Saturday, January 24, 2009

Unplanned Pregnancy: 90210

You know how you groan inwardly when a character on a teen soap finds she's pregnant, and you await the awkward route to one of two conclusions - an accidental miscarriage or a decision to continue the pregnancy?

You know, how the closest anything ever got to abortion as a valid option was Julia Salinger on Party Of Five deciding to have an abortion, and even making an appointment for it. But wouldn't you know, on her way there she... tripped and fell down the stairs. (Note, New Zealand family planning doctor Margaret Sparrow has a few things to say about that being a particularly unreliable and dangerous method for ending pregnancy.)

Granted, there have been some teen abortions on TV. There was Degrassi's Heather or Erica - one of the twins had an abortion, I can't remember which. And she then faced a persecution campaign from fellow Degrassi students, mostly Liz I think. But, whatever, Degrassi was a teen issues drama rather than a soap. And, come on, it's Canadian. Also, Claire Fisher's abortion is not relevant to this discussion either. Six Feet Under was an adult drama.

So anyway, my point is, I take an interest in how teen soaps get from pregnancy to non-abortion. And the new 90210 just did it in the BEST. WAY. EVER.

There's a character, a student. A blood test reveals she's pregnant. There's a lot going on in her life, etc etc etc. Jennie Garth as guidance counsellor is 'there for her' in the "you should consider all your options, of course, but a lot of young women regret their decision to have an abortion" sense, and her best friend is 'there for her' in the "I think you should have an abortion" sense. So, all in all, not exactly how the Pregnancy Advisory Service would do it. I wasn't giving 90210 high marks at this point.

Anyway, the character is 'not dealing' with it - starts drinking a lot of coffee, driving all night etc. So, she nearly has a car accident, which leaves her pretty shaken up, alone in her car on the side of a coastal road. This proximity to death is decisive in some way, and she turns her car around having made, we presume, a Decision. I was rolling my eyes at this point, thinking, "Oh, I see where this is going."

BUT I REALLY DIDN'T. 'See where this is going', that is. Because, THIS is where it was going:
PREGNANT TEEN: Anyway, I was driving and driving, and somewhere around Big Sur I almost got killed.

FRIEND: What? What happened?

PREGNANT TEEN: A car accident, or this almost accident.

FRIEND: My god, are you okay?

PREGNANT TEEN: I pulled over, and suddenly it hit me, you know. Like, I have to take control of this situation. I have to make a choice. And I ended up going to this women's clinic that my hairdresser was talking about. I saw a doctor, and...

FRIEND: Did... did you...?

PREGNANT TEEN: I couldn't. I can't.

FRIEND: Honey, I understand. Honestly, I don't think I could either. I mean, it's one thing to talk about it but...

PREGNANT TEEN: No, I CAN'T. I'm too far along. It's not legal, it's not possible.

Abortion just isn't an option. Whether I like it or not, I'm having this baby.

Wait. You mean, abortion isn't simply a matter of choice? There are like, legal impediments to women exercising reproductive control? That, in fact, the decision can be entirely out of the woman's hands? Could this be the first no-choice-non-abortion in teen soap?

Touché, 90210. Touché.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yes, I watched the inauguration very early this morning

But before that, while waiting for the inauguration live feeds to begin transmitting on Australian television, I watched Oliver Stone's W. The best scene was that Iraq invasion staff meeting, with Colin Powell dissenting. The rest of the film was okay, sometimes good, sometimes not so much. So, 'patchy' is the verdict. Josh Brolin's George W performance was great. Thandie Newton's Condi was a poor caricature that took you out of the film. Also, I wasn't a fan of the dream sequences.

Anyway, we went with the CBS inauguration waiting-game on Channel 10, because of the Couric.

I loved the way she would gently but firmly puncture Andrew Card's hagiographic takes on Bush and Cheney. For example, she neatly broke in on a Cheney-praising session with, "But Andy, what about those who say he's shredded the Constitution?"

And later - my favourite bit - after Card was talking about how he's going to be flying with Bush to Dallas, and he thinks Bush'll look back on his presidency with pride, Katie charmingly wondered aloud, "Is the President as impervious to criticism as he seems?... Andy?"

I love that woman.

Anyway, to The Speech. I've watched it a few times now, and I like it more and more each time. Actually, I've come to think it's pretty great. For posterity, New Matilda has the text of the full speech.

