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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Monday, 4 February 2008
The trouble with Mr Rudd's summit
Mood:  energetic
Topic: aust govt


The Rudd led Govt made it pretty clear they wanted an injection of real talent when they threw open their own staffing to advertising in the national press late 2007. Here's one rare reference in crikey.com.au despite lots of googling which suggests serious lack of Big media coverage: 

Pre-empting the weekend job ads Friday, 30 November 2007

These ALP staffers are now washing into Canberra apparently.

A sound approach reinforced by Rudd himself getting a job with Premier Goss via a newspaper advert in 1989. Rudd seems to be very catholic about these things annexing the talent, including a country music singer for Australian of the Year seemingly from another constituency.

So what did that approach late 2007 say about the federal ALP machine? That they are big and mature enough to know they have a problem and go poaching new talent a bit like brilliant thinker Ainsley Hayes in the West Wing tv show?

             Emily's Bio                                       

Or simply that they are desperate to avoid the stodgy result of nepotism and tribalism in their own ranks? That they really do believe in meritocracy?

Now we hear PM Rudd has called a summit in April for 1000 dinkum smarties with a catchy '2020' PR tag on the front page of both broadsheets today, described on AM here. Opposition Leader Nelson is quick to agree with the idea perhaps for getting in trouble for being too contrarian over Indigenous matters.

(Maybe Mr Nelson got too carried away with friendly obituaries for (in)famous curmudgeon PP McGuiness? Secular saint of scepticism | The Australian).

Kerry Packer's corporate lieutenant Sam Chisholm famously stated "Losers have meetings ..." which might have been more a comment on the ultra hierarchical PBL world - Big Kerry throwing a cricket ball full force at a lackey from the behind the desk is one way to 'meet' I suppose.

But there is an element of losers all the same: The ALP in NSW are f*cked morally having so compromised themselves on donations, reviled by their own union base for flogging the family silver in terms of public assets, and in the target sights of every press baron in town. And the WA Labor Party are in trouble too. No wonder Rudd feels the need to run interference on the PR train wreck damaging his own brand with a circus style 'look over here'.  A vaudeville involving intellectuals, and an event arguably of real merit, but the controlled timing is there all the same.

Many questions arise re this 1,000 best and brightest, which itself is a problemmatic criterion. The Govt panel decides. It is already a broadsheet kind of thing and hardly a mention in the Sydney Daily Telegraph today. Even chattering natural constituency ABC 702 jockey Cameron asks today 'why so soon after the federal election which promised new leadership? Exactly.

Sure it could be a Hawke style consensus building exercise as per the subdued Party Liners segment on 702 today. Not just a smart arse diversionary PR gambit which it has genuninely achieved already. It could be about consensus and injection of new talent. But 1983 was a very differen time, being the first ALP team back after the corrosive 1975 dismissal 8 years before. People still felt aggrieved about their democracy getting done over. Nothing like that here. It was the me too election after all.

Labor leader Kevin Rudd also promised to keep most of the Government's $34 billion worth of tax cuts outlined on Monday, except he would defer some of the $3 billion tax cut for people earning over $180,000, who would receive a reduced amount. In Rudd outlines tax vision Phillip Hudson October 19, 2007 - 4:36PM

It could be a natural flow on of those new ALP staffers wanting some serious intellectualism to engage with beyond the loyal stodge: The boredom factor. It could be.

But the PM's imprimatur just smells of real politiking, of pants on fire trickery:

1. As above the immediate benefit of diversion from very big brand ALP financial governance woes like this $15B doozy. My corner shopkeeper asked me today whether she ought to fix the interest on her mortgage today before the deadline. That question is so revealing of the very real troubles people are experiencing and the anger and blame they may be looking to apportion the government's way. [Our answer was 'not a financial adviser ... US recession possible ... inflation rising ... Rory Robertson ... very awkward juncture ...50:50 ...ACTU caution to Reserve Bank ...lots are fixing today ....yeah probably should!]  Then there is inflation threat up another .2% in a month;

2. the immediate reaction of most public intellectuals including this pseudo one is 'do I make the grade?'. This is a favoured cynical dynamic created by Big Parties leveraging flattery, access, status that goes with incumbency. It's essentially a form of disempowerment on robust critics with a 2 month burn time just when the ALP need it to obscure other troubles. In this sense the SAM micro news blog accepts the challenge. We wouldn't expect to be invited and would have a real quandary even if we were in case we also found our pants on fire trying to report it:


3. Will there be genuine indy community media reportage at this event? I don't think so. For all the talk by ex WA premier Geof Gallup about new technology, and Glyn Davis of Melb Uni saying 'contrary thinkers are included', we just can't see it happening. Which raises the real agenda here ....

4. The federal ALP need to regain the intellectual initiative they and any government are increasingly losing to ... the uncontrolled blogosphere. The 'interwebby' thingy. Web 2.0. Indeed the intricate control and patronage machine and revolving door between Big Politics and Big Media is being seriously diluted now. (We recently watched Sean Penn in All the Kings Men (2006) reflecting the real life and death of Huey Long, Governor then Senator for Louisiana 1928-1937: A great parable amongst other things about the crossover between Big Media staff to Big Politics. )

 Huey Long

We say the 'best and brightest' are already in effect summiting in cyberspace. And crucially are not branded by the incumbent ALP. What those who attend this Rudd summit risk for themselves is becoming not the best and brightest but the luckiest and vainest:  It's the siren call of status and access for the rich and privileged. Indeed the Think Tanks are keen with all their vested interests and hackneyed rhetoric:

Think tanks welcome 2020 Summit

5. Indeed this phenomenon of unaligned blogopshere is underlined by the diminished role of an aligned 'left wing' Get Up cyber network post federal election, which is widely viewed as having lost its raison d'etre of removal of the Howard Govt. Get Up have now effectively lost it's contrarian traction and been left to echo the Govt publicity. Worthy or not. Why bother? But the bloggers and crikey.com.au etc do not reheat their editorial. So how does the ALP get control of this burgeoning unaligned sector which is the defacto tendency of all Big Parties? The potential post Rudd election 'Get Up alter ego' which itself might yet turn on the Rudd ALP? A conference of knobs and those jealous wannabe knobs is a reasonable start to annexe the unaligned sector.

6. Which calls up our own view of meetings with, and organised by, politicians. They want to pick your brains, maybe recruit you, definitely control you. The unaligned blogosphere can be annexed as much as anyone if they take the bait with all the flattery and what is known in the trade as 'pissing in your pocket' - a warm feeling that turns decidely cold and unhygienic after a short time.

7. The ALP are in reality a struggling outfit when it comes to genuinely intractable problems - ignorant materialistic growth economics just won't cut it anymore as ecological oblivion bears down via dangerous climate change. The intrinsic contradiction in their soul is there, promoting biggest container ship access to shallow ports in Sydney and Melbourne, more tollway roads, and promoting forest destruction. Grist, a high level environmental news site in the US is already reporting we stuffed it as a human project. In this light a summit meeting of 1,000 will hardly change anything except to quieten the voices of dissent or intelligent public critique. Just as the Bali conference achieved no change for the better as such but was a great hand wringing voyeuristic face saver for doing nothing. 

