Thursday, October 30, 2003

by Glenn Condell


OK, are we serious about this being a 'World' Cup or aren't we?

You can't keep chuntering on about the 'spirit' and 'colour' the lesser teams bring to the occasion and how vital it is to 'spread the rugby gospel' on the on hand and give them such a shoddy deal on the other. You can't on bemoan 80 point differentials while at the same time doing nothing to help 'minnows' escape such fates.

At the very least, you must:

1 force big member unions to dock competition points from clubs who won't release players for national teams

2 provide funding for minnows to pay for these players should an independent committee find their unions unable to do so

3 propagate the notion that the Cup is the sport's highest peak (and best advert) and that other rugby interests must yield to it

4 reform the judiciary process that saw a previously unblemished Cau Cau get 2 weeks for an airswing, while repeat offender Lawrence Dallaglio got nada for a punch that opened up Werner Greef's forehead and rendered him unfiit for the Boks' next game

5 make penalties for illegal extra players so clear there can be no arguments or alternative 'interpretations' (who doubts Samoa would have been docked a point?)

6 ensure in future draws that lower ranked teams don't always pull the short straw when scheduling means some sides play four games in 12 days

7 institute some sort of merit system for players in the comp's bottom half.. perhaps a 'best of' team picked after pool games with some small emolument or prize - perhaps even a game against the highest ranked side to miss the semis - a warm up for the final?

8 Decrease the value of penalties and dropgoals from three to two points

That'll do for a start.




I suppose I shouldn't expect too much from a bloke who spends most of his time with reptiles, but even so your outburst about Bob Brown was down there with the shark shit.

You're a passionate bloke, aren't you Steve? Passionate about the rights of crocs and other animals and presumably plants on our planet. As is Dr Brown. But you're not too keen on him having the right to speak to the American President in our own parliament, are you? (this after being refused a question) Apparently, you are friendly with the President (not surprising given you think Howard the best leader in the world) so perhaps this clouded the view your Australian background could have afforded you. You might remember we have a tradition of saying what we think, especially in our own back yard. It's called standing on your dig... I would have thought you of all people would understand that. I wonder if in Dr Brown's shoes, those of a man with a passionate belief that a great wrong has been committed at Guantanamo, you would have had the guts to stand up to the world's most powerful man in parliament, occasioning a torrent of abuse and character assassination? I wonder. Maybe you would, if it involved crocodiles rather than humans.

Bob Brown is a brave, intelligent and compassionate man. You think he should be 'taken out the back and given a good belting'. I reckon if you value Australian independence that much you ought to just piss off back to America with your mate George. Take John too.

And stay there.


George, you have some serious reading to do. I know, you've just done a fair bit and your head hurts, but I'm afraid this is essential for your balance, before it's too late.

You could start with Thom Hartmann's piece from last year, which elegantly drew disturbing parallels between the rise of the Nazis and the Bush ascendancy. Or US author David Niewert's blog Orcinus ( which daily tracks his nation's slide into the foothills of fascism. Real fascism, involving the abuse of the sort of power the Greens will never get within a bull's roar of. Closer to home, you could try yesterday's Webdiary offering from Jane Doulman, who said of your speech that it

'struck a vein of fear in my being that I never thought existed. Why am I thinking, as a once passionately proud 8th generation Australian, I am ashamed of this country, I don't like what it stands for anymore. Why, for the first time in my life, am I thinking perhaps, when I finish the Phd, we should leave?'

Goodonyer George! That's the way... keep it up and you could drain the swamp of bleeding hearts in Australia, leaving only right thinking people like you. Heaven!

There's only one increasingly fascist strain of political persuasion in Australia, George... you know you're soaking in it! So marinated in fact, that you could read the articles above without twigging. Or refusing to twig.

