amount of intellectual rigour'. They are an actual species, and you might have noticed that they are running the place.

It seems that those who have become successful in the media machine are precisely the ones who entered their profession - be it politics, journalism, writing etc. - without a sense that their position requires them to be questioning, skeptical, open, exacting, courageous, and yes, rigourous. Thus, with wall to wall coverage for the first few days of war, we were treated to an almost unbroken stream of correspondents talking about who they were with, where they were (nothing specific of course), what was going to happen (and what people thought of that), when it was going to happen (and what people thought of that), but rarely, why the hell there was a war on. Others, waiting back in the studio would oblige each scanty morsel with a 'Great reporting. Keep safe'. And then they would cross live to the official press conferences where little or no reference was made to blood or death, and where horrors, secrets and untruths were easily hidden behind the veil of 'operational matters'. And they all got away with it.

So, the Diane Sawyer Incident irked me. It irked me into realising that I am irked and have been for some time. And what am I irked about? I am irked that those who are feted as important, as fonts of integrity, and as the people to whom we must turn in order to make sense of a crisis, are little more than prating knaves. They are given the power to shape the public consciousness, and they misuse it. For some reason, they are allowed to forget that there is a social contract to which they need to adhere. Can't they just get over themselves and do their fucking jobs?

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Now the time has come for me to weigh in on the war. Because it is already upon us, I'm going to skip the part about America having done a crap job of making a case to support its action. I will only say that describing yourself and your actions as just and fair does not make you or them so.

What is uppermost in my mind at the moment is the folly of describing the attack on Iraq as an act of liberation. It seems ill-conceived. No, strike that. It seems ridiculous and stupid, and it appears to take as its central conceit the notion that people in Iraq cannot react to things that happen to them in the same way that we might imagine that we would, if placed in a similar situation - I say placed, I mean born. Granted, the people in Iraq were probably born in a different country to us, and perhaps this chance event could have shaped their thinking. Granted, every country has a different culture of what is acceptable. But none of this means that they don't take harm personally. So, I think liberation will feel like a crock.

Even if you could convince the people living in Iraq that you have entered their territory on a goodwill visit, the tanks and guns and missile launchers might make them doubt your word. Also, it would be hard enough to hear that a decision has been taken by a group that don't know you to put your life in peril. But how much more galling would it then be to hear that, according to that same group, the decision to place you in peril is a sound and serious one, deliberated by serious people, and made to secure your deliverance and the deliverance of your family and your society? But from what will they deliver you? From harm. And from bad people. And from people who are bad because they harm you.

I imagine that, upon hearing such an assertion, you would be scoffing in incredulity. And then you would look quizzically at the faces of the people around you. And then you would all look back to the television screen from whence the speaker was expounding the virtues of his plan. And then you would go into a state of shock.

The shock would arise almost immediately, as you came to understand three things; 1) the man was talking utter shit. He seemed to be telling everybody that events had conspired to reach this moment. He then proceeded to tell them that they already knew what events he was talking about, and then he told them that they all agreed that these events could mean what he said they meant, and so there was no need to go into detail because that would be a cumbersome waste of time. "WE KNOW", was his inclusive statement. And if you didn't know what he knew, then you were clearly not in the group…loser. And then he was saying that RIGHT NOW had become a moment in which there was nothing else to do but follow his plan, 2) the man didn't realise that he was talking utter shit. Nor did he realise that he sounded amateur, or that his attempts at expressing a serious countenance and tone would not, and could not, confer substance or consistency onto the words that were coming from his mouth, and 3) the people in the room with the man were not laughing.

All three points would combine to make you see that he was going to get away with it, and that irrespective of anything that might happen as a direct result of the words and actions of this man, he would never be brought low. His power enabled him to do this, and his power would also shield him from any real understanding of what it had enabled him to do. He would probably be aware of a vague notion, a list, or some numbers, but he would never have to confront the detail that only experience could assure. Power removes you from experience, even as it gives you a platform from which to launch experience onto countless multitudes. And my point today, boys and girls, is that the people who make up these multitudes – and who are only members of a multitude because powerful men have decided to launch a specific experience on them – tend to take things that effect them personally, rather... well... personally.

So all I'm saying is that what people experience personally during the war will shape their view of it. And so even if some great nation-building enterprise begins in Iraq and the standard of living is raised and everything is jolly nice, some may still prioritise the lost people over the advances that are generally occurring around them. Therefore, they might not think it was worth it. They might not feel grateful. While social advances and economics and culture all undeniably shape people's lives, the interaction between a person and their society does not often have the vigour of interactions between people. People mean something to other people. People constitute significant personalities and are not dispensable. And if they were obliterated in order to set you free, you might begin to hate your freedom. It's just a thought.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Agreeing that the insidious is the undeclared, I'll lay my cards on the table and admit that I can't stomache The Australian's Janet Albrechtsen. It's such an ingrained aversion that I now tend to disagree with her before I even glance at her column. Actually, to be honest, I read her column with the aim of finding disagreement. What irks me is the way she pits herself as being somehow honest or pure because she sits on the right; the implication being that all who sit on the left are blinded by PC and "languid moral relavitism".

