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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Saturday, 12 January 2008
Black Watch at CarriageWorks, Sydney Festival: TJIF
Mood:  sad
Topic: culture

A review

This is a great show, but I didn't 'enjoy it'.

This opening is our compliment to the scriptwriters who use the verbal device of contradiction to challenge throughout this play: It's a highly energetic intensely macho production with intricate choreography and a great study of gender - personal, institutional, national, international, military, civilian, war, peace, social, antisocial, patriarchal. Boy and man as state authorised killers.

As expected one needs a moral toolkit to grapple the spin in this play which to us is work and duty rather than entertainment. This show indeed is not meant for a deconstructionist micro news site, but we are meant for it which I suppose is why we pitched for the ABC radio quiz  to get the freebie. It's meant for rich moral lightweights who need exercising, so take the drill here.

TJIF: The Job Is F*cked.

That phrase is not in the script. It's reportage of honest police in NSW in despair at systemic corruption in their Force resorting to graffiti on station walls. Police-graffiti. Delicious irony isn't it? I catch myself adopting a faux Scots accent because the Blackies (my term) are very brogue. (Like my $120 leather shoes in 1985).

It's a cultural milieu of one white tribe, like crims and cops both in The Departed as swaggering cruel Irish Americans based in Boston:

By coincidence we watched it on DVD literally the day before seeing Black Watch, and it's a classy film also fertile with gutter talk for authenticity. This is accepted but still doesn't make it right.  We Celts are really something which is I suppose why my younger sister spent a good year or more in Edinburgh as an art student.

The perspective of 'an honest telling of criminal endeavour' albeit gut wrenching suggested to me this play was going to be difficult. And then there were the the hard back chairs for the sell out audience after near heat stroke that day (3 hours in a rock yard garden job), or fatigue (cycling 20 km).

Then add maudlin nostalgia for our first love, a willowy Australian of Scots heritage, let's call her Polly McKenzie. The woman 20 metres opposite looked sufficiently similar. Yes there was a definite gathering of the clans in the audience before the actors even appeared. Certainly all this and a general foreknowledge of the grim subject matter was ominous.

But actually it was the alleged 'balance' one so expects of an ABC endorsed event, a suspicion reflected in the review by the 'balanced' Australian, noticed just now, from Jan 8th:

Angry young men | The Australian 

Yes angry. At times. Other times not, so why the headline exactly? Manic young men? Mad? Wronged? Cynical? Certainly not left wing or wet politics. And herein lies the mind f*ck which ought be teased out for one's own peace. Ironically the clue comes from the gutter language opening lines. Something similar to this:

You think you f*ckin know what a solider is like. You don't.  You think you know because this war is wrong, illegal. You don't. I could have done something else, I'm not a dumb c*nt, kuckledragger. I chose to go to Iraq.

(Actually the c-word is embellishment, the actual quote is in The Oz  and would of course have been too "unrestrained" so early. It appears later on - regularly.) 

The audience realistically has no choice but to swallow the opening gambit having already been warned twice in booming imperatives there is strictly "no re-admittance" and to "refrain from using any audio or photographic equipment" setting the hierarchical tone of an army, regardless of paid up ticket, hard thin chairs, foul jarring language to sensitive elegant folks.

Once we swallow that impertinence - like the fabled JRR Tolkien literary device hooking us with a realist fantasy (to suspend disbelief) - the crudity effectively suspends standards of decency, and we are emotionally strapped in for the 1.5 hour ride. A reasonable metaphor given the ride the soliders take, several fatally.

This is not simply the crudity I grew up with in countless football dressing sheds across rural and regional western Victoria, or many labouring type jobs later. This language is amplified by proximity to blood soaked war, bombs, tanks and the guns these guys carry as tools of trade. Not leather bladders for kicking. The only bladders are the ones smeared across a tarmac by an  IED or suicide bomber. The crudity has menace which perhaps is why there is no Iraqi civil society in the play to expose it for what it is: Institutional thuggery. Imagine that, Arabs more civilised than white folks.

And we apologise profusely for the smothered sneeze close to the climax of the show, but the noise is so loud and the light so bright and the haze so intoxicating, one ought not to "worry about it" (imagine brogue).

There were VIPs in the audience like Stephen Loosely, George Negus, Margaret Throsby, the movie show girl and friend. I would swear my old contracts lecture Robin Creyke at ANU in 1983 (!), took the ride. The audience applauded loud and genuine. These very fit marauding pseudo Edinburgh Tattoo laddies "earned it". The acting was excellent, the exertions convincing of crack troops forged in boot camp.

The language was disgusting typical of corrupt paradigms, working class or not, the mysogny clear as daylight and strange to see digested so willingly by the well dressed audience men and women both. But easily the most disturbing and seriously ugly apsect of the show is the racist airbrush of Iraq's 150,00-600,000 violent/excess dead since March 2003 : A taboo was in the house. We were there to see and hear and feel the modern angst of white boys sent on a false political mission: TJIF.

