Saturday, October 28, 2006

It’s time to go, Pru Goward

The most offensive thing, by far, to have come out of the Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali women-are-meat comments and reaction is Sex Discrimination Commissioner (and endorsed Liberal candidate) Pru Goward’s call for al-Hilali’s deportation.

Al-Hilali is an Australian citizen. Whatever his sermon may have implied, re scantily-clad women deserving to be raped (of which more about in a moment), the implications of Goward’s call are unmistakable and profoundly shocking. Muslim-Australian citizens, she is surely saying, remain on Australian soil only on the whim of White Australia. A white-trash Cronullan thug couldn’t agree more with these racist sentiments. Remember also that both Cronullan thugs and Goward are/were motivated by the same stated higher purpose: protection of “their” women from Muslim men.

It’s yucky, despicable stuff. Never mind, for the moment, allegations that al-Hilali incited rape. Pru Goward is plainly inciting White Australians to demonise Muslim men, and so quite possibly inciting reactive Muslim terrorism, one small link along the causation chain.

So what did Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali say?

The last quarter of the sermon in question was devoted to a matching, evenly-weighted pair of gender-specific themes. First came exclusive male responsibility for not turning to crime, however heavy the pressure of excessive spending (actual or desired) from their wives might be. Second came the now-notorious female counterpoint to this: women’s responsibility for covering-up, to prevent adultery and perhaps also rape.

It’s not what you’d call a pro-feminist message on either account, at least at first blush. Males as prudent financial controllers and providers, and females as . . . prudent sexual controllers (??). The latter is a generous interpretation by me, admittedly, but certainly also a salient reminder that a woman’s having sex or shoes on tap appears to be a universal, inverse binary.

But is Al-Hilali actually saying that a women can have neither (shoes or sex), except at her husband’s (or more generally, a man’s) whim and/or insistence? The male-as-provider stuff can be easily, and uncontroversially rebutted: although such was the dominant Australian view for two centuries until c.1980, it is now rare. However, if a current-day couple do practise such a financial arrangement, it is presumed to be consensual – that is to say, mutually beneficial, in a way which is (in secular Australian terms, at least) no-one else’s business.

So the “shoes” are not a Muslim-male-demonising, or even a religion-specific thing. What is it about the sex, then? Here, it is al-Hilali’s veering wildly from women’s responsibility for preventing adultery, into ditto for preventing rape, which brings him undone.

Preventing adultery – which I would define for modern secular usage as “sex outside an ostensibly monogamous, ongoing relationship” – can be considered a particularly female burden (or gift?), based on biology alone. If adultery leads to pregnancy and birth, it carries with it a high probability of paternity fraud. Paternity fraud, a chain of deceit that usually takes place over a whole lifetime, is a crime that only women are biologically able to commit. As with any other crime, paternity fraud (for which adultery is a necessary pre-requisite) cannot be dismissed as no-one else’s business. In other words, al-Hilali’s exhortation, as far as adultery goes, has sensible, if oblique application to modern secular Australia. Thus, women can be, and often are, equal financial providers (whatever Islam may say about it), but they can’t help but be dominant in adultery.

Rape, needless to say, has nothing to do with consensual adultery. While al-Hilali’s later, explanatory sermon specifically reinforces that Islam does not condone rape (surely an unsurprising point, Pru Goward and her white-trash constituency aside) there is no doubt that his “65 years” in Long Bay Jail, and following comments on Al-Rafihi, rape and “meat” carry appalling inferences. I doubt that any of these amount to inciting rape by Muslim men, however.

For his revolting inferences, Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali has since apologised – and rightly so. The damage that the racist Pru Goward has done meanwhile would seem irreversible, and only just beginning.

Update 2 November 2006

Greg Price writes in an Oz OpEd:

Kim Beazley rejected Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali's comments . . . [but] tempered his condemnation with the apologetic comment that in Australia, 30 years ago, views similar to the sheik's were widespread. Former ABC journalist Peter Manning made a similar point . . . although he put the era of depravity . . . in the 1950s.

. . .

In what decade did Australians subscribe to ideas [such as “honour” killing]?

Five words for Greg Price:

She was asking for it. (And see them in Google News, as well)

These words, and all that they unmistakably connote, were (it embarrasses me to say) quite common among White Australian men of my age group well into the 1980s.

In what decade did boomer Pollyannas like Greg Price get their memories erased?

Friday, October 27, 2006

The unbearable lightness of BCC-ing

Left unsaid in Corrie Perkin’s report of the Aboriginal art hoax email brou-ha-ha, involving Beverly Knight/Alcaston Gallery and Samantha Pizzi/Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, is that the reason the (imposter) sender had access to Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi's email list (which I am on) is almost certainly due to the Pizzi gallery having failed to BCC it on at least one previous occasion.

To rub in this fact presumably, the imposter-sender reproduces a chunk* of the list in his/her email. Alternatively, he/she is forgetful about always BCC-ing, as well.

"Bizarre" (same URL) this ain't - if my theory is correct, the imposter-sender has merely chanced upon the online equivalent of an unlocked, unattended car with its engine running. And the AFR's calling this an apparent "hack"** of gallery (Pizzi and/or Knight) databases shows a lack of elementary detective work, as well as a naiveté about email list slip-ups in the real world – failing to BCC is a reasonably common slip-up in corporate/high-end group emails, in my experience as a recipient of such.

* I say "chunk" because the email I received had a mere 69 addressees.

** Katrina Strickland "Hoax makes ugly picture" AFR 27 October 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Playing Good GenY, Bad GenY

The Oz just can’t make its mind up about GenY. Last week and the week before, it was berating them, again and again. Today however, it’s veering in the very opposite direction, by giving two of that generation’s lesser lights a platform.

John Heard, on Alan Jones’ outing, says nothing that hasn’t already been said (including by me), but with needless prolixity in John’s case.

James McConvill, meanwhile, is sounding more and more like a Martyr Without a Cause.

Friday, October 20, 2006

News Ltd raid on Fairfax - just hurry up

With impeccable timing –given News Ltd’s overnight raid on Fairfax – Jason Briant has an OpEd in today’s Age bemoaning that the ABC is still a Leftist stack.

As I said to the Right a few months ago – Have the ABC, it’s yours. And ditto for Fairfax; another broken, boomer-Left shitheap.