Here are my favourite bits:
  • "the nagging fear that the next generation must lower its sights"
  • "that for far too long have strangled our politics"
  • "to choose our better history"
  • "men and women obscure in their labour"
  • "But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed."
  • "when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage"
  • "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works"
  • "to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."
  • "a nation cannot prosper long when it favours only the prosperous."
  • "As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, [pointed close-up shot of George W] a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."
  • "And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity" [NB: a great improvement on 'you are either with us, or you are with the terrorists']
  • "We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you." [NB: a great improvement on 'Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we']
  • "For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers." [he said non-believers!!!]
  • "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history"
  • "And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect."
  • "Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history."
Mmmm, love that quiet force of progress.

Anyway, Ellen Fitzpatrick on NewsHour has nicely arranged my thoughts and expressed them:

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Ellen, what about the speech? We've heard some comment about it already. How does it compare? You've studied other inaugural addresses.

ELLEN FITZPATRICK: I think it's actually -- I dissent a little bit, I think, from the sentiment that's shaping up and to say that I think it was an extraordinarily powerful speech.

And the pageantry and that element that Richard just mentioned was surely there, but embedded in it was a critique that we have strayed far from our founding. He asked us to choose our better history, and it was an unvarnished view of American history that he offered.

There was that phrase, "We have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, but we've triumphed over these tragedies and the hatred of our past."

And so, in that sense, he was seizing the historic occasion of his inauguration and using it as a way to call Americans back to their origins. And there was a critique here of where we've been.

He said, "We don't have to choose between our safety and our ideals." That, to me, was a reference to the abrogation, or so he would argue, I would say, from those ideals through the war on terror. So it was a very powerful cry to remake America by drawing on our fundamental historical values.

Also, I think it's the NewsHour's fault that I liked "Praise Song for the Day", the poem written for the occasion and read by Elizabeth Alexander. See, because of the NewsHour's Poetry Foundation endowment, and the poet profiles that go with it, I've been exposed to that similar way established American poets seem to read their stuff. It usually irritates me, as it did when Alexander began to read her inauguration poem. But I now realise that these NewsHour poet profiles, which I usually roll my eyes at, have corroded my intolerance somehow. Because as she kept reading, my harder feelings relented and relented and at about half-way through the poem, I was won over. Damn that NewsHour poetry endowment!

Then the inaugural benediction by Rev. Joseph Lowery - again, my feelings about him were framed by the NewsHour. He was on the day before the inauguration in a round-table discussion with Gwen Ifill, and he struck me as a very nice man. Oh, also a civil rights leader.

These were the bits I liked from his benediction:
  • "deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favouritism toward the rich, the elite of these."
  • "to turn to each other and not on each other."
And, of course, his closing. What an adorable hippie:
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- (laughter) -- when yellow will be mellow -- (laughter) -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- (laughter) -- and when white will embrace what is right.

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.


REV. LOWERY: Say amen --


REV. LOWERY: -- and amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)

I was actually tempted to say 'Amen' myself, in the 'here here' sense. But I restrained myself to grinning.

Anyway, if you missed the inauguration, I commend to you the NewsHour coverage of it: Ray Suarez's summary, Gwen Ifill's report, the evaluation and analysis.

Did I mention that I like to watch the NewsHour?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bush Breakfast

3CR Tuesday Breakfast Show 20 January 2009
As today in America it’s still the 19th of January, which means it's George W. Bush’s last day in office as President of the United States, this morning we marked the occasion by getting perspectives on Bush’s legacy, and what opportunities for 'hope and change' Obama might bring in the wake of it.
  • I spoke to Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now! and most recently co-author of Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times. She's in Washington DC for the inauguration festivities, and spoke about the role of independent media in the Bush years.
  • I spoke to Dr Paul Sendziuk, who teaches history at the University of Adelaide and was a visiting scholar at New York University and Columbia University last year. He's the author of Learning to Trust: Australian Responses to AIDS, and in this article in Dissent Magazine last year, he laid out why the $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - where the bulk of funding goes to abstinence-until-marriage programs - probably shouldn't be considered a positive Bush legacy. Preventing HIV transmission by 'educating' people to distrust condoms? Not so awesome, it turns out.
  • Rachel spoke to Jessica Morrison, Australian Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. She spoke about Bush's eight years of inaction on nuclear disarmament and looked ahead to what Obama's commitment might be to ridding the world of the threat posed by 27,000 nuclear weapons.
  • I spoke to Michael Otterman, a visiting scholar at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, and author of American Torture: From the Cold War to Abu Ghraib and Beyond and the forthcoming Collateral Carnage: The Human Cost of the War in Iraq.

