Because the world needs more overwrought candour.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Hard Labour

I've been wondering for a long while why I'm not sufficiently left-wing to be accepted amongst lefties as one of their own, nor gung-ho enough to be a marketeering neo-Christian hypocrite, which seems to comprise the Right these days. Clive Hamilton 's Quarterly Essay, 'What's Left?' may have answered that for me. A tad flippantly, I tried to sum up how I felt a couple of years ago here, but Hamilton's argument is of course a thousand-fold more elegant and extensive. Read an extract here.

To summarize what Hamilton's argument, the reason that the Labor party has so neatly inverted itself is because its unfailing efforts on behalf of the working class (poor men) has proved so successful. Workmen on $50,000 a year aren't being oppressed any longer. Hamilton argues that the supplementary left philosophies of feminism (women), multiculturalism/antiracism (minorities exploited for cheap labour), gay rights and environmentalism are flagging, their forces spent after their political capital was exhausted through success.

This is why I'm not really left wing - because there is no longer any immediate need for me, or most people to become involved in justice politics. Hamilton admits there are glaring ommissions in the general advancement of equality - Aboriginal health, for one - but that the major work of traditional left-wing politics has been done. I agree. There are still remnant socialists, spending their lives trying to blot out memories of Mao and Stalin by loudly dubbing John Howard a Nazi; still identity politics aficionados trying to clamber up the final tenth of slippery slope to something called equality, to equality with straight white men, when all the historic evidence shows that group solidarity comes about through oppression, not success.

What Hamilton doesn't touch on (at least, as far as I've read) is that the Labour social-democratic model has proven itself as a method of raising people out of class divisions. So, my pipe-dream suggestion for Labour is this: To prevent further infighting, factional wars, election failures and general self-destruction, both wings of the Australian Labour Party should look to Keating, the Asian-focussed neo-liberal neo-Laborite, and immediately outsource themselves overseas, where there is genuine need, where working classes still exist and class divisions are ethnicized and keenly felt, where unions are needed more than anything else, where politics and emotion are vividly part of life. Try Papua New Guinea for an intractable starter; stop in Indonesia and fight on behalf of the non-Javanese, non-Indonesian military, on behalf of the ethnic majority against the richer Chinese shopkeepers and business owners, take on the Phillipines where hostages are the conduits for Robin Hood politics, taking from rich Chinese and giving to the militant dumpster dwellers; help the rural and non-Han Chinese gain political traction against the newly-urban Communist Party, industralists, militarists, nationalists. Look to the Party's brave past and the massive gains it has made in Australia to raise the working class into aspirational territory; replicate this model rather than dithering between Right and Left when the words have almost entirely lost their historic meaning.


I find it intensely interesting when people of any political persuasion come up against the contradictions inherent in their chosen philosophy. So, for example, when a conservative Christian tries to justify the death penalty by ducking and weaving around Thou Shalt Not Kill like a boxer. Or when a sanctimonious leftie tries to lay claim to being both feminist and a cultural pluralist, as if the patriarchy is something found only in white Western societies. It lends itself to some innovative self-blindness, as they try to juggle the accepted new left wisdom of tolerance and the hallowed old left gospel of equality for women. Most seem to solve the problem in the same way physics has dealt with the currently impossibly problem of equalising laws on a micro scale with laws on the macro scale. On their own, the posited laws governing small-scale movement of atoms and the tiny subatomic flora are experimentally accurate, but they do not work when applied to large scale movement of spheres like planets. Same goes for the large laws, which don't work when applied to small things. So the status quo is two seemingly incompatible ideas coexisting quite happily. Political-minded people have the same adeptness at accommodating flaws in their ideas and, if confronted, are able to ready decent defences. One phenomenon I notice is the idea of isolated frames of reference - so feminism is only applied locally, whereas cultual tolerance is meant to be applied both locally and abroad.

I'm trying to start up a regular thinking night at my place, in Melbourne, Australia. I want to fend off intellectual drought and the attraction of television, now that I'm a working drone partaking of The System. Drop me a comment if you're at all interested. Yes, I'm somwhere in the Fitzroyalty-Carltonia nexus of impoverished privately-schooled uni students and people who can pronounce latte successfully.
Rare Wiggle sighting!