Just please don’t dither around in taking up this offer, all you Rightsters – see the fine print below.

Condition of offer:

Offer of unfettered, perpetual full editorial control at the ABC and Fairfax, for peppercorn consideration, to the Right may be withdrawn if, in the opinion of the judge, the Right continues to whinge excessively about Those Nasty Leftists in the meantime.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

There’s something about GenX men - Life and death inside the Xer bell-jar

Update 20 October 2006.

I’ve added a sub-title to the post, and now this explanatory foreword. The “bell-jar” is primarily meant as a statistical metaphor (although with an obvious nod to Sylvia Plath, also). Thus, bell jar as opposed to bell curve.

The jar is straight-sided; transparent for outside viewers, yet claustrophobic from the inside.

In dispassionate statistical terms, the left-side "wall" of the jar is men born in 1962 (the phenomenon I’m talking about also covers Xer women to some extent, but the male-only stats are more striking). For the born-1961-and-earlier “outside” men, “normal” statistical distribution applies – the curves are gentle, and indicia which usually positively correlate with age – such as DSP recipient rates and rooming-house tenancy – generally do so.

For the men on the “inside”, however, i.e. born-1963-and-later, these “normal” rules don’t apply – there is a cliff at the boomer/Xer divide, and then a plateau. Thus, DSP recipient rates are much higher for men born in the mid-1960s than in the late 1950s through to 1961 (“Budget to reduce disabled, sole parent benefits” (Graph) AFR 13 April 2005; see also here). While rooming-house tenancy rates can’t be plotted with the same precision (and the figures used below are based on a non-random sample), it is probable that they also travel up the steep, narrow wall of the 1962-born, and then plateau among Xers. Male suicide rates would also follow this precise pattern, I would speculate (I am unaware of published rates by exact year of birth).

Just a note, too, for any eager-beaver younger/GenY male readers out there. I really don’t know whether the Xer bell-jar has as steep-sided a demographic end as its beginning, nor hence what this end birth-year might be. But my guess (guess, I stress) is “yes”, and 1976. So say “phew” or “damn” accordingly.


Q 1. A company runs a network of 27 rooming-houses (with 374 rooms total) across the inner suburbs of Melbourne. The most common age-range of its tenants is:

(a) under 35
(b) 35-44
(c) 45-54
(d) 55 and over

Q 2. This company’s rooming-houses are, by its own admission, “in an appalling state of repair”. It apparently does minimal maintenance on these properties – and definitely zero capital works. Of the rent its tenants pay, $60 per tenant per week goes to the company for admin/letting costs and ad hoc maintenance. (Other overheads, such as cleaning and utilities, are separately costed). The company operates from stylish offices in a large (much too large for its ten or so staff, in fact) newly-renovated warehouse. This company is:

(a) a dodgy one, with links to convicted illegal brothel operators

(b) a real-estate agency with no qualms about making about ten times the margin it would make had the property been let as a single lot – under the latter arrangement, the estate agent would take only a 10% (or less) cut of the rent. (Landlords, not estate agents, generally pay for maintenance of course, but even factoring in some (small) additional maintenance overheads, the real-estate agency still has it sweet with a $60 per room per week gross margin).

(c) a “community housing” NGO

(d) a Macquarie Bank subsidiary


The answers, needless to say, are 1 (b) and 2 (c) – but if you said “(d) Macquarie Bank” to the second question, well kudos to you also: you get the Smart-Arse Male Xer Consolation Prize.

This Consolation Prize entitles you to (drum roll) watch the disintegration and premature death of your co-male Xer demographic from a box-seat: in fact, in/from a room in what is charmingly called “community housing” – but only for men in your age group, of course. (Take a bow Xers, for having gentrified the traditional rooming-house, so much so that it now takes the salaries and efforts of ten or so genteel staff (and their managers) at a NGO to do the job that was once done by One (per boarding house) Old Codger in a Dirty Blue Singlet, whose only pay for doing the letting/maintenance chores was free rent.)

From this box-seat – or lumpy, stale-piss infused mattress, actually – you can then ponder the strange quirks about your generation. Like its suicide rates: GenX males seized the Australian record for this in their teens, and are yet to be knocked off their perch, as it were – even into middle-age. Fortunately for you, your rooming-house domicile will seem a world away from this sort of bleakness, the explanation for which still baffles the experts, but never you mind.

Also able to be appreciated from afar are Victoria’s HIV seroconversion stats. Again, (gay) Xer men hog the limelight here, and again it’s a complete mystery to the experts why this might be so. But from the cocooned luxury of your Consolation Prize rooming-house bed, at least you don’t need to worry about your generation’s apparent death-wish.


Yarra Community Housing 2004/2005 Annual Report (PDF) and in-person enquiry.

$60 per room/tenant per week is based on current weekly charge per room of $98, of which $28 is guessed as separately costed overheads (communal-area cleaning, utilities etc) (Actual figure was $27 in 2004/2005). From the remaining $70, an unknown sum is paid to the state government (ultimate owner, but not operator, of YCH’s 27 rooming houses) – I am guessing this sum at $10 per room/tenant per week. Hence, the extraordinarily generous amount of $60 per room/tenant per week, going to pay multiple YCH faff-around salaries, notionally for doing a job formerly done by 27 Old Codgers working for free-room only.

Age range (2004/2005)

(These cover all YCH-managed tenancies, of which about one-quarter (153 out of 531) are self-contained, non-rooming houses (studio or one-bedroom apartments). At a wild guess, YCH’s minority of self-contained tenancies would be almost entirely occupied by women (27% of YCH’s tenants) and/or by non-Xer men. In other words, these figures almost certainly understate the rooming-house-specific preponderance of Xer (30-44 y.o. in 2006) men.

18-20 1%
21-34 26%
35-44 30%
45-54 24%
55+ 19%


HIV seroconversion stats, Victoria (gleaned from multiple sources; some sources put 2002 and 2004 figures at one pax lower). See also “Bugcatcher

1991: 317 pax (current all-time high, but almost certain to be eclipsed in 2006)

1999: 140 (low-number, since testing began in mid-1980s)

2000: 198 (average age 36)
2001: 218
2002: 234
2003: 225
2004: 224
2005: 286 (median age was 38 in second-quarter 2005)

2006 (to 30 June): 198

Thus the full-year 2006 figure is set to be 450-500 pax; smashing the previous 1991 record, and really getting the logarithmic curve going for next year – God help us. The median age will also have likely tracked upwards, only gently so this time. Meaning that – as with suicide rates over a longer timeframe – it is the same age-group of Xer men (born mid-60s to early-70s) who started, continued and remain the current mainstays of HIV’s second, larger epidemiological wave in Australia, 2000-??.

