the time always comes

"I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Friday, February 05, 2010

This is not a win for the little guy

In 1983, Men At Work's 'Land Down Under' was a defacto national anthem. On incessant rotation as the backing track to Hawkie and Alan Bond's gauche, televised piss-up session following that year's big sporting victory, the America's Cup win, the song dripped with Australiana.

It didn't take a genius to spot the playful 'Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree' references in the flute line. As a nine year old, forced to screech along to Aussie folk classics of that song's ilk on the recorder - songs like 'The Old Bullock Dray' - by well-meaning and patriotic teachers, I was well aware of the connection and for years assumed the homage to that particularly Australian refrain was common knowledge for anyone who had half an ear for a tune and any affinity for popular culture at all.

So my response to this 'revelation' on Spicks and Specks many years later was 'well, duh!'. My response to the subsequent lawsuit, however, has been disgust.

The song’s author was still alive in the early 80s, and, it has been said by Colin Hay, raised no objection to ‘Land Down Under’ at a time when saturation coverage of the America’s Cup (with the song as a constant accompaniment) must have ensured that she would have heard it. After she passed away, Larrikin Publishing purchased the rights to the song, presumably to reap commercial benefits from the use of a song as common to Australian ears as ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ is to Americans.

Larrikin now awaits the court’s ruling on the extent of its windfall – and stands to gain a fortune without having contributed to the creative process of either song in any way. Curiously, for someone who OWNS the allegedly infringed tune, Larrikin’s director was only alerted to the similarities by the aforementioned Spicks and Specks episode.

Folk music is part of the creative lexicon from which we all draw inspiration as a culture. It is part of a shared history. Once an artist dies, or copyright expires with the passage of time (fifty years), that artist bequeaths a legacy to culture.

How many films and books have taken ‘inspiration’ from the long-dead Jane Austen? How many Shakespearean ideas have found their way into cultural expression over the centuries since his death? Where would Paul Simon be if there were limits on the appropriation of the old folk tune that inspires ‘Scarborough Fair’? Does Larrikin now plan to sue ‘Kookaburra’s’ most famous interpreter, Rolf Harris?

I heard a breakfast announcer on community radio this morning try to rationalise the blatant opportunism of a non-artist exploiting the opportunity for a windfall by saying ‘it’s a win for the little guy because Larrikin is an independent label, and Men At Work were signed to Sony’. I disagree. In situations such as this, the artist, and not the businessman, is always the little guy.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I'm back. Tumbleweed blows through the blogosphere these days, with the departure of certain rather large-scale blogs taking those in their orbit with them. Renewed readerlessness (zero down from about two) has made me feel liberated to write what I feel, garbage or otherwise, without self-censure.

I've been riding to work. I was always petrified of it - the cars, the exertion, the hat hair - but somehow I've now become hooked. It's utterly amazing. There are scents I haven't encountered since childhood. Mostly native vegetation - subtle, buttery wattle and the bark of old gums. There are strange sounds - a man scoping out an underground cable with a detector machine that made a sound like a theramin as it passed over danger below; the swish of my tyres as I pass under tunnels. Where I used to feel fatigue at the thought of saddling up, I now look forward to jumping on my bike and scooting off at the end of another irritating day at work. And I've lost weight. I can't believe it has taken me so long to figure it out.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A woman serving the interests of the Old Boys Club... where have we seen that before?

This blog says it better than I do, as do about five or six op-ed pieces in The New York Times. I have argued about it with people who should know better and to be honest I'm clean out of puff.

The fact that windbags like R*sh Limba*gh are tripping over themselves to call her a 'babe' should give everyone a clue about whose interests she serves - and it ain't those of American women - let alone men, polar bears, elk, wolves, trees or Arctic shelves, or indeed any human beings on the planet who fear the incongruous thought processes involved in a pro-war, pro-guns, pro-death penalty, pro-drilling, anti-gay, anti-green, anti-intellectual, anti-library books, anti-sex education and anti-anyone-who-gets-in-the-way platform alongside being "pro-life". Even the people who will vote for her just as easily as they'll vote for their favourite singer on American Idol don't deserve her.