LISTENING Tuesday January 13-Tuesday January 20. says this week was spent in the company of:
Asobi Seksu, Hush
Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion and People EP and Prospect Hummer EP and Strawberry Jam and Sung Tongs and Water Curses EP
Coconut Records, Davy
Tim Hecker, An Imaginary Country
Vetiver, Tight Knit
Rockabye Baby!, Lullaby Renditions of Nirvana and Lullaby Renditions of Björk and Lullaby Renditions of Radiohead
Radiohead, In Rainbows
The Triffids, Australian Melodrama
Tactics, The Sound of the Sound Vol 1
Fulton Lights, The Way We Ride
Bachelorette, The End Of Things and Isolation Loops
and some Democracy Now!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Still boy-crazy

Yes, I am reading The Audacity Of Hope and yes, I love him more and more as each paragraph goes by. STOP JUDGING ME. Thankfully, Andrew Rawnsley is in my corner in this article from the Guardian's Comment Is Free, expressing, basically, that he is also heartily jack of "those who want to get their disillusion in first." He concludes with:
To assume that he must fail before he has even tried is to surrender to an utterly barren pessimism. Better the audacity of hope than the timidity of cynicism. And I bet his inaugural speech is going to be just great.
Thank you. I needed that... No, you're right, I probably didn't. But still.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Week Two, 2009

Thursday January 8

Was spending the evening adjusting the subtitles on my recently acquired Gomorrah so they actually matched up with people speaking, when I got a call from Bec offering spare tickets to that night's Bill Callahan gig at the Thornbury Theatre. YES PLEASE. So we went. I missed the support, The Middle East, but was entertained by an impromptu time-filling Henry Wagons performance. Then Bill Callahan came to the stage with Jim White and Mick Turner. I had really been looking forward to seeing Bill's hair again, but it had changed. It was halfway to shoulder-length. And he was bearded. And his shirt wasn't tucked in like I was used to. And he didn't have excellent shoes on. Rather, his feet were bare. I noted all of this, you see. And then didn't really think about it, because he was on stage AND performing with the cool ones from Dirty Three. So I was transfixed by things like Bathysphere, etc. But at certain other moments I caught myself thinking, "You look like a man who was broken up with by his girlfriend 3 months ago, or something. Consequently, I am reading sadness into everything you do." I have no idea if he has recently had a heart-rending break, but it's the impression I got. And this impression informed my other responses on the night. Let's catalogue some of them: 1) I respected that he didn't talk a lot, and that he only brought the legs out in a subdued fashion, which still made me smile. 2) I felt protective when that guy leaned over the bannister after Truth Serum and informed Bill, "Just so you know, that song was really boring." 3) I respected Bill's silence in response to that.

Friday January 9
I watched The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke's face was perfect for it. Evan Rachel Wood's inability to bring nuance to her same-old was not.

I also watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I liked Vicky the most, as I believe I was directed to. I also liked the words people used when they spoke to one another.

Saturday January 10
Watched the Brideshead Revisited film from last year, with Matthew Goode as Ryder. I felt suitably prepared for it - although I read the book quite a few years ago and it's a little hazy now, I had recently spent a bunch of Sunday nights watching the Granada series on ABC2. I had also read quite a lot of negative reviews about the film adaptation. But we'll get to that later. What I remembered from the book is that I liked Charles Ryder - yes, in formal company he is necessarily a little blank and polite, becoming gradually more comfortable and expressive as time goes on, but we were in his mind so we have some sense of him, even early on. What struck me about the Granada series is that it didn't display this, so we are left with very little grounds on which to understand Sebastian's particular attachment to him. Why would he like Jeremy Irons' silent lunch guest so particularly and from the outset, especially when our feelings are there to be won by Nickolas Grace's Anthony Blanche - he who is so entertaining/precise/bold and the slights against him so unheeded by others. So, what I liked about the film was that I could like Charles Ryder again, and could see why others did too. I concede there might have been a bit of cheating in this.

CHEAT #1: In the Granada series, Ryder just leaves Sebastian's vomit on his floor overnight and wakes to find Lunt, his Oxford-appointed servant, cleaning it up. He left vomit on the floor of his room overnight! Who does that? AND, who leaves it for someone else to clean up? (Sidenote: when we expressed these questions as a family watching the series, we realised that my brother Simon had done precisely that. Coming home one night and vomiting into the bathroom sink. And then JUST GOING TO BED AND LEAVING IT THERE. For me to wake up to in the morning. It took the combined efforts of my father and me to scrape, wipe and unblock. Oh, how we laughed at the memory.) Anyway, my point is, the film cheats on this point a little. Yes, Ryder leaves the vomit on the floor of his room all night (again, who does that?) but in this version wakes in the morning to clean it up himself. Good boy. But then, wouldn't you know, Lunt walks in and says, "No no sir, that's my job." It's still troubling, yes. But at least in the film there was some discussion demarcating the roles of Sir and servant, whereas in the TV series you got the feeling that Ryder blithely assumed what the extent of Lunt's duties were, and Lunt didn't really get to correct him on any of it. A minor point to focus on, maybe, but it really was an obstruction to liking Ryder early in the TV series, and one which the film version awkwardly stepped around.