So I'll admit that I've read into today's article, "Truth the loser in race to gag media"with the aim of being incensed and angered. In the end her contention only allowed me a state of mild discomfort. Her basic point is that we should learn from the wave of anti-war, anti-American protest this country has recently seen, and realise that free speech is a good thing, and then realise that political correctness is a bad thing, as it seeks to erode freedom of speech. It's a bit of a tenuous linkage to build, particularly when the right has been so adament that anti-war feeling should be censored so as not to "upset the troops" (very close to a form of conservative PC in my eyes).

It just seems like the right only starts harping on about protecting free speech when there's a racial context involved e.g.while we don't particularly like this anti-war nonsense, we must protect our ability to criticise racial minorities (or any minority for that matter) under the guise of preserving our freedoms. Fittingly, Albrechtsen goes on to talk about offending Australian Muslims; the NSW anti-discrimination board; criticisms of Aboriginal culture and in the end brands anti-hate laws as "paternalistic laws that tell ordinary Australians they are too racist, too sexist and too homophobic to be trusted to speak freely". It's interesting that these specific strands of public opinion have become the yardstick by which the health of free speech is judged; as if bigotry (not, for instance, discussion of our national military agenda) were the ultimate expression of democratic debate. I guess they technically have a point that is hard to argue with (if one couldn't criticise minorities, one wouldn't have freedom of speech), but I just worry about the true undercurrent of this kind of argument.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific, the right is quashing free speech through this ridiculous redefinition of what it means to be anti-American (of which the Dixie Chicks, oddly enough, have been one casualty). While I'm mixing cultures and political climates here (and no longer talking about Albrechtsen specifically), it does make you wonder what the right of free speech entails: racism, homophobia and sexism, but not the right to question the motivations and intentions behind a war that is, at the very least, being waged upon shaky legal and moral ground?

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

To break the ice, so to speak, I'm going to introduce a little recurring "column"; actually, more like a "top ten", but without any binding numerical limitations. This is designed to break the ice in the manner of small-talk at a party: it doesn't mean much, and shouldn't be taken to represent the tone of the following conversation, but it serves its purpose. Although if you know me, you'll realise that this piece of small talk is close to my heart...

CLASSIC MELANIE GRIFFITH DIALOGUE FROM THE MOTION PICTURE WORKING GIRL #1: [While trying on a dress] "No. It's simple, elegant, yet makes a statement. Says to people, confident, a risk taker, not afraid to be noticed. Then, you hit 'em with your smarts! Here, shoes, I need shoes..."
My name is Elanor and now I feel pretty weird. Even though disparate prattle is our aim, and even though we have deemed this blog a success by its very existence, I'm beginning to realise how completely this place is committed to the word and the idea of 'symposiasts'. The title is a big deal, and I'm wondering if this poses a problem. Is this word an annoying and insupportable oddity? I cannot be sure yet. All I can say is that this word is a teeterer, and is too new for me to have formed a considered judgment about its wank/wink proportions. I cannot declare absolutely on which side of that divide it errs. Nor can I have objectivity in the matter, because now, I am a symposiast. I am the blog and the blog is me. Previously, it would never have occurred to me to answer the question "How would you describe yourself?" with the reply, "Oh, that’s easy. I can reduce myself to one adjective (adjectives describe nouns right? And I am a noun?); I am a symposiast". It troubles me a little that, because of a whim yesterday, I could say exactly that. In all honesty, I could hardly stop myself from saying it now that the word is so immediately associated with myself. Seriously. And yet, the word doesn't hold great meaning for me. It has never been my title. I was an 'interlocutor' once, and I was certain that that would be the most extravagant meaningless title I would ever be saddled with. I say meaningless just because such words purport grandeur yet deliver only, well…ummm…a name for people who talk. And everybody talks. So, these are not exclusive titles. But still, we chose this one. It reflects on us.

Perhaps I’m only so focussed on symposiast at the moment because it is so new to me. I mean, I am certain that I have never heard this word, let alone used it or referred with it to myself. I am only guessing at the pronunciation. I certainly have never entertained the secret desire that someday, somehow, someone would look right into my soul and say, 'Elanor. I see the real you. It's incontrovertible. You are a symposiast. It is what you were made for. Go...go, and embrace your destiny'. Nope. I never yearned despairingly for that, nor gained sporadic bursts of strength and hope from any tiny scraps of evidence which could herald the coming of such moment of glorious revelation. No, not me. So, symposiast is a completely nebulous addition to my life, yet it seems like such a solid thing because there is no great store of other adjectives with which to divert myself from 'symposiast... symposiast... SYMPOSIAST'. It has the ring of a taunt.

But I digress. The reason I am posting this now is just to provide a little autobiographical information about myself, in order to reveal the perspective from which I will be forming the ill-conceived notions that may yet appear here. Blah blah, everything is subjective. Yeah yeah, the undeclared is the insidious. You know the disclaimer. Therefore, I humbly lay before you the roots by which the tree of my agenda gains succour. I live in Melbourne. I am twenty-one. I am a girl. I hope this information helps you to make an informed decision about the relative veracity of any of my statements, have you ever the need to weigh them against the opinions of others.