15 December 1998

1998: The Year in Review

If you've looked at the news this year, you'd would be thinking that only four things were important.

Monica Lewinsky.

The bombing of Iraq.

The collapse of the South East Asian economies.

And, Seinfeld's last episode.

And these all annoy the living snot out of me, because these were all fine examples of hypocrisy in action.

Take the South East Asian economic crisis. First of all, Mahathir Mohammed, the Malaysian Prime Minister makes the absurd claim that those economies were in ruin because of speculative trading by hedge funds. This was always going to be laughable coming from a guy who gets rid of political opponents by having them arrested on trumped up charges of sodomy. Not to mention the fact that if this was the case, we would have seen a correction straight away as traders sought to capitalise on this.

But then various economic gurus got in on the act, and started the ball rolling by saying that unchecked trading by hedge funds was getting out of hand, and, in one case of abstract expressionism, would apparently lead to the "collapse of capitalism" internationally.

As I guffawed my way through all the various reading material that was presenting itself, it became clear to me that economic gurus themselves were showing hypocrisy that was blatant in a way that the Wiggles are the Spice Girls for a new generation.

I might just quickly point out that, although the Spice Girls are now history, and we shall hear less and less of them, until the odd one turns up in a Penthouse centrefold, the Wiggles have been around for a good many years, catering to their core audience, longer than the Spice Girls ever were. Plus, the Wiggles never 'sold out', to use a terribly cliched and pretentious phrase.

But back to the topic at hand.

If you recall 1997, you may remember that the Nobel Prize in Economics was won by a group of speculators who somehow managed to make billions of dollars with a trust fund that they set up specifically for that purpose. Or maybe you don't.

Anyway, the economic line of thought these days has swung 180º to the point where making profit out of international hedge funds is no longer 'cool'. People of the standing of the IMF, World Bank, George Soros, Warren Buffett et al are lining up to push the point that there should be more controls on speculative capital flows.

The fact these people and institutions are condemning a free market in capital is all of rude, arrogant and downright disgusting, when you consider that these people make their profits out of hedging their capital. George Soros once made a few billion dollars out of gambling on sterling, in the space of a few days. The sheer tenacity these people display borders on the paranoid.

I refuse to comment on Monica Lewinsky, and the Iraq thing. Americans just earn my contempt, these days. It is the world's decadent Roman Empire, and I welcome the day when the lean and hungry barbarians from the south come in search of the wealth that the USA has plundered from them. Viva la revoluçion!

But I will comment on the last episode of Seinfeld.

Not much annoys me. I hate war. I hate horseracing. I really hate Seven's Summer of Tennis. But Seinfeld was truly the pits.

This show ran for nine years, and was as close to a creative vacuum as you could get. Honestly, the jokes were as tired as an episode of Hey! Hey! It's Saturday! You had this show that was seriously, seriously, unfunny. And don't say it wasn't: there is enough evidence to suggest that it was the worst TV show ever to go to air. When one hack in the media put Seinfeld up there with Cheers, MASH, and the Mary Tyler Moore Show, he was spouting hyperbole that could lead to a suicide attempt a few years from now.

Here are a few reasons why Seinfeld doesn't even make it into the top ten thousand sitcoms of all time.

  • The Young Ones, Blackadder, McHale's Navy, The Phil Silvers Show, Get Smart, Newsradio, need I go on?
  • Jerry Seinfeld's monologues - excruciatingly bad. Not only can this guy not act, but he cannot deliver a punchline, and his twee observations on life are so bad, that I genuinely felt embarrassed for the guy.
  • Kramer. One jerk of the head, one joke. The fact that people continually found this funny says far too much regarding the quality of TV programs at the moment.
  • Elaine. Surprisingly, she had the best material on the show, but had to put on this whiny voice in order for the viewers to find something about her that was less likeable than the star so that she didn't get her own Frasier-esque spin-off.
  • George. Funnier than the rest of the (regular) cast combined. Maybe because Jason Alexander can genuinely act, yet just wasn't good enough to redeem this truly lamentable piece of televisual excrement.

The sad fact about Seinfeld was that a "show about nothing" - which it was not, unironically - pulled so many gullible viewers, when it was as funny as lifting the top off a scab. Yet, people will also watch Mad About You, which is nearly as bad. I just don't get it. I have to say this, though. I have changed my mind on Friends. It can actually be quite good in spots, especially when the characters aren't trying quite so hard to be likeable, and also when David Schwimmer's and Jennifer Aniston's characters aren't within cooee of the camera.

But I think that it is time to wrap up, so here are my picks of the year.

Best Movie: Wild Things - this had me going from start to finish. Denise Richards provided the best two parts of the movie, and it had more ridiculous twists in it than you could poke a stick at. Special mentions should go to Neve Campbell and Kevin Bacon on a job well done.

Best CD: The Dandy Warhols Come Down (The Dandy Warhols) - These guys played a whole CD of drug-taking psychedelia and get up and get down pop that is best played loud enough for the neighbours to yell: "Hey, turn that hippy shit off!!"

Best computer game: Unreal - when you're in that corridor where you've just pressed the two big red switches, and the lights go off one by one, you think that you've just entered Hell. Truly a masterfully atmospheric game, with lots of violent carnage, the way we all like it.

Best song: Sich Offnen (Not From There) - When this guitar hits you, it's like being slammed into the side of a freight train that's being pulled by about five locomotives, and with it's killer chorus, "I watch you laugh/I watch you cry/I watch you fade away/ahhoooooooooo," you will never want to not hear that song again.

Best Sit Com: Newsradio - this one snuck up on me faster than a pensioner on a longneck of Carlton Draught. Every character is insane, and it showed the genius that was Phil Hartman, before his untimely demise.

Bloke(ette) of the year: (past winners include Carlos the Jackal, Jackie Chan and Heidi Fliess) This year, and no surprise, I gave it to the late Phil Hartman. But in an interesting twist, he dead-heated with Christina Ricci. We all loved Phil, without exceptions. We loved Lionel Hutts, attorney-at-law. We loved the has-been actor Troy McClure, who you might remember from such films as "Dial M for Murderousness" and "The President's Neck is Missing". And we all loved The Real Deal with Bill McNeill. RIP Phil. We'll miss you. But Christina Ricci? Let's just say that no former child star has ever exuded sex appeal in such a way before, and this includes Drew Barrymore, Macauley Culkin and Shirley Temple.

Well, that was my year in hindsight. I hope that no one mentions 1998 to me again. Happy Hanukkah, and remember that Santa only wears red because Coca Cola made him do it.

31 October 1998

All Pledge Allegiance to the Little Red Man

It's going to be interesting in the future, when anthropologists look back at the twentieth century. People follow this interesting custom where, whenever they walk up to a set of traffic lights, they have to wait for the lights to change. Suddenly there is this whole pagan ritual where you stop at the sight of the Little Red Man. And you may only continue when a little green one takes his place.

A fire breaks out, and suddenly, a swarm of firemen are telling you what to do. And afterwards, you're like, "bless those brave souls."

Did you watch the westerns where the posse is after the Red Indian, sometimes played by Charles Bronson, just because he was red, and presented a subversive bit of opposition to the status quo, not because he'd ever done anything wrong?

Red is used as a rebellious colour, often signifying the triumph of the left, such as was the case in the recent German elections - although the alliance with the Greens tends to subdue the impact of this. After all, isn't the Little Green Man the mortal enemy of the Little Red Man?

Not to mention adolescent males, and their… hmm, I'll just leave that one.

I'm struck at this point by the whole symbolism of the whole thing. Is it any coincidence that the greatest football team in the world wears red? Go Swans. We must all pledge allegiance to the Little Red Man, wherever He may be.

And it is funny how the media, who would usually make such a big fuss over seemingly little things like this, don't seem to notice this. The hated Adelaide Crows - they won a premiership this year with red in their colours.

But the media can say some amazingly silly things. Like for instance "Fatal Gas Explosion Kills 2". Well, der, if it killed people, then it's going to be fatal. And then there is the stultifyingly stupid observation of the Herald Sun, no less than 4 weeks ago bemoaning the fact that Collingwood were going to finish the year a long way down the ladder: "…Collingwood have never, in the whole history of football, finished lower than fourteenth…"

Unbelievable. Just conveniently ignore the fact that before 1985, there weren't even 14 sides in the competition. That one had me rolling on the floor in mirth. Laugh? I nearly declared Celine Dion listenable.

But it's election time, and I'm trying to see how soon it is before the ALP declare their colours as red and, um, red, while those blue-bloods, the Libs, try to regain some pride from the swing against them at this election. The fact that the Howard government have sacrificed a few of their colleagues for three extra years in power is moot when you've been re-elected, but I think that Howard and Costello et al should be quietly thanking their lucky stars that the ALP couldn't get their act into gear on concentrating on the GST, and that the voters still had an axe to grind over Labor's last stint in office.