Herein was my lack of enjoyment of a 'special' production? A "must see" according to The Oz. It's about the politics and it's not gainsaid by this:

"I hate that kind of theatre that preaches a woolly, liberal left-wing agenda to a woolly, liberal left-wing audience, and then they all pat themselves on the back and go out to dinner," Tiffany says at his hotel in Manhattan's East Village. "What we wanted to do was challenge the audience we knew would be coming to think about the soldiers, these boys who are actually being betrayed more than anybody else." Director, John Tiffany as quoted in The Australian

It's all about the soldiers you see. Which presumably  is much easier to get funding for too when Blair is still at his height, and Howard too when booking the Sydney Festival in. This is a show military families can go to and say 'f*ck the politicians' in unison with critics of the war. But let's not get too coy here. Joining the military is a moral abdication of choice over life and death called taking orders. TJIF.

The ABC and Sydney Festival can promote this show for exactly the reason it is safely 'balanced' to 'our boys' as per the racist airbrush of the domestic Iraqi population which the Coalition of the Willing has always sought to do, even allowing for 'the 4 hour bombing' scene, 'Not warring, bullying. They had no chance'. How true. One can hate wet liberal pandering presentation without losing the cut through, just read George Orwell. 

Indeed a cutting critique of ineffective tactics on activist Indymedia comes to mind: 

They can have their war as long as we can have our protest march?

Alternative version here in Black Watch: The mild folk can have an angsty hand wringing theatrical solidarity with soldier boys, and the military industrial complex can have their war. Today, tomorrow yesterday. For 4 years 8 months now. Ever since the shock and awe bombing in March 2003. 

Tiffany as director shouldn't kid himself the enthusiastic Sydney audience weren't also pandering to the ascendant western geopolitik under W Bush, and only recently released from Howard-Blair dogma. Otherwise they might have hissed and booed, not the actors per se, but the characters ammoral rationalisations. Or more like refusal to even enter the moral universe. Stone cold tools of death despite all the sniggering and banter.

The critical moment for this scribe: A soldier character (as pictured above, who cracks up) says to the researcher with incredulity:

"What's this got to do with the f*cking Iraqis?"

Our audience here in Sydney all laughed in what we believe was recognition at the incongruous fact that the Iraq war is not about Iraqis. They're just collateral damage. But I didn't laugh: White boy angst OK: Arabic wholesale slaughter taboo, is ugly subtext. At least soldier boy chose whether to join up. 

For better or worse we felt the racist solidarity in that laughter that gives pre-eminence to a relatively small number of military over hundreds of thousands of different folks. It's an abhorrent and outrageous assertion. The long applause at the finale was uncomfortably pregnant with the glaring omission of Iraqi society, the non people. The profound truth remains it's the 'me war' for oil as admitted in naive clarity by then Defence Minister, now Liberal Party Leader here, Brendan Nelson late 2007.

And now apparently it's the 'me army' to service society's comfort zone. Hence we read a somewhat plausible puff recently in the Sydney Daily Telegraph tabloid said to be written by a nonchalant Iraq War US military victim who conveniently doesn't begrudge his USA govt, or feel any bitterness at, his own death. That's right, it's an opinion piece to be published ex post facto. Take a bow Pentagon PR department.

Interestingly the soldier's website said to be this: "andrewolmsted.com" is not loading 5 days later.


To be fair to script, actors, director et al, the c*ckhead supremely fit soldiers, carry out their mindless drills at the end to manifest the mad energy of war itself.

Black Watch main image by Pavel Antonov

Reinforced by the bizarre juxtaposition of transcendant scenes (letters from home, angelic floating) and impressive soundtrack (piercing strings and glorious bagpipes), with a constant stream of lewd vulgarity spiced with lurid porn. It's a heady mix to be sure.

Like my own Irish heritage can be.

It's a drug fest of a kind, dressed up in its own vocab, sound and uniforms, and that drug is Ultra Violence, just like the charming Jack Nicholson character Costello, an indefatigable industrial scale murderer, in The Departed above. The only difference here is state versus civil murder.

To be honest and this is to the director in particular, I personally draw the line at murder as art, and mass murder especially. Show us the missing Iraqis. Or don't you have the artistic integrity?

All the same I don't begrudge the fine young actors their summer in sunny Australia compared to the bitter cold of Scotland at this time. As actors they earned it.

We like the bagpipes, like in ACDC, Long Way to the Top sung by working class Scottish Australian Bon Scott who killed himself with legal drugs, the rock business "harder than it looks":

Indeed we feel that song helped get us through a science/law degree, off the shop floor.

We still remember the bagpipes at the funeral of Andy McNaughtan in North Sydney January 2004  a true hero who without lifting a gun perhaps did more than any Australian civilian to free East Timor from the military grip of Suharto's corrupt mass murdering Indonesian military.

 Dr Andrew McNaughton, Human rights campaigner 1954- 2003

Black Watch is a cultural experience and theatre that takes you out of yourself, so in that sense mission accomplished by Sydney Festival, but they can keep the 'balance'.