I don't care if she has a 99/I Dream of Jeannie/Bewitched/That Girl/Mary Tyler Moore retro charm about her (though this is by far the best thing about her). All those women did it better than her anyway, not to mention more liberally, even though it was the 1960s... And anyway, Jeannie never used her power for ill. SP is like the evil sister.

I don't care if she believes in Frith (so long as she doesn't want to hammer it into school children) - it's the vindictive tyrant streak that worries me, and the Goebbels-inspired GOP press machine.

I don't care what her daughter gets up to either - the personal stuff is only held against her because she runs on a hypocritical, preachy, I-will-enforce-my-family-values-upon-you ticket. If Hillary had a string of lovers and a couple of adult love children, it would make no difference to her suitability. Just as it made no difference to Bill's.

I'm sorry if I sound like a member of the much maligned liberal left elite, but since when has being terminally ignorant and vicious been a job requirement for consideration in the US presidential elections? Wait. Please don't answer that.

Barack - don't mess it up. The rest of the world needs you. As do the sane 'Blue State' voters in your country, with whom we stand united.

Music is the only way to say it without bursting (another) blood vessel. Over to Cody Chesnutt...

(If anyone knows how I can post the actual thingy up here, I'd be most obliged. Yes, liberal, left, perhaps a little elite with pretensions to intellectualism - but a complete net luddite.)

(Crap visuals, but there's a 'catchy alert' attached. The song will be with you until November.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bill Henson. My take.

I am hopeless at getting my opinion out there while issues are still topical, partly because I want to make sure I can stand behind what I've written, and partly because I'm a waffling old bore.

So my take on this issue has to be presented in point form, though even my 'points' can be rather long:

Many of the commentators condemning Bill Henson's work are using the 'art is subjective' line to defend their lack of understanding of it. I agree that art is subjective, but the laws governing artist freedoms should not be. It's quite a leap to go from saying you dislike Henson's art to calling for it to be banned. In my opinion saying that you find his work 'revolting' or even plain dull is acceptable. Calling for censorship based on that subjective opinion is absolutely not.

Again on the matter of subjectivity - whose subjectivity? If we are to follow that to its logical conclusion we start to see every image through the hellish prism of paedophilia rather than our own eyes. I look at Bill Henson's photos and I see nothing sexual, therefore nothing obscene. As one lawyer noted, there is no consent issue. After all, what is the girl consenting to? There has been no violation, no sexual act. It is a simple representation of the human body, the inspiration for art throughout the ages. What does it say about our society that we see sex in everything and beauty in nothing? Have we devolved over the centuries to become less complex and perceptive than Caravaggio, who lived over 500 years ago?

I'm dismayed by the uncritical thought and scent of hypocrisy around this debate. I am so tired of seeing everything in our culture reduced to the lowest common denominator knee-jerk Herald Sun reaction. Unsurprisingly, 70% of Hun readers think the photos constitute pornography, and it's this public reaction (skewed sample of the public though it is) that seems to be driving the foam-mouthed, torches-and-bayonets pursuit of Henson, spearheaded by our very own moral thermometer - the PM.

Really, who cares what these folk think when they're being spoonfed their reflected outrage by the Hun itself? Are we becoming a nation governed by straw polls and market research over reasoned discussion and analysis? I suspect most Hun readers also believe in meting out the death penalty to those who express views contrary to their own. But that's why they're not in government. Or are they?

And do these people calling for Henson to be charged with obscenity feel irked about our highly sexualised culture as a whole - the presence of Sexyland on every high street, midriff tops and g-strings for little girls sold in Target, or the inescapable billboard exhortations to 'have better sex' on every freeway? No. As usual, artists and thinkers are being targeted while the real exploiters and manipulators - of children and of the minds of the public - advertise within the very pages onto which this public opprobrium is spilled.

I don't think you need to know about art to know that further censorship of art in a society which already spurns and sidelines art for more pressing and lucrative concerns such as sport and celebrity trivia is wrong. As wrong as you can get.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Five things about me...

Finally, I'm doing as the blakkat prescribed. Here are the five 'random facts' about me.

