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Return of the Knave
Drink It Black
Thursday, 11 March 2004
Pony (up)
Before we move off (conventional)politics, far be it for me to ignore the minor parties. Because we have proportional representation in our Senate, there is quite some advantage to having a range of fringe politics there. It's not as those our system has been rendered unstable - like Italy's - which, paradoxically, it would be if voters weren't such sheep.

There have only been a handful of parties and individuals who have really made a dent on the scene. I was amazed to see that the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) still exist (though an ABC report says they're struggling to survive). They were big in the seventies but haven't been a force for some years.

The major third party is the National Party but they kind of don't count since they don't present an alternative but form coalition with the Liberal Party. This has always left me a bit bemused since, while both parties are conservative, the Liberals are essentially a party for city accountants and lawyers; their policies of privatisation and less-than-fair laissez faire are not at all in the best interests of remote rural communities who need both their supply of essential services and their industry to be subsidised by the taxpayer.

Only in Australia could a party be formed on the platform of "keeping the bastards honest" and this charmed me and others to the extent that we voted for the Australian Democrats to hold the balance of power in the Senate. But though the party was formed by Don Chipp and there had been a gnomic male leader since, the number of female leaders has made the manhandling Andrew Bartlett seem like a regressive choice. I liked Janine Haines, liked Cheryl Kernot even more, and positively creamed myself over Natasha Stott Despoja (so I was probably thinking - or voting - with my dick when I found myself at variance with virtually all my friends over her political virtues but I still think she's more than a cute blond with cherry red Doc Martens) so it was more than a little disappointing when she was, ahem, rolled after a brief tenure at the top.

Now it's the Greens turn and I, for one, couldn't be happier. Their leader, Dr Bob Brown, is truly the man of the hour.

II

And, though superficially it looks like a two-horse race, there's still more. Sure One Nation are a spent force (the link is old news now as Hanson and Ettridge were released from prison and the charges dropped but she was unsuccesful in contesting from her new home in Sylvania Waters) but Reverend Fred Nile's Festival of Light trundles on, decades on from the Menzies era (when there was an attempt to have them outlawed)the Communist Party of Australia still exists, as does the Socialist Workers Party and let's not forget Independant Tasmanian Senator Brian Harradine, whose impassioned speech looked like keelhauling the introduction of the GST until Senator Meg Lees went running to the Govt and agreeing to it with nary a by-your-leave.

Whew! Just like elections themselves, this entry has dragged on so I will finally post now (I've been working on it for a week). I hope you're all suitably grateful.

Posted by berko_wills at 12:19 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 21 March 2004 3:23 PM EADT
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Sunday, 7 March 2004
Chip in
What Bush fails to grasp, or refuses to acknowledge, is that America's actions automatically impact on the rest of the global village. So it is quite wrong of him, and of Republican Party voters, to act in the interests of the US alone (not that he is doing that either). The reason I am profiling, even tangentially, US pre-election is because I know how much effect the administration will have: economically, diplomatically, and militarily. It's not that I don't care what system of government gets up in Liberia but I feel it will impact less on my way of life, whatever the outcome.

As it happens, we are also having an election this year. The Australian Labor Party have finally stopped shooting themselves in the foot and have appointed someone who can lead them out of the wilderness after eight long years.
Where Kim Beazley jr was too intellectually top heavy and too circumspect in detailing what he stood for in layman's terms, and Simon Crean simply lacked the charisma and game plan to convince anyone, Mark Latham hit the ground running; quickly defining his position*, and that of his party, to differentiate it fully from the incumbents, and hit the Howard government with a series of curveballs that put them on the back foot for the first time.
So effective has he been that a recent poll shows them winning in the two party preferred system. I'm not counting my chickens just yet but it's looking less grim than when I was wailing about how ineffective Crean was in encouraging the usual voter-weariness with the government at around this juncture.

