Thursday, January 02, 2003

Happy New Year, everyone.

Media-wise, is it the silly-season or not? After a busy day of catching-up on things - a backlog from a mere three days away from any form of outside communication, 'cept music - I feel that I've got to the pulse of things urban, again.

Very early on, the two-o-three zeitgeist thus is one seasonally lashed with portions of Journalism Lite, but, on balance, it is surprisingly – nay, unexpectedly, even – nutritious.

Silly-season wise, the best lightweight articles are, for a change, unintentionally so. A still-breaking news story about two giant US aerospace companies being accused of passing secrets to China (The Age January 2 2003)
is almost just like the old novelty news items that used to be so loved by Australia’s broadsheets every January.

The comic premise here is a classic one indeed. First, a US aerospace company chooses to cut costs by launching satellites in China and using Chinese rockets. Secondly, the cheap Chinese rockets are laughable, consistent fizzers. So far, so medium-to-good – this sort of payback, by Newtonian forces being applied to economic rationalism, is but a mere “mild” on the comedy-ometer.

Thirdly, and bringing-on the punchline, then, is the killer development. Pressured by its insurers to apply some greater diligence to the Chinese end of things, the hapless aerospace company throws the How to Launch a Rocket manual over to the Chinese, who were no doubt prostrate (for real) with apologitis for their incompetence (feigned?) by this stage. Oops and double oops.

Memo to Yanks: next time you want to outsource your hi-tech needs at third-world prices, come to Australia. We’re not quite as cheap as China (yet), but you can be re-assured that it is deeply etched into our national character to never ever read, nor pathetically but slyly consent to receive, the operating manual for any gadget whatsoever.

Two other notable unintentionally Lite new items are British through and through. One draws a bizarre link between paedophilia and taking one’s offspring to see Peter Pan (the play):
Have the Brits really just woken up to the aesthetic dubiousness (in high-art terms) of pantomimes? What’s next: the “shock-horror, they’re perverts, Nigel” revelation that drag queens are really men dressed-up?

Finally, on the Lite front is a gushing BBC news item, presumably sourced almost wholly from a corporate press release, that mainly gets a mention because of its implacably bad timing – the sad, Miss-Havisham-esque BBC ran with the tech-wonder fluff (remember the fin-de-mille!), just as a real news story was breaking, about the same Australian corporation (one of the world’s largest casinos), and featuring the same, highly-casualised cast of employees, whose wages have slowly, but inexorably, been heading into the direction of China in recent years:

And as for the “nutritious” bit – well you can’t go past a good cops’n’robbers (turned murderers) story, especially a long and thoroughly-researched one that appears on New Years Day. Okay, the story was obviously pre-written for release as soon as the jury reached a verdict (which in the event was New Years Eve). Nonetheless, it is a welcome, sobering mountain of facts, marred by only one egregious lapse into the absurd (but unfunny) hyperbole of copspeak PR:

Seeing police attending a road accident on the Eastern Freeway, Roberts also seemed to offer an insight into an intense hatred of police. As he passed the scene, Roberts yelled "Bang! Bang! Suck on that c---s," before breaking into a laugh, his taunt clearly caught on the Commodore's bugging device. But to some investigators this shout was more than a statement of hatred - some reckoned it was a re-enactment of what had gone before.
('Do you think our phone's tapped?' The Age January 1 2003)

For one topical issue NOT explored in the above article – the criminal culpability of boys/very-young men acting in concert with a much-older man – you may also want to check out my comment on a strikingly similar (in its inter-generational dynamics, and their seeming lack of judicial consideration) American case (still to go to trial) – that of Malvo the boy and John Muhammad, posted on Tim Dunlop’s blog:

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