More stats 20 October 2006

I’ve realised that average/median age given (patchily) above doesn’t necessarily connote an Xer cluster/“bell-jar”. So (sigh) I’ve once again composed/re-typed a plain text mini-table, below.

(If anyone knows how to easily upload PPT slides into Blogger, please email me. I stress “easily” – this is from someone whose mobile phone bizarrely lacks a “Predictive Text is OFF, STAYS OFF, and CANNOT EVER, EVER, EVER BE ACTIVATED, ESPECIALLY ACCIDENTALLY” button. As to why telcos don’t charge for providing such a useful service (in contrast to ringtones, MP3s and other crap) is beyond me).

Male HIV diagnosis 2000-2004, by age group, Victoria
(excerpt from )

20-29 22.6% (220 men)
30-39 42.3% (412 men)
40-49 21.6% (210 men)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Universities as Left, elitist hot-beds

Ken Parish’s take on former legal academic James McConvill’s latest incarnation – as a straight attack-dog of the Right – is curious for what it doesn’t say. After less than one year as senior lecturer at the La Trobe University law school, ~28 y.o. James has parted ways with his employer, presumably on less than sweet terms. Obviously – or at least I think so – this recent event may affect his current judgment when it comes to his ex cathedra opinionating on academia’s woes. But Ken Parish, and a bevy of commenters, nonetheless choose to play James with a straight bat.

Before I go on, I need to insert a disclosure: I was a work colleague of James McConvill at Deakin University law school in 2005-05. But more about that soon.

James’ latest thoughts on academia admittedly could be perhaps mistaken as just a shriller version of this (from mid-2005):

As a young academic, I have been frustrated by the resistance to fresh and challenging ideas in my discipline of law. There is a clear and positioned elite who dare not to depart from their conservative views”.

But I think that James has made a clear category leap from this sort of view. He is no longer playing the “young” card, which if he was slightly older, would be called playing the “baby boomer” card (the latter is of course played negatively, the former positively).

In addition, there is the fact of James’ odd move to La Trobe law school at the end of 2005; I say “odd” because probably more so than any other law school in Australia, La Trobe is homogenously boomer-Left. As to why La Trobe offered James a quite senior role is a mystery indeed, then, given the on-the-public-record lack of “cultural fit”. James’ reasons for accepting the La Trobe job, OTOH, are not hard to guess: it was a quantum promotion from his Deakin role, and even if he had reservations about the La Trobe law school culture, other considerations presumably tipped the balance in favour of tipped the balance in favour of taking the job.

So am I saying that James’ pique stems from his ill-judged (mutually so) and short-lived “marriage” with La Trobe law school? Actually, no. Having worked at La Trobe law school relatively recently (2002) myself, I simply don’t regard (at the time or in hindsight) its boomer-Left homogeneity as a particularly prominent feature of it. It is/was there, sure enough, but my main experience of 2002 is/was the school's desperate under-funding, which meant that daily life as an academic within it was dominated by two-bit whoredom (or three-bit pimpdom, at more senior levels) – chasing, and pandering, to the overseas student dollar.

This whoredom and pimpdom, BTW, is endemic at almost all Australian law schools (and universities, more generally), so I’m not singling out La Trobe in this respect (if anything, Deakin is far worse). What I am trying to do is point out that, during my own time at La Trobe law school, I had more pressing things to occupy me than the career road-block of boomer-Left groupthink within the school. Here’s one anecdote from my time there (previously recounted in a mid-2003 post).

In a law subject I tutored at La Trobe University in 2002, one item of assessment was basically the same as the 2001 version – the names of the problem’s “characters” had been changed, but the legal basics were the same. (I wasn’t aware of this fact at the time the assignment was set. If I had been responsible for setting the assignment, I would have made it all-new.)

One of the assignments I marked – from a NESB overseas student – was, although unremarkable for its semi-literacy, particularly odd because the names of the characters changed midway through. As you may have guessed, it turned out that this student had copied part of another student’s (or possibly her own) prior-year answer into her 2002 assignment answer.

Clearly, this was a case of plagiarism. More importantly, perhaps, it was a case of such supine dumbness that surely the offending student had no business being in the higher education system, period. I can’t remember the penalty, if any, the student received for this, but it certainly wasn’t course-threatening. Nor, as I have since discovered, was this one-two scenario – of mind-bendingly stupid cheating, followed by a lack of any meaningful penalty, unprecedented.

For whatever reason, these sorts of incident seem to not even register on James McConvill’s radar, when it comes to the woes of modern academia. But anyway, back to Deakin law school – with an anecdote that doesn’t involve James, actually, but does rather fit within modern academia’s woes, nonetheless.

In 2nd semester 2005, I lectured and tutored in a new (for me) law subject. I was paid for this sessionally (= by the teaching hour). Under the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement in place at the time, sessional/casual teaching staff could not teach more than 60% of a typical full-time load, unless they were actually paid as full-time staff. My teaching load of five hours per week plainly exceeded this 60% threshold (a typical full-time load was/is 7.5 hours/week), and from early in the semester, I attempted to get this recognized, and paid accordingly (which meant an extra $15,000 or so (gross) for me).

Deakin law school managers (and university HR) were, to put it mildly, reluctant to obey the law here. By repeatedly putting bizarre new twists on the unassailable maths at centre, the teaching semester ended with no resolution in sight. Unfortunately, my union support also ended at this time (as the 60%-rule was omitted in a new EBA, then just starting operation, my case would have no value as a future precedent). Nor was going on my own to the Federal Magistrates Court (where EBAs are enforced) a viable option. The unrecoverable costs of chasing $15,000 make such a move futile, even if a win is virtually guaranteed.