1. I was a badass - in primary school.
In Grade 4, when I was nine, I was routinely chucked out of the class for disrupting it. I was called turbo tongue and motor mouth and an attention-seeker and all those other labels schools need because they don't actually know how to stimulate smart kids. I was never a nasty fuck-up - I was just exuberant, and they wanted to suppress that. It got to the point where I would sit down at 8.30am, open my trap and be shown the door mid-sentence. Our classroom was one of those portable units and 'outside' meant just that. I was often there in the rain. In Grade 5 our teacher divided our class into Row 1 - for the brainiacs, Row 2 - for the average people, Row 3 - for the dummies and Row 4 - for the naughty kids. Row 4 only had five people in it, and only one of us was a girl. Yep! I later saw a few of the Row 1 goody goodies in high school and bless me if they weren't on their way to becoming nail technicians. Real brainiacs they were.

On camp in Grade 5 there was a boys cabin, a girls cabin and a special scary hut called 'siberia', the camp equivalent of solitary or the brig (or perhaps Guantanamo Bay). I was sent there for the night for doing something - can't remember what - though I was allowed to dress up as a punk and do some pretty snazzy breakdancing during a dance routine to Matthew Wilder's Break My Stride at the special 'music night' before I was carted away*, so that was ok.

The next year I was separated from my entire friendship group, because they thought that isolating me might shut me up. It just made me talk to new people. The Principal of the school was a rabid patriot who made us sing the turgid 'Advance Australia Fair' every Monday morning. He hated me. He always just assumed I would amount to nothing and wrote the same crap in my report every year - "attention seeker who disrupts the class and shows off all the time" - when he didn't even know me as a student. Petty as it is, about a hundred years later when I graduated with my Arts/Law degree the first thing I thought of was to go to that pissy little place and ram my degree up his arse. Not bitter. Anyway, I am now a big nerd.

2. I love the Baltic States - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
I guess it's all those cheekbones, high-percentage proof white spirits and the former Eastern Block associations and the romance of the Baltic Sea. I think it started with Latvia's Maria Naumova winning Eurovision in 2002...

and continued when I discovered that Lithuania's capital Vilnius features a sculpture of Frank Zappa.

Not the most impressive statue, but nevertheless...

For decades prior to my liking for the Baltics, I was a card carrying anglophile, like most Australian teenagers of my generation. The early part of this blog still bears testament to this, though I was well into adulthood when I started it. I grew up with British comedy (The Goodies, The Young Ones, Alexei Sayle, Ben Elton, Alan Partridge, The Fast Show, Ab Fab and later, The Office and The Mighty Boosh), TV drama (Cracker, The Bill, This Life etc) and even sport, and of course, I loved their music. You can keep most of their musical output at the minute, but I do still have a penchant for UK pop culture. Thankfully I'm over wanting to live in London forever (God!) or marry some fop like Rupert Penry-Jones now.


3. I am a multiple lapsed vegetarian.
When I was ten I made my first attempt at vegetarianism after seeing a documentary about seals being bludgeoned to death for their fur in Canada. I wept into my spaghetti bolognese, and vowed never to eat it again... after this one last plate. I then followed a three day regime of carrots, apples and celery until my mum intervened. Subsequently, at 18, 22, 27, 30 I had six month to two year stints at it, where I would check for rennet and gelatine (I still do - why would you put cow spine in yoghurt or cream - no thanks!) and I was no vegequarian - I was strict, but then I would lapse spectacularly and decide to go the whole hog, as it were.

I have to say, friends and family never made it easy, baiting me with dumplings and curries, relating tales of recent sightings of my meat-devouring ways - cheering when I gave in to succulent roasts. I acknowledge my part in my own meat-eating, but I was aided and abetted at every turn. My old-school dad, encouraged by my mum (who likes nothing better than a clean plate) said I was not a N****n (surname) if I didn't eat meat. I don't eat much meat these days, but I don't have a big guilt attack when I do. I think I've learned that phasing something out is better than anniversary dates and absolutism, which can only lead to failure. And I've discovered the delights of Chinese vegetarian restaurants, with their TVP and tofu and mushroom protein masquarading as meat - and tasting far better than the real thing. These restaurants have many haters (most of whom have never eaten at them) - people who say 'why don't you just eat meat?', or 'a true vegetarian wouldn't want to eat things that tasted of meat'. Well, duh, I like meat, and if I can have it without an animal dying for the privilege all the better for everybody concerned.

