Entries Tagged as 'Culture'


The public debate about Bill Henson’s exhibition is in full swing, as no doubt are the prosecutorial efforts of the NSW DPP, and very little of what one reads comes close to penetrating the hysteria that surrounds child pornography and pedophilia generally. ‘Revolting’ says Australia’s Prime Minister, of art made by one of Australia’s most annointed artists, who now stands accused like any dirty child porn peddlar, a sex offender, a pariah.

It’s a fait accomplis (once someone complains) according to the law, so maybe there’s something wrong with the law? And with our society.

And with the Prime Minister? Because I can say, as an adult, that I can look at images of naked adolescents and have all sorts of feelings, amongst which may be an aesthetic appreciation of a fine young human being, yet not feel any furtive compulsion to have sexual relations with a child. I am seldom revolted. Nor am I turned on.

But that’s just me, and the great majority of Australian adults (I presume) who think of having sex with kids as often as they think of dancing the samba with a turnip. Must we all be constrained by the perversion of the few? Shouldn’t there be some presumption of innocence? Maturity? Vale the carefree days of kids stripping off to run through the sprinkler. My Dad cleaned the pool naked, apparently to the vast amusement of the neighbours, and to me he represented an unfolding age of open-ness about the human body, an end to Victorian prudery. That was before AIDS and the culture wars, Tipper Gore, the Catholic Church’s pedophile woes and internet-delivered child porn. Man have we become uptight?

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Strange Dream Indeed

I had a strange dream the other night. In a black room a nun was dancing with Jesus on the cross (on wheels) in front of a small crowd of fancily dressed folks. Dirty dancing. And stripping. She took off almost all her clothes (an item of apparel landed on my head!), down to pasties on top, knickers, stockings and boots below. She then left the room, but there was a scream from backsage, ‘My God, it’s the Devil!’ and she re-emerged, chased by a large gorilla. The nearly naked nun, the gorilla and Jesus all danced before the gorilla removed its hairy costume to reveal a statuesque babe in lingerie.

Behind me a woman in a wheelchair kept tapping me on the shoulder and saying ‘this is not right’. I told her not to worry about it, that it was just entertainment, but she kept tapping me on the shoulder and said ‘this isn’t how Paganism should be represented’. I had my camera out and she asked me who I was and where I was from. I gave her my name. She asked if I had permission to take photos. I said no. I put the camera back in my bag but she wasn’t satisfied, attempting to drag me off to see someone. I fended her off but to no avail.

I was promptly accosted by the event manager who advised that it was a private party and journalist weren’t allowed. I protested that I wasn’t a journalist (huck peugh!) and, further, that I had a ticket and had put my camera in my bag and wouldn’t be taking any photos. She calmed down a little at that (though I was still decidedly edgy) and advised that it was ok for me to take pictures of people as long as they had masks on (about half the crowd were masked). I mumbled something about group shots and she advised that as long as I had the permission of all unmasked people it’d be ok. The camera stayed in the bag. Later the wheelchair bound lady took pictures of me, unmasked, provoking a minor fit of outrage, but when I looked at the photos, all I could see was a big hairy gorilla.

Has anyone else had a similar dream? Analysis anyone?

Australian Values Explained

It is a wonderful thing that the Liberal Government, via the Citizenship Test, has begun a much needed discussion about Australian values because it is not only in the context of Australia’s grubby immigrant population that a bit of education is required. All Australia is labouring under some mighty misapprehensions as to what Australian values are and it is high time they were spelled out.

The greatest Australian value is the one that says you look after your mate (meaning your blokey friends, not your sex partner). Who your mates might be may change according to the vicissitudes of time, but the policy remains intact. Looking after your mates means: you support them in all their endeavours be they worthy or not, you believe implicitly everything they tell you regardless of plausibility and you ignore all evidence of any wrong-doing on their part. Even if your mates were running a little kidnap and torture operation, as implausible as that may be, you would still support them, even if they tortured one or two of your own.