Your speech is a low point in our parliamentary history, a nadir. You waffle on about Brown and Nettle's 'affronts' to manners and 'the standing orders and procedures of this chamber' as if civil disobedience is never warranted, as if the transgression of these standing orders was somehow more abhorrent than the grave abuses of democracy Dr Brown referred to and for which Mr Bush is ultimately responsible. As if Bush is more entitled to retail his lies in the (still beating) heart of our democracy than Brown is to ask his pertinent questions. Your reliance on the nature element in Nazism to tar the Greens is desperate stuff (Nazis liked their Mums too I gather.. is there perhaps something a bit fishy about that as well?) and your accusation that they embrace fanaticism, 'a set of political values which will not brook the expression of legitimate political differences' is a real hoot and a bad case of projection to boot. But it's dangerous too and I don't know if you're too dim to appreciate that or too cynical to care. Not good either way George.

Brown has taken himself out of the comfort zone (once again) to protest against things he feels strongly about, setting his face against the government and it's supporters' predictably orchestrated catcalling, feigned outrage and sheer bluster. You, by contrast, safe in the establishment bosom, issue ugly accusations more accurately applied to your own team.

Who do you think would make the best 'good German' George?


So, there's substance to go with the style after all?

I want to thank you for taking your responsibilities to ALL constituents seriously, which sometimes involves pissing off individual units in our patchwork quilt. Your strong support of Hanan Ashrawi's Sydney Peace Prize is I'm sure appreciated by more people than would be willing to tell you publicly. The hunted look in your eyes told a different tale to your confident tone the other day, but you should hold your line - it's the right one, with one minor quibble.

You said in Parliament that Israeli obligations to come to the table are basically on hold until the 'violence' stops. You know that even if Palestinian violence stopped, the Israelis would do something, anything to provoke them into 'violence' which would then justify raids and 'targeted killings' and more fucking settlements. That's the practical aspect of my quibble; the philosophical nub of my objection lies in an allergic reaction to the idea that the people to whom the original injustice was done ought to be the first to desist. Why do you not feel Israel has an obligation to leave the settlements first? They cause the suicide bombs, not vice versa. Say to Israel - how about getting off their land and then, if they keep bombing, all the world (including me) will support your struggle? If they stop, hey presto, we have a two state solution!

Your actions to ensure funding for an exhibition of Palestinian photographs at the Powerhouse are also appreciated. As you say, both sides stories must be heard (and their images seen)... it's been one way traffic for too long.

When you weigh these actions up against your dogged insistence last year that if particular ethnic communities (in that case Lebanese) had particular societal problems, they must be publicly acknowledged in order to be adequately addressed, a pattern starts to emerge. Just as we urge our Muslim brethren to discourage the more strident and dangerous among their number, so we ought to ensure that the Jewish community here understands our objections to the zealots among them, many of whom appear to have commandeered official Jewish-Australian organisations. The impression this gives is of an extremist community, yet as you could confirm, most Jews you speak to have grave misgivings about Israel's direction and leadership. For official community organs to pillory Ashrawi and support Sharon does their community no good in Australia in the long term. Your actions are an eloquent way to express these sentiments.

Goodonyer Bob!


Grow a spine.

(Disclosure: I work at the Uni; I am now every bit as disappointed in the leaders of my workplace as I am in those who run my country.)



Richo, people look at you and immediately understand why the ALP is underwater. Trevor, how would this look if they HAD installed you at the ABC? Rene, you must be sick mate, because one look at you makes the rest of us feel the same way.


Keep up the good, or rather, the outstanding work. In the future, history will value your contributions ... many of us do right now.


Sorry to be so stop-start old son... it'll be stop for a while now (promise!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The ghost of Karl Marx lives! A wonderful read and a lovely crash course in The Great Thinkers, much in the gentle tones Big Karl reserved for them when he was alive.

Interview courtesy of Donald Sassoon and Prospect Magazine
Heads-up courtesy of Norm Geras
Sunday, October 26, 2003

Regular readers might be disappointed to find that Yours Dismally can be something of a proudly conservative philistine.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like a good building. Good building has a long history. It was around when they put together the Parthenon (it's wise to have a puny human's point of view in mind when knocking up large public buildings) and it was still around when they built the Queanbeyan railway station, a host of Australian corner pubs, and the Old Parliament House. Indeed, a Danish chap was able still to draw up a perfectly presentable opera house forty years after that, but he was pretty well an anachronism by then. By then, Australians were much more inclined to knock down good buildings than build them. If good building goes back at least as far as 447 BC, it certainly didn't get far past The Depression.