Actually, I tipped a hung parliament.

Now, I usually find elections to be more than just a little irritating. I thought, at the last federal election anyway, that none of the major political parties deserved my vote, and voted accordingly (read informally).

But this year, I actually had a think and voted properly.

Notwithstanding my usual act of political bastardry in that I insist on numbering all the boxes below the line on the Senate sheet (this year - 63 in Victoria), I think that I made a good choice. Because while the Democrats insist on grey as their political colour, they're usually a fair bunch. Not to mention infinitely preferable to One Nation, who I might add, have as their colours a big yellow streak down their backs.

On this subject, did you hear the champagne corks a-poppin' when it was revealed to the political landscape that Pauline Hanson would not have a seat in the House of Representatives, leaving 'Pauline Hanson's One Nation', as they're properly known (no false modesty, here) without their own namesake in a caucus of, at last count, only one Senator. I thought it was great. Oldfield could not have planned it better, especially after Hanson went public with her ludicrous claim that One Nation would pick up ten to fifteen seats. Good riddance, I say, although, it would be fun, as it was noted in the election day Weekend Australian, to have her turn up at the next election for comic relief. Pauline Pantsdown, while funny and all, is just not the same. Even funnier, is the way Oldfield's leadership aspirations went out the window when he failed to win a seat in the Senate.

As for Gareth Evans falling on his sword when it was hinted that the ALP would not make government, that was just odd.

And what happened to the Greens? Is it just me, or have they really gone off the boil, lately?

Cheryl Kernot. She truly could be considered 'green' in light of her highly questionable decision to stand in a marginal seat after the ALP promised her so much. The question must be asked here, did they do a 'Pauline' on her? And if so, who was the David Oldfield character responsible?

Speaking of marginal seats, it was kinda cool to see Alexander Downer nearly going down to John "ex-singer of Redgum" Schumann. I wanted to see Downer come through by 19 votes so that Schumann could say, "aw, it was only 19…"

Also highly laughable was the Libs winning a seat off the Nats. That has to be good for harmony within the coalition.

Pluses from this election included Tim Fischer, who somehow managed not to appear like a complete dork, at any time during this election. Part of the credit for this must go to the National Party hierarchy, who somehow managed to give their party a lower profile than the reborn DLP, whom I noticed had candidates for the Senate.

Also, I liked the cut of Simon Crean's jib. Methinks that the ACTU has created another future leader of the ALP. Let's hope that Bill Kelty doesn't find out about this, we don't need any more silly hair in politics.

So we have three more years of Coalition policies to look forward to. I think that it's good that the Dems have the balance of power in the Senate, because they are going to make 'Honest' John look pretty damn silly when he tries to put his tax policy through.

How do the ALP pick themselves up after this? I don't know.

My suggestion is that they should wear more red.

30 September 1998

The Most Legendary Movies of all Time

I've just seen Armageddon, and I'm proud to say, I enjoyed it immensely.

Yes. I enjoyed that movie. Not a hard thing to say, is it?

It is a movie like this which shows up movie critics as the bunch of certifiable wankers that they are. Firstly, Armageddon is released amidst the brouhaha surrounding a movie with a budget bigger than the GDP of several third-world countries, and naturally, the critics have a field day panning a movie which they haven't even seen, in a backlash rivalling The Wave in the other asteroid movie (or comet, whatever it was). Then, after seeing it, in a backflip to end all backflips, it suddenly becomes cool to say that they liked it.

In The Big Issue and Juice, this movie was canned by the reviewers, simply because it wasn't a low budget arthouse flick.

By the time Beat and In-Press got around to review it, that had changed to, "yeah the plot had more holes in than all the cheese in Switzerland, but it looked impressive, and you gotta like that." You actually had movie critics backlashing against the backlash, because it happened to be the cool thing to do.

I liked it because, although it was completely improbable, sorry, impossible, it looked good. The sets were good, the photography was good, the costuming was spot-on, the special effects were A1, oh, and the scene where New York cops a meteor shower was absolutely first class.

But more than that, I liked the scene where Ben Affleck's character is in a romantic interlude with Liv Tyler's character. Now while this is going on, there is music in the background provided by Aerosmith, which is fronted by none other than Steve Tyler, who happens to be Liv Tyler's dad. Deliberate? But wait. There's more. Liv Tyler plays Bruce Willis's character's daughter, all during a movie where Willis and L.Tyler were allegedly romantically linked.

There is about four layers of irony during that scene. Hilarious, I thought.

But that is merely the intro section to what I consider to be the most legendary movies of all time.

Now, those of you out there reading this who are movie critic types, then just stop reading this and go back to that half finished Stephen Downes food article, because, there is nothing on this list directed by Serge Bunuel, Akira Kurosawa, Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock.

The list reads as such:

=1. This Is Spinal Tap (dir: Rob Reiner)

This movie was legendary for the number of Rock and Roll bands who, whenever something goes wrong in their lives, say, "That was Tap-esque". Famous for inspiring music critics everywhere to say, "(insert band name here) had their amps well and truly turned up to eleven." Not to mention "(insert band name here as well) have had more guitarists than Spinal Tap have had drummers." This movie had Christopher Guest (from The Princess Bride), Michael McKean (Laverne and Shirley) and Harry Shearer (The Simpsons) as the main protagonists in the band, as well as appearances from Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Patrick McNee, Paul Shaffer, Fran Drescher and Bruno Kirby.

=1. The Blues Brothers (dir: John Landis)

Famous for being the movie in which the record was set for smashing up cop cars (142?), Jake and Elwood Blues' path to destruction had them being chased by police, nazis and rednecks, while accompanied by most of the members of Booker T and the MGs. Cameos included Frank Oz, Carrie Fisher, Steven Spielberg, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and others. The scene where one nazi says to another nazi, "I've always loved you," is to die for.

3. Ben Hur (dir: William Wyler)

A curious inclusion, nonetheless a still impressive movie these days. The inclusion of the lamentable Charlton Heston was more than made up for by a stellar bit part from Frank Thring as Pontius Pilate. But of course there is always one scene which makes this must see viewing, and that is, natch, the chariot race. There is always something about a biblical epic that is incredibly hard to avoid, and that goes for the next one as well.

4. The Ten Commandments (dir: Cecil B de Mille)

This stands up today as an incredible achievement in film. Extras everywhere, huge sets, Yul Brynner's amazing performance as the Pharoah, where he hams it up in a splendidly tongue in cheek way, and, ol' chisel chin himself, the aforementioned and abysmal Charlton Heston. Sent up mercilessly by Mel Brooks et al, this movie contains one of the most incredible scenes ever filmed, the parting of the Red Sea, which still looks good in this day and age.

5. Spartacus (dir: Stanley Kubrick)

I'll go out on a limb, here and say that this is the best flick that Kubrick ever did. Another 'biblical' epic (that word gets stretched a bit, but there's nothing wrong with that), featuring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis, it really doesn't have much structure to it, but has some of the most authentic battle scenes ever, courtesy of Kubrick's eye for detail. The scenes between Douglas's character and Curtis's character come off amazingly homoerotic, and yet, what was cut from the movie manages to outdo this. Possibly the earliest movie to have two gay characters as the lead roles.

6. Star Wars (dir: George Lucas)

When Sci Fi is tackled, the results can either be supremely rivetting like this one, 2001 or Ridley Scott's Alien and Blade Runner, or spectacular failures like David Lynch's Dune. This one succeeded in spite of patchy dialogue, because it looked good, and it had a brutally good story. Witness James Earl Jones' Darth Vader, the most evil screen villain ever and Alec Guinness as the aging Jedi, Obi Wan Kenobi. Special mention should also go to Peter Cushing as the Death Star's governor Grand Moff Tarkin. It's interesting to note that Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) went on to obscurity, while Harrison Ford was launched into superstardom.

7. 2001 (dir: Stanley Kubrick)

Another really good Sci Fi flick. Although Kubrick tended to drag out some scenes a little too long for my liking (for dramatic effect, I'm told) this space yarn is something that you can really go to town on. The scenes in space are really agoraphobic, and the scenes inside the spacecraft (plural) and with the Monolith are just so well done that you actually want to be up in space with them as they go off into the universe.

8. Apocalypse Now (dir: Francis Coppola)

A really weird little 'Nam flick that just got weirder and weirder as the movie continued. GIs from America go to 'Nam, get bombed, go surfing, get bombed while going surfing, and meet up with a crackpot played by Marlon Brando who has set up his own little republic amidst the mayhem. Quote from the movie which you will hear ad infinitum from anyone who has seen the movie - "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

9. Die Hard (dir: John McTiernan)

This was the movie that sparked the renaissance of what I consider to be the supreme genre of movies - the High Budget Action Movie. Bruce Willis is a cop trapped in a building where a maniac terrorist, played in superb fashion by Alan Rickman, has everyone but him under control. A well executed piece involving much bloodshed and explosions, as well as some quirky quotes from Willis himself. Spawned two sequels that, while good viewing, are just never going to come close to this one. Much like Blues Brothers 2000, actually.