CHEAT #2: There are no children in Charles Ryder's marriage to Celia. In the TV series, he seemed like such a shit to go away for two years and have no wish to see his children at all on his return. Not having children in the film version means you don't despise his callousness in leaving to paint and then leaving the marriage for Julia. Which I suppose is a cheat. But I think the film tried to even out this cheat by not mentioning Celia's adultery at all, so we weren't invited to blame her either.

CHEAT #3: The film rather dimmed the excellence of Anthony Blanche. As a real and substantial person, he wasn't there in the same way. I was glad the film retained his pointed criticism of Ryder's jungle paintings, "simple creamy English charm playing tigers", but it didn't deliver the same wallop as when the words issued forth from the Anthony Blanche brought alive to us by Nickolas Grace. He was just a copy. I think even the early blankness of Jeremy Irons' Ryder could have stacked up well against him.

What's not a cheat, however, is that the film manages to convey why Charles Ryder is worth spending time with. It translates that internal access we have to him in the book into words and behaviour that are apparent to others around him at the time. Yes, I grant that Jeremy Irons' narration explains the internals to us, I just think we still needed to see a basis for others connecting to him. The film does this well, I think. For example, I decided I liked Matthew Goode's Ryder when he actually said something at that initial lunch with the plovers' eggs. It had a different impact to watching Jeremy Irons eat lunch and say nothing of consequence, while his future self talked over the scene. Do you get me.

Oh, I have not said my main point yet, and it is this; I really liked this film. I don't know why people didn't like it. I want it to be praised, not derided. Because I think it did really well... Actually, more. I think it succeeded. There was a piercing clarity to the sadness that I had not expected considering the time constraints. Yes, there are some shortcomings, and I will name them now:
  • Aloysius not consulted nearly enough
  • Ryder's father not as hilarious as John Gielgud
  • the aforementioned Anthony Blanche problem
But otherwise I support the film entirely. One thing I thought would be a problem for me is the number of instances where people say to Ryder that all he wants is to possess Brideshead. Because I don't think that's true, I thought I would have a problem with this implication. But I found that actually, this was not a concrete implication made by the film. People are wrong if they think the film paints Ryder as heartlessly acquisitive. See, when things like that were said to or about him, they were presented as people's suspicions. So they were a question about him, rather than an answer, and one that we get to decide - or not decide - ourselves. I like that he himself is not sure. I think he's lovely.

Another concern I've heard expressed is, does the film quash the queer by showing Ryder's attraction to Julia early? I don't think so. It does bring it on early, yes. But I think the film shows the same amount of queer - actually, slightly more - as the TV series did. There was always something undecideable about whether the romantic friendship between Sebastian and Ryder was carnal or not. Both the TV series and the film display an ease with male affection, but what the film does - which the TV series never did - is have a scene where Sebastian kisses Ryder with something more than platonic intent. The kiss is not shown as unwelcome, but as a sign of anything more, it's still undecideable. So I don't think the queer was quashed. There was just more history provided to the - yes, carnal - relationship that later develops between Ryder and Julia.

Another criticism I've heard expressed is that Emma Thompson's Lady Marchmain is inaccurate. I can't really remember what she was like in the book, but in the TV series Lady Marchmain presented with very little force - I couldn't really see her shaping anybody's debilitating guilt. There is more force to the Emma Thompson version. It appears people object to this - I don't, because there's also more despair. I preferred it.

My final point: the last scene in the chapel is entirely PERFECT. Just EXACTLY. So, there you are.

Later that evening I went to the Napier to farewell my friend Camille and her boyfriend Ben, who are going to Berlin for a year on ostalgie-related PhD business. I'm still not really sure what a year's absence from Camille will feel like. Unless a psychological extrapolation can be drawn from the fact that I burnt her many many DVDs of many many TV shows and films that if watched will amount to hours and hours and hours of her time in Berlin, as if to make a passive-aggressive claim that my absence in her life had better be thiiiis big... But, Guy is the one studying psychology. Anyway, as I couldn't consciously conceive of what a year without Camille might be like, I didn't really try. I spent more thought on what a year without Ben would be like. And I discovered that I felt it as a loss. Because Ben submits to me seeking him out at parties to talk about music and politics somewhat, and is polite enough to engage with me at my level. I realise I have never even considered whether he minds or enjoys these exchanges, only that I do. And I will miss the opportunity to heedlessly impose myself like that.