[*a good example is his stance on marriage and families. He supports the idea of gay marriage by saying that, as long as a couple are committed to a loving, lasting relationship, that is the most important thing. This contrasts considerably with the Howard view and makes the choice clear whatever your own position]

Posted by berko_wills at 2:57 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 8 March 2004 1:34 PM EADT
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Saturday, 6 March 2004
Crushed ice
I don't know if the Right have these crises of wondering whether to 'waste' their vote on the party or independant they REALLY want or to cast a begrudging vote for the big O Opposition who have the best chance of unseating the guy they want out.
I only know that I'm prepared for a little moderation in the form of John Kerry if it means clearing away Bush and his scary talk of the 'homeland' and his insidious Patriot Act, his history as a governor with the highest execution rate, his series of dirty tricks to gain high office, his relentless war speeches propping up his power where any examination of his other 'achievements' would come out firmly in the negative side of the ledger, his willingness to sacrifice soldiers in the field regardless of how well things are going; in short his strong resemblance to a totalitarian thug.

From what I can gather Bush, when he has finished exploiting the 9-11 tragedy, intends to target Kerry as weak and indecisive. A strange assessment of a war hero from a showpony who has never seen active combat. Of course it is possible that Kerry might be weak on the domestic economy. But this should be a moot point considering how much Bush has unravelled the fiscal rectitude of Clinton before him.

True conservatives should be aghast. Gauging from the comments thusfar though, they have just put on the nosepeg and decided that they can't vote Democrat or allow them to sneak in so they will vote Bush whatever the issues. I'd like to say this is just the Right being dumb brutes but, if I was happy to lend my weight to the mealy-mouthed moderate Social Democrat at the expense of a more honest and precise vote for Just Us Naturalists For Natural Justice or somesuch (and I know scores of left-of-centre colleagues who have the same dilemma), then why can't their 'no moral weaklings' cry be understandable?

The reason politicians of all stripes get away with so much is because their status is such that we make allowances for dishonesty, for nepotism & cronyism, for the kind of bungling that directly impacts on us; in short, we provide a latitude for politicians that we would not extend to any other member of the community. Liberal voters can light on a Graham Richardson or Mal Colston to show how Labor has (had)its share of ratbags. I imagine the US scene is littered with the same career politicians who are there for the perks. This doesn't mean that those with an ideological axe to grind won't also find their way into Parliament but knowing that Elaine Nile or Ted Mack have a seat doesn't sway us from generalising the pecadilloes, so Howard's front bench going down like ninepins on various corruption issues didn't stop people from voting them, or their remnants, back in. They were making their choice on different grounds altogether.

Posted by berko_wills at 3:09 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 6 March 2004 4:54 AM EADT
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Wednesday, 3 March 2004
Sea
Oh I do love to be beside the seaside..

Posted by berko_wills at 1:58 PM EADT
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Tuesday, 2 March 2004
Brand
It's true that I once spurned love songs because there were so many insincere ones, 'went off' artists because they dared to produce records that were appreciated by more than a handful of obsessed shoe-gazers. But if my cant has dissolved with the fulness of time, still I've always had an appreciation for the truly great, and recognized that people bought their records en masse precisely because of that.

I nod my head over The Beatles being described as greatest pop group and Rolling Stones as greatest rock'n'roll band; only thankful that there are two categories. I was too young to experience the amazing era when allegiances were divided between the Beatles and the Stones and there was still so many other absolutely brilliant acts around as well (Christ, Kaleidoscope were an obscure regional band!). But I remember sitting up on an old log while my mum(s)joined the (erronous) refrain of "Hey Buffalo Bill" and I can remember the poster of Elvis on a wall of the old house. He's always been more impressive to me in the pre-jump suit, sideburns and paunch days. Though his ability as a master interpreter of other people's songs never diminished.

For that matter, I take no issue with William Shakespeare retaining the trifecta after nearly four centuries, of greatest poet, playwright and writer overall. I'm no mean poet myself and I prefer Coleridge and bits of Blake but I wouldn't go to the wall over it.

And Leonardo is the genius of antiquity as surely as Einstein is the genius of the modern era. And so it goes.


Posted by berko_wills at 2:02 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 4 March 2004 1:49 PM EADT
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Saturday, 28 February 2004
Stout
Commercial was a dirty word for so long, not because the multitudes were wrong about Dark Side of the Moon or Bat Out of Hell but because there is a certain saccharine sentiment that weaves its way through artful endeavour, subverting it to some anticipated response. It's what makes Titanic so big. The panel of Channel Nine audience voting this the best film of the century shows commercial mindlessness in all its ignobility. There are greater works in every respect.