10. You Only Live Twice (dir: Lewis Gilbert)

James Bond never got better than this. Sean Connery is at his most misogynist and is strangely compelling, and he gets help from Q in the form of a wicked gyrocopter as well as the Japanese secret service's entire staff of trained Ninjas. Blofeld was never better than when he was played by Donald Pleasance, and the photography, sets and general atmosphere throughout is excellent. You get the feeling that Connery enjoyed himself immensely when he was making this.

11. Goodfellas (dir: Martin Scorsese)

Scorsese has made the gangster flick genre all his own. While others have had a crack at it, none has quite had the way of pulling it off in the same way that Scorsese has, with the possible exception of Coppola's Godfather series. The mafiosi, played by Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta, and Robert de Niro are the most disturbingly violent bunch of misanthropes ever, and, by the end of the movie, you cannot trust anyone. Or so it feels.

12. Taxi Driver (dir: Martin Scorsese)

This movie launched Scorsese's career. Robert de Niro is excellent as a New York cabbie pushed too far, and when you get to the redemption at the end, you wonder how he could've gotten away with it. To watch here is Harvey Keitel as the pimp with absolutely no morals whatsoever, as well as Jodie Foster in one of her earlier roles as a ten year old hooker. Surprisingly good bit parts are provided by the likes of Cybil Shepherd and Albert Brooks, although, "You looking at me?" must rate as a truly harrowing piece of moviedom.

13. Alien (dir: Ridley Scott)

Picked ahead of Blade Runner and the other Alien movies, because his one was a truly frightening piece of space cinema. Sigourney Weaver hasn't changed in nineteen years, and is quite the heroine in this, although she is almost overshadowed by the likes of John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, and the incomparable Harry Dean Stanton. After seeing this movie for the first time, I had this malevolent mistrust of cats for quite a while. Not to mention having egg on my face.

14. The Naked Gun 2½ (dirs: David Zucker)

This is quite possibly the silliest movie I have ever seen. It is certainly the funniest. Quick quiz: Why is irony, satire and other cerebral forms of humour celebrated at the expense of slapstick, toilet humour, idiot humour and smut, when, given, (and it is most definitely given) that these are more funny forms of humour? Anyway, Leslie Nielsen is out of control as he deadpans his way through a movie packed with more jokes per second than any other movie ever. Incidentally, Robert Goulet makes a groovy villain.

15. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (dir: George Roy Hill)

Quite simply, the best western ever made. Paul Newman and Robert Redford just come out with the buddy thing happening in vast quantities, their on-screen presence greater than other buddy combinations such as Matthau and Lemmon or Martin and Lewis. The music of Burt Bacharach can not be heard after this movie without seeing them riding double-dink on bicycles round a farm, or holding up banks throughout Bolivia as 'Los Bandidos Yanquis'. Incidentally, the last scene from the movie could be the most important scene in movie history.

16. Cool Hand Luke (dir: Stuart Rosenberg)

Another movie with the indomitable Paul Newman as the drunk who gets arrested while sawing the tops off parking meters and sentenced to hard labour on a prison farm. Newman keeps trying to escape, and eventually pays the price but not before the immortal line, "What we have here, gentlemen, is a failure to communicate," is spoken.

17. The Terminator (dir: James Cameron)

"Arrrrrrrnnnnniiiieeeee!" we all cried after seeing Arnie as a cyborg blowing up virtually every thing in sight, and Linda Hamilton was forced into a serious situation as the mother of the unborn John Connor. Actually, T1, as we now fondly refer to it, was a really dark movie, shot mostly at night, with not much daylight in sight, and gruesome flashes to a future where computers control our destiny, and Arnie the evil cyborg lurks around every corner and says "Get Out!" and "I'll Be Back." For quote junkies, this movie was a veritable cornucopia of seething Arnie one-liners.

18. True Lies (dir: James Cameron)

Completely over the top, this send up of James Bond never stops. Firstly, we have not one, but two Arnies - Schwarzenegger and Tom - who do the buddy thing surprisingly well. Then, you have Arnie and his wife (the irrepressible Jamie Lee Curtis) take on an army of terrorists and almost completely wipe them out in a remarkably bloody scene, part of which involves an Uzi on autofire tumbling down stairs. After which, a bridge is destroyed and a nuclear bomb goes off wiping out the Florida Keys. But that's not enough. Arnie then jumps into a Sea-Harrier and takes out an entire office building. Outstanding stuff, which confirms James Cameron as a hero of action movies of the highest budget.

19. Police Story 2 (dir: Jackie Chan)

Jackie Chan's piece de resistance has everything a good action flick should be. Having not seen much of Chan's earlier work, I don't know how the rest of his back catalogue compares, but I know good when I see it, and this is it. Car chases which go down mountain sides destroying a shantytown in the process, and martial arts sequences that are absolutely evil, compete with sometimes shoddy (but always hilarious) subtitling which adds to the charm of Chan the unlikely-looking action hero.

20. Raiders of the Lost Ark (dir: Steven Spielberg)

The genius of Steven Spielberg was once again made manifest on this, the first Indiana Jones movie. While others prefer Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, this has the best story of the three, as Harrison Ford in the role of Indy goes mental trying to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant from under the noses of the Nazis whilst dealing with asps, boulders, poisoned spears, and finally, Lefty himself.

So there you have it. The twenty most legendary movies of all time. Movies to miss out (but not by much) were Tim Burton's Batman and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws, Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, John Woo's Face Off, Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Oliver Stone's Platoon, Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm (featuring the late and great Frank Sinatra), Dennis Hopper's Colors, Douglas Trumbull's Brainstorm, Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant and more.

Stay tuned for, next month, the preview to the election we had to have.

31 August 1998

A Political Manifesto

OK. By now most of us have heard of the One Nation controversy sweeping the country, and no doubt have formed our own opinions on how the country should or should not be run. I personally would like to make it clear that in my opinion, if there is an anti-Christ, then David Oldfield fits the bill - firstly for the hateful agenda that One Nation are pushing, secondly for the weirdo element that One Nation are bringing out of the woodwork, and thirdly for the obvious and shameless manipulation of a bunch of simpletons into doing his bidding.

But this has lead to a good thing - people are now starting to think about which ways the country can be directed.

I personally hate the way that One Nation means I now have an obligation to vote properly at the next election. Before, I was quite happy to vote informal, and up until the age of 24, I hadn't even enrolled to vote. Given the choice as we usually are between Candidate A and Candidate B, and finding that other than cosmetically, the major political parties' policies are identical, the voting process for me has been an exercise in merely escaping the fine levied for not voting. Given that the two addresses I usually quote are in safe Labor and safe Liberal seats respectively, where I put my numbers really does not make a difference.

I could whinge like this for hours, but I won't. Instead, allow me to present you with a theoretical overview of some suggestions to make the country run better.

1. Unemployment and Trade

High unemployment in this country is caused by a combination of high imports compared to low exports and a general economic lull.

Why are imports up and exports down? The two are unrelated - exports are down despite the Keating Government's recognition of the fact that our secondary industry base is next to non-existent, and also that most of our exports are from our primary producers, and most primary commodities are in the middle of a price slump. Consequently, we only export low value commodities, and this means that dollars coming in are not going to be able to match those flowing out.

Thus when we can't match more efficient producers - read more heavily subsidised ones - we disadvantage ourselves by not following suit and subsidising ours. However, this is economically unfeasible. We can't afford this - in Europe and North America, agricultural subsidies are paid for by tariff protection on imports, and while this could be seen to be in breach of GATT treaties, retaliating as proposed by the loony right is not going to lead to us producing anything more efficiently in the long term.

It is interesting to note, that the loony right proposes that primary industry be protected. This is such a load of rubbish for all the reasons that I will now explain.

  1. On paper, primary commodities are going down in price. This means that by protecting, for instance our pork producers, we are going to be forking out more and more in subsidies, and reaping less and less in tariff income. This may not sound good to the pork producers of Queensland, but stuff them. If they were producing more complex goods than pork products, we wouldn't be in the situation we are now.
  2. Australia is ideally placed to produce manufactured and processed goods. By this I mean that we have barely any arable land to farm and graze on. We really should not have as big a forestry industry as we do, as we can not sustain it. Yet we do have one of the biggest mining industries in the world, and as most manufactured goods ultimately come from the ground, we have a vast supply of metal, coal, and other stuff for producing manufactured goods. We don't have enough oil, but with prices as low as they are at the moment and likely to stay low, I don't see why we should worry.