It may be apparent we don't really believe in meeting process anymore.


Postscript #1 5th Feb 08

On one view it appeared PM K Rudd confirmed the attempt by the ALP to subborn public intellectual life with an on air invitation to ABC 7.30 Report's Kerry O'Brien 'to attend and report or participate'. It's all in the invitation. An amused KB mumbled a post script about conflict of interest participating and reporting - all on air. But he'd been flattered so the objective was achieved, 'one of the 1,000' by implication. This is the sleazy flattery that goes with Big Politics. Been there done that. KB has been there too. Take note 5th Estate and honest brokers everywhere that politics and idealism are only vaguely related. This is what Rudd is really worried about as the Reserve Bank considers interest rate rise today

The PM on his inflation battle plan

Of course the riposte is that this is all too jaundiced and cynical. But is it? Willy Stark in All The Kings Men suggests not possible.

Postscript #2 6th Feb 08

We keep recalling a brazen summer clerk at litigation firm Baker & McKenzie in 1990, much more assimilated in that culture than we ever were, sparring with the supervising partner about her "experience" in relation to some work matter. I was impressed and shocked with her quick fire comment "our experience is our experience". In other words, it's not for free and I don't give such away for nothing. A very precocious attitude but she was on the mark for an advice based industry. A very acquisitive Ayn Rand style of philosophy that underpins why lawyers get rich, but a summit of free ideas for brand ALP seems to me to the other extreme akin to the tragedy of the commons where pearls will either be cast into the mud, or creator totally gazumped.

For instance we recall apocraphyl stories of entrepeneurs (Dick Smith? Macquarie Bank as per Stateline Fri 1 Feb 08 transcript in due course? ] 'stealing' good ideas rather than 'supporting' the originator. A cynical way to get rich. Or in this case build political capital with minimal respect for the founder? Compare Stephen Mayne - still acknowledged as "founder" of Crikey.com.au, a serious media outlet, though onsold and no longer a controlling influence for a good 2 years. But there he is still the "founder" as per ABC slots and fair enough to. Hard to imagine brand ALP leaving that kind of space. Goodbye creative recognition?

We are talking intellectual property here. But also who gets the due status and brand control. The creator or the financier? Or both?

Of course balanced against this is the patriotic motive to serve our country for the common good and share but it seems very naive to serve the systemically corrupt ALP not least in NSW. Much better to build an alternative conceptual framework in genuine creative competition that can't be annexed with the tribal ALP brand burned on (or Coalition for that matter) with their fat wages and cronyism and dishonesty. Indeed as here just give destabilising ideas on a blog for instance to everyone before it can be hidden away in a box by Party or business cynics.

Postscript #3 8th Feb 2008

Resident 7.30 Report satirists have also cut loose last night with a quite cutting and jaundiced piece on the big 2020 event We feel that this was always likely to happen because it defied credulity to think that sooner or later someone (like SAM here) would call the ALP spinmeister's bluff and decide they didn't need or want the flattery of an invitation to feel good about oneself.

Indeed once a few trendsetters in public intellectual life expressed this sincerely it was always likely that roughly 20M less the actual 1000 would be offended either for 1. not being chosen or 2. being manipulated emotionally to be 'nice' for 2 months of critical real politik while waiting for same invite:

John Clarke & Bryan Dawe tackle Kevin Rudd's summit

We submit the underlying lesson for students of political communication from the amusing scorn of the inimitable duo (best viewed on the tape rather than transcript) is this: Don't do emotional manipulation, it's not nice between friends, and ditto government to citizens.

Posted by editor at 11:53 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008 4:30 PM EADT
Readership pageviews of this SAM micro news website: January 2008
Mood:  lyrical
Topic: independent media


We made a quantum change in readership figures this month jumping by nearly 100% to just under 20k page views. We haven't looked very closely at which story or set it was, but it may have been the 1,600 odd hits in one day regarding the Iranian frictions/Gulf of Tonkin/US Primaries around the time of the GW Bush visit to the region, and here also leveraging our understanding of the fabulous doco The Fog of War.

To be factual we peaked several days ago above 20K per month and coasted. We had our material for traditional Sunday Media Updates posting yesterday to stay up there but for the first time in maybe 6 months we were buggered and slept instead after consuming Riley Diary on 7. Glorious sleep, beaut dreams, shopping at Metro and watched the last Pirates of the Caribean blockbluster instead. We will post that Media Updates later today too, 1-2 days stale but still useful to readers.

But that doesn't fully explain the jump. It may be that our intellectual work is just getting better some 2 years down the non grog road, and here's a toast (!) to radio jock Steve Price taking the cure this Feb 2008. For instance we like to add some pithy praise/rebukes on the www.crikey.com.au threads which hopefully are meaningful and even witty. We've even got into the habit of 20 sit ups and 20 (bludger) push ups every day.

The google ranking for searches of 'sydneyalternativemedia' either local or global setting are quite suitable.

So now we are thinking about the managing of a moderate level of interest rather than how to get it. A higher class problem. Issues of balance, responsibilities over accuracy and corrections, personal sustainability but mostly how to enjoy the work while building my own social capital without running dry, like the Yangtze here in 2007:

We notice the '20-20 Summit' federal PM initiative also reported here in another broadsheet (though barely the tabloids?) in the Big Media coverage today and we will have lots to say about that in our next post and it may not be very pleasing to the ear of the federal ALP machine, but there you go: As the banner reads "sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy". If anything they will find it relevant.

Previous monthly reader pageview figures for 2007 verified by screen shot (web host provider monthly pageview account details) posted on or about 4th day of the month found in this thread:

  • December 11,627
  • November 10,220
  • October - 9, 100 
  • Sept -  8,100 (roughly, no screenshot)
  • August - 8,845
  • July - 7475
  • June - 9675
  • May  - 9, 059
  • April  - 12,087
  • March  - 6,684
  • February - 5,372
  • January 07 -  2800 (3rd Jan - 3rd Feb 07)

Posted by editor at 10:34 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008 11:40 AM EADT
Thursday, 31 January 2008
Saving Maroota environment from open slather sand mining?
Mood:  sad
Topic: ecology


It's been a hell of a week. 2 weeks really. A fusion of Cliff Hardy crime novella, Bob Brown charming enthusiasm and world weary Raymond Chandler cynicism. There's not much that keeps us from our SAM blog/slog running at a surprising 20,000 page views a month now (end of Jan 08) or even the 3 daily papers or even ABC current affairs. But by yesterday we were going cold turkey. It was all because we were turning this suitcase below, which belongs to one Neville Diamond, a pro bono client and sandmining activist, into something else:

Something of beauty. Being so tired at the end we even forgot to take a picture of the 2 inch thick submission being handed over at the DOP - jargon for Department of Planning, 33 Bridge St Sydney in the old Lands Dept sandstone. The pretty yellow tags lablled A to N; the largest bull clip restraining the rampant document from breaking out and swallowing the whole place like a scene from Brazil. And even now it's probably shuddering with malevolent vigour in the bowels of the place late at night like a cackling Triffid 'my s.52 Trade Practices Act is going to kill cook and eat your Part 3A Planning Act' [imagine eerie evil triffid noises about here].