Sunday January 11
For some reson, I bought tickets to the Black Keys/Gomez/Dr. Dog concert at the Palais. I can't remember why I did it. I think it was to make up for missing Dr. Dog last time. But still, a weird choice. Oh, maybe it was also because of that pretty hilarious interview the Black Keys gave last year on RRR's Breaking and Entering, where there was a discussion of Los Angeles as an addling place where people who should know better start to think things that aren't anything at all are actually a good idea, the main punchline I remember fondly being the Black Keys drummer telling host Simon, "Your mind is too open!" But otherwise, I can't really explain the impulse to buy tickets. I like the Black Keys fine, but I saw them enough a few years ago. Anyway, we went. If the aim was to see Dr. Dog, well, we only saw three songs. There was no aim associated with Gomez, but good lord, I found that I hate them. And the Black Keys live were as great as ever - giant inflatable dream-catcher aside. But being there just wasn't necessary. Oh well.

LISTENING Tuesday January 6-Tuesday January 13. says this week was spent in the company of:
Faux Pas, Inquiet "Rose Rose" remix versions 1-4 and Waterfalls EP
NPR Fresh Air, featuring Seth Rogan, Josh Brolin, Steve Martin, Carbon/Silicon, R.E.M., Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson
Smog, Dongs Of Sevotion and A River Ain't Too Much Love and Rain On Lens
Steve Martin, A Wild And Crazy Guy
Silver Apples, Silver Apples/Contact
Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby
Handsome Furs, Face Control
Tenniscoats, Tan-Tan Therapy

3CR Tuesday Breakfast Show 13 January 2009
  • I spoke to Jeff Sparrow, editor of Overland magazine, about the hoax on Keith Windschuttle and Quadrant. I wanted Jeff to help me value the hoax in a way that reflected well on me as a person. He did, thoughtfully and with substance.
  • I spoke to Damien Moyse, Energy and Water Advocate at the Alternative Technology Association, for the ATA monthly update. Today we discussed the Federal Government's decision to scrap the $8000 solar rebate scheme by the middle of this year, replacing it with an alternative solar credit incentive scheme. Damien talked about how some aspects of the plan might lead to the production of less renewable energy.
  • Lucy spoke to Damien Kingsbury, from Deakin University's School of International Studies, about the current escalations in government military action by Israel in Gaza and by the Sri Lankan government in the Tamil region, and how people's understanding of resistance movements and the scale of the violence is obscured by the framework of terrorism.
  • Lucy spoke to Ula Majewski from Still Wild Still Threatened, about the police action the day before against community forest protesters in the Florentine Valley in Tasmania, and the ongoing blockading actions to stop logging in Tasmania's old-growth forests.
Sly Hats - Windy Harmony - Liquorice Night
The Tokey Tones - Summerwind - Butterfly
Electrelane - The Valleys - The Power Out

That afternoon I went to see Slumdog Millionaire. People have collapsed telling me how much they loved it, but I have to admit, I didn't so much.

Wednesday January 14
I watched the NewsHour coverage of Hillary Clinton's confirmation testimony.

Some background to my lens on this: when Obama was announcing his selections, I clamped on to this article in Time to bolster my hope that his choices were not necessarily a bad thing. Especially this bit:
It's precisely because Obama intends to pursue a genuinely progressive foreign policy that he's surrounding himself with people who can guard his right flank at home. When George W. Bush wanted to sell the Iraq war, he trotted out Colin Powell--because Powell was nobody's idea of a hawk. Now Obama may be preparing to do the reverse. To give himself cover for a withdrawal from Iraq and a diplomatic push with Iran, he's surrounding himself with people like Gates, Clinton and Jones, who can't be lampooned as doves.
It could be true! You don't know everything! But still, when he announced Hillary, I was a little "hmmm" about it. Because I think Obama could be great if he combines how really really nice he is with some courage. And on international issues, there'll need to be courage to break out of the box, thinking-wise. And Hillary strikes me as someone firmly inside the box. (I realise it's unfair to only focus negatively on her, but I really have no idea about the Generals and so forth who are other Obama appointees.) But still, her confirmation testimony didn't inspire confidence. I'm so glad that the NewsHour had Phyllis Bennis on to better articulate my feelings:
GWEN IFILL: So, Phyllis Bennis, what did we learn today from Hillary Clinton at this hearing about what kind of secretary of state she would be?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, I think, Gwen, that we learned that her stated commitment to making diplomacy the vanguard of foreign policy is a very important commitment, but it's one that is already somewhat undermined by specifics that she gave, for example, the idea of not talking to Hamas until certain criteria that externally are met.