It also follows that imports are high for no other reason than the fact that we don't produce anything that will compete.

The slump in our economy is a serious problem that will only be fixed by government intervention. Yet this problem can be fixed at the same time as our trade problems.

Most interestingly, in fixing this problem, it can also be seen that our problems with our rapidly plummeting exchange rate can also be fixed at the same time.

1.1. State Owned Industry

I propose a return to state-owned industry.

"You lefty sonofabitch, Dikkii," one of you has just said. Never mind the fact that I'm an unrepentant capitalist pig.

This has to sound eerie to all you un-left types (ie those who don't want to admit to being deemed 'right'), but, in spite of the 'world's greatest treasurer's predictions a decade ago, Australian industry has been unwilling to go into secondary industry, nor even out of the industries they are currently in.

But think of this - a state-owned car company

Now, in these days of economic rationalism, it makes sense for a car to be made in Australia by an Australian-owned car company. If this were the case, thousands of jobs would be created, and a company would be created with a view to being floated/sold off in, say, ten years time.

The government may even choose to do it in partnership with private enterprise, if they were reticent about picking up the tab themselves.

The vision I have for a state-owned car company is one that makes a car that is the most efficiently produced car in the world. A car where engine parts, panels, taillights etc can be readily exchanged between models. This manufacturer would be starting out from scratch, and would be able to eliminate all work practices that were inefficient, before any work was begun. And, as Australia produces massive amount of steel, this would reduce costs further, as raw materials wouldn't have to be freighted around the world.

And it wouldn't just have to be a car company. The same thing could be done with black goods and pharmaceuticals. I honestly believe it would work - and we'd make a killing at the same time.

1.2. Massive Infrastructure Projects

We all know how these things get the voting public in, and we all know how they spark optimism on the stock market - just take the example of the high speed train link between Sydney and Canberra. A train using technology that's 30 years old gets the nod just 'cause it's been tried and tested. That blows. 30 years old? Surely that means it's already out of date?

Well, anyway, the upshot of that is that it increased investor confidence, and that is a good thing as can be seen by the resulting shot in the arm that the economy was perceived to have had (not to mention, the impact that it will have on the coalition's chances of getting re-elected).

What I'm proposing here, is projects that are so big, they would employ hundreds of thousands of people, and quite possibly change the climate of a great portion of Australia.

1.2.1. A Sea link between Lake Torrens and the Spencer Gulf

This is such a logical thing to do, I cannot believe it hasn't been done yet. Lake Torrens is below the surface of the sea, and it isn't far away from it. A canal could be dug, big enough to take cruise ships, or even cargo ships, and this could take advantage of South Australia's undoubted mineral wealth. A shipping canal, incidentally, would be cheaper than rail infrastructure, for this distance, anyway, and would also be able to take more tonnes of cargo.

Then we'd have a flooded Lake Torrens. What next? Lake Eyre? Possibly. But we have to bring more industry into the area. What I now propose is something I believe hasn't ever been done anywhere in the world before.

1.2.2. An Artificial Mountain Range in the South Australian Desert

And a big one at that. This could be built, say, somewhere north of Roxby Downs, and could actually be built quite huge - I'm talking at least three or four thousand metres above sea level.

This would create weather conditions in the desert that would induce precipitation - ie rain and snow.

Yes folks. A ski resort can now be built from scratch, with the world's greatest access. An airport can be built just down on the other side of the snow line with a resort above in mind. The road up to the resort can have no bends in it.

So at the end of it all, there would be massive amounts of tourism, as the biggest ski resort/alpine national park in the country could be built there. That's not all, though.

The snow and rain that would fall on a big mountain would cause serious irrigation of the surrounding area. Voila! Flowers in the desert. Not to mention the fact that the countries biggest hydro-electric scheme could be built at the same time - and in these days of diminishing fossil fuels, we need it.

It would also solve the problem of what to do with our sewerage and landfill problems. Just treat it, pack it up and ship it to the spot, where it would be deposited to form the biggest dump in the world. No more dumping it at sea. No more filled up valleys. No more reclamation of our beautiful waterways.

And don't say it can't be done. In Japan, they have a history of reclaiming land by bulldozing mountains and filling in harbours with the rubble - this wouldn't be different and it would solve a lot of ecological problems.

2. Tax and Welfare

Tax is a problem that is causing all sorts of problems at the moment. Some say that we have a complex and unfair tax system. The coalition government think that they can remedy this by getting rid of a few indirect taxes and replacing them with a broad-based consumption tax. The Labour opposition think that this would be unfair.

Highly hypocritical, in light of the fact that a few terms of government back, they promised L-A-W tax cuts and no GST and then had the tenacity to not only not deliver the promised tax cuts, but then go on to raise wholesale sales tax.

But I would like to make it clear that I do not support the government's tax package.

While it removes a few little tax idiosyncrasies, it fails to go the whole distance. It removes unfair taxes like FID and GDT as well as wholesale sales tax which penalises exporters, it still leaves Payroll Tax.

For goodness sake, Payroll Tax???

We want to increase employment, not penalise businesses for hiring people.

Although I applaud income tax cuts, it means that now, the government has suggested a 'user-pays' system for people buying things, which means that the battlers of society will now have to fork out extra for food.

I propose a fairer tax system that goes further, and would still allow us to cut income tax rates and raise welfare payments.

2.1. A narrower-based GST

This would not apply to food, rent, power, public transport and other things that the poorer members of society need in order to survive. It could not be accused of being regressive. Indeed, where any of these are being sold to personal consumers, it would be seen to be fair.

Of course, by food, I don't mean that in a five star restaurant. Food sold here would have to be taxed.

2.2. An increase in Excise Taxes on Petrol, Alcohol and Tobacco

This goes without say. None of these are good for anybody. Incidentally, in case you wanted to speak up to defend alcohol, it's interesting to note that while current stats say, in the States, that if everyone drank a glass of wine a day, 25,000 lives would be saved from such ills as cancer, heart disease and suchlike, current stats also say that if everyone stopped drinking altogether, about 30,000 lives would be saved from other ailments, as well as third party deaths resulting from, for example, drink-driving.

Do your maths.

2.3. Removing Payroll Tax

This one is stating the bleeding obvious.

2.4. An increase in the Luxury Goods Tax

Of course, this one would have to be looked at. But I think that the definition of what is a 'luxury good' really needs to be looked at, in light of the fact that, for example, tampons get taxed as a luxury good.

"Hmm. I just won the lottery. What will I buy? A Ferrari? A house in Woollahra? Oh I know, I'll buy a box of tampons."

(Apologies to that Adam Spencer guy on JJJ)

2.5. Increasing welfare payments

Increasing welfare payments would ensure that low income earners get a better wage. How? I will come back to this in a moment.

2.5.1. A quick lesson about capitalism

I'm gonna digress here and lead a big spiel about capitalism. The left bag capitalism as being a tool of the ruling elite to oppress the under classes, and propose that other economic systems should be examined as alternatives.

Well, it can't be done.

Capitalism is like gravity. It is always there, and it sucks. But it can be used to an advantage.

But didn't they used to have socialist economies that didn't feature capitalism?

No. All they had was a scenario where markets were controlled to a certain extent. Markets. That word capitalism again.

Socialism failed, because markets cannot be manipulated. Originally, the government proposed that prices be fixed at an unreasonably low or high level. This meant, as demand increased over time, that shortages or surpluses would occur. So, in order to keep the economy ticking over, the government would pick up the difference, buying those VCRs which didn't sell and importing loaves of bread to sell to the masses, in order to peg the prices. In the end the rubber band had to snap back. The Rubber Band Principle

This merely says that if something is overpriced or underpriced, the price will eventually have to adjust.

This can be applied to, for example, a Coke ®. If, say, a 375mL can of Coke® is priced too high, the price will eventually come down as those who would usually buy it realise that they are not going to get value for money, and the number of units sold drops too far.

But it can also be applied to other examples: The Stock Market

Let's just say that a stock market index, for example, the Dow Jones, has been appreciating at the rate of 4% when the underlying stocks have been posting profits that have only been appreciating by 2%. There will have to be a correction, eventually. The Exchange Rate

How about when a currency is consistently depreciating, despite the fact that it's economy is staying constant, it's government is posting fiscal surpluses, and inflation is next to non-existent. The value of that currency will eventually have to be revised upwards. Democracy and revolution are capitalist decision making processes

Anywhere where a decision is made is capitalism in action. Consider the action in buying a Coke ®. You can either buy a Coke ®, a Pepsi ®, another brand of softdrink, a beer, a loaf of bread, something else, or nothing at all. Very easy. What is going to give you the most value for money at that particular point in time? If you want that Coke ® bad enough, you will have already weighed up all the pros and cons and you will have decided that the Coke ® is the way to go.

