Thursday, July 28, 2011

I wanna shock yer jocks!

Amanda Palmer, lead shriek of Boston’s Dresden Dolls, who last year decided to take to some of Radiohead’s exquisite masterpieces with a ukele wielded like a child’s plastic hammer, follows what is fast becoming a well-worn path amongst northern hemisphere gliterati of Aussie-baiting in a rather transparent attempt to snatch a bit of publicity and no doubt boost flagging sales of the afore-mentioned EP. First she baited us with her ode to Vegemite titled, well, Vegemite. “It tastes like sadness/it tastes like batteries/it tastes like acid”, begging the question how she could possibly know how the latter two taste and still be with us. Now she appears to be appealing to Bill Gates to send us a ship-load of PC’s.

I can’t answer for the level of accommodation tour managers extended to Ms Palmer on her recent under-the-radar solo tour of Australia, but according to a story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, she appears to have formed the impression that one of the wealthiest, most secure and technologically advanced societies in human history has somehow missed the cyber-boat. The less-than-erudite Ms Palmer, whose Brechtian sensibilities appear to justify lyrics that extend to the frivolous when they are not completely non-sensical (and delivered to my asbestos ears with all the subtle harmonics of a mid-air collision), proceeds to offer we Antipodean Luddites some timely lessons in such cyber-trinkets as Twitter, suggesting we join the gang at the cool end of the playground before we start dragging our knuckles on the ground. I was going to publish Ms Palmer’s open letter to we poor Croc Dundees lurking in the scrub in our convict stripes, but I figure I have already made my point, and I see no reason to offer this one-woman cabaret from the troubled north any more publicity. 

Except to add that, if the Herald can be trusted (an admittedly big “if”), then who at the Australia Council thought it a good idea to post such dross on its web page? The irony, of course, is there for all to see, with the notable exception of the author. 

And while we are on the subject of those educated beyond their means, why is it that the most humourless man in Australia, Gerard Henderson, can continue to maintain the existence of political bias at the ABC while allowing the increasingly incendiary and ill-informed remarks of shock jock Alan Jones to pass through to the keeper? Yes, that is a cricketing analogy, Gerard, for whose frivolity I immediately apologise. 

The point has already been made ad nauseum, probably because it is worth repeating, but the increasingly barbed nature of public discourse in almost all the major OECD nations is already proving murderous, as witnessed by the recent tragedy in Norway and incidents such as the shooting of a US Senator some months back, and Jones’ recent nigh-criminal suggestion that someone should put our Prime Minister in a canvas bag and throw her into the sea does nothing but sharpen the barbs in the ears of the suggestible. 

It seems poets (that is real poets motivated by something other than their egos) have something to teach these self-appointed windbags about the value of labouring over every word. Is there perhaps a correlation between the proliferation of open-mic nights and the parlous state of public discourse?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blow wind, Blow

The winds we endured in the mountains for the best part of a week earlier this month were one of the most hair-raising experiences of my lengthening life.

Katoomba is a relatively old town by Australian standards, and appears to have been built around stands of giant ghost gums, one of which came down in the small hours with a terrifying crash only metres from my house while I lay in the howling dark waiting for the first cracks to appear between my walls and my ceiling.

After such a night, the ensuing days of blackout in the freezing depths of a mountain winter were a comparative cakewalk. Pubs, I discovered, have generators.

The winds peaked at 140 kmh, but it was not so much their power as their relentless nature that proved so daunting to those who lived through them. One cannot help but feel very tiny indeed in the face of such blind fury, and with people reduced in scale they seemed suddenly more open, less occluded by the trivial and ephemeral. The whisky helped, but more than once it struck me what we have lost as a people in a very short space of time, less than a generation in fact.

Surveying our damaged town over the following days, we were all struck by how the felling of a tree here or there had so altered the aspect of familiar streets, exposing little nooks and crannies we did not know existed (Katoomba is very much a town of nooks and crannies), opening large tracts up to the sky for the first time in many years.

As so often happens, crisis wrought what has turned out to be a welcome change in many lives choked with the weeds and thorns of their own petty concerns, change we either lacked the courage or vision to enact ourselves.

I put it forward as a fitting theme for 2011, from Tunisia to Fleet Street to the carbon tax debate in our own new-look parliament, shaky as a spring lamb. Change wrought more by accident than design, and thus perhaps all the more lasting for it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

New Poetry and Art by Wayne H. W Wolfson

(For Jo)

The shape of ambition. Sometimes it is the silhouette of a woman, naked except for a bolt of sheer cloth draped over her head and falling all the way to the floor.
Below the silken undulations can be seen her silhouette, dancing. With an upward curling index finger it beckons me to the corner where shadow and light meet.
Other times it is the fat, dark crazy drawing of a bird that I once did but will probably never show anyone even though I have become an expert at imitating its call.

'Monte Cristo" by Wayne H. W Wolfson

Chet 1988

His face, deep worn grooves clusters of lines, sentences. All the tragedy of his own making but when he picks up the horn we are thankful for his pain. 

- Wayne H. W Wolfson 2011

For more info on this contributor, just click on the post heading.