So if there’s one thing to take away from reading this folks, it’s that Deakin University law school is a gutter, criminal operation. James McConvill is well to be free of them, although the irony is that his latest outpourings sound more and more “Deakin” – that is to say, uncivilised and steam-rolling over the basic law-and-justice concepts that one ostensibly professes and respects.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Another McDonald’s alumni success story

A couple of months ago I wrote about PM John Howard enthusing about GenYers can-do attitude, when it came to working for fast-food multinationals. Not everyone agrees, however, the Oz’s Louise Evans opining that “gen-Yers consider lifting a finger to serve someone other than themselves beneath them”.

Harsh. In any case, as I’ve emphasised before, sweeping generationalisms should only be used in jest or cliché unless there is meaningful data to underpin their supposed attributes in adult life. Such data is unlikely to exist before a generation hits 30, or even 40, to be on the safe side. The GenY-attribute game is therefore currently pointless as a serious academic field because it is premature, and not because, as Kate Crawford# seems to imply, generation-defining data doesn’t exist for pre-Yers. (An overview of some boomer-vs-Xer comparative data is here.)

Still, even the most dramatic generational hard-data – Australia’s suicide rate has peaked at mid-1960s-to-early-1970s born males for twenty-plus unbroken years, since this cohort were teenagers/early-20s in the mid-1980s* – permits many exceptions. And in the category of Australian male Xers inherently unlikely to top themselves, or otherwise be blighted by any of the connected troika of unemployment, mental illness and housing insecurity, I’d like to nominate this grouping of (mid-30s, I’m guessing) Melbourne slumlords, three of whom met while working at McDonald’s.

That there is good money to be made in leasing a property for, say, $320/week and then sub-letting its individual rooms for, say $750/week total (five rooms at $150/week each) is plain. There are no overheads other than power (which can’t be separately metered) and (minor) letting costs. In an incidental Melbourne-vs-Sydney anecdote, it would seem that while such sub-letting arbitrage is regrettably present in both cities, Sydney’s prime customers are overseas backpackers (four to a room at $120/week each, while the head-lessee pays ~$500/week), while Melbourne’s slumlords primarily service desperate, one-to-a-room locals.

It is striking how slumlord (and convicted illegal-brothel operator) George Maatouk has learned to talk the talk:

"We're not 100 per cent right in how we run our [sub-letting] business, but if we weren't there to start off with, these people wouldn't have anywhere to go . . .The demand is just growing; we can't keep up," Maatouk said. (same URL)

Take a bow for that, McDonald’s – a former employee of yours still striving for manifest excellence in customer service. However, maybe McDonald’s can’t take all the credit here, for young George’s Getting of Spin-dom, as he has had some excellent spin-meistering role-models in the non-profit slumlord sector, also.

In June, the Age ran this story about the fate of Western Lodge, a hellish boarding-house which had lately and suddenly attracted a bidding-war of good intentions, either triggered by, or actually causing, the sale of the underlying freehold and so the imminent eviction of the residents:

Wesley Mission had wanted to step in and improve the situation at Western Lodge . . . The best case scenario, said [Wesley’s] Micaela Cronin . . . would be to build an alternative home nearby.

"Most of us would like to get Western Lodge closed down but there are 60 people there, some of whom have been there for a long time, and it is their home, as much as that is disturbing.

. . .

Clare Amies, the chief executive officer of Western Region Health Centre, a non-profit group [that had taken over the operation of Western Lodge only two months earlier], said Western Lodge posed a dilemma: it was an inappropriate environment, but it was home to many people and there were few alternatives. "We might be able to put them in a place 20 kilometres away … but that will not be their local community, with local support and services."
(same URL)

What useless, hand-wringing fucktards. (George Maatouk himself couldn’t have purred “Location, location, location” any more convincingly.)

The actual “best case scenario”, dare I suggest it – meaning, this time something concrete to be done, not just bandied around hypothetically – would start with Clare Amies and Micaela Cronin stopping being/aspiring-to-be salaried slumlords themselves, “non-profit” or otherwise. As George Maatouk & Co make plain and exemplary, customer service excellence in the slumlord and fast-food industries exists in direct proportion to the unhealthiness of these industries’ products.

Saving on the salaries of Clare Amies, Micaela Cronin and their ilk would only be a small start, though. A bigger, necessary step is for more public housing in Victoria. (That’s “Victoria”, not “Melbourne”, much less particular suburbs within it – quality of domicile has to come in above “supportive” location.)

In tandem with this, GenX men need to be shifted from their current implicit priority at the very bottom of waiting lists – and so automatic prime customers for George Maatouk & Co – into becoming screaming, red-hot priority cases for public housing.

For it is clear that for two scandalous, long decades, the safety-net for GenX men has been set too low – six feet too low, in fact.

# Kate Crawford “Generation cliché” AFR Boss Magazine 13 October 2006

* This astonishing statistic continues to receive minimal media attention, and even within that, lame theories on what The Something About Xer Men might be. For a recent example, see:

Adam Cresswell, “Suicide rates mask men at riskAustralian, 16 September 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Cinema corner – Marie Antoinette
(and how for GenY, life is a rehearsal)

From its cinema preview, Sofia Coppola’s new movie looks bizarre – in a bad, GenY-wank sort of way, not a good GenX, um, wank sort of way. (Coppola was born in 1971, but her riding on her daddy’s coat-tails has shaved years off her, careerwise. Meaning that she could even be an honorary boomer?)

Anyway, the bone I’m picking with the film is its inclusion of New Order’s cover version* of the Joy Division song “Ceremony” in Marie Antoinette’s feature soundtrack, and most especially preview soundtrack. (I haven’t seen the film, which is yet to open in Australia.)

“Ceremony” is a gut-wrenching song of rare strength, quite apart from the circumstances of its first and last public performance/recording by Joy Division in 1980, and one year later, the well-meaning tribute cover by New Order. Whatever the song’s context in the actual film of Marie Antoinette, its place in the film’s preview is about as suitable as including graphic September 11 footage in a Bambi movie.

Plus there’s the cover-version thing. Almost three decades on, it seems to me that the most suitable ongoing tribute New Order could make to Ian Curtis would be to stop licensing their “Ceremony”. It’s not that their version is inferior or defective, it’s just that if ever a song was able to speak from the grave, “Ceremony” is it.

More broadly, can we please have a GenY moratorium/blanket-ban on anything to do with Joy Division, at least until they turn 30, say. John Heard’s "Love Will Tear Us Apart" T-shirt was another violation of the dead by the living crass.