Last night I was at Meyers Place in the city, trying to consolidate the journo-alcoholic character trait when I saw a man with startling eyes. He and his friend, around 40 were drinking and checking out girls. But this man with the startling eyes carried himself as if every moment he expected to be discovered, like a minor, insecure celebrity. He was dressed strangely, a cross between a ponce and a pirate. I had no idea who he was, but Jock has an infallible nose for placing people. Doug, he whispered, that man over there is a Wiggle. And so he was. The bar staff confirmed it. It was the Red Wiggle, shucked of his skivvy and looking at pretty girls. It was a bit creepy to think of a Wiggle as a sexual being, but I suppose he has needs. The strange thing was that no-one really recognised him. Everyone skirted past him, wondering why he looked so familiar, but no-one else could place him. I became very excited. I'm going to go talk to him, I announced. Jock looked puzzled. Why? Because my kindie kids in Japan wouldn't dance to anything else but the Wiggles, I said. Because they make music that kids like and he made my job a lot easier. But by the time I'd acquired a bit more Dutch courage, he had vanished. What a pity.

The Wiggles are one of Australia's biggest and most successful cultural exports. They were our top export earners in 2005. But like Bryce Courtney, no-one here wants a bar of them. Too popular? Too niche? Often imitated (the Hooley-Dooleys, Hi-5), but never matched - is their lack of fame not a crying shame?

I salute you, Red and your fellow Wiggles, even if no-one else does. But Wikipedia says you're married with two kids. I hope you were just flirting.

The final mystery to clear up why the fifth Wiggle, Phillip Wilcher, quit so early. He missed out on the $45 million they earned in 2004.

UPDATE! Wiggles divide and conquer like the Borg!

The Wiggles are now set to conquer the rest of the world, too—and they have an ingenious plan for doing so. The band has a licensing deal with Walt Disney International for Asia to cast new versions of themselves to tour in other countries. That means that not only could they be in two places at the same time, they could hypothetically be in 10 places at the same time.
The first clone of the group was created in Taiwan, where they’ve added a twist: the red Wiggle is a woman. They’ll do a Taiwanese TV show and record the songs, just like the Australian originals.

- From MSNBC

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

World wide cooking

I had an idea a while ago to compile a sharehouse cookbook, based not on the idea of shopping prior to cooking, but the lazy student's method of inspect-shelves-toss-ingredients-in-pot-wait-ten-minutes. This is a cooking method I know and respect, as it has allowed me to create staggering works of genius (AKA a greeny spinachy fry-up of divinely cheesy proportions) and hellish rice dishes of doom. I knew the cookbook idea had probably already been done, but little did I guess that my idea had already been superceded and made redundant through technology.

Oh, mighty Google. How could I ever have doubted your powers? Why did I have to wait for a friend to suggest the idea of Google Cooking? Was it not plain in my sight? Clearly, I am not worthy.

Sigh. Google cooking is very simple, according to Andy. You simply inspect your shelves, memorise a few key ingredients and drop them into google. Stir, and add the word 'recipe' to taste. Tap the enter button, and voila! Recipes from the four (English-speaking) corners of the globe will cascade before you.

Andy claims a 95% success rate, with the sole offender a dubious risotto which was on the turn anyway.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Work party

So last Friday I had my first work party, which was rather odd. I've been gainfully employed as a local journo for all of three weeks now, long enough to bid a heartfelt farewell to dole letters.

I ended up on a table with three presumably single women. Midway through the entree, their slavering over a particularly juicy piece of manmeat became too hard to ignore. He was hot, in an affected kind of way - lipstud, hair fluffed and ponced, midweight American accent. Two drinks into the bar tab and he was being undressed mentally by every double-X chromosome at the table. The feistiest woman extracted his name from a passing waitress by pretending she knew him from someplace. You like the look of him, yeah, I said and she waved her wedding ring at me. Just playing. Jimmy, she said and he came over a trifle cautiously. Jimmy, we met somewhere didn't we? A bar, perhaps?
Then, impatient, my fellow journo butted in. It was in her dreams, wasn't it, she said and leered. To give Jimmy credit, he defended himself well. It was probably a nightmare, he said, retreating at speed. Poor Jimmy.