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Agnostic Tastes

I was born into a post-Methodist/Presbyterian household. My parents had witnessed the behaviour of missionaries in New Guinea and numerous other examples of Christian hypocrisy and rejected organised religion in favour of secular humanism. I grew up without God, without baptism, without a church community.

In primary school, I was excused from religious education. Wednesday mornings were designated for scripture in those days, and the whole school, bar me, would file off in their respective denominations. Catholic, C 0f E, blah blah, it meant nothing to me and I was happy to spend Wednesday mornings, alone except for the enormous librarian, in the library reading secular tomes.

It was impossible to remain unaware of religion for long, however. Summer visits to family in Sydney always entailed long, hot, boring attendances at church, a token of respect from my parents to theirs. The Bible, of course, can be absorbed osmotically in this country just by keeping your eyes and ears open. Viewed from my perspective, the scriptures had as much relevance and believability as Herbie the Love Bug. It was a surprise to encounter people who read them ‘as gospel’ as it were.

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The Sport of Crims

I once used to associate with a professional punter, the sort of bloke you’d see wandering into the Commission Room at Randwick or Warwick Farm, an unassuming fellow who had accumulated millions from his hobby, who might bet three or four hundred thousand on any given day and who supported at least a dozen ‘colleagues’.

He was a rare breed, not a systems player, although he used computers to arrive at an extraordinary array of punts on each race, but all underpinned by an immense knowledge of the form stored in a brain good for not much else, an idiot savant of the Sport of Kings if you like.

He’d had his battles with the Tax Office and won, they couldn’t tax his winnings because they wouldn’t credit his losses, but they didn’t know about his minions and the millions he has paid them in cash over the years to spy on the trainers, gather the inside goss, run bets to the bookies and a variety of other tasks. Income/Payroll Tax? Super? Workers Comp? Forget it.

He, and people like him, are among the many currently ‘suffering’ as the Australian racing industry grinds to a halt. And while we can have sympathy for some, the milliners, the stable boys, the caterers etc, all innocent collateral damage of an apparent quarantine failure, it’s difficult to engender any warmth for an industry that has always been a refuge for scoundrels and offers little of real value to our society.

Horse racing has acquired a classy frock, pays the government a healthy bounty, sells a lot of hats, champagne and turd-stain remover, but perhaps we should look closely at those ‘benefits’ and compare them to the costs, environmental, social and economic. In the next few weeks and months, Australia has a chance to try life without racing. There may be more food in some hungry little bellies. There may be a reduction in the bankruptcy rate. The vast majority of people probably won’t notice the difference. And think how many apartments you could build at Randwick alone.

On the Edge of Silence

On a small stage in the (previously undiscovered) CSIRO Discovery Centre, twenty women in purple, in turns and in concert, sing, tell stories, recite poetry, quote philosophers and inform us about climate change. Afterwards, a discussion, featuring luminaries from the national climate change scientific community, a politician and ordinary folks…
A Chorus of Women
When told that A Chorus of Women were putting on a show as part of Science Week aimed at raising awareness of climate change, my initial thoughts were cynical. ‘We all know about climate change by now, don’t we?’ was one. ‘Preaching to the converted’ was another. Typical of most of my cynicism, these thoughts betrayed my facility for jumping to conclusions without acquiring enough information.

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Carbon Cops

The ABC’s Carbon Cops, an environmentally friendly version of the expert make-over genre, shows us that, not only is using less energy in the household fairly easy and inexpensive to achieve, it also has unexpected rewards.

For people that have always had an awareness of their own energy consumption, it is quite amazing to peer into the lives of ‘ordinary Australians’ and witness the thoughtlessness with which they squander energy. And even us self-righteous ‘aware’ types have learned a thing or two.

The remedies are many and varied, ranging from riding a pushbike to the shops, to installing an energy monitor to remind folks to turn off lights, to simple retrofit double glazing. Small to medium capital investment is sometimes required, making many changes more applicable to owners than renters, but every household can do something and, as last nights program illustrated, even a household of student renters could more than halve their carbon output while spending hardly a cent.