* Cover version? "Ceremony" was written, and first performed by the four members of Joy Division, three of whom (sans Ian Curtis) of course went on to form New Order. Wikipedia’s take is that Joy Division’s live performance of the song at Birmingham University on 2 May 1980, as recorded on the album “Still”, ought best be regarded as never having been born:

“Still” is a point of contention among some of the group's fans, because of the undeniably poor quality recording of the Birmingham University performance. This is not aided by the fact that the engineer that night mixed the vocals far too low for the first half of "Ceremony", making Ian Curtis inaudible and thus ruining one of only two recordings the band made of the song. Recent CD reissues of the album on London Records have replaced this live version with the other known recording, a 1980 demo that originally surfaced on the “Heart and Soul” box set.

As for “the [general] undeniably poor quality recording of the Birmingham University performance”, bollocks. Considering its live-ness, it’s overall fine. Admittedly, Ian Curtis’s early lyrics on "Ceremony" are basically inaudible, but sheesh, to call the whole song “ruined” sounds like a petulant GenYer wanting his/her Oompah-loompah now. And the so-called “demo” alternative version of "Ceremony" by Joy Division was a rehearsal, FFS!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Reds in the university summer schools?

According to Hal G.P. Colebatch (son of another, more famous, and probably more mentally-balanced Hal Colebatch):

"The shape of the culture war is hard to pin down . . . but aspects of it can be seen in school reading lists, museum displays, university summer schools, arts grants and a multitude of other things".

Three of the specific things on this list have indeed been Australian culture war battle-fields in plain view, but university summer schools, FFS? My understanding of such is that they are geared to the CAE/arty-amateur market; viz courses for weekend painters, film-makers and flower-arrangers. Such enough, Googling [“university summer schools” Australia] gets a Tai Chi course and a dance course as the top two hits for Australian summer-school content. Both hotbeds of Left elitism and indoctrination, I’m sure.

As for an explanation of what Colebatch was thinking, it might start with Hal having done a bit of lazy Sunday Googling himself. Page 2 of the same search reveals a lovingly re-keyed US Marxist tome from 1938 which suggests, inter alia, that university summer schools might be a good place for the keen cadres of 1938 to drop their party-recruitment leaflets around at.

Yes, you heard it here first – Hal Colebatch has apparently discovered a wormhole in the space/time continuum, in which 2006 Australia exactly resembles 1938 America.

Alternatively, Hal’s proof that Perth drinking-water not only tastes like bad shrooms, it is fully psychoactive with the stuff.

Update 16 October 2006

Hal Colebatch (or at least someone calling themselves that, emailing from writes:


Read the summer schools [sic] programme, fuckhead!

Hal Colebatch


Err, yes, Hal. But is there one that is particularly "commie" that you can point me to? All I can see at a glance is arts, arts, arts. And it may be worth reminding you here that I don't myself have access to a time-machine, so I'd appreciate it if your "commie summer school" evidence was present-day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

North Korea nukes and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

John Quiggin writes that the North Korean atomic bomb test news “is easily the worst we’ve had since the end of the Cold War”. I disagree. September 11, 2001 was on a par with a nuclear missile actually hitting, with no warning, somewhere in the West, or somewhere otherwise sufficiently televisual/strategic, rather than a long-predicted mere test explosion. In reality, of course, no nuclear weapon has been lobbed in anger, anywhere in the world, since 1945.

Plainly it’s not good news, all the same. North Korea is a nutbar state, pure and simple. But compared to Pakistan – safe-haven for Osama, yet an official (and probably even MySpace, too) friend of the West in the US-lead war-on-terror – I would rather take my chances with the predictable nutbar, rather than put up with a “friend” of many faces.

By coincidence, one of my least favourite boomers, Dennis Glover, mentioned September 11 only the other day as "the biggest event in world history since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962".

Now even if one confines Big Events in World History to bad ones only, I still have trouble seeing the Cuban Missile Crisis as the other twin tower, as it were, of global catastrophe, post-WWII-to-present. Maybe natural disasters should also be excluded from our Big Events category, leaving only War and Other Political (Bad) Events as eligible contenders. If so, I’d still nominate the (i) 1973 Oil Shock (aka Saudi Arabia shafts the West, Vol 1) and (ii) the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (aka the Ruskies come without a few hundred k’s of having a warmwater/Indian Ocean port) as exceeding the Cuban Missile Crisis in Event-fulness, from both blatant US-centric and broader Western perspectives.

The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, in case unlike me you weren’t taught it at school, was a time when, for about five minutes, it seemed possible that the US and Russia would start raining nukes on each other. Aka (cue foreboding music) The (Possible) End of the World. It is/was, of course, a baby boomer Trophy Moment – the entirety of the boomer cohort had been born (just), and even the oldest were still only impressionable 16 y.o.’s at the time.

Like any good Trophy Moment, the Cuban Missile Crisis acquired big-E eventfulness more by the passage of time than by its inherent contemporaneous qualities. Nuclear annihilation was an ever-present fear – the actual justification for which will probably remain forever unquantifiable – throughout my own 1970s childhood. How much scarier could 1962 have been, given that no one actually pressed the button then, than living in the 1970s?

Also, it is surely permissible to tinker retrospectively with Eventfulness when one putative Event has later echoes with another unimpeachably big-E one. Such is the case with both the 1973 Oil Shock and the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. If these don’t stand on their own as As Big as They Come Events post-WWII (IMO, they do), then the fact that they both lead inexorably to September 11, 2001 is the proof in the pudding.

Meanwhile, the 1962 Crisis’ main legacy in 2006 presumably is the still-vivid recollections of millions of young boomers wetting the bed, literally or metaphorically. I hope it feels and felt warm for you, then and now, Dennis Glover.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Australian sectarianism’s re-awakening?

“Australia’s (Re)Awakening” is the ambitious title of the current (# 184) Overland’s feature article/“lecture”, by the late-30s Joel Deane, whose main claim to commentariat fame is being Victorian Labor Premier Steve Bracks’ senior speechwriter. Not only does Deane’s article fail to live up to its ambitious title or feature prominence, it is the sheer dumbest thing published in Overland – a journal that I usually respect – for at least a decade.