Postscript # 1 14 Jan 2008

The Big Media broadsheets both have flattering reviews today (SMH offline Tartan warriors offer up a worthy dramatic centrepiece),  and The Australian (offline, From the pits to darkness of war). The former completely ignores the use of blue language at all (interesting and surely conscious choice, and its true the f-word is even accepted in court cases as every day language these days, but not the c-ord ...yet). Similarly the Daily Telegraph slightly stilted tv preview here, the play is much more dynamic: Video: Sneak preview - Black Watch

But of more significance politically is that the higher circulation Daily Telegraph tabloid and SMH both have stories about controversial arts funding of theatre - which echoes ours above re war govt under Blair and Howard funding of BlackWatch as safe because it glorifies and quarrantines 'our boys' in equal measure from criticism:

Theatre life not all peaches and cream

 Big hArt's Sydney Festival work <i>Ngapartji Ngapartji</i>    Festival company rejects grant A MAJOR Sydney Festival theatre company has returned $750,000 as a protest - despite admitting the decision makes terrible business sense.


Postscript #2 17th Jan 2008

A story quite possibly leveraging the focus provided by the Black Watch theatre production: Local moving version of reality is front page of the The Australian main colour pic of Sergeant Michael Lyddiard, less an eye, a right forearm and left thumb and forefinger, hugged by his wife and mother of their 4 year child. Lyddiard is a bomb disposal expert badly injured by a roadside bomb in Aghanistan.

Sergeant Michael Lyddiard and wife Karri at Lavarck Barracks in Townsville. Picture: Evan Morgan Bomb can't take sergeant's Digger 

Posted by editor at 8:57 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008 11:50 AM EADT
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
Democrats Abroad gear up for Sydney Mardi Gras outreach March 1st this election year
Mood:  energetic
Topic: culture

Picture: images being considered in float decorations namely Thomas Jefferson on a coin, Democrats donkey (!?), and of course the White House itself.

The Sydney Mardi Gras is usually viewed by hundreds of thousands of straight people every year but is actually an event to publicise the existence and culture of the gay and lesbian sections of society of presumably 5-10%.

It's been going for years and has become an orthodox communication strategy for politicians right along the spectrum to promote their particular credentials whether for pride, tolerance, theatrical culture, safety, health initiatives or whatever. It's not for the ultra right Christian extremists (who have a real problem with protecting God's creation like the environment, let alone other human beings), distinct from the moderate Christians, and so anyone to the left of the anti science creationsits usually get involved in some way. Audience or marcher.

We interviewed an organiser for the Democrats Abroad Downunder here in Sydney yesterday who is pulling together the decorations for their 2 tonne truck and float. He reckons about 90%+ of the DA supporting the float will be straights, as per the general proportions. The last time they had a float was in 2004 in the last USA presidential election. Let's hope democracy and the best candidate wins otherwise the future looks grim ....

Sydney's public culture is at times exuberant and colourful not least the summer festive season right now. At a business enterprise seminar yesterday we chatted to a musician/clothes designer with body art that called up the omens of Shakespeare's raven, and the treasure political parties desire: The tattoo seemed somehow appropriate to a story about political theatre in this the most brash, USA style of Australian cities.



Posted by editor at 10:43 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008 11:19 AM EADT
Monday, 7 January 2008
Don't lose the plot: Brian
Mood:  mischievious
Topic: culture

YouTube - Life of Brian

You are all individuals! ... Monty Python's Life of Brian ...

Posted by editor at 10:02 AM EADT
Thursday, 27 December 2007
'We're going wrong' as a suitable soundtrack for the Iraq War 2005?
Mood:  lyrical
Topic: culture


More background:

Great Performances . Cream Reunion Concert | PBS

Posted by editor at 10:30 AM EADT
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Albert Tse, Jessica Rein reality version of West Wing tv script?
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: culture
Like Glenn Dyer we miss the West Wing too. Have series 1 out on DVD from Marrickville library - whoo hoo. Also notice the reality tv version of this script here in little ol' Aussie: We wrote about Albert Tse appropo Maxine McKew's run in Bennelong back on 14th May 2007 as follows (!):
Monday, 14 May 2007
Ruddy son in law to campaign for Maxine McKew in Bennelong?
Mood:  amorous
Topic: election Oz 2007

Picture: Actor Dule Hill at top right was a standout character in the West Wing tv series for  the racially charged North American society it was made for.


Is the real life Australian equivalent of Charlie Young going to help take Bennelong off PM John Howard?

Charlie who? Charlie Young is a character from the West Wing tv series played by Afro American Dule Hill. And not just any coffee coloured gentleman but a dark skinned man. Distinctly racial casting choice. A very fine actor. A dramatic juxtaposition who in the script loves in the biblical sense the President’s youngest white bread daughter.

It’s pretty racy stuff right?

But what’s that got to do with Bennelong?

Ruddy’s daughter just got married. If I’m not mistaken her husband is an Asian Australian chap. Who knows, he may end up being like that 3rd richest dual Australian citizen solar energy entrepreneur like Dr. Zhengrong Shi of Suntech (featured on SBS Dateline in a story called 'The Sun King' back in March  CNN here,  local Sydney Morning Herald and Labor eHerald) or some other world beater. But it's also clear as day the daughter is a living example of cross cultural sophistication including in life choices. Like her dad.