We particularly liked this bit:

For a brief overview of the recent planning reforms, the EDO has assessed the current state of play. [PDF 92 KB]

Note the EDO July 2007 states:

“The new Part 3A reforms in 2005 introduced a new way of doing planning and development in NSW. The reforms were based on laws introduced by Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland in the early 1970s: the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971. These rode roughshod over community consultation rights.” Jeff Smith Principal Solicitor, EDO July 2007

How fitting for my metaphorically ticking bundle of joy to end up in the government block where all the dirty land destruction deals are formalised under this NSW Govt: It was recently revealed this very spot at Bridge was meant to be public amenity until the Rum Rebellion (or is that mutiny?). Here was the imposing sandstone edifice where the same spirit of corruption was still being sanitised by the ornate corner statues silently holding forth, beseeching one to 'have faith' in government. As if. Art is nothing if not fiction even sculpture.

Coup costumes ... soldiers rehearse for the Rum Rebellion re-enactment at the Museum of Sydney.

The thing of beauty of which we write now at 2.45 am - knowing there is no sleep until then - was similar to the document at top left above. The web version is here 

Jan 08 - Objection to Maroota sandming unlicensed water use, failure to rehabilitate etc for 20 years 

but it's not the same in physical space, all 38 pages of closely argued politics, law, expensive expert evidence (even if its shouting down a corridor from 1998 over an earlier DA), pictures, some hints of rhetoric and some sincere malice to the vandals in the local and state govt as well as industry. Appendix M is a real cracker too, believe me:

M. 1997-2008 - litigation history of Neville Diamond 'for Dixon Sands (Penrith) Pty Ltd'

Having done Kinkos at Broadway nervously watching the clock we got the bicycle out of the van and treddled to Bridge St, making it with 1 1/2 hours to spare. For some reason we found ourselves whistling this catchy florid tune by a right wing Cuban, watching the cute women in their summer gear rolling down Pitt St (bike that is), not a care in the world. Maybe it was the surreal sub topical weather in the age of dangerous climate? Maybe my 1/8 Italian sense of operatic melodrama? Time even for some sushi and a natter with the council guy on clean up duty.

It was a special feeling that God allows in this vocation and so it was 12 hours ago. Of duty fulfilled, of a promise kept. If not I then who? No one else could do just this thing on Maroota. God plays Her games like that. Our submission, a 3590 kB brute, was emailed in already but nothing is as simple in the shark pool. Yes the email got there at 12.36pm says the guy at 'Major Developments' (told you it was like Brazil) but not the even bigger list of appendices here:

Legally materials have to arrive by the deadline in the DOP office. But some things are just much better on screen than in print like the lovely picture of the flowering bush as below. So what about referring to bulky and colour format items all in cyberspace via links sent in to the DOP? Well it's accessible to DOP but not really in the DOP. It's in cyberspace. We couldn't take the chance of an exclusion on this threshhold question well into the age of web 2.0. The law can be such an ass. So much for the paper less office.

But none of this mattered exiting the CBD, effortlessly swinging wide amongst the careening buses, and speeding taxis, past the cinema strip. We were in the zone, immune.

We remember a day like this, Friday Sept 13 1994, a black one indeed. Premier John Fahey betrayed the NSW Wilderness Act, the electorate, the state. And we eyeballed the chancy bastard in his lair as he ran his presser floating through security high in the State Office block protected by an invisible hand .... immune, not a lie spoken, nor barrier cheated. A storm brewed late that day too and pissed all over the city in torrents. Very Shakespearean. Some things are just wrong and the Earth was crying. And so it was 6 months later. Fahey could win an Olympics but not an election.

We tried to call the client to share the good news. For a week he'd been holed up in my poky joint rifling through volumes dictating his evidence, copping equal measures praise, scorn, prodding, cross examination, and judicious avoidance of the whirlpool of therapy style angst always a risk in these projects crushing people live. We could feel the tension then creeping excitement. He didn't feel nearly as pressured because the paperwork was my problem. In fact both of us were surprised at the quality but we believe this must be suppressed - near enough is not good enough. Our beady eye was ruthlessly fixed on the deadline and making it in good shape. Not one of those bullshit symbolic flag waving exercises.

But today he wasn't taking the call which is fair enough to. As Lowell Bergman might say from the movie The Insider we broke some egg shells there amongst the talk of 6 months in hospital in 1972, Led Zeppelin concert just after he got out, roadie work for ACDC in the Bon Scott days, family friend Barry Unsworth and more. He left me a Led Zeppelin DVD to borrow and that would have to do, and his watch both of which I have to return. We needed time out. I wanted to apologise for being so demanding now the brutish document was in, nearly as fat as the developer's own 'Environmental Assessment'. The kettle broke after years of perfect functionality so maybe there's my penance. What a day.

Sure enough a storm brewed Thursday night January 31st 2008. We know because some of it raced through Marrickville and it's reported here:

Storm lashes people still living under tarpaulins Thousands of western Sydney households again inundated when heavy storms hit the city last night. 

Life is mostly about water really and Maroota is no different as per this diagram from an expert civil engineer of some 30 years at the time Mr Howard Sullivan:

C4. 14 June 1998 Sullivan Environmental Consulting expert evidence on water consumption by FP Formation





Some things are just wrong as you can see from this picture above of an approved so called 4.5m deep haulage road that evolved into a 30m by 100m plus wide excavation. Did  the huge volumes go over the weigh bridge to pay the S.94 contributions? Good question that.


Indeed this story actually stretches way back to 1994 at a small place called Tinda Creek. We didn't know Diamond back then. He contacted me at The Wilderness Society about industrial mushroom composting to affect the eastern edge of the Wollemi National Park and his land too. We won that one in 1995. Then he dragged me out to his next flare up - Lot 198 Maroota. The pictures of that trip with a bloke called Shane are at:

F. 1996 - Maroota Lot 198 PF Formation/Etra Pty Ltd impacts Maroota Sands Swamp Forest

We did some publicity to agitate the increased threats to the bush valley. Diamond chanced his hand in a 1997 court case and went down in flames. So he looked me up for help early 1998 for another go and I brought in practitioner Bruce Woolf. That case was a draw, a legal Mexican standoff each pay their own costs with settlement terms here:

  • C. A full copy of the negotiated legal settlement conditions as agreed “without prejudice” (including handwritten notations in the court precinct in 1998) in Diamond v BHSC and John Graham (PF Formation/Etra Pty Ltd No. 10061/1998), no costs ordered against plaintiff Neville Diamond.
  • Suddenly Diamond was not such a loser anymore as regards Baulkham Hills Shire Council or PF Formation. Some remarkable things about the 1998 case: Going a whiter shade of pale seeing the BHSC counsel - Brian Preston who literally wrote the book Environmental Litigation 1989. Not so bad coming equal with that guy. Secondly the funding for the expert and solicitor Woolf was via undisclosed principal of Diamond, a man called Ken Dixon in fact rival sandminer to PF Formation, the developer in the case.