It is in mock-tribute to Deane’s article that I’ve titled this post – with similarly misleading pretensions. Australian sectarianism* is in no more danger of re-awakening than is the Australian Left, on present indications. Deane’s article does, however, contain a peculiar vignette about sectarianism in present-day Australia, so I’m going to salvage this from the article’s broader detritus, and then jump into a broader discussion of Australian sectarianism’s intersections with generations and class – as inspired by another article in the current Overland.

Deane’s vignette is styled, oddly-enough, as a disclosure of interest, randomly located in the body of his article:

At this point I feel I should make a disclosure. I live in Menzies, the electorate of the Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews – the architect of WorkChoices.

[Hell, Joel, my federal member is a useless (Labor) boomer bludger. I don’t, however, feel even slightly personally responsible for any woe that may flow from that fact. But Deane continues on, to a more substantive disclosure:]

Not only that [!], my family being former supporters of the Democratic Labour Party, I have a nodding acquaintance with the Member for Menzies, who was one of the guests of honour at the wedding of my older sister a few years back.

So Joel Deane’s “family” (by which he must mean his 60+ parents, and/or similarly aged aunts/uncles, and/or ancient or deceased grandparents, etc) were DLP (= Catholic, anti-communist “Left”) supporters four or more decades ago (the DLP has been politically irrelevant since the mid-1970s). Wow! And “not only that”, DLP DNA has seemingly been passed on into the current Xer generation of Deanes, so much so that Joel’s sister quite possibly at the very least preferences a Catholic Liberal candidate ahead of Labor (an old DLP trademark vote), and even the very-Labor-himself Joel actually managed to meet (and presumably, be civil to) Catholic Liberal politician Kevin Andrews at his sister’s wedding. Wow, Joel – that was one small handshake, but one mighty step for allowing your old dad to feel like it was 1969** all over again, I bet.

Under the Joel Deane worldview then, it would seem that Australian sectarianism is, improbably, not dead, but merely resting in a purgatorial gap between generations, awaiting intermittent brief revival when trotted-out at a wedding every forty years or so.

But then there’s another view altogether, under which Australian sectarianism has been seen very much alive and in captivity (= in the current-affairs section of the commentariat) as recently as 1993. Amidst a long article “Politics and Monomania” (also in Overland 184), Ken Gelder makes his exemplary point thus:

In 1993, Janet McCalman ended her book Journeyings – a biography of middle-class Melburnians – with a warning about the ‘meanness’ of middle-class governing elites, resentful of the rich and yet distanced from the poor. “For the youngest generation now in power,” McCalman writes, “ . . . their psychic apartness from the common herd presents this country with one of its gravest dangers.”

Australia’s cultural elites are out of touch – only this time the accusation was made by one of their own, and well before a culture-war along these lines was officially declared c. 2002 – you get the picture. Oddly, Gelder makes nothing at all of McCalman’s specificity about “the youngest generation now in power”, meaning in 1993 (as well as 2006, although that’s another story) baby boomers. But never mind that, it is McCalman’s covert sectarianism that is of most interest for now.

To understand McCalman’s sectarianism, it is first necessary to unpick her usage of “middle-class”. By this, she historically (to 1970, say) means about the 80th to 95th percentiles of Melburnians by wealth and income (more commonly in synch back then). They could also be termed the “professional classes”, although probably a more exact marker would be the particular schools they usually attended and sent their own offspring to: expensive and exclusive private schools, disproportionately weighted by Protestant affiliation. Thus, however the finer details of McCalman’s Journeyings “middle-class” might be understood, the essence is that they were not remotely “middle”, as that word is generally understood: they were way past the middle-zone of affluence, albeit still a distinct niche below the very rich (= the top 5%).

So what on earth was McCalman banging-on about then, re her warning about boomer cultural elites being (in 1993, at least) dangerously out of touch? And even if they are/were, doesn’t/didn’t the same point go double for her own (I’m assuming) WASP “middle” (sic) class?

The answer to the latter is a firm “No”. For starters, affluent, older-than-boomer WASPs would never “resent” the seriously rich. Until the post-1960s rise of the workplace meritocracy, every class in Melbourne well-knew its hereditary-cum-school place. The very rich were outwardly feted and inwardly coaxed toward philanthropy by affluent WASP women, for whom mediating the gap between the very rich and the deserving poor (aka “charity”) was often a de facto, if not actual full-time job. No risk of “psychic apartness from the common herd” (nor indeed the rare breed of the rich) for these matriarchal pillars of the community – they were the vital class cog for maintaining a fixed and smooth-functioning social order.

This same social order came under intense pressure from about 1970 on, of course. Suddenly, one’s parental occupation and school-place ceased to matter, at best. “Charity” became the primary responsibility of governments, through taxation. Suddenly also then, WASP matriarchs were stripped of their hitherto-vital class role – government public services had always been low on WASPs, but from the 1970s on, they became ridiculously so, with the new welfare apparatus being contemptuous of affluent WASPs, yet without being even particularly Catholic (!) about it. Fey but tasteful WASP “charity benefits” would persist post-1970s, but would overlap in category with school-fundraisers et al, until by the late 1990s, even feathering the nests of their own affluent-WASP class was nearly redundant, courtesy of substantial taxpayer-funding of elite private schools.

How relevant is any of McCalman's submerged sectarianism today? In the end, I’m not sure, but I don’t think that the narrow answer really matters. The fact that Ken Gelder can in 2006 cite Janet McCalman approvingly, on the noblesse oblige of her (and Gelder’s?) own class, versus the remote-from-both-ends boomer meritocratic elite speaks volumes. I query whether the boomer elite in 2006 could conceivably still “resent” the rich (for a large part, they now are it), but in any case, this Xer is miles from both the affluent WASP elite and the boomer elite. The former is seemingly being invoked by Gelder, to sternly put the latter in its place. I should be rapt to hear this, as an Xer, only the cure for boomer-itis sounds worse than the disease. My generation fits in where?

I wish I had a wedding to go to. Maybe it would all make sense then, what with my own ancestral DLP DNA being given a generational opportunity to re-awaken from the family crypt.