What careless concern could buy into Michael Bolton's desecration of soul classics or Celine Dion's hideous vapidity. The same kind I'd wager.

My god, there are compilations from decades ago that sound as if they were named to fit in the church fetes and bargain bins of the future; the titles just screamed "Crap"!
No doubt it was helped along by advertising on TV, by positioning in the record bar, by use in an ad or show. Maybe you got it reduced with potting mix and wire cutters.

The 'moon in June' mannerisms are irksome across the board. Art based on marketing and demographic is missed opportunity when there is real talent producing work that can also have the potential for mass appeal.

It's conceivable that parts of the underground are extreme purely to distance themselves from the puerile and the plain. And there's also the part reaction/part creation that fuels the best of the fringe. Art, no matter how outlandish, needs raw material and that might be the fateful trip to the Myer Emporium when you were six rendered unrecognizable by events and fancies of the intervening years. In a strange way pap culture is apposite; dark invention demands disaffection.

Posted by berko_wills at 1:16 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 4 March 2004 1:28 PM EADT
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Wednesday, 25 February 2004
One for the road (tar very much)
If you actually went through that long list of school subjects (glutton for punishment)then you'd see I was on a bit of a metasearch kick. I use Google 99.9999% of the time but it's always good to know there are other things out there. The Blowin' in the Wind one is pretty good as it lists Google along with others - which is comparatively rare.

On a similar theme (though I know I've got the title slightly wrong there) my favourite name for a search engine, next to Google, is Highway 61. It connotes the 'Information Superhighway' and there's play potential with 'Highway 61 Revisited' since we do revisit search engines. And it looks cool, as it should.

(The reason I had to drop it in my hyperlinks is because when you, uh, revisit the link, it gives you an error message so it's only good for searching afresh.)

Posted by berko_wills at 1:56 PM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 25 February 2004 2:06 PM EADT
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Wednesday, 11 February 2004
Any colour as long as it's black
Then we hit high school

consumer education
health education
physical education
outdoor education
home economics
english literature
history
biology
human biology
economics
physics
chemistry
metalwork
woodwork
technical drawing
arts and crafts
drawing
drama
speech & drama
italian
business principles and practice

and to think we used to think we were disadvantaged in choice of subjects compared to the city kids!

I was also in the interschool debating team and a bit of a star, if I may say so. Well it did make up for the fact that I could no longer run for shit and wasn't selected in any of the Country Week sporting sides.



Posted by berko_wills at 1:55 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 23 February 2004 1:33 PM EADT
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Friday, 6 February 2004
Black is the new black
Check out my Spencer P Jones opus (below) as it was a few days in the making.

I don't know how many people get the inclination to revisit the subjects they learned at school and see how much things have changed:
science
social studies
mathematics

Hmm, a motley assortment. I would have pegged the exciting new development in Numbers - and, indeed, mathematics - as being the discovery of the highest prime number

Of course english dropped out and that could make all the difference in the world.

Posted by berko_wills at 1:50 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2004 3:00 AM EADT
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Wednesday, 4 February 2004
A good drop
Both the recent street press articles on Spencer P Jones spoke of his tardiness; of being late to get to the phone and late to submit typed answers to questions the 'interviewer' had set.

The difference, nonetheless, could not have been more pronounced. Yes both namecheck the frantic record company guy trying to rally Mr Jones. But Ross Clelland of Drum Media - often lambasted by letter writers for his bias or cursory reviews - does a proper introduction. This is quite a spiffy opening paragraph when you're talking about someone with a musical pedigree:

'The name should be familiar [Jones] musical history runs through legendary names of slightly off-centre Australian music of the past, present, and future from The Johnnys, to the Beasts of Bourbon, to be oft-sighted as a Paul Kelly sideman, to invitations to guest guitar on a list of records as long as your arm - if you are an orangutan (obligatory Year of the Monkey joke...)


Clelland got kept waiting but puts his own feelings aside and does a professional presentation of who it is we're supposed to give a shit about.

But the Brag music editor had her own tale to tell...