We are reminded of a highly flattering feature story about Rudd’s working life in China for Foreign Affairs that ran in the Sydney Morning Herald recently: Rudd's long march to Asia's heart - National - smh.com.au by a smart writer there Hamish McDonald with Mary-Anne Toy..

These are the most sensitive cultural matters. It’s life as melting pot for real.

It’s the Charlie Young factor. In Sydney, and likely all of Australia, this plays very well in the Asian Australian community. Sydney is the home of the Unity Party represented till recently by an Upper House Dr Peter Wong in NSW Parliament.

It’s where the local edition of the Epoch Times is published with an emphasis on South East Asian coverage as well as general news, and strong slant against the Chinese dictatorship government.

All this is a sensitive mix of cultural and racial undertones but with 6 months to run in a grinding election campaign every area of right, left, bigot and enlightened social policy will be flushed out. We say better to have it out in the sunlight amongst the grown ups.

From our media watching we noticed a real under emphasis in the presentation of the good bride’s new husband. But the Asian Australian community in Bennelong must have noticed surely, or will do so. In this sense they are likely to shift their vote to the ALP as a more tolerant leadership for harmony and multiculturalism to the detriment of John Howard.

On the other hand the ultra right ‘One Nation’ type 5 % dedicated racist vote is out there and do play a role in Australia more generally, also counterbalanced by the Asian Australian Bennelong factor too.

All of this becomes very relevant demographics given the outstanding very early polling results in favour of candidate McKew as reported in the press yesterday as here: McKew would win Bennelong: poll - National - smh.com.au

and here

McKew needs 'miracle' to beat Howard in Bennelong. 13/05/2007. ABC ...

Meanwhile John Howard is going down scale talking about school bullies from the height of his Prime Ministerial office. That's a little weird. And he sounds like a shouting sergeant major on the radio just now.

At this rate the election campaign may yet turn to a macabre procession for 'honest' John. No post budget polling bounce, no ecological credibility, captured by white supremacist leanings a la Alan Jones et al. It could get very grim indeed.

# For our review of the West Wing tv series based on a marathon sitting of the first 5 series, go here and scroll down to 4th January 2007 (one of the first stories on Sydney Alternative Media micro news website aka SAM.)



This was part of a much bigger traverse of the McKew victory here:


Maxine McKew MP and her high class problems: Public policy talent or shallow PR brand?




Is Piers Akerman a closet white supremacist? He's chosen the race theme too regarding the McKew victory but in a poison piece accusing the ALP of wedging on the issue with ethnic voters:


Akerman: A toxic race to top
AFTER winning over Bennelong, the electorate's new MP Maxine McKew has decided to tell her adoring public what she really thinks. And it's not pretty.


But we think there is ample evidence to criticise the ex PM, not least the covert white supremacism in the NSW Division of the Liberal Party on Howard's watch, evident amongst some elements of a Camden protest and fostered by ultra conservative politicians like Fred Nile MP.

Posted by editor at 9:26 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2007 5:13 PM EADT
Sunday, 16 December 2007
Into the Wild to heal, just don't eat the wrong plant, remember the mosquito net
Mood:  lyrical
Topic: culture


Sean Penn’s film Into the Wild featuring Emile Hirsch as Christopher Johnson McCandless (CM) is a gem. We are told this officially by Margaret Pomeranz (5 stars) and David Stratton (4.5 stars) on the ABC Movie Show (linked below). It's based on the book by Jon Krakauer who also wrote the cracking Into Thin Air about another tragedy and Jon knows his stuff, both nature and people with the courage to be honest about both.


We took in the gentle non fiction masterpiece like a long drink of tea after a cycle, which was also the case, at Dendy Newtown Saturday night, smallish theatre ¾ full.



Play video Rated M

The first thing about the story line is that it’s a tragedy. Ours and his. You know he dies young almost from the beginning when his acute mind has barely fully formed. A 24 year old blade, A-grade student of literature, 'destined for Harvard law school' but actually an emotionally brittle young man with the wit to seek to heal himself … if he can. This is the story of his courageous battle to do just that. It's his courage which is so admirable.



We 'know' McCandless like many other young men will see themselves at least in part embracing wild nature, adventure, feral camp living as an antidote to the “hypocrisy of parents, politicians and society”.


Actor - Emile Hirsch


Some movie reviewers in their arty farty milieu (we imagine wine glass in hand on polished floor boards) have reacted against “the extremism” of McCandless’s fate poisoned it seems by a poor choice of forest herb having incorrectly read his edible botany manual, perhaps driven astray by painful hunger itself.


So let me explain as best I can. The young man, a child really, does his best in simpatico with the mainstream that inspiring Sicilian American student leader Mario Savio in Berkley in the Sixties called “the odious machine”: An economically focused career producing education system (aka sausage maker). Significantly Savio became a bookshop owner immersed in ideas his whole life. CM (or alter ego Alexander Supertramp over the 2 year chronology) has his love of books too and realises by the end of college his 'success' as Bob Dylan sings is “no success at all”. Why so? Certainly it was not his own choice and lacks ambition over the seriously big questions of our time. CM is not in fact a drop out, he want's to change all society starting with himself first. And as Paul Kelly song goes if he falls others are rising.