* Footnote for GenY: Sectarianism was the Catholic/Protestant divide, a pervasive force in Australian cultural and political life for a century or so, until the 1970s

** The “Don’s Party” election, in which It wasn’t – yet – Time for Gough: the Liberals won, on DLP preferences.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Why you shouldn’t buy T3

Telstra is again* about to engage in a huge and legally-dubious ad blitz. The “legally dubious” part is because companies in the process of offering shares to the public are supposed to confine their sales pitch to a soberly-worded** prospectus, with only normal-course-of-business advertising being allowed during this period, so as to forbid prospectus-bypassing hype. The timing of the "Next G" ad campaign with the share offer is clearly not coincidental, given that the Next G network will not be operational – including having even “demo” handsets available – until next year

But never mind a company spending a mere $20m (penultimate URL) of its shareholder’s funds, money that it can ill afford (given that it has lately been borrowing just to pay dividends), on such legally dubiosities – it gets worse.

Telstra’s Next G network can already be labelled a plain white-elephant, I reckon.

3G spectrums (of which Next G is merely a faster (3 x, or so) version of what is currently provided by all telcos, including Telstra), carry four revenue streams:

voice calls,
video calls,
subscription downloads, and
bandwith-metered “raw” data.

Mobile voice calls have been, for several years, ultra low margin, and voice-calling on 3G is nothing different, anyway.

Video calls are also a fizzer – Jetsons-style future-tastic prophecies have been way off the mark here (but I’m still holding out for personal flying saucers). Re video calling, I know what I’m talking about: I’ve had a 3G video-call enabled phone for 10 months, and have made video calls a handful of times, for novelty purposes only. And don’t you think that I’m being the tech-luddite here; the number of video calls I’ve received is precisely nil.

Then there’s subscription downloads, which do seem mildly promising in comparison to video calls. Such downloads include music (MP3 audio), video-clips (audio-visual) and TV generally. The former two are typically charged at a few dollars per song, while TV seems to be commonly charged out on a per-program, “all you can eat” (or squint, actually) basis.

My own 3G phone-bill for subscription downloads in the last 10 months has been zero. Admittedly, I’m probably an anomaly here (and certainly a disappointment to my telco, who provided me with a “free” 3G handset, and a generous voice-call capped plan, in the expectation of my taking their “fries with that?” bait). In contrast, many 15-25’s no doubt have nothing better to do than spend some of their boomer parents’ capital gain windfalls on subscription downloads. After all, when it’s a whole five metre walk to the landline-anchored computer – from which the same data can be disgorged more cheaply, if not for free – what self-respecting GenYer is going to endure such hardship?

Finally, there’s bandwith-metered data – aka the Internet without either a landline or the geeky arcania of wireless “hot-spots”, which could more accurately be called “acne-spots”, in a tribute to the particular age-group of those who can truly be bothered with them. Again, I’ve got personal experience of the unspotted wireless Internet, having for 10 months had a “free” 3G data card that gives me 200MB of the Internet per month for a $29 cap (excess MB are 30 cents each – ouch).

The profit-potential of such data is the main unknown for Telstra’s Next G network. In contrast to subscription-download data – where subscription revenue should easily and always exceeed the underlying cost of its bandwidth – selling just raw bandwidth, aka convenient wireless Internet access, has to be carefully costed. Here, there are not the economies of scale that you might think. I’m no expert, but I’d guess that Telstra’s break-even figure for providing 1 GB of 3G wireless Internet per month (1 GB being what at typical broadband-over-landline Internet account might go through) would be around $200/month. Few current landline-Internet typical users would cop such a bill regularly, I’d suggest, given that their current landline-rental-plus-ISP/MB-charges would be about a third of this, at $70/month.

The only bright spot in all of this for Telstra is that the old-fashioned home landline may not be doomed after all, at least for now. Landline rental provides Telstra with a notorious, juicy monopoly. Most Australian households my age and younger, if they still have landlines at all, have them mainly for Internet access. Tempting as it might be to snip the landline off once and for all, the underlying, scarce-bandwidth economics of wireless Internet provision - which Next G doesn't fundamentally alter - mean that only light(ish) Internet users (like me) would be likely to sign up for Next G as their primary Internet provider. Meaning, necessarily modest margins for Telstra, for the provision of limited bandwidth to thrifty, landline-bypassing Xers.

On the whole then, the only scalable new revenue source for Telstra’s Next G will be from the ranks of lazy GenYers, doing subscription handset-downloads. And when these grow-up, or their bill-underwriting parents wake-up (perhaps aided by the coming house-price crash that many in my generation are counting on), then Next G is going to be very soon be Oh-So-Last-G, if it isn’t already.

* From memory, it pulled much the same trick with T2, in 1999

** Necessarily so, because of stiff legal sanctions otherwise: Corporations Law Part 6D.3

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

NGV curatorgate saga settled?

Previous installments are here and here.

Predictably, Oz arts journo Corrie Perkin is today triumphant in claiming the resignation of Geoffrey Smith brings a satisfactory closure to “curatorgate”. Smith is front-ended as “embittered” by Perkin – a former PR boss at the NGV – while any collateral embitterment at the NGV seems to have evaporated overnight. Surprise, surprise.

Also unsurprising is that today Perkin has gone back to her old habit (penultimate URL) of failing to disclose her highly relevant, and recent, NGV role. When Smith went on the counter-attack a few weeks ago, Perkin did twice disclose her former NGV role: # and ##. Presumably, she felt it prudent to do so in defence, given that friends of hers in similar rich'n'arty circles to Steve Vizard (if not Vizard himself, who circumstantially is a Corrie Perkin buddy (penultimate URL)) were being put under the spotlight by Smith’s counter-attack. (In essence, Smith was arguing (i) that there were numerous other, non-Smith or Gould Galleries, seeming conflicts of interest at the NGV – involving Vizard, NGV trustees and more – none of which had lead to Smith’s fate of a NGV internal inquiry, and (ii) the NGV’s business with Gould Galleries was done at the most senior levels; i.e. without direction from Smith.)

For the record, the NGV purchased a grand total of four paintings from Gould Galleries (a major commercial gallery in Melbourne) between 1992 and 2005*. (The last, 2005 acquisition was one year after Smith and Robert Gould separated). To its discredit, the NGV has refused to identify the works or how much it paid for them (ibid), or who authorised their acquisition. The answers here would surely easily solve the most serious potential conflict of interest by Smith; that is, whether he directed his employer to buy artworks from “his” (co-owned, so he is claiming in a separate court case) private gallery.