"This week I sent these questions through to Spencer P Jones , in an effort to promote some random thing the guy's doing...
1. "I'm a young rock lover who doesn't mind catching new bands every now and again. I've never heard of you. Why should I come to your gig?"
2. Best and most interesting new band(s) on the scene?
3. Right now you're listening to...?
4. Best show on telly? (And "I don't watch telly" is not an answer)
5. If you could have sex with another man - just once - who would it be? (I'm assuming you're of the straight guy end of the queer guy scale here)
6. Inspirations that you'll never tire of?
7. What's the most courageous thing you've ever done?
Fun huh? Not too bland, a little spicy, questions you'd probably want Mr Jones to sit down and answer. A small amount of effort that would go to show that he cares about all you guys out there in Brag readerland to promote himself, and what the hey, maybe engage in a little interesting dialogue. The deadline ticks on. I put in a call to Jones' manager and inform him that the answers haven't arrived. This obviously touches a nerve with said manager, who informs me he'd "fucking kill him" if the answers didn't come in and that he "hating organising artists sometimes." But, he assured me, the answers would come. Hold the space. 4.50pm on deadline and we receive the following fax:
[replica of fax]Georgia Clark -
Find the questions unacceptable. Good luck with your fanzine. Spencer Jones

How Spencer knew I made a fanzine in my downtime from editing Brag is spooky enough on its own, but it was the charm and good nature of the fellow made me blush. The poetry! The love! The sheer generosity of spirit! OK, so given his effort I couldn't be fucked telling you what he's up to that would warrant a mention here in the fanzine-cum-street press magazine and hope that this news piece has incensed his manager enough to indeed act upon his desire to take human life. Good luck with your singing hobby Spence, we're all rooting for ya.


I don't own a Spencer side project and I wasn't into The Johnnys. And if Georgia had wanted to say that she couldn't see how his new disc could get an Album of the Year gong then I wouldn't have minded at all. It would be her opinion and I'm fine with that.

But this vituperative rant says more about Ms Clark than it does about Spencer P Jones. She has done NO research that one can tell and yet she accuses Jones - who's a musician, not a journalist, and would have less time to answer stupid questions than she has to write them - of being lazy!

If she was attempting to be sardonic talking about Spencer's fanzine reference then one has to realise that Brag is relatively new, having emerged from the ashes of Revolver. Same editor-in-chief, same contributors, but not as well known as it's competitor, Drum Media. What should his focus be - writing and performing good songs or keeping track of every rock rag in the country?

Some of the questions ARE bland: I can't see what fun anyone would get from telling the panting public what telly they watch. Or reading what an old lag does on his downtime. If they're going to read the article at all then it will be to find out about a recent overseas tour, a current Australian tour, a support slot, a new release; not whether the bugger has done anything courageous like appearing with the Wiggles or Kamahl.
Question one is a bad start as it asks someone with guest star appearances as long as an orangutan's arm, to justify his status to some young, say, Jerk fan who has never heard of him. It puts him badly on the spot - does he list his accomplishments thereby making him look bigheaded, or does he foolishly hum and hah without cause?
Question 2,3,4,6 & 7 could have been asked of anyone. It might be worth the lead singer of the Worried Hamsters filling this crap out but what advantage does it afford someone who is surely entitled to having some vague reference to his career in the interview instead of "Right now you're listening to...?" There is some ancillary benefit to understanding a band's music through their influences but this is not as immediately worthy as running through some of the tracks on the album and what they mean. Or relating the current release to items in the back catalogue.
Question 5 manages the impossible: it is both bland and offensive. Spencer is a guitarist, not a bon vivant; there is no reason why you should expect him to be a natural wit but there IS a great deal of reason to engage with the work he creates if you want to be the one to publicise him in your zine.

Sure he shouldn't have left his scrawled refusal to the last minute but, it just seems naive that she wouldn't consider that asking a hetereosexual man which guy he'd like to have sex with just the once might not cause some resistance.

What she should have done is what Ross Clelland did: research the background of her subject and ask him - personally - questions about his 'career past, present and future'.

Posted by berko_wills at 1:13 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 8 February 2004 5:33 AM EADT
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