And I do like a good tune. Vivaldi and Bach started something decent, but what we call classical music has not had a moment worth listening to since Vaughan Williams' Scott of the Antarctic in 1948. So that's 1700 to 1948. There was a short revival of music when the electric guitar met a cohort of teenaged baby boomers and the welfare state that gave 'em the discretionary expenditure to match their demographic preponderance, but as revivals go, it was an ill-fated flash in a very large pan. Chuck Berry and his mates started something that would be interesting and varied for twenty years or so, before the Sex Pistols marked the end with 'Bollocks', which admittedly terrific collection wryly, profanely and proudly admitted there was nowhere much left to go but back to Berry. So that's 1956 to 1976.

I like a nice painting, too. Nice painting is what happened between the time of Caravaggio (nice drop of typically bloody realism with good use of darkness for dramatic effect) and that of Munch (His most famous painting "Oh shit! God's disappeared, and now everything depends on what I decide to do next … and I won't believe I can possibly know the truth I need to know until Hayek comes along to tell me prices do the knowing for me, and he's not going to tell me that for another fifty years … and I've no ethical reference point to help me make my decisions until Friedman tells me I can't go wrong as long as I maximise shareholder value, but he's not gonna tell me that for another sixty years" may be found here). For me the highpoint of it all happened way back in 1646. I like Rembrandt, I like Hendrickje, and I like the way they clearly got on together. Turner was okay, too. Anyway, good painting started around 1600 and coughed its last around 1905.

Now, I haven't seen the contemporary art exhibition on at the Melbourne Festival at the moment. It's called 'Orifice', apparently. So strong is my suspicion that this is yet another episode in the century-long saga of unmitigated wank that has been twentieth century art, that I already know I'm never going to see it. So what if I'm wrong? It's the particular exhibition that allows the general vent my mood demands.

Piss-submersed crucifixes, dead cows and soiled sheets were not art five years ago and orifices are not art now. This stuff is defended because it shocks, and that shocking people is a good thing. Shocking people's not hard - just go take a crap on the gallery floor during a showing - maybe in New York, you'd get away with it if you quickly defended the product of your orifice on the grounds that it had 'made the every-day strange' or some such nonsense, but you wouldn't fool the rest of us for a minute - we'd know the turd is perfectly ordinary and that it is the modern art gallery that is strange.

Like pornographers, these galleries merely commodify novelty for bored people. Cui bono? From the commercial promoter's point of tunnel vision, it's win/win, of course. Some punters come in to be shocked at the orifice, and the rest come in to be shocked that the orifice is now art. Confer an award on the right pile of shock-schlok, and the yartz commoonity virtually guarantees a faux-outraged media will march the punters in like lemmings.

The cultural logic of high capitalism and that of Imperial Rome have much in common …

Then there's the little matter of meaning. Art has to make meaning happen in our heads. One way that the art of today is unlike pornography, is that the punter of today requires tertiary training and a fifty-dollar coffee-table programme if s/he is to have a clue as to what s'he's purportedly seeing. What, with modern communications technologies being the way they are, and with the residue of public education still flickering, any ol' prole can see Hendrickje or The Scream these days. More importantly, any ol' prole has the wit to make something of 'em, too. There just ain't any cultural capital to be had in seeing or making meaningful a Rembrandt any more. Of course, there ain't much cultural capital to be had in representing orifices either, so today the meaning is not supposed to happen as punters confront the objects, but as they consult the accompanying abstruse essay in their glossy programme.

For 'programme', read Veblen's 'conspicuous consumption'; for 'opaque essay', read Bourdieu's 'cultural capital'.

And for art, take a look at Hendrickje.

political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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