To her discredit, Perkin today seems unconcerned about the ongoing mystery here. If for no other reason, having the NGV disclose the prices it pays, for what, and to what vendor/gallery in private sales (auction acquisitions are a matter of public record anyway) would seem to be a sensible insurance policy against future “curatorgates”. To her double discredit, last month Perkin warned against an early settlement of Smith v NGV “bury[ing]” “the gallery’s internal processes for acquiring art and putting on exhibitions” # – while today she is happy to be a participant in just such a burial.

Also for the record, the National Association of Visual Artists says three conflict of interest complaints involving the NGV (none of which involved Smith) have been made to it since 2003**. One of these almost certainly would be the inclusion of artist – and NGV trustee – Sally Smart as one of five artists chosen to represent Australia in the “Contemporary Commonwealth” exhibition, which coincided with the March 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, on face value a gross conflict of interest, but one which Perkin has mentioned only fleetingly***.

In terms of other, less serious potential conflicts of interest by Smith – such as using his accrued art-market expertise to steer Gould Galleries acquisitions (presumably not from the NGV) – who knows? What is plain is that this sub-category of “conflict” would be endemic among staff at at all public institutions: it logically extends to preclude dinner-party chit-chat (“Who’s ‘hot’ right now”), and so on. To prevent all such conflicts from arising, the NGV would have to forbid its entire staff from any outside socializing. At first glance, this step wouldn’t be that draconian, given low NGV wages – Smith’s salary, as a quite senior curator, was reported as $50k or so. But then again, Smith was far from the only person at the NGV living non-brown-cardigan-lifestyle on brown-cardigan wages. In other words, the NGV needs to get real.

Disclosure: Paul Watson lives a brown-cardigan-lifestyle on a sub-brown-cardigan income.

# Corrie Perkin, “Top art curator fights for professional life”
Australian, 2 September 2006

## Corrie Perkin, “Curator row set to hit bottom line”
Australian, 16 September 2006

* Karen Collier, “Curator in deal for ex-lover's art”
Herald-Sun, 11 July 2006

** “NGV complaints”
Arts Diary, Age 15 August 2006

*** Corrie Perkin, “Gallery probes love-art conflict”
Australian, 12 July 2006

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The next generation of public intellectuals

With fitting irony, this year’s most important Australian essay/blog-post/whatever – “Our future thinkers” Drusilla Modjeska The Monthly July 2006 – has seemingly sunk without trace. The article’s not being available online* obviously hasn’t helped, but the young(er) Oz’s commentariat’s (which largely means the blogosphere’s) usual alacrity in responding to attacks on their own importance has been noticeably absent on this occasion.

Not that Modjeska is having a concerted go at the online commentariat – she has better primary targets in her sights; media/industries that actually involve money and earning a living, viz, academia and book publishing.

Here, she launches forthright into the generational lines that currently define these two key cultural industries. Along the way, she happily dismisses GenY (= twenty-somethings) and the blogosphere together in one short side-swipe:

Those who embrace the new world of the blogosphere say there’s plenty of reading and writing going on – it’s just not in books. The twenty-somethings, they argue, are making their own interventions into public culture in ways that go against the grain.

She’s presumably referencing Mark Davis’ Gangland (1997) here – the Xers’-DIY-spirit-will-eventually-triumph-over-conservative-boomers (deluded) argument, that is, not the (rather contradictory) Boomers Have it Locked Up Tighter Than Fort Knox argument. Which is appropriate enough because almost ten years on, it is now time for a revisiting, cum reality check, of the youthful promise of 90s’ twenty-somethings, and what happens when Davis’ “new” generationalism becomes threadbare and entrenched.

Modjeska, a baby boomer**, nowhere uses “Xer” (and "boomer" only sparingly) in her article – “thirty-something” is used in lieu, if necessarily somewhat loosely (Gideon Haigh, at 40, is emblematic of the generation, which is also alluded to as the "under fift[ies]" - although under-45s would be an empirically sounder age-borderline, IMO).

Thirty-somethings are an age group that can still be called “young”, but in 2006 carry with them some very particular historical baggage from the last decade and a half:

Who takes responsibility for publishing new writers, for nurturing them, investing in them? . . . These were the thorny questions I met again [after experiencing them in 1991] in the mid-90s when a member of the Literature Board.

And now a decade later, I am meeting them in the universities. Where does the responsibility fall for the nurturing and training of the next generation of public intellectuals?

Modjeska’s implied answer to the latter, titular question is pessimistic. But tellingly, she recognises a deeper, and in-real-time pessimism among the currently wing-waiting “next generation” – aka thirty-somethings – themselves:

With radical changes in the culture of both the universities and the publishing industry . . . the question that concerns me here is how the next generation of young thinkers and writers is going to become part of public culture. A gloomier question is whether there will be a thinking culture for them to join . . .

The thirty-somethings who teach in undergraduate courses see a radical shift since their day, when books were still central . . . They ask if we are reaping the fruits of postmodernism . . .

Although I share the sense of a tide running out, taking with it ground that once seemed solid, I am not as gloomy as the gloomier of my young interlocutors.

That these thirty-somethings, old enough to reflect "In my day . . .", are not even named by Modjeska also reflects a new reality, of fear of career damage and retribution within academia. Again the seed of this change can be quite precisely dated, to the Dawkins de-forms*** to higher education in the late 80s:

Dorothy Green . . . saw [the bureaucratised university] coming with the first of the Dawkins cuts that ushered in what Inga Clendinnen calls the Age of Iron. “Cuts to education budgets, Green wrote back in the 80s, “can be as effective as nocturnal visits from the secret police”.

* A (much) shorter, and rather different (removed of almost all generational references) version of the July Monthly article was run in the Oz recently: Drusilla Modjeska “Reach out and touch somebodyThe Australian Higher Ed, 13 September 2006

** Number of honourable mentions of Drusilla Modjeska in Gangland: one (p 58, where she admits boomers' tendency to myopic, 70s pseudo-anarchism). Number of dishonourable mentions: four (see Index)

*** Number of dishonorable mentions of John Dawkins (or HECS) in Gangland: none. Q.v. pp 13 and 243, where Labor's higher education de-forms in the decade to 1996 are obliquely noted.

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