At a moment of crisis, you need to talk to both sides. She said that we are not giving up on peace in the Middle East. But it seems to me that you are giving up on peace if you refuse to talk to both sides. It means you're even giving up on a cease-fire.

So, I think that was a bit problematic. She also said very little about the fundamental point that president-elect Obama had made such a stirring commitment to during his campaign, which was this idea that we need to change the mind-set that led to war.

He was very clear about that, and it was, in my view, one of the key reasons that his support grew so exponentially, that it wasn't only about ending the war in Iraq. It was also about changing the mind-set.

And it seems to me that Hillary Clinton, as we heard today, is not representing change. She's representing that same mind-set that leads to war, despite some words that indicate to the contrary.

Also, this bit:

GWEN IFILL: Phyllis Bennis, that hearing today went on for four or five hours. And that answer that you just referred to that she made about Hamas and Gaza was basically the only time the subject came up. Were you surprised at that?

PHYLLIS BENNIS: I was. I think that there -- we really learned very little detail about new policy ideas.

But that's particularly disturbing when you have this extraordinary crisis in Gaza right now. The -- the deaths of Palestinians is now over 950, more than 300 -- 3,500 injured. Thirteen Israelis, almost all of them soldiers, have been killed. But the numbers of Palestinians, it's about half civilians.

It's a dramatic crisis that cries out for real leadership. There's a United Nations resolution that has been passed. It would not have been untoward, I think, for the -- the -- the new incoming secretary of state to say that one of the goals of the new administration would be to implement all United Nations resolutions, including the one calling for an immediate cease-fire.

GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask...

BENNETT: The fact that she didn't was unfortunate.

Anyway, I spent the rest of Wednesday evening listening to BBC Worldwide documentary podcasts, and to Philippe Sands on NPR's Fresh Air, and to Helen Thomas on Democracy Now! And then, uh, Matt Damon read me some of A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

The BBC podcasts were:

  • Obama: Professor President (which underlined for me yet again how really really nice he is. Srsly guyz!)
  • Soft Jihad (which was pretty excellent. It's about some creepy campaigns against Islamic academics in America. BBC's Pascale Harter also made that doco about Roberto Saviano and the Camorra. I like her.)
  • The My Lai Tapes, Parts One & Two

I also finished reading John Berger's Hold Everything Dear. This is what I underlined while reading it, from "The Chorus In Our Heads":

it is not only animal and plant species which are being destroyed or made extinct today, but also set after set of our human priorities.

I found that "set after set" bit quite expressive.

Thursday January 15

I went to 3CR for some meetings. The sub-committees are starting up again for the year. Yesterday it was Programming, a planning session for 2009 priorities. And then Promotions/website group met up to go over some design changes. These things are not as dry as they sound, in the right company.

Friday January 16

Tonight I'm going to The Lifted Brow magazine launch at East Brunswick, to see Bachelorette et al.

And tomorrow I want to go to Tom's exhibition with his brother at Brunswick Bound.

And finally, the Gossip Girl update. As of S02E15, I cannot take any more of this Chuck-spiral. I will not say "I'm done" because that's not how I feel either. I just want Chuck and Blair to be happy. And that means being together. And still they are not. Quit toying with my feelings, Gossip Girl!

So there you are, until the next bit.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Week One, 2009

On Friday
at work a book was suggested to me, Hold Everything Dear by John Berger. So I bought it on the way to dinner with my brother, Camille and Ben. At the bookshop, I bumped into Colm who is another Stick Together producer, and he made me feel good about the purchase by calling the book "the best thing I read last year". So, no pressure. After dinner in St. Kilda, went to the Prince with my brother and Ben for Fleet Foxes. First support was Sly Hats and friends, and then Luluc. I thought I'd like Luluc more than I did, considering her contribution to Grand Salvo's Death. But, oh well. Fleet Foxes were just LOVELY. Of course they were, yes. But MORE. Because of the geniality. Robin Pecknold especially was adept at managing the strange excited inarticulacies crowd-people sometimes yell at stage-people they adore (and which I could never do, unless "I am quite enjoying this" is the kind of thing talented people want to hear. I'm firmly opposed to trying for wit in such situations). But see, it didn't matter that people didn't manage to express themselves well. Somehow, all the garbled acronym-based best intentions were gently, chuffedly received by the band and then transmitted back as something inclusive and polished, rather than perplexing. Thems got social skills. And pipes. Mykonos was the highlight for me.