4. I am shit scared of heights, and also, embarrassingly, the dark. I am not in the least bit scared of spiders, snakes or rodents.

5. I love Rob Morrow, especially in Northern Exposure. Just the sight of his face makes me feel really happy and serene. Here:

6. A bonus fact about me: I was in a band for about five seconds of my life. I was the singer. My cohorts came to my birthday and sleazed onto most of my friends - that was our first and last public appearance as a group, and it was downhill from there. I still have aspirations, so look out.

* Just to clarify, I wasn't carted away for my breakdancing, though I probably should have been.

Monday, May 05, 2008

A round-up and a recipe... stick around for the recipe!

OK, so Londoners are idiots who deserve what they get, just like Australians did for 11 years. Have fun suckers! Just why you think an old Etonian with no civic governance experience, a distaste for your eclectic population and a shady agenda is 'the right guy' is beyond me. Maybe your brains have just been fried by too much reality TV. Listen up - the smiling man with the fluffy blond hair and the bicycle is not a contestant on Big Brother, he is your mayor. You used to have Ken Livingstone, whose tenure will be looked back on as a golden age. You now have a clueless conservative clown. Suck. it. up.


In brighter news, I have perfected a cannelloni dish that will fry your brain in an entirely pleasant way. I'm so proud of it that I'm going to post it here.

Sue's ricotta-less cannelloni goes something like this:

Cut open a capsicum, lay it flat and chargrill it.

Fry a little garlic in a saucepan with a generous glug of olive oil. Blend in about a tablespoon of flour (the idea is to make a bechamel sauce, but I’m going to explain the whole process to you so as not to alienate non-cooks – cos if you can’t make a bechamel sauce, that is what you are) and slowly add about a cup of milk, stirring as you go.

I then crumbled some blue cheese into the sauce (don’t be scared of it, it adds piquancy – if you are scared, however, substitute some good cheddar or maybe parmesan. If you’re not scared, all three is best). I am a heathen and I don’t like the traditional ricotta – it’s too bland. Then I threw in a bag of baby spinach leaves.

Stuff the cannelloni shells (about 8-10 of them in all, it’s pretty tedious work) with the spinach sauce mixture. Arrange the soldiers in a baking dish, scattering pinenuts over them and studding them with bocconcini. Take the roasted capsicum, slough off the charcoaled skin and layer it over the top of the cannelloni. Then drown it all in some napolitana sauce (I will not make the call about how you source the sauce, as it were, but leave it up to you. If you cannot be arsed skinning tomatoes from your garden and ripping up fresh basil and oregano in a flurry of rustic endeavour after the hard labour of stuffing the cannelloni, I will pass no judgement – and the dish will only be a degree less lovely than it would otherwise have been if you just crack that jar of shop sauce and chuck its contents carelessly over the top. Sugar and preservatives don’t taste that bad.)

Now pop a couple more bocconcinis on the top and some parmesan and bake the bejesus out of it (45 minutes on medium heat? I dunno. I’m not one for measurements of any kind - just ensure the cheese is molten and the pasta can be stabbed without too much resistance) and serve with garden salad.

For some of you this is cooking 101. But there’s no harm in me sharing it.

Friday, May 02, 2008


With all the fuss about impending foreign elections many of us have overlooked one very important tussle in progress as we speak, in a city very dear to my heart - and the hearts of many other bloggers I know.

To all you people who are able to do so, please, please, please save London from Boris Johnson. Ken Livingstone has done more for London than his foppish idiot rival could ever do, because he actually cares about the place. But it goes further - Johnson is not just a silly chinless twat, he is a dangerous conservative. He'll not only let Ken's good work lapse - he'll most probably actively destroy it.