    We say undisclosed but everyone in the local industry basically knew. BHSC took their revenge at Diamond/Ken Dixon legal daring enlisting th help of this greenie by closing down Dixon Sands in 1999. This was the peak of 'The Sand Wars' - not a bad working title for a movie either, with all those industrial wasteland film set locations: Slurry pits where villians like Max Cady/ Robert De Niro in Cape Fear might gurgle to a sticky end.

    The rest is outlined in appendix M:

    M. 1997-2008 - litigation history of Neville Diamond 'for Dixon Sands (Penrith) Pty Ltd'

    Neville Diamond has never publicly confirmed this before and here it is on the internet for the world to read. He wants Dixon Sands to keep their side of 'the bargain' which is a hotly contested issue again. He also says he wants good environmental regulation.

    This writer absolutely does want to see good environmental regulation.

    Thus Diamond has sued former ally Dixon Sands and the Minister for Planning in 2003, and lost badly, though neither seem too keen to collect some $300K plus in legal costs for some curious reason, or have just given up trying to get it. Still one might ask how in 2003 an impecunious litigant Diamond could generate such legal costs without competent legal advisers for the Minister and PF Formation asking for a security for costs bond. One might ask indeed.

    Now in 2008 Diamond has come back for more pro bono help. We got a win in 1995, 1998 (qualified), 2008? The funny thing is it has to be pro bono otherwise no one will believe it's in the public interest. We had enough insight to realise this 10 years ago. That's just the way things go. It's God's work trying to protect God's creation.

    Posted by editor at 1:46 PM EADT
    Updated: Sunday, 3 February 2008 10:24 AM EADT
    Tuesday, 29 January 2008
    Acting General Manager Addison Rd Centre resigns effective this Friday
    Mood:  smelly
    Topic: local news

    We understand from a source that the Acting GM Peter Talmacs has resigned effective this Friday 1st February.

    Apparently Yvette Andrews, ex ALP staffer to Meredith Burgman, co author of The Ernies book, the current honorary President will not be going to work for Senator Faulkner after all but be taking the job at $65K p.a. of General Manager, for 6 months.

    The previous GM resigned in Sept 07 from memory. So that's two big changes in 4 months.

    We have also been on strike from our humble job there for 2 months and currently in discussion with the Australian Services Union about the place.

    To lose one GM is unfortunate. To lose two looks like carelessness.

    The role of Andrews is intriguing too, because how can you take a well paid job with a non profit organisation that you are on the governing board of to do the policy setting, without serious conflict of interest of the policy level to the staff level?

    The place is nothing if not riddled with power games and jockeying for position and control. Our reportage of the gerrymandered AGM of Nov 28 07 below makes that quite clear.

    We quite liked acting GM Talmacs and found him honest and quite efficient. Our feeling is he is too honest and we think his decision does him alot of credit and we wish him well.

    Which is also why we think our time has run out there too after 4 years.

    We have written alot about the history of the ARC this last year or so because it is the biggest community centre in Australia, it does have 3.4 ha of land in high value inner city with 45 years to go, and it is very much under potential:


    Local ALP shuts down website of 'biggest community centre'?


    Unauthorised newsletter Addison Rd Community Centre #3


    Why is Addison Rd Centre failing to reach its potential?


    'Ordinary Members' don't like successful Sunday Market at Addison Rd

    As a result at least of some of this community reportage one wonders if Andrews was a risky proposition for Faulkner not least Senate Estimates Committee hearings against such as loyal Opposition Senator Marise Payne, or Senator Kerry Nettle or similar.

    More recently it's become clear that the ALP Left aristocracy
    and fellow travellers have moved into annexe the ARC sans C in community, and shut down real democracy, at which time I realised I couldn't be working for these cronies much longer and avoid ongoing bullying or mistreatment even as a humble gardener and website builder. See:


    which currently reads for 6 weeks now:

    "Come back soon. We are just getting it better.
    This Website is still under construction"


    Apparently this writer is now being targeted with "misinformation" currently, the normal politics AO1 apocrophia symptomatic of ugly politics and the ALP Left, for daring to speak up about the place as is our democratic right. It is my community centre too and it belongs to the public interest. But it's taboo to talk about management and staffing and equitable leasing arrangements in case something 'bad' happens to you. So the place runs on Chinese whispers, snaky stares, emotional violence, and innuendo instead of transparent debate leading to honest and
    transparent governance. Like all rental spaces on equal terms, not who
    you know, or whether you've got the gerrymander at the AGM.

    Anyway that's our professional advice, as a solicitor, and community activist 16 years. There is no doubt the ALP Left have alot to be worried about too as the $7 BILLION truck tunnel and smog stacks are likely approved in the next few weeks and the sleep walking people of Sydney realise that their health and amenity is about to be destroyed big time in an intensification of Port Botany all the way to Parramatta Rd, not least the seat of Grayndler covering Marrickville.

    As we wrote on a crikey.com.au comment page recently - Gary Punch MP resigned for less (over the 3rd runway KSA impact on Sydney) from the federal ALP Govt in the 1980ies: More on this as extracted below from our SAM website


    8. The NSW Govt machine is running a story that the $7 billion public private M4 East tunnel tollway with interchange "under Anandale in Sydney's Inner
    West will go ahead in a short number of weeks. It' said to be a joint announcement between the Federal and State ALP Govt's, and dependent on $3B in funds from electricity privatisation as well as predicted toll revenues:

    $7bn missing link to be announced soon | The Australian

    'Missing link' road will cost over $7bn | The Australian

    Super ideal to provide funds for infrastructure | The Australian

    If it is true, which we assume it is, it puts the lie to Kevin Rudd's main priority to tackle climate change because endless growth in container imports and export of empty ones which is driving the transport linkage to Port Botany, can only massively increase greenhouse gas embedded
    production. As well making health and amenity hell for at least 1 million citizens in dormitory suburbs. In other words Kevin Rudd is effectively shown to be liar on climate change action he claims to be the priority this Australia Day weekend:

    We must prevail in year of challenges | The Australian

    This looks very much like:

    Strong-arm tacticians THE meeting was in a room in the NSW Premier's Department. [The Australian 26th Jan 2008]

    In particular

    "The minister [Sartor] can declare a site to be "state-significant", giving developers the go-ahead on big projects. Under Part 3A of the
    Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, projects that are objectively of state significance can go to the minister. Brad Hazard, the Opposition's planning spokesman, says of the Government's planning actions: "The reality is that anything Frank wants to get his hands on
    to, he takes."

    In other words planning is under control of a modern Mussolini, making the development approvals 'train run on time' with no democracy and precious little justice. More detail on the Port Botany intensification impacts across Sydney here:

    Friday, 18 January 2008
    It's a wholesale repudiation of the ALP's 1979 Planning Act checks and balances approach involving a political economic strategy of furious activity at any cost in any direction enriching a few and making the many miserable, in the blind hope that powerful vested interests in the Big Media and Business will like this NSW ALP Govt.
    It's as if the Govt has given up on the very concept of good
    governance, and that is quite tragic for us and them.