Mario Savio on Sproul Hall steps, 1966
Mario Savio on Sproul Hall steps, 1966


Predictably CM has some big neuroses to work through. Made bigger by his sensitive antennae. The family has secrets and unhealthy dynamics and CM can’t grow emotionally without resolutions. GM needs to metamorphose into an adult phase with sutiable calibrations on his emotional equipment for the full life journey. His parents settings might have gotten them through with bumps and scrapes but can’t sustain a bright intellect like CM much past teens dealing with whole new issues. CM like all annoying kids sees all the falsity but not perhaps the validity in their time. CM's trouble, and our Trouble, is he has his own life and time to negotiate, and the parents world view won’t fit. Their pain is to not accept this disjunction, that times are "a changin'".


Indeed our times have desperate inequality in Africa as CM studies, and of frivolous material "things" that we imgine CM finds contrary to ecological sustainability, though the film avoids any environmental prosletizing. CM is primarily a humanist who despairs for humanity. A very logical rational insight into present predicaments, albeit a taboo especially around 1992 (the year we started our own ecological activism). (We had a similar crudely formed insight as a young bloke in 1982 - and this is really true - along the lines of 'at this rate humanity will choke on itself' when deciding what direction to take just out of high school here in Australia.)


This is the critical point: CM needed to find and build a new spiritual reality, because such a mind was heading for self destruction from addiction or madness anyway if he didn't. That's the hard truth of the matter. It may indeed be a comfort to his grieving parents to know CM almost certainly learned to pursue his quest for “truth” from them by example in their highly contested way. It’s to CM’s credit that he chose “the truth” of nature above all of the other destructive imposters and diversions. And in a sense, if you prefer, it is God’s creation which indeed is beautiful, highly sophisticated, intricate, safe and quite satisfying “if you know how to look at it”. The converse can prove just as true.


So CM goes looking for this solid believable ‘truth of nature’ (just as this writer studied zoology to balance law) in contrast to classrooms, emotionally violent parents, shallow materialism, like so many before and will in the future ..... presumably to heal: There is an anecdote about WW2 veterans working in the Tasmanian forests building railroads, or whatever, just going walkabout and sucking up the life in nature to revitalise after the deathly horrors. Then there are the Vietnam War Vets up North Qld way similarly recovering in quiet bush camp surrounds. CM is no different. Paddling the rapids of the Colorado River, surviving if he can, and such a metaphor for a screwed up family.


The production values are great in this movie and we expect no less from Penn these days after Mystic River etc. The music is good with Eddy Vedder of Pearl Jam fame, with his own travails in earlier life and of a similar vintage, to match 'a grunge' paradigm of drop outs and lovable Euro hippies communing with nature. We kept thinking the theme would morph into a recent inspired version of Somwhere Over the Rainbow  here on YouTube by Israel Kamakawiwo Ole.


Eddie Vedder on stage with Pearl Jam in Pistoia, Italy on September 20, 2006.

Eddie Vedder on stage with Pearl Jam in Pistoia, Italy
 on September 20, 2006.



CM is essentially right about many things well portrayed. Excess material things are ridiculous when ‘it’s the ecology stupid’ to quote Steve Biddulph in the Sydney Morning Herald recently. CM is also a human being whose very nature even amongst the smartest of us is to make sometimes fatal mistakes. We are a herd animal for the reason we avoid many dangers that way by sharing information. CM could have survived  the winter but had too much to learn in too short a time with too much faith in his undoubted intellect, youthful strength and book learning. If he’d had one native Indian friend with some indigenous wisdom he would be alive today.


We first felt an echo of our own experience in an early scene with CM stepping away from a car ride into 2 feet of snow at the edge of the Alaskan wild. Just glad to step away from the normal traditional world of material power and comfort. He’s off to explore but mainly we believe to rebuild his sensory and philosophical instrumentation to carry him through what he thinks will be say another 50 years. He doesn’t expect to die but on the other hand he knows when it’s coming which surely is a blessing : To make peace with death.


Picture: Kokoda map we had laminated after solo trek in 1990. 6 days of malaria was a bummer, glad to get home but a great experience. We got lost about 8 km west of here, alot easier than you might think from the deceptive lines above. Rescued by local 'nationals' (the ones not carrying guns).


Our echo was 1990 in the hot steaming jungle of Papua New Guinea, just out from a village called Sogeri, fatefully without a mosquito net. 2 bouts of malaria and 17 years later we still sleep under a mosquito net not wanting to be the first to suffer malaria, Ross River or Barmah Fever out of the local Cooks River in Marrickville, which is surely coming in the age of global warming.


The dangerous river crossing with heavy pack that can drown you. The fear of wildlife and the odd gun toting local. The incredible beauty as a reward for endeavour. We remember the thrill of life again after feeling like a perfectly red apple yet brown and bruised inside after a childhood of contradictions.