You will have noticed that in those pros and cons, some of them will be non-financial. A pro, for example, is that Coke ® tastes good. A con, on the other hand, is that it rots your teeth.

Hence it can be seen that other decisions you make, whether financial or not, are inherently capitalist.

Do you go to the toilet? Or do you put up with the pain at the pit of your stomach until your bladder ruptures?

Democracy can be viewed this way. On polling day, do you do any of the following?

  1. Vote for the Liberal candidate;
  2. Vote for the ALP candidate;
  3. Vote for the One Nation candidate;
  4. Vote for someone else;
  5. Vote informal; or
  6. Not even turn up to vote?

In Australia where voting is compulsory, you may have decided that a fine is affordable, and thus, as you really can't be bothered turning up at the polling place, you stay in bed all day sipping pina coladas.

(Actually, this may be a financial decision making process, as you may have sussed out their respective tax packages before considering your final decision and seeing how much you'll be affected)

Let's say you decide to vote for someone, because they'll put pressure on the Indonesian government to 'get the fuck out of East Timor' (little reference to graffiti scrawled on the wall of our house, recently). Doing this, in effect would give you value for money, so to speak, as you would like to see an end to Indonesian repression in East Timor. Capitalist decision.

But let's say that you live in a country that is being ruled by a fascist military junta. You have the following decision

  1. Put up with it;
  2. Speak out, in the hope that those in charge will come to their senses; or
  3. Revolt.

You know that if you make the last decision, you have to work out whether the cause you are fighting for is the right one (you don't want to replace the current junta with another that's just as bad), whether the chance that you'll be killed or incarcerated is a big enough risk to take or whether the existing junta is really bad enough for you to take that sort of action. (Really, has there ever been a good 'fascist military junta'?)

Again, capitalist decision, which ever way you look at it.

Incidentally, revolution is a case of a rubber band snapping back, as the government is overpriced, and not appropriate value for money.

So how, if you increase welfare payments, will this cause an appreciation in the minimum wage?

Let's face it. Human beings are essentially lazy and greedy. So if the dole is more than the minimum wage, people are more likely to quit their jobs and go on the dole. Thus, if employers want employees, they are going to have to offer more.

I propose that welfare payments get indexed to a rate above that of the current rate of inflation. This would ensure that employers pay their employees fairly.

3. Education

3.1. Secondary Education

I would like to see a system in place where everyone gets a fair education. For a start, it is now being seen as increasingly vital that people not leave school until they finish year 12. Secondly, there is confusion between states regarding final year qualifications. Thirdly, it is seen as being important to get a good mark in order to get into a good course that will maximise your income on graduation from uni. Fourthly, it is increasingly obvious that not enough money is going into government schools.

I propose that year 12 be made compulsory for all school students.

Now, don't give me that bull about some students being not smart enough to hack it. There are students graduating from uni with certified cases of cerebral palsy. This means that they are officially not very bright, if IQ tests are anything to go by. If a student wants to pass badly enough, they will.

Next, I propose that a national certificate of education, with tertiary entrance qualification to be put into force in order to iron out discrepancies between states.

This is just common sense.

The third one, I will try to fend in just a moment, and the fourth one - no more money for non-government schools at the expense of government schools.

This is contentious. On one hand, there is the argument that the government should look at their own schools before any others, and on the other hand, there is the argument that parents of kids who go to private schools pay tax as well.

So make private school fees tax deductable.

3.2. Tertiary Education

Enough with these high cut-offs to get into certain courses, for example medicine and law. Put more money into these faculties so that more students can study them.

Open up these courses so that anyone can do them. The professions would say that this opens them up to unemployment, but that doesn't matter - the rubber band principle says that after a couple of years of this, the courses would shrink back in size, as graduates fail to find jobs and the resulting publicity makes school leavers fully aware of this.

The rubber band principle also says that doctors and lawyers fees would also come down in price, as more of them are forced out into the marketplace, which can only be a good thing.

One thing that could also be pointed out here, is the legal doctrine that says that you can be found guilty if you a break a law that you are unaware of.

Considering that a law degree takes 4 years, and not many people get into it, this is grossly inequitable and unfair. Therefore, it is in the interests of all Australians, that they should be able to get into this course if they want to.

And instead of taxing people for getting an education, the government should be providing incentives for kids to get educated. So make all uni fees tax deductable.

4. Conclusion

So that is some of my ideas to make the country run better. Ultimately very expensive, but they all pay for themselves.

And you've gotta love that.

31 July 1998

All aboard: Eighties bandwagon now boarding

Yep. The eighties are back. And where is this more evident than in the music world, where now people like Billy Idol, Gary Numan, Duran Duran and Culture Club were being hailed as musical visionaries. Culture Club? Please.

So I went back through my music collection, as you do, to find out what I was listening to in the eighties.

I was kinda lucky, in that when I was growing up, all my friends had started listening to Triple J when it was a Sydney only radio station. Triple J did the same job then that Triple R and PBS are doing in Melbourne now (and then too, I might add) and also Triple Z in Brisbane, amongst others. As a result, I missed out on Bros, Bon Jovi and a myriad of fly-by-nights that sold in big numbers in those days.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that teenybopper music is healthy. For every Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys of the nineties, there was an eighties equivalent that we can all remember. For example, Wa Wa Nee. Haircut 100. Does anyone remember the Jo Boxers? You get the idea.

But teenybop is good. We all need to be able to go back and see something like this in our collections to say, "What was I thinking?" and have a good cringe before hiding the offending item so that no one will see it. The same thing will happen when the kids of today grow up and look at their K-Ci & JoJo CD.

The first tape I ever bought was the INXS album The Swing. I loved it. Actually, I don't cringe when I look at this, primarily because INXS didn't suck at this stage. That came two albums later when they released Kick. I was dudded good and proper when I bought this one.

Anyway, today I'm going to present you with 20 Records That Mattered From The Eighties. You'll notice that I haven't gone for the completely predictable, and even surprised myself at leaving out some absolute gems that others may have included, for example, The Unforgettable Fire (U2), Darklands (The Jesus and Mary Chain), Do Re Mi's first album, Once We Were Scum, Now We are God (No), The Queen is Dead (The Smiths) and others. I left out the greatest band ever, Devo, because their best efforts were done in the late seventies, and also Blondie and Talking Heads for the same reason. In fact, getting it down to 20 was hard enough. And even then, I had to segregate the Australian stuff from the others, primarily because there was sooooooo much of it that was good.

So here goes…

The Top Ten International Eighties Chart

1. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation

My second favourite CD ever. This was great, combining dissonance with rock and an all pervading mood of hopelessness and despair. 'Teen Age Riot' was a pop classic, 'The Sprawl' was a glorious, sprawling mess and Lee Ranaldo's 'Eric's Trip' just went mental. These days Sonic Youth just play art wank, but this was when they were at their best.

2. The Pixies - Doolittle

Most people will agree that Doolittle was the best thing that the Pixies ever did, mind you, the rest of their work was not so shabby either. Hearing Black Francis (as Frank Black was known back then) hollering his way through 'Debaser' and 'Dead' and then hearing Kim Deal's groovy bassline to 'Here Comes Your Man' sends the wobblies down your spine. Whatever happened to Joey Santiago? His guitar sound made the Pixies.

3. REM - Green

I still think that was the weirdest album I ever bought. Stipe, Mills, Buck and Berry will never equal this moment, although I know REM fans who much prefer Document or Automatic for the People. 'Orange Crush' rocked, 'World Leader Pretend' was a fine pop moment, and so too was 'Stand'. 'Pop Song '89' just had this insanely catchy Peter Buck riff that could get anyone at home grooving along.

4. The Cure - Standing on a Beach

A lot of people think that The Cure had 2 good albums (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Disintegration) and a string of fine singles. I'm no different, and here's the singles collection that predated the two meisterwerks. You have to love 'The Walk', 'Primary', 'A Forest', and much as Cure fans hate it, 'Let's go to bed'. Although missing some choice tracks from earlier albums, it hits the spot.

5. New Order - Substance

A little bit harsher, New Order only had good singles. This was a particularly good compilation of that eighties phenomenon - the 12" mix. Funnily enough, each of these songs only sound complete in the 12" format, which probably says a lot more about the remixes rather than the songs themselves, but each of these songs is good. 'Blue Monday', 'Bizarre Love Triangle', they're all here. I only wish that they'd do a Substance, Part 2 with their later stuff, but they'd probably be more inclined to subject it to modern remix rendering which, IMHO, has a tendency to date faster.