    Posted by editor at 12:14 PM EADT
    Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008 2:53 AM EADT
    Sunday, 27 January 2008
    Media briefs in lieu of Sunday Talkies - 27 Jan 08
    Mood:  caffeinated
    Topic: big media

    1. Paddy McGuinness has died. We chatted with him a few times actually in our street press delivery days, him sitted at the Unity Hall Hotel watching the street life, and given our domicile a year in Balmain in 2005-6. PP was a contrarian curmudgeon rascally taciturn figure, likeable for being so fierce. Never giving an inch, regardless of my deference and olive branch bonhomie to a veteran stager in the game of real politik. It's no wonder such an uncompromising character has died relatively young. It's not a sustainable philosophy and not wise, albeit entertaining.

    Recently we wrote:

    Thursday, 17 January 2008
    ..... Postscript#1 18 January 2007
    P.P. McGuiness apparently relieved of command of the right wing Quadrant, kick started so rumour has it by CIA anti communist funds decades ago, has a patronising condescending piece of impertinence in The Australian today: 
    It may well have been written from PP's perch there at the window seat of the Unity Hall Hotal in Balmain where he is often ensconced. And his opinion piece has about as much appeal as wet old carpet at closing time. 
    Apparently an academy award and a shared Nobel Peace Prize for Al Gore regarding dangerous climate change "makes no sense". PP knows better, or is that noes better (!) than any other career contrarian? Give it up PP - the age of ecological denial was your time in the 20C, now it's our time so shove off by which I really do mean sincerely SHOVE OFF permanently.
    God's time will do. It can't be long now. [bold added]
    Prescient, and a bit spooky. We don't much like sledging the dead, and we swear we didn't know of his long illness.
    Recently we took to counting the 'bodies of enemies floating down the river' as one of the few consolation of grovel endurance in a 16 year career so far as an exponent of activist media/environmental politics goes. Some were metaphorical bodies I suppose retired hurt so to speak still dog paddling with the current, others stone cold face down, no second wind there. Some sincere philosophical rivals as above, some superficial or accidental/random frictions of no real consequence.
    Some of them heart attack, some cancer, some young, some old. Some famous, some of no account at all but with a cunning for disruption. It's a little worrying to get that feeling, a feeling of unexpected responsibility for one's psychological insights and advocacy. Hopefully it's just a Walter Mitty style egotistical fantasy or coincidence, certainly some of our allies have come a cropper too.


    2. Speaking of death - Glenn Milne does his profession proud with sensitive coverage of Heath Ledger's death in the Sunday Telegraph today in two articles, covering the G'Day USA event there and a thinly veiled swipe at 'hard' New York's celebrity culture as the Sunscreen song goes: see YouTube for the catchy song
     'live once in New York but leave before it makes you hard, live once in Northern California but leave before it makes you soft'
    Glenn who himself was quoted on Insiders once 'against the Iraq war' in highly qualified way about leaving it to the vote which Latham in 2004 lost, sails close to criticising his own News Corp use of the paparazzi grifters. In that he would be right. As if this second article is self criticism it may not actually be on their website and well worth extracting here because Milne is going beyond the brief, and you just know he means it. Good stuff: Moving and worrying:

    Just noticed significant insights here if a little clinical by Sophie Gee last Friday SMH too how Ledger went "independent", manifested an "expatriate generation". We would add strived for class over safety.


    3. The same Sunday Telegraph gives a tickle up to new compere Deborah Cameron there at 'tough gig' 702 mid morn show:
     It's flattering in a bitchy back handed sort of way: A quite friendly photo showing a calm mildly amused Cameron stalked (see above) getting into a car with a bit longer hair than her PR photo buzzcut. The story angle is so called lack of savvy with the radio technology and clunky reading vibe for lack of familiarity with the geeky panel, which apparently is a bit like controls of a Boeing 777 and fairly hard to do unassisted, at least until one learns .... how to drive a 777. 


    The sledge is leavened by the recognition of deep journalistic credentials, the demonstrated loyalty and understated vote of confidence of the 'Kremlin' colleagues as Stephen Mayne amusingly refers to the head office of the ABC public broadcaster, and the embedded running dog capitalist bias of the organ (Sunday Tele) running the article. 


    We predicted such a sledge soon enough in feedback corro expecting it from another source - actually Gerard Henderson in Fairfax - perhaps naive given the SMH is Cameron's "alma mater" and would be seen as quite bad form even for hard man Gerard, potentially weakening his hold on the space there. Best left alone in his case. It was Henderson who focused previously on the preceding presenter Trigger Trioli because it is real politik. 


    A tickle up on Cameron adding some gratituitous pressure but she will be and has been fine, assuming as Trigger Trioli would say she concentrates on what's in her lane i.e. the task at hand including nuts and bolts, hold fast, steady as it goes. And we like her work which won't be any help of course  in the contested neutrality stakes.


    4. Perhaps the balancer was the cover story the previous day of colourful ABC programme production managers Courtney Gisbon and Amanda Duthie  in colour The Australian Magazine where in the ABC since 2003 (ie the new regime under ex PM Howard Board members) are postured as the ratings meritocracy for various comedy shows. Gibson "It's always nice to give the commercials a smack now and then." Meow!


    5. Racism is on the run. The Australia Day January 26th wrap around coverage in the Saturday Daily Telegraph yesterday corroborates that editor David Penberthy may (or may not!) be a smart arse, a running dog capitalist sellout, a bully and irresponsible flippant bastard, but one thing he is not is a racist. And thank heaven for that in terms of social fabric. The Ch7 Sunrise footage carries biffo scenes of alcohol affected pride games in Perth and somewhere else but Sydney is quiet and that's really where it counts. ABC news room advise there is no biffo to report here so far anyway.

    Come on David, we know about your saving grace: Ever since you mentioned your 2nd family experience there in Mexico which implies you are no stranger to the Castellano either. A man for his times unlike some others.  The relevant front page is shown above. It's about the reverse of what The Bulletin became famous then infamous for before dying an arguably natural death this week.


    6. The cute choice of Lee Kernoghan as Australian of the Year, as per Ch7 Sunrise coverage with poise and modest charm, not to mention communication skills, will reflect well on a federal ALP PR machine, with PM Rudd and Premier Iemma in attendance at Tamworth. The choice actually is a subtle blow at the heart of National Party and ultra right Liberal Party redneckery in Rural and Regional Australia (RARA) to annexe such a popular country figure to high profile PR role.
    Lee looks to be quite a commercial friendly product too with his Toyota T-shirt on, and charity work for struggling farmers, and nationalistic loyalty. You can be pretty sure there won't be any ethnic intolerance in this cupboard. And you can be pretty sure the federal ALP will be working up a rural industry political-economic agenda too behind this symbolic choice of Kernoghan. Just like Bob Carr's country labor in NSW sought to appease Big Agri with wanton negligence over landclearing with tragic legacies and momentum reflected in reportage today:
    Land-clearing cases stuck in log jam THE State Government is at loggerheads with a major union and the green movement over illegal land clearing, with claims that offenders have almost no chance of getting caught.
    One hopes Rudd ALP don't go down that path for all our ecological sakes.