The message of Into the Wild is actually a pretty simple one and well worth the time. Humans make mistakes. Some of us die testing ourselves. Even the best and smartest. Those that make it grow and get stronger building on a sensory and philosophical experience that we can trust and that works for this age, not the past. Such people are worthy leaders and CM was potentially one of those. In fact he still is because his facility with words and writing means he never actually quite left especially with Krakauer's book and Sean Penn’s skills as a film maker.


And that’s why I think the movie reminds me of the essentially hopeful tune “Somewhere over the rainbow”. He died young, but you can’t say he didn’t live a great time.  And for all those mortified parents out there one advantage of today is the internet means you can’t ever really lose contact directly or indirectly even as a powerless voyeur on the progress of your little bundle of joy. Back in 1992 there was only snail mail. These days we have blogs, and similar expressions of self of greater or lesser palatability.


In conclusion we agree children should not simply live the life of their parents for very sound reasons, and they should live as simply as they can.


Thanks to the community radio sector for the ticket with this film review offered in the same spirit.


Picture: wonderful Mt Aspring south island NZ a tad under 13,000 feet, climbed in 1989 by the main face. 



Postscript #1 24th December 2007


The big Fairfax media in the wake (?) of this piece have run a prominent page 3 picture story the Saturday before Christmas dated 22nd December 2007 about such "a leader" out of the discipline of the law and journalism in fact (hence the sympathy), not so different to the example of Christopher McCandless. As we like to say, getting arrested usually sorts the wheat from the chaff and so it is with this youngish well educated activist who clearly 'does not lack ambition' by simply taking a less travelled path:



in Tree-sitting activist wins high praise from judge referring to the precocious 23-year-old Ms Holly Creenaune here. Take a bow Sean Penn for helping make the space for such acknowledgement mainstream to fringe.

Posted by editor at 7:02 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 24 December 2007 9:32 AM EADT
Sunday, 19 August 2007
Marrickville film festival calling for short films ASAP
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: culture


Picture: Organiser Jola Jones wants more pulp friction for the Marrickville Film festival, don't know if she dances.


Calling for films!!!!!



Marrickville Film Festival


14th - 15th September

Posted by editor at 6:15 AM NZT
Wednesday, 1 August 2007
Inaugural Marrickville Film Festival 14-15 Sept 07, call for entries
Mood:  chatty
Topic: culture

Marrickville Film Festival  

 Addison Rd Centre 142 Addison Rd Marrickville NSW 2204

Ph: 9564 1277 Mobile: 0408 281 810


Press Release 25 July 2007: Calling for films for the inaugural Marrickville Film Festival In the second week of spring, the Addison Rd Centre,
142 Addison Rd
Marrickville, will host the inaugural Marrickville Film Festival: a festival showcasing a diverse range of films from local filmmakers, schools and community groups. Over two days on the weekend of the 14th and 15th of September, the festival will show films from a cross section of styles, including comedy, drama, documentary and experimental and will represent filmmakers and artists from different cultural backgrounds, generations and perspectives. The festival is aimed at promoting creative expression in filmmaking among local students, filmmakers and artists and providing them with a platform to screen their works. The festival will create an opportunity for different groups in the community to share their ideas, experiences and stories through the medium of film. Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of the first Marrickville Film Festival! Call for Entries: If you are a local student, filmmaker or artist and have made a film or are planning to make a film, then we would love to see it.

Films can be any genre: comic and quirky, animation and experimental, documentary and drama and up to 10 minutes in length.

Films will be selected on their quality, originality and relevance to the local Marrickville community and there will be prizes for the winning films.

Deadline: August 24th

For information on how to submit films go to www.addisonrdcentre.com.au and follow the links, or contact: Yvette Andrews    0408 281 810   President, Addison Rd Centre                           
Jola Jones    0415 521 580 / 9564 277  Festival Organising Committee

The Marrickville Film Festival is supported by Marrickville Council, Addison Rd Centre, Art Resistance Community TV, Sidetrack Theatre and Addison Rd Gallery.



Posted by editor at 4:31 PM NZT
Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007 5:27 PM NZT
Tuesday, 26 June 2007
Stephen Dupont's lovely photographs on show at Redfern gallery till July 14th
Mood:  smelly
Topic: culture

Picture: Stephen Dupont photographer (centre left) is framed by a pregnant Liz Tardic of SBS Dateline [we first met supporting the Timbara gold mine protests in 2000 including our donation of some $2K for expert's airline ticket from USA] last Saturday afternoon at Byron McMahon Gallery, 88 George St Redfern, and in turn by the SAM news reporter's camera.


We were first alerted to Stephen Dupont, whose name sounds to us like a chemical company CEO, after catching this on Channel 9 Sunday programme


Dangerous angles
June 17, 2007

Watch video

If you've ever wondered what sort of person risks their life going to the wildest and most dangerous places on Earth to snap those photographs we see in our newspapers, then you'll want to hear from Stephen Dupont.

This renowned Australian photo-journalist started out as a teenager who just wanted to travel and maybe learn how to take pictures along the way. So far, he's spent 20 years of living dangerously: Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia — he's been to them all. Along the way he's won a swag of top international photography awards and has seen his pictures printed in almost every leading magazine and newspaper.