On Saturday I watched Milk. I feel the experience is enhanced if you first watch the 1984 documentary, The Times Of Harvey Milk. Well, I found it enhanced things. Not sure if my brother would agree, as I rather annoyed him by repeatedly exclaiming, when watching scenes from the public record like debates, interviews and such, "Dude, that's exactly what he said. In real life. That's really what he said. Exactly." However, some of the film is actually written, and written well. Particularly an argumentative conversation between Dan White and Harvey Milk at Milk's birthday party. It's kind of everything, right there in one scene.

On Sunday we went to Chapter Music's 18th Birthday gig at the Tote. We saw Hit The Jackpot, Lakes, Sleepy Township, Henry Wagons, Primitive Calculators, Minimum Chips, Pikelet, Panel Of Judges, and Crayon Fields. The place was overrun with people I (let's hope, unobtrusively) admire. Now, to some short and not very illuminating recollections:
  • Hit The Jackpot - I really love that King Of The Pool song. Like, a lot.
  • Lakes - never heard/seen him before. I bought the album.
  • Sleepy Township - I liked it best when the drummer sang. He had white hair. It made me think of Daniel Johnston.
  • Henry Wagons - "Here's to Guy Blackman, who I was never less than happy in my dealings with back in the day. Having said that, we've got an album coming out on a different label in April."
  • Primitive Calculators - first gig in 29 years. "I started writing this song in 1977, and I finished it last night. It's called Love. It's about love." There was a third repetition of the word love in that sentence, but I can't remember how he worked it in. Anyway, I also really enjoyed the way he frequently (well, at least twice) yelled, "DENISE!"
  • Minimum Chips - I didn't so much see them, as sat on a couch and heard them in the middle distance. It's been ages since I saw them play, and now they don't, and yet I didn't really make enough of an attempt to 'see' them. What was I thinking? Oh yes, that sitting down is nice.
  • Pikelet - she's always better than the last time, and after a while you begin to wonder how that's actually possible.
  • Panel Of Judges - yay, All This Could Be Yours. Yay, As The Blowflies.
  • The Crayon Fields - only caught about half the set, so maybe missed the newer stuff. Old stuff still good.
On Monday after work I went to see Frost/Nixon at Cinema Nova. Beforehand, between the orecchiette con broccoli and the film, I purchased two Richard Yates books - Revolutionary Road and Eleven Kinds Of Loneliness - because I've been led to believe he's like Mad Men in book form. Over here, via here, however, the film adaptation of Revolutionary Road seems not to have impressed. Anyway, Frost/Nixon was very entertaining. It didn't seem to know how Australian people talk, but, no matter. Sam Rockwell is pretty excellent. For me, though, there was still a problem with the Nixon mea culpa, however cathartic it may have been. See, Nixon gets emotional while talking about how he let down the American people, which I find to be a sorta disingenuous wellspring for his contrition. Maybe my view is coloured because I recently listened to an NPR Fresh Air interview with Bob Woodward, in which I think he made quite a telling point about what - aside from those 18 and a half minutes - was really missing from the Nixon tapes:
On the tapes Nixon regularly orders lying to law enforecement, to the Grand Jury, to use the FBI, the IRS to 'screw' - as he puts it so eloquently or he has another version of that, uh, verb - any of his opponents. Not only is this criminal and abusive - and that is the basic foundation of our government, it is a government that is answerable. And Nixon became unanswerable, he became a power unto himself. Wire-tap, break in - he had the Secret Service wire-tap the telephone of his renegade brother. The list of things that went on that are horrifying doesn't stop. But then you go to the tapes and you listen to the tapes and I've listened to a number of them and I've read transcripts of them. The real nightmare is the dog that doesn't bark on the Nixon tapes. No one says, including Nixon or his innermost aides, 'What would be right? What would be good? What does the country need? What is the high purpose of the presidency that we're - you know, we're here to do good.' It's always about Nixon. And so in the end it's about the smallness of this man.
So as I was watching Frost/Nixon, I was just thinking, "But, dude! You didn't care about the American people. You rarely even thought of them." There's a niggling feeling you get, too, that Nixon casts such a pitiable figure, framed without an especially thorough context of what it was all about - what was undermined by Nixon, what was at stake - that you worry the film might form some pretext for another of those flimsy "What was the big deal anyway?" stories we sometimes get. Again, I submit as partial 'what was it all about', Bob Woodward on Fresh Air:
The real issue is, are we gonna have secret government in this country, or not. And that's where we were headed with Vietnam and Watergate. A level of secrecy and fear and surveillance unheard of. Outside of the constitutional and legal system we have.
I also rather relished the opportunity the film takes to remind people what a loyal Nixon aide Diane Sawyer was. See, I don't like her. I remember when I used to watch the NBC Today Show a lot - I thought Katie Couric was rather good. But I was made aware of the prevailing view that Katie was a lightweight while Diane was serious. Which I didn't understand. Whenever I watched Diane conduct interviews on her show, I felt she was sappy, and didn't strike me as much of a sharp cookie. So I felt the unfairness of this prestige she seemed to have over Katie, with some force (because, as I preferred Katie, I felt it as a slight on my own critical faculties). But HAH. Avenged. History has you on the mean, truth-obscuring side of a battle for the nation's soul. Or, something.