6. Metallica - Master of Puppets

Metallica took their brand of thrash metal one step further on this one and invented 'mood metal' on this, their third album, and last one featuring bassplayer Cliff Burton. 'Welcome Home (Sanitarium)' and 'Orion' out-mood most things, and then really thrash along at a frightening pace, as the title track will testify. Metallica went on to suck, two albums later, when their 'Black' album was released, proving yet again that once you have been identified as a "genre" band, you cannot break out of the pigeonhole you've created for yourself.

7. Jean-Michel Jarre - Zoolook

Jarre made a welcome return to form on this album, doing exactly what Enigma and Deep Forest did and are doing ten years later. Sampled vocals and rhythms from all around the globe met with, for the first time in Jarre's recording career, other musicians. Featured on this album was the guitarwork of King Crimson's Adrian Belew, as well as the vocal 'talents' of Laurie Anderson on 'Diva'. The tribal funk of 'Ethnicolor' was mindblowing.

8. Husker Du - Candy Apple Grey

A band with two certifiable genii - Bob Mould and Grant Hart - went on to redefine power pop with this, perhaps their least thrashy album. Guitarist Mould would, though, be identified as 'that guy from Husker Du' and go on to success with Sugar and a solo career, while Hart the Drummer would go on to alcoholism and drug abuse, even though he wrote their biggest hit 'Don't Want to Know if You are Lonely' which is on this.

9. Soundgarden - Louder than Love

Soundgarden were always a grunge band to the music media. To me, they were always proto-grunge, the type of band that Sub Pop records must have got their name from. They weren't very metal, yet, being more of a power-rock band than anything else, but the latent power in their music was becoming more apparent, as evidenced by 'Loud Love'. The next album for them was to be their schizoid breakthrough album, Badmotorfinger.

10. Dead Kennedys - Give me Convenience, or Give me Death

Just for East Bay Ray's guitar work on 'Holiday in Cambodia'. Jello Biafra was starting to get more openly political at this stage, and Biafra's cynicism was turning, slowly, from happy irony into rebellious sarcasm. Out of any band ever, only this band was subversive enough to have accomplished what the punk era tried (and failed) to do - full scale revolution. And just like the punk bands, they failed.

So. On to the Australians.

The Australian Top Ten from the eighties

1. Hoodoo Gurus - Stoneage Romeos

Following on from a reputation as putting on the most feral live show in Australia, the Hoodoo Gurus first album was an amazing work that was always going to be hard to top. You cannot beat 'My Girl' and 'I Want You Back for sheer pop thrills, and if you combine this with songs about kamekaze pilots and necrophilia, all delivered with completely straight faces, you had the odd mix that the Hoodoos delivered.

2. The Church - Starfish

The Church had the mood thing down pat. In spite of Steve Kilbey's somewhat fey vocal delivery, they mixed this with a trademark jangle that owed as much to the Byrds as it did to Marty Willson-Piper's twelve string Rickenbacker. 'Under the Milky Way' was just a beautiful little ballad, and tunes like 'Reptile' and 'North and South and East and West' rocked in a way that they never could do live. Live, they rocked something amazing.

3. The Triffids - Born Sandy Devotional

The most Australian sounding music? Either The Triffids or Gang Gajang had it, which was something sorely needed in the Eighties. Still, the Triffids came out on top in this one, and when you're out in your Mazda in the New South Wales outback, heading west from Menindee to Broken Hill, the sound of 'Wide Open Road' is virtually guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye.

4. Sunnyboys - Sunnyboys

In the early part of the eighties, Jeremy Oxley was regarded, for a short time anyway, as a bit of a genius. Such adulation was deserved in this case, as the Sunnyboys first album was nothing short of a pop masterpiece. When you think of this band, you think of 'Alone With You' and 'Happy Man'. They're both on this classic album. The Sunnyboys reformed in the early nineties for a few gigs, their lineup featuring one Tim Freedman, who would go on to form The Whitlams. Oxley disappeared, seemingly, without trace.

5. V.Spy V.Spy - Harry's Reasons?

This band had three classic albums, the other ones being AO Mod. TV Vers. and Xenophobia(Why?). Their first, Harry's Reasons? was an absolute cracker. You had this intensely claustrophobic and paranoid atmosphere that started with 'All Over the World' and didn't let up until 'Injustice'. Very political, yet they didn't beat you over the head with it. The cover of the theme from 'Dangerman' was a cack.

6. Midnight Oil - Species Deceases (EP)

Why this EP ahead of 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and Diesel and Dust? This was the Oils at their absolute finest, showing a raw intensity that had waned a little after their over-ambitious Red Sails in the Sunset album. You have to get this one on vinyl, as the CD version has been mastered most disrespectfully.

7. The Go-Betweens - Before Hollywood

Proving once again that the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts, The Go-Betweens excelled in this awesome piece of work. Although Forster, McLennan and Morrison went on to produce crap after the GBs broke up, this one serves to remind just how vital a listen to the Go-Betweens is. Another very Australian sounding band, it's a mystery to me how the patronising British press got behind this. Oh I forgot, 'Cattle and Cane'. 'Nuff said.

8. TISM - Great Trucking Songs of the Renaissance

Those who know me know that I am an unrepentant TISM fan. Sorry. This album was probably good because TISM just went through their back catalogue at the time and culled the best tracks, including 'Defecate on my Face' (the disco version), 'I'm Interested in Apathy', 'Martin Scorsese…', 'Saturday Night Palsy' etc. TISM still had some charm at this point and hadn't completely ditched the silliness. I kinda miss the silliness.

9. Divinyls - Desperate

Mark McEntee was the coolest guitarist in Australian rock music. We all wanted to be him when we grew up, and try to look as cool as he did in the background when Chrissie Amphlett was doing the virgin/nympho thing out the front. Still he knew how to write a good hook, and this album was loaded with them, as evidenced by 'All The Boys in Town', 'Only Lonely', and 'Science Fiction'. Fantastic.

10. Hunters & Collectors - The Jaws of Life

Last but not least, the Hunnas. This was before percussionist Greg Perano left the band, and some would say took their heart with it. They had one almighty sound back then, owing mainly to the rhythm section of Perano, Jack Archer and Doug Falconer, as well as the incredibly screwy guitar sound of Mark Seymour. The songs grooved like there was no tomorrow, and with songs like '42 Wheels' and 'Betty's Worry or The Slab', who needed it?

So there goes. I'm glad to have got that out of my system.

30 June 1998

Why Class Reunions should be Encouraged

I'm off to a year six reunion in twenty days time. It should be a lot of fun, provided that I refrain from being my usual yobbish self.

Now, I should give you a little bit of info on myself.

I'm a Sydneysider who lives in Melbourne. Now the first question that anyone asks at this point is, "What's the difference between Sydney and Melbourne?"

If you don't live in either city, you're very fortunate if you don't know about it, but a media-propagated "rivalry" exists between the two cities. This has been going on so long that people actually believe it.

Anyway, in answer to that question, someone once said that the difference is that where Sydney is full of "yuppie wankers", Melbourne is full of "arty wankers". Either way, they're all wankers. But all generalisations suck, as another great sage once said.

I moved to Melbourne in 1991 to study Commerce at Melbourne Uni after two years at a co-ed boarding school in Albury, NSW. Before that I lived in Sydney in the fairly nondescript suburb of Frenchs Forest, and was at that venerable institution that goes by the name of The Forest High School. Two years at Chatswood Primary School before that, and before that, 5 years at Frenchs Forest Primary School and that is my academic life in a nutshell.

But focus on those two years, 1983 and 1984, when I spent years 5 and 6 at Chatswood Primary School. I was in a class called an "Opportunity C" class. (Yes. I'm 26 in three weeks. I'm officially an old fart)

Now for those of you in Victoria (or anywhere else), in New South Wales, selective government schooling doesn't extend to only 3 or 4 high schools, it extends to about 15 to 20. In addition to this, there was "Opportunity" classes in primary school.

These were classified thus - A was for the general population. B was for the blind kids and D was for the deaf kids. But C, was for the "gifted" kids. We're talking IQs here, folks. We're talking those tests that they made you do in fourth grade, where they would ask you a question like, and I'm not joking:

A. Red House

B. White House

C. Blue House

D. Yellow House

Which house does Mr Smith live in?

Now, if that is going to give you any idea how intelligent you are, then much can be made of these so-called intelligence tests.

For a start, psychologists argue amongst themselves as to the relevance of IQs. Are they the be all and end all? Take these examples.

1. A child is phenomenally intelligent, but has undiagnosed reading difficulties. Valid IQ obtained in a standard test?

2. A child is considered well read and artistic, yet has problems with mental arithmetic, which a good fifty percent of the questions relate to. Valid IQ?

3. A child is considered stupid, but has seen the questions and answers. Valid IQ?

4. A child has had no contact with civilisation, yet mostly the questions assume some level of schooling. Valid IQ?

So if they have problems actually working out what someone's IQ is, then how did they ever come to the conclusion that it is a way of objectively ranking people intellectually?