SUNDAY caught up with him after a new exhibition of his work opened in Sydney.

You can catch Stephen Dupont's exhibiton at the Byron McMahon Gallery in Sydney's Redfern. Call 02 9318 0404 or visit

Or visit Dupont's website at www.stephendupont.com



Celebrate Aboriginal Australia: 
 Linda Burney MP launches NAIDOC week action at Addison Gallery Marrickville 2pm Sunday 8th July 07


It was a bitter sweet experience dropping in to coincidentally find the place filled with appreciative fans receiving a walk through and talk by the good photographer himself.

By chance before proceedings, having recognised SD from the tv I complimented him on the "great grab" he got on Sunday. "Did you see yourself broadcast?" Puzzlement then "yeah I watched it".

"I notice the photo with all the people looking toward your camera. Just goes to show the power of the camera. The West Wing calls it the Heisenberg Principle". No reply.  The first communication disjunction.

Okay so I had just had a coffee and was blathering a bit trying to be smart about what is actually more accurately known as the observer effect ie what you monitor is changed by the act of observing.

As we went around listening to his light hearted and soft patter an older guy with an expensive long lens camera came in with a coffee coloured slender beauty. As these two merged with the strolling audience I was so entranced by the talk and pictures we bumped shoulder tips lightly.

Big Camera called out a question but SD didn't hear it even though he had invited questions as we went.  Communication disjunct #2.

In a pause I repeated it "How much did they [the fixers - ie local interpreters/logistics specialists] cost?"

 "In Indonesia it can be US$100 per day which is alot of money for them." Them and me both.

The gallery itself is in a gutsy location just off tricky Redfern St. A conversion of the Redfern Hotel where we used to deliver street press, once a month part of that 6 year slog.  One of the last rough and ready Sydney pubs all tiles and faded fittings a bit like the County Clare in Broadway.

The photos were on sale, beautifully presented framed in glass, large format, at $2,500. All in artistic black and white which was the cause of my diplomatic downfall, but more of that below.

Picture: In Romania, 2nd largest single building structure after the Pentagon says Stephen Dupont. Says he took this late morning with only 3 cars in view. Robbed but kept his cameras and film.

At this photo I ventured "Yet there are no other cars" to which he corrected me "There are two other cars". Yep, quite right. 3 cars. Communication disjunct #3.

Picture: SD. "I don't read Arabic, I have no idea what this reads"

I had asked him whether he had any other languages. And he confirmed he didn't. So when we came to this picture above I was in mind of Philip Ruddock the federal Attorney General reported in large format article in the Daily Telegraph recently cracking down on any publication that "praises" terrorism. The absurdity of that law for an artwork like this photo seemed obvious to me. I alerted Liz Tardic to this line of thinking too for her show. Here is the article:

Plan to block terror recruiting websites | The Daily Telegraph

And I quote: "Mr Ruddock will today [21 June 2007] introduce legislation making it an offence to produce or disseminate material that "advocates" terrorism, such as offensive books and DVDs."

So the talk finished and SD took questions.

Someone: Why black and white? 'Grew up with it, makes you think more'. It took a veteran in the audience to suggest it carried more emotion which rang true to me. Disjunct #4?

(I was musing about this later and recalled there is much greater variable shadow play without colour and that this in fact is indicative of much non western life where electric light is the exception rather than the generality at early morning and dusk.)

After waiting politely I ventured: "I'm totally untrained [which was a lie but meant by comparison], but from western eyes the images suggest poverty. And quite gritty. Is that why you like black and white?" His answer, somthing like:

"Well colour can give you gritty too. I don't know about poverty, that's not really ao, there isn't really poverty depending on what you mean."

Definitely disjunct #4. It was clear as day many of these folks envied or hated western affluence and I was talking from experience in Morocco, Santiago with their stray dogs everywhere, other parts of Chile, back slum lanes of Barcelona, Falls Rd Belfast, Port Moresby dust with buses overflowing, 20 Toya for an egg no haggling.  Indeed what his western face and camera really symbolised to those viewed. The observer effect indeed which SD virtually acknowledged himself as the "fuck you" look.  Or was it the accusation look?

I was similarly not really interested in pandering even to the artist himself. It just seemed trite to be lectured on concepts of cultural and emotional richness as distinct from western materialism. As if I didn't know about that at 43 and reasonably travelled. Still I couldn't blame him. He didn't know me at all. But he also seemed to airbrush the underlying aggression to the West these days for the incredible inequality in this world.

So I shouldn't have but I couldn't resist responding to this fine published photographer's spiel to potential purchasers

"But you weren't "alone" really. You have your camera which is very powerful and it was Tony Blair the other day who made it clear the media is so powerful it intrudes on everyone's life". (Not to mention fixer nearby?).