LISTENING Tuesday December 30-Tuesday January 6. says this week was spent in the company of:
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes and Sun Giant EP
Stephen Sondheim, Assassins (2004 Broadway Revival Cast)
Lakes, Lakes
and some The Microphones, Animal Collective, Kes, Bachelorette, Ratatat, Fabulous Diamonds, Tactics, Deerhunter, Vetiver, Teeth & Tongue, Palms, Panel Of Judges, Public Enemy, CocoRosie, Radiohead, Arthur Russell, Nirvana, Meat Puppets, Townes Van Zandt, Grand Salvo, Nick Huggins, Primitive Calculators, M.I.A., Chairlift, NPR Fresh Air, and This American Life.

Today: 3CR Tuesday Breakfast Show
  • Lucy spoke to Sam Pavi, an activist in the Australian Tamil community, about the Sri Lankan government's intensified military campaign against the Tamil Tigers and its impacts on the struggle for an independent Tamil homeland in the north of Sri Lanka.
  • I spoke to Michael Shaik from Australians For Palestine, about Israeli troops entering Gaza over the weekend, the impacts on civilians in Gaza, and the response of the international community. There will be another 'Stop the War on Gaza' rally on Sunday January 18, at 2pm at the Victorian State Library.
  • I spoke to Greens Senator Christine Milne, about yesterday's announcement by Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett to approve 13 of the 16 environmental assessment modules associated with the proposed Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania. He also gave Gunns a two-year extension for further study into the marine impacts of the proposed mill's effluent.
  • I spoke to Paul Oosting, Pulp Mill Campaigner for the Wilderness Society in Tasmania, also about Peter Garrett's announcement yesterday. The Wilderness Society had marked January 5 as the date that should have signaled the end of the road for the Gunns pulp mill. It called on Peter Garrett to end all approvals of the mill if the full Environmental Impact Management Plan was not approved by yesterday. That didn't happen. Instead, with 13 of the 16 modules approved, Gunns can now go ahead with construction of the mill but will need full approval to begin operating.
Smog - I Feel Like The Mother Of The World - A River Ain't Too Much To Love
Deerhunter - Agoraphobia - Microcastle
M.I.A. - Amazon - Arular
Woods - Military Madness - Some Shame
Nick Huggins - The Sea Adrift - Shipwreck LP

Now I'm going to sit here and watch the new Gossip Girl episode. Yes, it's got a lot to live up to, considering the last one contained the Best Moment of 2008. But I'm fairly sure I'll love it no matter what. And by 'no matter what', I submit, for example, that my favourite character began the show as a near date-rapist. It bothers me sometimes how readily I decided not to think about that.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Listening Log

The Heretics episode of This American Life, is incredibly interesting, funny, moving. There are Christians in it, but they are really nice, and it's a window into something entirely foreign. I experienced similar - but less powerful - feelings when I read Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock, which I thought would be about terrible, commercially-motivated people, but was instead mainly about people raised in a certain way - within Evangelical culture - who wanted to make/hear music, with the writer mostly spending time with those who also wanted to challenge the mainstream arm of that impulse.

Anyway, I say listen to Heretics. If only for the hilarious story a young pastor tells of growing up believing the Rapture could come at any moment - believing, in fact, it had come whenever he would turn around and his mother wouldn't be where he last saw her... and he'd think to himself, "Rapture". The way he said it made me laugh out loud. Anyway, the program is largely about a celebrated evangelical, Reverend Carlton Pearson, who gets shunned when he comes to believe there is no hell. As he says, "It's like I died. And they mourned me. And now, they're pretty much over it." Still, there's this great story he tells about the relief he now feels at not having to try to 'save' everyone he meets - because he's come to believe we're all already saved. However, before, he used to feel guilty if he didn't witness to pretty much every person he met, for example, the guy sitting next to him on a flight. So he'd have to figure out some way of getting the conversation around to salvation, so he'd put his Bible on his lap or wear his cross prominently, just to get some inquisitiveness going. If the person didn't bite, he'd have to get a little more direct, as in, turning to them and casually asking, "So... where are you going to spend eternity? I have to tell you, it's probably in hell." Again, I laughed out loud when, remembering encounters like this, he said, "Guys, it was just horrible." What a dear fellow.