    7. Ripping yarns of seafaring courage in the Herald yesterday regarding Paul Watson (and crew) who doesn't quite cut the figure of a young Horatio Hornblower but then Watson and the Sea Shepherd are for real and the CS Forester created fiction is an amalgam of Nelson, Cook etc then made into cracking tv series.

    8. The NSW Govt machine is running a story that the $7 billion public private M4 East tunnel tollway with interchange "under Anandale in Sydney's Inner West will go ahead in a short number of weeks. It' said to be a joint announcement between the Federal and State ALP Govt's, and dependent on $3B in funds from electricity privatisation as well as predicted toll revenues:

    $7bn missing link to be announced soon | The Australian

    'Missing link' road will cost over $7bn | The Australian

    Super ideal to provide funds for infrastructure | The Australian

    If it is true, which we assume it is, it puts the lie to Kevin Rudd's main priority to tackle climate change because endless growth in container imports and export of empty ones which is driving the transport linkage to Port Botany, can only massively increase greenhouse gas embedded production. As well making health and amenity hell for at least 1 million citizens in dormitory suburbs. In other words Kevin Rudd is effectively shown to be liar on climate change action he claims to be the priority this Australia Day weekend:

    We must prevail in year of challenges | The Australian

    This looks very much like:

    Strong-arm tacticians  THE meeting was in a room in the NSW Premier's Department. [The Australian 26th Jan 2008]

    In particular

    "The minister [Sartor] can declare a site to be "state-significant", giving developers the go-ahead on big projects. Under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, projects that are objectively of state significance can go to the minister. Brad Hazard, the Opposition's planning spokesman, says of the Government's planning actions: "The reality is that anything Frank wants to get his hands on to, he takes."

    In other words planning is under control of a modern Mussolini, making the development approvals 'train run on time' with no democracy and precious little justice. More detail on the Port Botany intensification impacts across Sydney here:

    Friday, 18 January 2008
    It's a wholesale repudiation of the ALP's 1979 Planning Act checks and balances approach involving a political economic strategy of furious activity at any cost in any direction enriching a few and making the many miserable, in the blind hope that powerful vested interests in the Big Media and Business will like this NSW ALP Govt. It's as if the Govt has given up on the very concept of good governance, and that is quite tragic for us and them.



    Posted by editor at 7:17 AM EADT
    Updated: Monday, 28 January 2008 6:21 PM EADT
    Saturday, 26 January 2008
    Peter Garrett PR for Australia Day mixes substance and expedience at Bondi
    Mood:  lucky
    Topic: aust govt

    We got the tip off of a media event at 10 am Friday 25th and sure enough it ran on ABC tv news last night in a set piece PR exercise by the theatrical Minister Peter Garrett.

    Bondi Beach was to be listed on the National Heritage list of some kind, some 65 hectares from Ben Buckler cliffs to McKenzies point including surf clubs 'and parkland'. And herein is where the listing moves into the area of policy substance (as below) and not simply expedient PR to avoid the high level threats to national heritage in Tasmanian forests, Botany Bay where the British navy first made land fall or indeed Port Phillip Bay subject to highly controversial dredging at the narrow entrance.

    In this sense our cynicism hat was in place. But you have to admit the event was done well. Profound welcome to country by La Perouse elder Uncle Les Davison (somewhat beaten down by life but a real survivor) shown in this picture with local Cr Dominik Wykanak centre, and bus driver Steve Raguckas waste campaigner. These three are promoting these recycling bags:


    We have written before of the quite bogus attempts to justify a private heavy rail in public parkland at Bondi Beach privatising the revenue of the highly profitable public 380 bus service, itself a preface for Gold Coast style high rise over the sold off airspace rights (plenty of precedent too e.g. Bondi Junction):

    We thank a local beach beauty with brains for this angle as we chatted over what the politicians were up to: A local who still remembers the train plan from 10 years back. Quite a parry on our cynical fairly justified analysis we passed on to such as Peter Harvey the veteran attack dog from Ch9 60 Minutes in the audience.

    So with any luck this listing will finally knock off that agenda from 1996 - when Cr Paul Pearce joined this writer in opposing that ALP state govt plan when it counted, later became Mayor, then local MP for Coogee and his partner Ingrid Strewe as current mayor of Waverley for the ALP with Garrett as MP for Kingsford Smith. So much for the substance which may or may not have been the real motives of these pollies here:

    Because its level of threat that really clarifies the relevance of extra protection designations. The cliche of the Opera House, Blue Mountains or other 'protection' decisions in the total absence of any real threat from the industry or developer lobby (way too smart to stalk politically impossible targets) does get quite grating for vocational conservationists: Never forget the forest giants getting done over right now:


         Logging coupe bordering Snowy River National Park      Old growth logging in domestic water catchment      Logging protester halts clearfelling      Clearfelled old growth forest near Snowy River National Park      Public banned from National Park      micro cop on big log

    Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 12:54 PM
    Subject: geco needs you!

    logging has commenced in high conservation forest bordering the snowy river national park on yalmy road close to goongerah in far east gippsland. it is adjacent to the corrridor between the snowy & errinundra national parks promised to be reserved last state election. with a small crew geco braved difficult wet conditions to lock the coupe down until mid afternoon on monday (see geco.org.au for details).

    numbers are desperately needed out here now to defend the last of the largest stands of unprotected old growth forest on the mainland which vicforests have scheduled to log this year.

    a base camp is established at the goongerah campground on the brodribb river, bonang road, 70km's north of orbost. come self sufficient & fuel up in orbost.

    if you haven't been out b4, visiting the majestic forests of the far east is a life changing experience. the coastal beaches are not too crowded & very beautiful. the orbost exhibition centre is also worth a visit on the way thru...

    please come & join geco including bidawell traditional owners in our 14th summer of non-violent direct action & inspiring bush walks.

    if not you, who? if not now, when?


    We met some of our old sparring partners down at the event. Mayor Stewe waved me into the media tent with my customised name tag (solictor/SAM tag) with a trusting comment, and wary looks of the flak (fair enough too). Guess which one she is here (clue: looking straight back at the dude with the camera wrong side of the plastic taking experiemental pics):


    Peter Brennan 4 years as director of planning in cool dark blue suit, and quite amicable out in the sunshine and big fat wage. Such events are always a bit of a mind bender:

    For instance another story was running in the press earlier in that day was a mind bender. Water quality in Warragamba Dam affected by an algae growth. A real worry and fair story, but somehow related in timing sense to the return of Minister Koperberg into harness responsible for water, who can hardly be blamed for the weather and rainfall patterns.

    Already a senior left wing MP who one presumes will speak against the premier on the big ticket power privatisation when the time comes. We suggested as much to MP Pearce who is also on record against the sell off. At which time he decided to move out of camera frame!