[The Blair speech is instructive actually for just how powerful the media are, even a small share to this little micro SAM news website, or we suggest travelling photographer, including this quote:

"I am going to say something that few people in public life will say but most know is absolutely true: a vast aspect of our jobs today - outside of the really major decisions, as big as anything else - is coping with the media, its sheer scale, weight and constant hyperactivity. At points, it literally overwhelms." Things to chew on in Blair's parting gift June 21, 2007]

I was on a roll but it was the wrong place, wrong people, fish in a barrel stuff. Self indulgence. Stephen had suggested a relaxed question and answer, or conversation but he didn't really want a challenge. Pandering was much more in order. In my own defense there was another fiesty questioner in the audience, and Tadic had her camera on me which was a little surprising. But then I was getting bored and running out of time for the Islamic exhibition at the NSW Art Gallery.

This now middle aged, travel obsessed rolling stone slightly paunchy and maybe punchy photo artist with a proud air published in New Yorker and New York Times was being what he is, a wet Democrat and a brilliant photographer. I even agreed with him mostly, but it just didn't seem relevant. Where was my respect?

"I don't get that much work these days because I prefer large format black and white. I do work for books mainly now."

Meaning uncompromising artist. Admirable stuff. But maybe also because he an old media dinosaur compared to rude new media bloggers like this writer? We left quietly for the next (free) show closing in less than an hour.

Communication disjunct #5. I left a web address in the message book and  I called back the next day, left a message. No reply. 

We hope Stephen Dupont has alot of good sales from his show open until 14th July 2007. He has good politics and a likeable nature. But also something else we have tried to reflect above, perhaps from all those years out of the comfort zone not least with Massoud, assassinated leader of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, and Big Media pride. He's gone native I would say, and a little defensive. He's definitely earned the sales after 20 years of expertise and risk. I hope he finds some time for the new media too. You can't be a rolling stone forever which suggests SD confronting the modern tastes of Australia or similar western country eventually as per this liftout in The Australian June 26th 07.

Or maybe he will settle outside of his home country? Sticking to his dark room and black and white stills forever? 

We also felt a little concerned. Which of course sounds foolish for a big tough war photographer but everyone has their limits. We are reminded of a chapter, if memory serves, from an old Australian 60 Minutes book alluding to a similar character who strides manfully through the newspaper to the editor's office all machismo and daring seemingly invincible and full of vigour, only to die on yet another battle ground. It doesn't have to be that way.

Show finishes July 14th 2007, closed Sunday and Mondays.

Posted by editor at 3:14 PM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007 9:33 PM NZT
Tuesday, 12 June 2007
In praise of George, front man for Warumpi, Black Australia's own Mick Jagger
Mood:  special
Topic: culture


From The Australian press today: The Warumpi Band's Neil Murray, who paid tribute to his late bandmate, singer George Burarrawanga. Picture: Stuart McEvoy Voice of Warumpi Band was the 'real star' 

[No picture of George which we understand is the cultural ethic after the death of an Aboriginal  man.]

We saw George, or "Georgie", along with an enthusiastic crowd at Waverley Oval in Sydney. It was around 1999 or so. It was the Survival Day concert that had been recently relocated from La Perouse in Sydney. It was my last of 4 years on the Waverley council and I was feeling pretty burned out and needing a change. I had decided to make way for an Aboriginal member of the local Greens Dominic Wykanak who was duly elected late 99, in place these last 8 years.

George has died at age 50, according to The Australian press yesterday and today. 

In 1999 he seemed at the height of his power, very lithe, very energetic and a very black traditional looking man. A superb rendition of My Island Home and other songs were performed. A successor to him and his band's artful music, Christine Anu, was also on the bill later the same day, in much gentler refined tones.

Picture: New mural in Marrickville reads "different past shared future"

But for me it was George's performance that was the eye opener. Wow. He was great. And the crowd response reflected that too. They started to jump.

In my beady way I noticed the tv coverage that night missed this gifted display, showing the more mainstream more everywoman looking Anu singing the exact same song My Island Home. I felt a little ripped off, like what's the problem, was George too loud, too black, too traditional looking? His rendition of the same song, which was in fact their song was superior in my view proven by the crowd reaction.

But I think it was just Christine's greater recognition to Australia generally at that stage in her career. She also became known for doing tv pre election advertising for the NSW government  a few years later with "It's a living thing" theme. Besides it wasn't a contest, it was what it was. You had to be there to get the best of George.

In fact we first heard of Ms Anu in about 1993 or so when we actually personally had this conversation at a Christmas function for The Wilderness Society like this:

Me: "Are you from the Metro Aboriginal Land Council ?" [an invitation sent by myself if memory serves]

Christine Anu: "No we're the entertainment." [looking as drop dead gorgeous as she was ever going to at that age]

Me: "Oh, okay".

And it was also the first time I'd ever seen another singer on the ticket that night at our function, held in the Old NSW Teachers Club in Bathurst St, and thinking, that guy is something special: Neil Murray of the one and same Warumpi Band playing solo. He was damn good too. Sang a song something like "Into the wilderness" a bit like getting away from it all in the Warumpi song "Good light in Broome".e

Neil is in The Australian today describing the enormous talent his colleague George was. God bless you George, condolences to your family, to Neil, Christine and all their fans. What a champion performer George was.

Tom McLoughlin (NSW campaign coordinator 1993-94, The Wilderness Society NSW)

Posted by editor at 2:55 PM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 13 June 2007 10:03 AM NZT

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