Thursday, 31 July 2014

"I might lose you..."

It's a curiously Melbourne thing: the loss of telecommunications in the underground rail system known locally as "the Loop". Every morning and every afternoon, commuters answer a call just before entering the tunnels, answering with a weary refrain "Yep...yep...I might lose you...I'm going into the Loop".

Might lose? Why "might"? Has there ever been a time the cellular network has not dropped out on you in the Loop? Has there ever been a time you've gone from Richmond to Parliament without the familiar beeps of a disconnected call?

"...are you there?? there?" 

A peek at the phone screen to confirm that indeed the signal has been lost and the call disconnected. Because you didn't know that already...

There are few things in life we can be truly certain of. There's the "death and taxes" bit, but I'd like to add "being disconnected in the Loop" to that staid list. Admittedly it is a little parochial, but we are nothing if not a parochial people.

Popular news reports have mentioned something about the phone network being extended to the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop. All I can say to that is Fuck Off. It's one of the few places in the modern world where you can be assured of peace and quiet sans telecommunication. Hell, it's as good an excuse as any to hang up on the boss and not call back for 20 minutes.

But more importantly it gives one a chance to observe people's forced disconnection in this modern high-paced technologically (yada-yada...Time magazine...yada-yada) world. The endless downward swipes to reload news feeds that will never materialise...the ceaseless pressing of refresh, hoping somehow cellular data seeps between concrete cracks above to the bored passengers in bored holes below...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What Was Said: The UN Security Council Bid

"There are vastly higher priorities for Australia right now than pursuing a seat on the security council,"
-Tony Abbott, July 2010

“Instead of swanning around in New York talking to Africans, she should be in Jakarta right now trying to sort out the border protection disaster...The problem with this whole Security Council bid is that it costs money. Worse, it’s distorted our priorities over the last few years as so much time and effort goes into this and not into managing the relationships that are absolutely vital to our future.”
-Tony Abbott, September 2012

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Leaked MasterChef Contestant Application Form




FIRST NAME:_______________________

DATE OF BIRTH:___/___/___  AGE (AS OF 1 JAN 2014)____



STATE:______ POSTCODE:________

CONTACT PHONE NUMBER (BH):_______________ (AH)______________

EMAIL ADDRESS:__________________________________


Have close friends suffered/died from a terrible illness (preferably cancer)? YES / NO

If YES, how many? (the more, the better):______

If NO, you had better be the most interesting person in the world to get a place at the auditions.



Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Leaked MasterChef Running Sheet



Vehicles carrying contestants arrive at kitchen.



SURPRISE FAMOUS CHEF surprises CONTESTANTS by appearing. CONTESTANTS magically know who s/he is even though most viewers have no fucking clue. 


Reinforce SURPRISE FAMOUS CHEF'S identity through CONTESTANT 4 talking about how s/he always conveniently looked up SURPRISE FAMOUS CHEF.

CONTESTANT 4 (interview)
Oh my god, we're waiting for them to come out and SURPRISE FAMOUS CHEF comes out and I'm like oh my god (laughs).

SURPRISE FAMOUS CHEF unveils IMPOSSIBLE DISH that has been perfected after decades of real experience in real kitchens as a real chef.


CONTESTANT 1 (interview)
And I like saw it and I was like 'oh my God'.

CONTESTANT 1 looks at dish.

Oh my God.


Cooking begins, insert miscellaneous non-issue of CONTESTANT 2's cooking and turn it into an issue through the magic of editing.

CONTESTANT 2 is unsure whether his/her ingredient is burnt. CONTESTANT 2 opens oven to reveal whether ingredient is burnt. 
(Brooding music)
Before it is revealed whether or not the ingredient is burnt...


Return to CONTESTANT 2. Opens oven, ingredient is fine.
(Happy music)

JUDGES distract CONTESTANTS by going around asking all of them questions.



RECAP of everything that's occurred so far.

JUDGES talk about contestants behind their backs.

Insert another miscellaneous non-issue. Preferably involving tears.


Rectify second miscellaneous non-issue.

COUNT DOWN to end of cooking time.

Extend the last 30 SECONDS to 3 minutes through the MAGIC of EDITING.


RECAP everything that has occurred...again.

JUDGES sit down to be presented with food.

JUDGES to recap everything that has occurred.

CONTESTANTS to bring out dishes one-by-one. JUDGES to recap what occurred with each CONTESTANT.

CONTESTANT to be "thanked" and exit the room while JUDGES critique food (and CONTESTANT) behind their back.


JUDGES recap everything that has occurred.

JUDGES eliminate a CONTESTENT. Then patronise by telling them how good they are. Eliminated CONTESTANT talks about being "INSPIRED"; vows to open kitchen/café/restaurant/bakery/catering business/taco truck/Vietnamese street food pop-up van eating hall.

Eliminated CONTESTANT walks towards car, forever shamed. End on pepped up "WHERE ARE THEY NOW" sheet. In the event of CONTESTANT depression or misery, state they are "exploring new avenues in life" or "opening their own kitchen/café/catering business".




Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A Whitewash

Eric Gill is a name you may not be familiar with, but if you've used a computer in the past 20 years, you'd certainly be familiar with one of his works. An artist, sculptor and designer, Gill designed the exceptionally British Gill Sans typeface, seen everywhere from the covers of Penguin paperbacks to the official communications of the British Government.

He was a celebrated and award-winning designer.

He was also a sex abuser.