    Meanwhile just back from the beach the wheels of commerce continue to turn with renovation of the old ugly singular high rise motel on the strip with no doubt 'existing use' rights in terms of bulk, such are the legacies of life ( more detail  here in a pdf file Nov 05 and also here before the councillors in the weary meeting process:



    Posted by editor at 7:33 AM EADT
    Updated: Sunday, 27 January 2008 9:51 AM EADT
    More Banksy found and lost in Enmore?
    Mood:  lyrical
    Topic: culture


    Picture: echoes of a 2nd Banksy in Enmore now lost to a giant tagger and replacement door panel?  

    We dropped in to the Auscrap folks in Enmore which is one of the last light industrial activities in that part of town. The macho cashier knows me from years of metal recycling now. $50 on the ABN thankyou very much. So I tell him about my previous article here featuring Banksy at Alfalfa House organic food co-op. How it could be worth alot of money too, 'not that I care about that' feigning disinterest.

    Now this guy is no art critic and was quite apathetic, didn't really know of Banksy from a bar of soap. But he thinks he remembers him ...(!)

    "He did one here too, about a year ago, came in and asked permission. But I think someone went over it. Out the gate and not the first roller door but the second one ... tall guy with long hair." Quite neutral attitude as my excitement and sense of melodrama begins to rise.

    Okay, I say let's check it out. There is a suspicious trace of a lower half of "Banksy!!" signature obscured by a giant local tagger. "Yeah that's it" says the cashier.  Would Banksy write "Keep it fresh" or was it the later tagger? 

    Who knows. It might or might not have been the dude. It might have been a pretend Banksy sign off?

    But then you get to wonder from another stencil location that he's been around - look at this image on his official website,


     and then this smiley face photographed in Enmore two days ago right down to the side creases on the mouth and vertical ovoid eyes, and the cynical "who watches the watchmen". Who knows. Imitation is sincere flattery. Even the power plug is suggestive he's been lurking amongst us. Then again it could be the local fans from the School of Performing Arts in Newtown:

    Here is the full panel of the roller door back of Auscrap which looks a real mess now:

    "From the dark continent"? "One love" "peace out". Even the overflow up to the top left onto the brick work is a little suggestive.

    Counting against this interpretation may well be the signatures of Banksey on the official website are block stencil style, not cursive but they do have the exclamation (one not two).

    What makes us more convinced is he seems to like alternative business like the organic shop, and the metal recyclers, that is, a modern environmental theme. It's a cute mystery anyway.

    Posted by editor at 6:49 AM EADT
    Updated: Saturday, 26 January 2008 7:31 AM EADT
    Friday, 25 January 2008
    Banksy pearl diver before swine? Sydney council anti graffiti squad obviously not Banksy fans!
    Mood:  mischievious
    Topic: culture

    The Sydney Morning Herald ran this story recently, which was quite amusing and fitting for the Sydney Festival season:

    Details emerge of Banksy's Sydney visit - Arts - Entertainment ...

    Famous pair … the painting in Melbourne, left, and Enmore Road.

    SMH caption: Famous pair … the painting in Melbourne, left, and Enmore Road.

    Naturally we went to check it out in person: And the story gets more interesting again since that went to print on January 17th 08.

    Yesterday we saw what Stevie Bee, the information officer of Alfalfa House Food Co-op, notes was an unfortunate example of Marrickville Council workers dilligence in removing tag graffiti also scrubbing the now famous Banksy 'child-pearl diver helmet' figure. As you can see it's starting to fade, and the tag artists are still going at it too:


    But we ought not be too harsh on the less than avante guard loving street cleaners. As will be seen there is other proud Australian stencilling that is preserved nearby, but further back from the main street. Are the council workers making a nationalistic point? Everyone's a critic?

    Organiser at the great and good Alfalfa had more: The owner they rent from has agreed tentatively to a mural on that side of the building. The wall opposite has been painted over and avoided tag vandalism for a while now. He also amusingly suggested it raises the question whether Banksy is better than the local stuff and who gets to decide?

    We took that with a grain of salt until we happened onto nearby stencils of variable merit with the apparent blessing of another wall owner, and see below too the intriguing concrete (!) remote control, making another obscure point about modern existence. Art with kicka*se social comment is far from washed up in Enmore:




    Posted by editor at 6:58 AM EADT
    Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008 7:58 AM EADT
    Thursday, 24 January 2008
    Adam Spencer plays the comic on abc website
    Mood:  happy
    Topic: big media

    This direct quote below is very funny, and not what you expect on the website for Aunty's main station in Australia's biggest city:

    About Adam Spencer

    Adam Spencer

    702 Breakfast Presenter Adam Spencer's early years are shrouded in mystery.

    He was discovered by the famed British explorer and spice trader Spencer Barrington living with Ethiopian wolves (also known as simien foxes or by their scientific name Canis simensis) in the lower reaches of the Afro Alpine Mountains in the early 1870's.

    Barrington took the wolf-child, who at this stage walked on all fours, spoke only in deep howls and hunted at night, and returned him to England where he toured with various circuses and public science fairs - all the while Barrington submitted his specimen for analysis by the finest minds of the day.

    One journal entry at the time, by a certain Lord Palmerston of Cheshire reads "This crazy wolf-child, hands taut like claws, his back arched and ready to spring, baying and devil-eyed, still, in a bizarre way, emanated a certain humanity - as if speaking to us all as to how thin the line between noble man and savage beast could be".

    After several years of constant immersion in the human world, and with absolutely no contact with his wolf brothers and sisters, "Adam" as he had become known (from the Hebrew name meaning "Man of red earth" to indicate his African origins) began to display increasingly human characteristics - by what was estimated to be his tenth birthday he was walking upright.

    Adam continues to amaze anthropologists and primatologists alike with his increasing adaptation to western society - with the exception of his limited command of the English language and a fear of modern hygiene regimes he can virtually pass as a regular citizen.

    We hope you enjoy breakfast with Adam Barrington Spencer on 702

     Or, you can also read Adam's fantasy bio.

    Now if only we could get a podcast of his broadcasts to see the interviews we missed this last 2 days that would be even better. The levity sort of suggests Spencer is not too concerned about the serious news or indeed influencing same with high level journalism, and that's not to say he can't deliver on that either. Is this best service by Aunty's loyal servant? It probably cranks the ratings, while others might prefer it simply sets the standards, which can be a tension.

    Posted by editor at 8:31 PM EADT
    Updated: Thursday, 24 January 2008 8:55 PM EADT
    The sad, sad death of Heath Ledger, Australian actor
    Mood:  sad
    Topic: culture

    When we saw all the front pages similarly reflected on the web here and here about the death of Heath Ledger our initial reaction was 'What's wrong with society?' that such a talent could die at 28. My neighbour a South American guy and parent was chatting and also was shaking his head with 'People who can't handle life, so many poor people have got it much harder'. No doubt common reactions on the street everywhere and many more besides.

    We got to pondering about that age bracket:

    20ies are such a vulnerable time

    This is quite an upsetting fate for this young artist. Sure it's small in the scheme of things but somehow emblematic too of how dysfunctional our world can be. Which is why the Big Media are on the money covering this to address their audience interest. It underlines too why all that lost money on the markets is not really the main game in life.

    A big tragedy for a few, a small tragedy for millions, and totally irrelevant to most people in this world beyond Australia or the entertainment industry.