Then there were the table of aged patrons who had clearly scalped a number of younger women. They were between 40 and 60. The older they were, the more attention to their hair. I couldn't stop glancing at the queen of them all, a 60+ woman with the gushing blonde hair of a 25 year old. Crags and hollows, her crumpled face clashed violently with her hair. I wondered why she did it. Perhaps she couldn't afford to stave off age properly, with surgery and tucking and flesh repositioning. Perhaps this was phase one. It was all rather odd.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bits and bobs

I have been a very bad blogger now routine and contentment has set in. But here are some tidbits.

L told me a wonderful story of a tramride, packed with people and she was standing close to a man, both of them reading. Instinctively, their bodies softened into each other, curved around each other while their minds roamed elsewhere, not surveiling their domain - and then at once, both realised and stiffened and broke this little knowing that our bodies always do, that they learn from birth, this instinctive outstretching that operates beneath mind.

If Kerry Packer was famous for his grandiose psychosis, his ability to mould the world to his will, in the way that psychopaths and killers, those of lower class with similar brains, then perhaps the problem of violent crime is linked to inequality and class, and if education was brought into it, perhaps the violent would learn the subtler forms of violence and keeping score. Like CEOs, they would learn power truer than blood, the power of dominion without visible violence, a body beaten with muffled fists.

I wonder if an 'ism' like Communism or Fascism struck again, who would step forward to be our Stalins, our dictatorial class?

Fear is the mind killer, fear is the little death. But the French say the same about orgasm, le petit morte. So following that logic, a heightened zen (for a further cultural mix) can be achieved through fearful orgasm or orgasmic fear. Think furtively masturbating when Mum's in the next room; making love au naturale with a syphilitic leper; dressing up as Osama bin Laden and visiting a Pauline Hanson Retrospective meeting.

Riding home from dinner, wine and I'm acutely aware of the gangliness of my body and the speed at which the past becomes fixed. Awkwardness, the slight feeling of outsiderness - so alien, so foreign, when my body knows her as a lover once and could know her again so easily were it not for.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Better words than mine

All the questions man asks about his life are multiplied by the fact
of death: for man differs from all other creatures, it would seem, in
being aware of his own death and in never being fully reconciled to
sharing the natural fate of all living organisms. The tree of
knowledge, with its apple that gave man awareness of good and evil,
also grew a more bitter fruit man wrenched from its branches: the
consciousness of the shortness of the individual life and the finality
of death. In his resistance to death man has often achieved a maximum
assertion of life: like a child at the sea's edge, working desperately
to build up the walls of his sand castle before the next wave breaks
over it, man has often made death the centre of his most valued
efforts, cutting temples out of the rock, heaping pyramids high above
the desert, transposing the mockeries of human power into visions of
godlike omnipotence, translating human beauty into everlasting stone,
human experience into printed words, and time itself, arrested in art,
into a simulacrum of eternity.

- Lewis Mumford (1944), The Condition of Man

Thursday, March 09, 2006


At last! I have a real job, after months of floundering, unrealistic dreams of life changes. I'm a journalist at a local paper, after so much agonising about whether it was for me. In the end, I didn't really choose so much as had the job chosen for me. I thought Masters in Politics might delay real life for long enough to get a grip on what the hell I wanted to do, but I didn't factor in my alma mater's anal-retentiveness. Not having gone the authorised way, they consigned me to a bridging course. The same week, I was called out of the blue and told there was a job going and would I be interested and I said damn yes and I got the job perhaps because they thought I still lived locally, which was true when I sent them my resume. It's such a great feeling to be valued; to do work that is interesting; to talk to people for a living; to write daily, regardless of the straitjacket form journalism comes in. I think I've finally nailed the trifekta, after six months of feeling like crap: house, relationship, job.