On the contrary, they will save money, as will those who invest in solar hot water, for example, once the device has paid for itself. If the ‘Plasma Bonus’ had become instead a ‘Solar Hot Water Bonus’, each Aussie birth would represent a slightly brighter future for all.

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The Human Problem

Occasionally I direct my thoughts to ‘the human problem’, the infernal contradiction that is the human being. Capable at once of great beauty and terrible atrocities, rich in seemingly divine inspiration always undermined by base emotions, smart as a bean and stupid as an ox, as a species we now hold the world in the palm of our hand and have the ability to ride out the millenia (until the Sun expires) in relative harmony with it and yet…

And rather than concentrating on the multitudinous examples of human stupidity, greed and corruption, I attempt to ask the bigger questions, such as ‘Where did we go wrong?’ and ‘Why did we become more chimpish warriors than bonoboish lovers?’ and ‘Why are there now more exercise machines in the world than people who have ever lived?’

I have always been a sensitive chap, appalled by unnecessary cruelty. The world abounds with it, let us not count the ways, only to note that they extend from little boys tearing off the wings of flies, to war, torture, sport fishing and commercial radio. But if cruelty so abounds, is it not in our nature?

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The Art of Blurring

We all like to take naked pictures of ourselves and post them on the net, don’t we, but sensible people don’t want to have their identity revealed in such a compromising scenario. Thus was born the art of blurring.

Actually it began with television news obscuring the identity of suspects of crime but, since the early days, little innovation has occured in blurring on the box, whereas on the net, a whole new genre of creative blurring has quickly taken root.

An hour or two’s surfing elicited a wealth of material, so I thought I’d collect a small selection of choice examples of ‘The Art of Blurring’ for your edification.

The ‘Black Square’, a reference to the censor’s block, can be used quite successfully when tastefully applied to a photo of suitable colour scheme. Identity Obscuring Rating 8/10.

The ‘Fat Black Texta’, particularly when applied to an old photograph of questionable aesthetic and/or erotic potential, looks crude and dismissive. Identity Obscuring Rating 3/10.

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Merry Muse Kaputski?

Perhaps not. It remains to be seen what is the next move of the Monaro Folk Society, but it is clear that the reign of Bill Arnett, affectionately known (by me at least) as The Big Fat Fairy, as Director of The Muse is at an end.

Relations between the Folk Society and Bill have been strained for some time, but in the latest, and possibly last, Muse Gnus, Bill has encountered the last straw in some choice accusations, apparently filtering through the folky grapevine, of various wrong-doings on Bill’s part at the expense of the Muse’s impeccable reputation.

I can’t comment on the veracity of these accusations, nor of Bill’s strenuous denials, other than to say that I have never witnessed any such things (we don’t need to repeat them here) and that it is my opinion that the Merry Muse’s current reputation was largely founded on the work that Bill has done over the last few years, possibly at the expense of some disjointed noses amongst the trad-folk brigade.

The Muse may continue under different direction (Bill advises a Folk Society sub-committee will take over), and I will watch its progress with interest. Bill may turn his indefatigable energy and questionable fashion sense to other projects and possibly prosper more without the restrictions of a committee overseeing things. Or it all might blow over. Who knows?

But if it is an end to his run, I personally would like to tip my hat to Bill for doing a great job for local music, providing a professional quality venue, booking professional musos and, mostly, putting on a good show, where local musos clamour to play, and where many magical moments of music have mesmerised (enough m’s already) the grateful Muse audience.

Three cheers to the Big Fat Fairy!

Canberra’s Film Boom?