Anyway, I ended up in an opportunity C class at Chatswood Primary because I was allegedly in that top 2% that got offers. Incidentally, there were three other people from Frenchs Forest Primary who were offered places in this class. One accepted (like myself), one turned it down, and I never found out who the last person was.

Into this class went other people from the area - mostly from the Northern Beaches and North Shore areas of Sydney. We all hung out together and as a result, we were probably a tighter knit than other sixth grade classes.

So out of curiosity, and you disciples of Freud and Jung out there can read into this anything you like, I prepared a sort of survey to see what happens when a bunch of possible Einsteins are unleashed onto society. If your PhD is in sociology and you haven't thought of what your thesis is going to be on, this might help. It goes a little something like this:

Go to your next reunion and find out the…

  • Number of people who left school after year 10.
  • Number who went on to Uni.
  • Number who engaged in that undergrad tradition - ripping articles out of journals because they were too lazy to line up for the photocopiers.
  • Number who lived in a hall or college of residence while at Uni.
  • Number who were regarded as "college legends".
  • Number who were regarded as lepers.
  • Number who went on to study post-grad. (NB you could also introduce a sub-question specifying post-grad qualification, ie assoc-dips, grad-dips, pg-dips, grad-certs, pg-certs, masters, PhDs, etc)
  • Number now married.
  • Number once married.
  • Number more than once married.
  • Number in de Facto relationships.
  • Number with kids.
  • Number with kids born out of wedlock.
  • Number with extra-marital lovers.
  • Number with extra-marital kids.
  • Number who've visited prostitutes.
  • Number who visit prostitutes regularly or occasionally.
  • Average age of lost virginitys.
  • Number who've come out as being gay or lesbian.
  • Number who admit to being bisexual.
  • Number who consider themselves "sexually fluid".
  • Number who won't admit to any of the last 3 questions.
  • Number who consider themselves straight but have been in a gay/lesbian liaison.
  • Number who've used/who use illegal drugs.
  • Number to have had a drug and/or alcohol problem.
  • Number who currently have a drug/alcohol problem.
  • Mean and median income level with outliers noted.
  • Number who admit to being at least 80% happy with their career choice.
  • Number who haven't made a career choice.
  • Number on the dole.
  • Number who consider themselves religious, whether completely, semi, or marginally.
  • Number who consider themselves agnostic.
  • Number who consider themselves athiest.
  • Number practising a religion different to that of their background or upbringing.
  • Number practising a religion where they are a self proclaimed messiah or prophet.
  • Number who consider sex is a viable religion.
  • Number who have/who've had a problem with sex addiction.
  • Number who make or who have made a living as a professional athlete.
  • Number who are or who have been addicted to their own endorphins.
  • Number who still live in city where school is located.
  • Number who live outside country where school is located.
  • Number who live in the USA.
  • Number who vote ALP.
  • Number who vote Liberal/National.
  • Number who vote other, including Democrats and Greens.
  • Number of swinging voters, ie those who are actually objective.
  • Number who vote informally.
  • Number who haven't actually put their names on the electoral roll yet.
  • Number who think that two party preferred elections are a joke.
  • Number who think that bicameral legislature is also a joke.
  • Number who know the name of their state and federal MPs as well as being able to name at least two MLCs and two senators from their state.
  • Number of medical doctors/surgeons. (not graduates or interns)
  • Number of doctors proper.
  • Number of lawyers. (not articles clerks or graduates)
  • Number of accountants. (not graduates or people doing PY or CPA programs)
  • Number of garbologists.
  • Number who have owned a '78 Mazda 323, a '72 Toyota Celica, an '84 Holden Commodore or a Leyland P76.
  • Number who'd take this questionnaire at all seriously.

Well, that's it.

Get your answers in, and there'll be a special prize for the most hilarious (but true!!) answers.

31 May 1998

A Brief History of Token Idiocy in Popular Music

This article was originally written by Chris Chapman in 1995. While I have paraphrased the majority of it - because I don't have a copy - you should get the general gist of it. In addition, I have added a few other details. The reason that this is being re-aired, is because I happen to like the concept of a token idiot. If you can't deal with that, go to this nice interesting site.

You have to love Pay TV. Since we got Foxtel, household conversations have devolved to the point that it is now a matter of life and death what happened to Herr Flick of the Gestapo when the Christmas pudding he confiscated from Café Rene exploded. Was Peter Davison a better Doctor than Colin Baker? Who is stupider - Homer Simpson, or Herman Munster? How would Mr Kotter deal with colour gangs and concealed weapons? Why did Kimberley try to get everyone lobotomised?

But lately, the conversation has turned back to life's more pressing matters, as we try to go into rehab for our shocking TV addiction. Like what caused the evolution of Token Idiocy?

1. The Village Idiot

The village idiot in the medieval and middle ages was the source of all this.

But the envelope was very small, and there was not much of a way to express themselves without going beyond their role. Consequently, some of them became court jesters, town criers and clowns in circuses.

And some went on to study the viola.

2. Idiots in Classical Music

Classical music is seen as something of a victory for idiots everywhere. When the chamber orchestra was invented, violists found themselves the butt of all jokes from everyone else. Yet they thrived and multiplied, and when chamber orchestras evolved into symphony orchestras, the violist became the viola section.

Evolution? No, just bandwagon jumping. By now, the token idiot's role had surpassed that of participant to hanger-on, and when the orchestra needed a silly little man out the front to wave a stick, who did they get?

The conductor - history's most lauded token idiot.

But with the twentieth century approaching, token idiots needed a change. So where did they go.

3. Vaudeville

Vaudeville. Just the name conjures up thoughts of people dressed up in baby clothes on a stage in a music hall playing the ukulele. Idiots. Every single one.

While popular music was going through fads and phases, Vaudeville nurtured true idiocy. Trad jazz, Berlin cabaret, the "Charleston", blues, big-band swing and be-bop were the diets of the popular music consumer through the early part of this century, but on Vaudeville, nothing upset the role of the seriously idiotic.

With the collapse of Vaudeville, token idiots were left with nowhere to go but popular music, which had in the mean time taken a small dose of swing blended with a measure and a half of the blues and chased this down with some country and some folk to form Rock and Roll.

4. Rock and Roll

In the sixties, token idiots found their niche when Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best in the Beatles. A good reliable drummer, Ringo had the frivolity down pat and his place in the annals of history will never be disputed. The Beach Boys had Mike Love, who did his part very well and provided a much needed foil to the drug-addled vanity of Brian Wilson

But it was the Stones who took the concept of a token idiot to an apotheosis. Brian Jones is lauded quite rightfully for his part in raising the concept of a token idiot above that of a curiosity. Jones is seen by token idiots everywhere as being the one to kick start the musical revolution that made everyone who was forming a band say: "I want a token idiot in my band."

Throughout the rest of the sixties and seventies, everyone experimented with token idiots:

  • Frank Zappa had a whole band of them;
  • Parliament/Funkadelic had one as their main creative force;
  • The Doors had Jimbo;
  • Roxy Music had Eno; and
  • Sid Vicious - token idiot and sometime bassplayer with the Sex Pistols

In the eighties, they fell out of favour, descending into the morass that was Cock Rock. All bands had to have a pouting, preening and spandex-clad lead guitarist and singer. No one epitomised this more than David Lee Roth and Eddie van Halen, who at the end of the day were frustrated token idiots.

Outside of Cock Rock, idiots were relegated to the drumming stool. That was, until Public Enemy and the Happy Mondays came along.

The Happy Mondays had Bez - a very silly man with a very silly name. All Bez did was play the maracas and dance around a lot, and while his band mates were being credited with "Vocals", "Guitars", or "Keyboards and Programming", his name actually went up as "Bez - Token Idiocy".

Public Enemy went one step further with their contribution - Flavor Flav and the S1W. Flav danced around the stage like a madman, while the S1W - four uniformed security guys - did the standing at attention thing interspersed with the odd choreographed martial arts moves. For a short time, they also had Professor Griff, but his mix of anti-semitism and token idiocy didn't quite gel and he was eventually ejected from the band.

Today, the token idiot is still thriving.

TISM, an Australian band feel it necessary to take the stage with no less than three token idiots, including a poet. And there is a band called Pavement from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who have this guy by the name of Bob Nastanovich. And need I mention the Prodigy - who have two totally excellent idiots in Keith and Leroy.

So, does your band need a token idiot?

That question should read - can your band afford to be without one.

30 April 1998

Uoy Sevol Natas

Easter is over again, and the only thing that has been nagging my conscience is that I didn't do a Diatribe for the month of March. Consequently I have been facing allegations of laziness from the four of you out there who actually read my column. Sorry.