    But I do think there is a strong message here. In our twenties we are very vulnerable to misadventure if my own experience is anything to go by. 

    By that stage our minds are pretty much fully grown in terms of ability, our body is a blade and seemingly indestructible, with great powers of recovery, but our memory banks are a long way from fully uploaded with hard won experiences of danger and risk. We're like a sports car revving that doesn't know what the tyres are capable of at speed. My own misadventure was an abortive approach to Mt Cook, then malaria for a week in Lae a town on the north coast of PNG after a solo trek up the Kokoda Track. Alone and nearly broke with no plane ticket and help of precious uni friends the only way out when they wired me some dough. No fun at all. It could have turned out quite badly and it was a big teacher. On return and recovery we had a crayfish dinner in Black Mountain resturaunt (towers over the city like a giant hyperdermic) Canberra to celebrate and say thankyou over and above repaying the debt - my shout.

    Most of us get to survive and some don't, like that Into the Wild guy Christopher McCandless, and maybe Heath Ledger here. Like the terrible demise of the 2 spray can artists last Sunday in the storm water drain

    Some of the press are suggestive he was suffering bad sleep deprivation having gone deep into his role as The Joker, homicidal maniac character, and that his work had been inspired. That's high level acting - a frightening business of psychological maleability losing your id to the work. If I'm right it's a very dangerous business getting lost in an emotional whirlpool of your own mind to feed the entertainment and art monster ... and of course pay the bills, no doubt.

    All being well in your thirties you get alot of perspective, learn alot about how to find help without losing your pride or dignity, some real wisdom and skills on sustainability, and in your forties if you avoid the drugs you can build up a profound rythym which can withstand quite a few hard knocks or disruptions a bit like a good cyclist at moderate speed whacked by the odd branch or pothole. 

    I find it upsetting because my guess anyone in the 20ies will recognise a bit of themselves in Heath Ledger's death, and anyone who survived probably will too. Damn and blast. It makes it worse when the victim, like some artists, already has such sensitive instrumentation they are at greater risk of being derailed. He might have become more robust with time and contributed so much in a longer life. As Pomeranz on Sydney 702 radio has said what a waste.

    Condolences to his family, mother of his child, and especially his child who will hardly know him direct. 

    Then we contemplated the immediate specifics of his situation and herein is a strong line of inquiry (?). Indeed it reminds of last New Years Eve when I bunked off a neighbours happy soiree, people I wanted to know and impress but just didn't have the gumption for whatever reason, and the self awareness too. I went for a long walk instead (20km!).  I left them a friendly card next day which worked:

    Not so much G'day as goodbye, and so it is

    The Herald paper version today carries a headline suggesting he was contemplating his mortality in an interview for the Bob Dylan biopic, but that's what new parents do when they see their genetic function achieved. I think the headline on page 4 of the Herald is probably a bit misleading in this respect. [Also given the Dylan biography is very philosophical.]

    I wonder what the social pressure of the G'day set piece tourism, high society function might have meant for him? The reports are that a pall of gloom descended on the event at the news of his sudden death. Clearly there was an emotional link of Heath Ledger to the crowd there - in both directions?

    It's well known he reacted adversely to social conflict with the entertainment press, still growing that thick skin I would say, as you tend to do in politics as well.

    Could the quandary of not attending the G'day event, and all the history of conflict here in Sydney with the paparazzi have raised big problems for him? Not their fault so much as the private hell of a compatriot?

    Should he go, where ostensibly he belongs in the mileau of successful Aussies, yet knowing it would be hell to be in the crowd with the paparazzi insecure at how they might treat him? Or how he might behave?

    There's nothing quite like a party that you can't face going to, with all those 'happy folks' already reported in the media, of his kind of people Aussie Americans, to cause emotional strife, worry, sleeping pills? The confusion of wanting/not wanting to go. Ashamed or fearful of his own unhappiness in the Brideshead Revisited sense?

    Death by emotional anguish? An Australian Abroad who was taking water, who'd lost the ability to swim in a brewing sea, no one close by with the life belt and he wasn't even waving the arm for help? Damn and blast.


    Postscript #1 25th January 2008

    And so Heath Ledger 'got the chills' and goes 'ramblin on' as this great old song of folk bard Pete Seeger made famous, a song recalling the very tough 1930ies depression times of such as Woody Guthrie:


    And by the same artist Pete Seeger captures the current situation with great acuity back in 1963 re the death of Marilyn Monroe, so very strong in the singing too, unfortunately not on YouTube:


    Who killed Norma Jean?
    I, said the City, as a civic duty,
    I killed Norma Jean.

    Who saw her die?
    I, said the Night, and a bedroom light,
    We saw her die.

    Who'll catch her blood?
    I, said the Fan, with my little pan,
    I'll catch her blood.

    Who'll make her shroud?
    I, said the Lover, my guilt to cover,
    I'll make her shroud.

    Who'll dig her grave?
    The tourist will come and join in the fun,
    He'll dig her grave.

    Who'll be chief mourners?
    We who represent, and lose our ten percent.
    We'll be the chief mourners.

    Who'll bear the pall?
    We, said the Press, in pain and distress,
    We'll bear the pall.

    Who'll toll the bell?
    I, screamed the mother, locked in her tower,
    I'll pull the bell.

    Who'll soon forget?
    I, said the Page, beginning to fade,
    I'll be the first to forget.

    Words by Norman Rosten
    Music by Pete Seeger
    TRO (c) 1963 (renewed) and 1964 (renewed) Ludlow Music, NY


    Ledger was on Enough Rope in late March 2003, speaking out against the Iraq War soon after 250-500,000 marched against the war in Feb 2003 in downtown Sydney, perhaps emboldened to take the peace position into the public domain 'contra mundum' ie 'against the world', at least the big business world of 2003 who controlled his professional life out of the USA or News Ltd here.

    The paparazzi are generally sub-contracted out like organised crime from the Big Media, doing stuff to get content the corporations would never openly authorise their retained staff to do, so they can sneakily buy in the often ill gotten images. The sneaking around windows, the photos over fences, the constant stalking. Pathetic stuff.

    Nicole Kidman has been 'fair game' in much the same way with movies like The Interpreter boosting the stature of the United Nations at a sensitive time in geo politik in 2005 also against the Iraq War and effectively W Bush presidency.

    The Interpreter film poster

    This is why Ledger ended up using a similar tactic to what we like, carrying a camera and clicking the grubs doing the dirty stalking work indirectly for the Big Media, to meet their arrogant harrassment. We strongly suspect the sub text in Ledger's case was News Ltd green lighting harrassment for a political position in favour of the Iraq war. 

    Certainly it's a whole new experience for the self aggrandising paparazzi wankers getting their picture taken. Money can't save them then. It's publicity discipline on PR thugs. Just as the journos don't really like their work being reported on sharply, without fear or favour. There's power in being behind the camera, and I know they don't like their picture taken, the same way I prefer to not be in the frame for my own privacy.

    And so the battle of perception moves on. RIP Heath Ledger. 

    Posted by editor at 12:05 PM EADT
    Updated: Sunday, 27 January 2008 7:01 AM EADT

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