Despite not really being an exciting haven for the arts, Canberra has its fair share of cultural activity across many disciplines, adding to the richness of life here and contributing no small amount to economic activity. Art and craft galleries abound. Live music is resurgent. Theatre continues with the government’s benevolent patronage. Poets have occasional reading opportunities. Dance is seen occasionally…

One medium that stands out as having been sadly under-represented in the past is film, but recent times have seen an upward trend in the visibilty of local film culminating in a year or two of unprecedented activity, studded with highlights and unprecedented events. Highlights just from the year so far include:

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The Can’s and the Can Not’s

We can not smoke. It’s not prohibited, oh no. We all know what that would lead to. Prohibition, that’s what. They tried that with alcohol and it failed. Remember? We can smoke as much as we like, oh yes, as long as: there’s no other person within 73 kilometres, we can geo-sequest the smoke in an underground cavern and can afford $3 million per packet of 25’s.

We can not take ‘drugs’. Ooooooh druuuugggs!!! They are prohibited. Except for the many varieties of ‘mother’s little helpers': Ritalin, anti-depressants, caffeine, sleeping tablets, opiated ‘cough treatments’, sucrose, mood stabilisers, tranquilisers… the list goes on and ends with the biggy, alcohol, which we are actively encouraged to drink for its known quality of increasing virility. All these are relatively cheap and accessible. As are the illegal drugs. And who knew Listerine could be so fun?

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National Museum Removes Black Arm Band

John ‘Dubya’ Howard will be pleased. The National Museum of Australia, site of simmering tension in the culture wars, is at last putting on a show befitting his ‘rose-coloured glasses’ view of Australian history. Not only that, but it is presenting it in a fashion that would satisfy the most simple of unenquiring minds: a bland ‘celebration’ of historic cultural flatulence bereft of contextual analysis.

Miss Australia

Or so it would seem from the promo, because I really can’t be bothered going to see Miss Australia: A Nation’s Quest. Deary me. Hairy-legged feminists of the old school unite in foaming apoplexy.

Miss Australia lingered on, like the remains of a soggy pavlova at a CWA meeting, until the year 2000 believe it or not, long after feminists gave up trying to bring down the pernicious symbol of the objectification of women. It’s demise stifled a collective yawn.

Stifling yawns is bad for you. Go down to the Museum and let out that long-stifled yawn.

Rat Patrol Infests Canberra

Citizens of Canberra beware, the Rat Patrol is everywhere!

But first, a digression. With global warming becoming ever more a present reality, I find it disturbing that most thinking on the issue revolves around replacing current greenhouse gas-producing power sources with equal amounts of alternative energy, with nuclear power at the forefront. While alternative, hopefully ‘clean’ power sources are obviously a necessity, our obsession with them may be part of the reason very little energy is devoted to reducing the amount of energy we consume.

There appears to be an unstated but almost universally held assumption that, whatever is done to solve the global warming problem, we in the West must maintain every aspect of our current lifestyle – the personal motorised transport (capable of reaching 100 clicks in no more than x seconds), the brilliantly lit, hopelessly energy inefficient houses…

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Reasons to be Cheerful About Being a Cyclist

Our good pals at RiotACT have run a couple of threads lately (Bloody On-road Cyclists, 80 percent of cyclists dangerous lawbreakers) about the scourge of cyclists riding rampant through the city streets. Cyclists apparently provoke the ire of a goodly few of Canberra”s residents, what with all their riding on the road and expecting to be avoided by cars and so on, not to mention failing to wear helmets, not having lights, running red lights, not paying any road taxes, not having a proper job and probably being terrorist sympathisers.

I”ve been tempted to leap to the cyclists” defence numerous times, but have held back, partly because I am a cyclist myself and am guilty of many of the above crimes” all of them in fact (and more – drink-riding, riding under the influence of celestial bodies…), except for expecting cars to avoid me on the road. A cyclist is a damn fool if they expect a car to not deliberately mow them down, let alone see them and give them their legally entitled right of way.

But here, away from the artless chattering of the RiotACT classes, I feel free to extemporise a little on the subject which has, as one RA commenter said, been done to death, but never by me, with my convoluted logic, nor in quite my impeccably self-righteous tone.

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