Anyway, Easter. What does it mean to you? Most of the world seems to see it as a celebration of all things chocolatey, and not of the Christian festival that inspired it. Was there actually a Jesus? Did he die on the cross? Did he, as my housemate Brendan has suggested, have it coming? Let's just look at the evidence.

The Bible is a fount of information. Depending on your point of view, it is fact or fiction. But then again, so is the Torah (incorporated in the Bible), the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Mahabharat, and the Karma Sutra. But the central tenet is that it is the word of God, albeit as told to various men who were the scribes and translators. This leads us to one conclusion, based on the info given that no man is without sin:

At least some of the Bible is a lie.

If man is inherently sinful, then there is a game of Chinese whispers from God down to man. "The ambulance is coming" quickly becomes "the purple goose is cooked alpha pension wigwam", as the scribe writes down what he thinks is correct, the translator translates and the publishing houses print while trying to avoid copyright lawsuits from the previous translators. Basically every question should be asked, from who was the proofreader, to why was the book of Ruth included at the expense of Tobit and Ecclesiasticus? Why were bits of Esther deleted? What happened to the Gospel according to Phillip? Obviously some selective editing went on, not to mention some complete fabrication.

But we can get some idea of the Almighty from the Bible, and we can conclude this:

God was not a good bloke.

A bit harsh, nonetheless all true - who else kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden after eating an apple that He told them not to eat? Want more? The genocide of almost the entire population of the planet under floodwaters, the visiting of the people of Egypt with terrible plagues, the stopping of what would have been the highest building the world would ever have seen by making the labourers speak different languages. Job was allowed to suffer immeasurably because God wanted to test his faith. Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac for the same laugh. Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she dared to look back at her hometown which God was in the process of destroying due to a rampant case of divine homophobia. Judas Iscariot was set up to take the fall for Christ's crucifixion. None of which, incidentally, confirms God's claim to be a loving and merciful God.

Brendan, incidentally, has this hypothesis that God is, in fact, the bad guy and that Satan is the good guy. Quite a strong argument when you look at the above info, and Satan doesn't seem to do anything to compare, save the aforementioned torment of Job, which God expressly condoned.

The above leads us to the next two conclusions:

God is a homophobe.

He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, due to their dabbling in the love that dare not speak its own name. Enough said. (Although it should be noted, the only witness to this was turned into a pillar of salt, and for all we know, God could have whisked the two towns off to another planet.)

Judas Iscariot was a saint.

Christians everywhere will strongly deny this, but the fact remains, if it weren't for Iscariot's 30 pieces of silver, Christ would not have been crucified. If Christ was not crucified, he wouldn't have been able to come back from the dead, which is central to Christianity. By coming back from the dead, he proved himself to be the son of God. It thus follows that, if it weren't for Judas, JC may never have been able to prove himself as the Saviour which he was.

One confusing thing that is reiterated throughout the Bible is the concept of the Holy Trinity. It should be seen that such a concept is impossible, due to Christ's embarrassing admission that he didn't know the date of Armageddon, and that only the Father knew. If this is truly the case, then the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are three separate deities.

Confounding the issue even more, is the problem faced by anyone wanting to know who the Holy Spirit is, as "Lefty" doesn't seem to get as much print space as Jehovah and Jesus. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am now going to release a truth so fundamentally obvious, you will kick yourself several times in the shin, butt and groin as you wonder why you never thought of this before:

The Holy Spirit is none other than Satan.

That's right. Satan. Beelzebub. The Anti-Christ. The Devil. The Prince of Darkness. Lucifer. The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Mr Brimstone. Old Nick. Great Beast that is called "Dragon". May as well add Lefty to that list, as they are one and the same.

But how? Ever notice how Satan and Lefty don't ever appear together? God, the all seeing, all powerful, all knowing Father hadn't kicked Satan out of Heaven as late as Job appeared on the Earth, even though he must've known that Satan was the supreme evil overfiend and not the humble heavenly host that he appeared.

This brings us to the last in this series of startling Revelations:

God is neither perfect nor omnipotent.

God was on a learning curve, and he showed it by exercising his Divine muscle in the old days, and, even though far more atrocities are being perpetrated today, there are no more big floods, no more languages, no more towns being flown off to other galaxies far, far away. If God was perfect, he wouldn't have invented sin, would he?

And let's face it, if it bugs him so much, he only has to snap his fingers, and it's gone. And he hasn't done that, either. Most likely because he can't.

4 comments from the archives:

Anonymous said...

shut the fuck up you retarded bloke

12 April, 2006 05:27

Dikkii said...

An erudite and enlightened response.

16 April, 2006 10:58

beepbeepitsme said...

anonymous doesn't appear to be too happy..lol

22 June, 2006 09:21

Dikkii said...

Hi Beep.

You can't say that's not amusing. Notice that is always the sick religiosos who swear, insult and threaten violence first.

Not that this particular anonymous threatened violence.

22 June, 2006 21:20

28 February 1998

Republic. Be in it.

So are you all glued to the screen of your TV watching the Constitutional Convention with baited breath? I am. There promises to be some fireworks in the next few days, as republicans go head to head with not only the monarchists, but each other as well.

I for one don't think that I could bear to miss the rivetting action from the floor of the House of Representatives in Old Parliament House. I'm putting money on Malcolm Turnbull completely losing his cool and decking Alf Garland, as he tag-teams with Bruce Ruxton for monarchist team, whilst Turnbull and his mates fend off the attacks of the hard-core team of Moira Rayner and the Reverend from Hell, alias Tim Costello.

Yes folks. It will be interesting to see what contributions, if any, that the holy trinity of Eddie McGuire, Steve Vizard and Poppy King will introduce to the whole melee, as that certifiable pair of funsters Ted Mack and Phil Cleary ride in with all guns blazing.

But I wonder whether it will all be worth it. For you see, this whole charade is going to cost the taxpayer x amount of millions of dollars, and I personally do not see any firm conclusions surfacing at all.

So, Dikkii. Where do you stand on all of this?

Well, if you'll forgive me talking to myself in the third person, I must profess to being a republican. Note the small 'r', because in the next few days, I think that this distinction is going to become as important as that between small and large 'l' liberals and small and large 'd' democrats.

Incidentally, why don't you have small and large 'l' labors, apart from the fact that this is poor grammar and that the ALP can't spell?

Back to the topic at hand. I'll reiterate the fact that I'm a republican, for the amount of good that it'll do me, because I don't think that it is as clear cut as it used to be.

The minimalists all believe that all references to the Queen and the GG (insert heroin joke here) can all be whited out and replaced with the term President in what is effectively a cosmetic makeover of the constitution to satisfy the middle ground. These people can be best typified by the aforementioned Malcolm Turnbull, and Prof George Winterton. They probably listen to Mariah Carey, Michael Bolton and Celine Dion, or maybe a small dose of the Wyndham Hill label. Some would ask what is the point? Effectively, it is a constitutional monarchy with a few name changes here and there.

The maximalists all want to get their own little sections in the constitution. I'm surprised that none of these nutcases has staked a claim in New Zealand, or called for the abolition of the states. Together with the ones who are a little less severe in their stance, they all agree that a head of state should be popularly elected. Obviously, they've never heard of a little country with the initials USA, where this situation just doesn't seem to work - the words "lame duck" automatically spring to mind. They listen to hardcore techno, hardcore death metal and hardcore jazz. They don't listen to hardcore hiphop, because this would be ideologically unsound.

The monarchists all like to listen to Bach and trad jazz. They are all unanimous, as Mrs Slocum would say, in their belief that if it ain't broke, why fix it? This is somewhat scary, because it shows that all the old farts have a more united front than the young go-getters.

So what is the problem with this?

The way I see it, a republic is a good idea, because an Australian head of state sounds quite nice, especially when compared to the undemocratically unelected house of Windsor that currently holds all the cards. I think if it's elected, you may get the added bonus, and I use that word advisedly, of seeing Presidents forming governments and sacking others more frequently, although after the Whitlam thing, Australians are still burned by the whole thing, and it might also be good to see some of the reserve powers codified more explicitly so that this doesn't happen. So I think that I only prefer it elected if that were the case. Otherwise an appointee may be the way to go.

But hang on. Isn't this all going to cost us a huge amount of cash?


And that's what I can't believe about this whole affair. While 'Chardonnay-sipping Sydneysiders' and their Melbourne equivalent (this includes you Ruxton. I know that you drink the stuff) are partying hard in the national capital, unemployment is on the rise, the trade deficit has blown out, funding to Universities and TAFE Colleges has been slashed and health is also being cut.

I said I wanted a republic, but only if is not going to cost a cent. Otherwise, let's just be realistic here, none of these problems are going to vanish overnight.

The whole thing is a complete and utter waste of money.