Long after his death, his diaries revealed his assaults on his children, an incestuous relationship with his sister and canine bestiality. By any standard, then or now, these are horrific acts. But does Eric Gill the sexual deviant trump Eric Gill the artist? Should every designer and publisher with a conscience stop using Gill Sans? Should the art deco Midland Hotel in Morcambe destroy Gill's statues and bas-reliefs as a protest against his horrid behaviour?

In most cases (although not all) the answer is a resounding "no", it would be desecration of art. Somehow, the world found a way to separate Gill's oeuvre from his depraved moral character. Perhaps this is, in part, due to the fact that little was known publicly about Gill's abuse until four decades after his death, unlike another more recent offender...

Convicted of 12 cases of sexual abuse and likely perpetrator of many more, Rolf Harris is rightly persona non grata. He also leaves behind decades worth of artistic works, spanning both the frivolous and slightly-more serious.

Custodians of Harris's artworks have been falling over themselves to erase any trace of the offender from their possession. Whether it's cathartically painting over a Caulfield mural in red (above), removing Harris's portrait from a wall of celebrities or "tearing up" a plaque dedicated to him in his home town, Harris is slowly being erased from living memory. Archived hyperlinks to his former representative gallery profile redirect back to the gallery main page (although the Google's cache and the Wayback Machine have very long memories). He was thoroughly deserving of his punishment, if not a substantially longer sentence.

Still, there is something sinister about "removing" Harris from artistic and historical memory; something decidedly Morrisonian Stalinist about it all, as if Harris never existed. Forgetting the past; doomed to repeat etc. Still, it's easy to understand why it's occurring. The victims' feelings, of course, must be taken into consideration. And if you had a trite Rolf Harris mural outside your house, would you want it displayed it to the world?

The only comfort in this dilemma is that Harris was no Gill. I don't mean in the deranged, sickening individual sense, but in artistic output. Eric Gill gave the world PerpetuaProspero and Ariel and, of course, Gill Sans. Rolf Harris gave us the wobble board, decades of interminable British Paints commercials, irreparable damage to Australian cultural reputation and a much-criticised portrait of the Queen.

Still, in a few decades' time, the next generations might be asking who this "Harris" character was. What did he do? Why didn't anyone stop him? Surely we should be able to provide a more nuanced and detailed answer than "paedophile" and "things were different back then". The only way to do that is to keep some trace of Harris as he was. To keep a record and remember and, most importantly, not paint over history.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Neoliberalism's Greatest Hits No. 1: Blame the Victims

Swanston Street Leica M4, Summicron-M 35mm, Fujifilm Velvia 50
A defining characteristic of the neoliberal worldview became obvious in aftermath of the GFC. In op-ed after TV interview after non-fiction book, neoliberal economists blamed the crisis on people who earned $7 an hour in backwater USA.

It wasn't really the fault of predatory lenders, the lack of regulation, dishonest financial advisers, or the ratings agencies, or monetary policy, or fiscal policy, it was the poor saps too hard-up to afford even a roof over their heads. Poor people should’ve known better.

Bear this in mind now a senate inquiry has found a conspiracy of deliberate "forgery and dishonest concealment" by the Commonwealth Financial Planning Limited, part of the Commonwealth Bank. It is thought CFPL misled up to 12,000 investors through compromised and corrupt financial advice, with some losing their homes and life savings.

The inquiry found some financial brokers and advisers "systematically targeted more vulnerable members of the community...without high levels of financial literacy”. With serious fraud and potential criminal activity at one of Australia's most "trusted" institutions, it’s clear there's something severely wrong with the financial sector.

The inquiry thought as much, recommending a royal commission be established in order uncover further instances of fraud and corruption in the financial advice sector. However, the Coalition (with close ties to the finance and business world) have played down any need for a one. A cynic might think there's no political mud to find by investigating one's friends.

The Australian is similarly resolute. Is fraud to blame? No. Is dodgy advice to blame? Nope. What about managerial cover-ups? Nah. According to the Oz's John Durrie, "the basic problem with the industry is investor apathy".

Wow. That's a BINGO! One could be forgiven for thinking systematic fraud, theft and conspiracy might have something to do with scandals in financial management. Nope, the blame sits with the investors for consulting accredited financial planners at one of Australia's largest financial institutions to look after their, you know, finances. What a stupid thing for people to do. That's like trusting your maid when she's cleaning 0ne's beachside villa. What, you don't have a maid? Oh. Well it's like trusting those people who clean your car not to touch the change in the centre console. You do have a car, don't you?

Speaking of cars, let's imagine another situation: you take your car to an accredited mechanic. The mechanic forgets to - I don't know - reconnect the brakes. You drive out of the shop and accidentally smash into first car you see. Who's to blame? You? Or the mechanic?

Now, imagine that mechanic received a commission not to reconnect your brakes, a commission you had no idea about and cannot possibly fathom. Perhaps that commission came from a tow truck company, or the panel beaters up the road. Who knows? You sure as hell don't. The Australian and the rest of neoliberal society want to tell you it's all your fault for trusting an accredited mechanic whose job is to, you know, fix cars. You should have been more interested in your car and less apathetic. After all, it is your safety!

It would be easy to say "serves you right" if the 12,000-odd victims were high-wealth, high-risk investors out for fast money. But they weren't. The majority were ordinary "mum and dad" investors who sought the safety of one of Australia's largest and most trustworthy institutions to slowly grow their earnings.

With the government too busy to establish a royal commission that isn’t partisan muckraking, we at least be certain the Financial System Inquiry will report with some great advice on the future of our advice and investment systems.

The FSI's chairman is one David Murray, former CEO of the Commonwealth Bank.

...we can surely expect a full and fearless report.