Monday, 4 November 2013

Hello again...and the world hasn't got any more logical (Q & A)

Last night we were treated to yet another Q & A in which old left wingers prove how out of touch they are with reality and younger left wingers demonstrate the utter vacuity of their ideas--meanwhile a lone Conservative gets pecked to death as though they were a particular disliked chick amidst a flock of particularly vicious chickens. Germaine Greer tried to say that the inefficiency of the aged care sector and the unpleasant experiences women have in hospital giving birth are evidence of continuing sexism (together very weirdly with mention of death during childbirth--when maternal death rates in the contemporary West are the lowest they have ever been in any place ever--and medical misconduct and negligence killing off lots of people who aren't women, like children or old men, has received enough coverage for most of us to have heard about it). Meanwhile Dan Savage tried to tell us that irresponsible behaviour such as illegal drug use which shortens your life, ruins your health or drives you mad doesn't impact negatively on others--there's a man who needs to have a conversation with a paramedic!

The world is a pretty nasty place--the reason I haven't been here for a while is that the inefficiencies of the medical system damn near killed me, very grateful to be back incidentally--but self-righteous muddle-headedness about the real problems to be facing the human race, and they are many, can only make things worse. Take it from an expert, my friends, whining never did anyone any good! I prescribe a double dose of Russian novels and Greek philosophy...


Monday, 8 July 2013

Andy Murray, Kevin Rudd and the Egyptian Military Coup: The Unexpected and the Totally Predictable

It's been an interesting few weeks for amateur prophets. The overwhelmingly unlikely occurred last night when Andy Murray became the first person from the British Isles to win Wimbledon in 77 years, something which I never thought I would see in my life-time. The Labor Party, having seemingly written their electoral suicide note and meditated upon why the electorate had fixed its cannon 'gainst their re-election without discovering the obvious answer, suddenly, at last, developed a sense of self-preservation. One criticism by the Opposition which couldn't possibly stick, I thought, was that the government was poll-driven! But, wrong as I was when I said they would never roll Rudd in his first term, so I was wrong when I thought that having waited until the ground was approaching with such whizzing speed they couldn't possibly try to abort at the last minute... On the other hand some things remain totally predictable--like the Egyptian military coup, which could have been foreseen from the moment urban liberals began campaigning for a democracy which would put power in the hands of a majority which shared none of their views. None of the people who found the outcome there surprising had obviously ever studied the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution or any standard text on political theory. Ever.

Meanwhile in the world of fiction, both Mad Men and Game of Thrones pulled it together by the end of their respective seasons to provide drunken misery and a massacre respectively. How predictable was that? I can't even begin to weigh up life and art.


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Everybody Loves...?

Well, it's budget week here in Oz and the Opposition leader just made a very stirring speech which got a standing ovation. The consensus is that it is the unpopularity of the government which is making him more popular. This got me thinking about popularity--the sine qua non in a democratic society--and who has it and who doesn't. Think of the difference between Gillard, Cameron or Hollande, frantically trying to hold on to government, and the reception Prince Harry received when he visited America recently (here's a clue: think of how young people felt about the Beatles in 1963). Politics is unpopular in and of itself these days, synonymous with all the aspects of contemporary society which got us into our present economic and social predicament. It almost reminds one of how discredited liberalism and/or nationalism seemed to so many people between the first and second world wars.

There are however people a lot more unpopular again than politicians--there is the Catholic Church. Poor Pope Francis recently canonised his first saints but people only have one association with his brand nowadays. Now, they can only dream of the popularity of the royal family...

Popularity is obviously partly about your personality (you know what Harry has going for him) but it is also about the people's esteem for the ideals you represent. A popular politician nowadays is a bit like a popular lawyer, which isn't surprising given that they are mostly lawyers...


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Not a Walk of Punishment but some confusion...!

Well, Easter is over but the season of great TV is just getting started! I've been so enjoying catching up with Don and Roger on Mad Men and Tyrion and Tywin on Game of Thrones to name but a few...but ay, there's the rub, there are soooo many characters and sooo many story-lines in these shows these days. Joan got her picture taken in the premiere, and had a drink in episode two, but that's all we've seen of her so far and she hasn't had one scene with Roger; meanwhile Stannis and Melisendre's appearance this week was a case of 'blink and you'll miss it' (shallow vintage footnote: was anyone else thinking of From Here to Eternity with the two of them there on that beach?). There are so many characters off on 'ice-flows' too--Betty and Peggy live in the haunted mansion and the land of comic hygiene products respectively; and half the cast of GoT is believed to be dead by the other half (Bran, Arya, Theon, Jaime all wandering about in the wilderness). Then there are the new characters, so many new characters that they barely have the chance to explain who they are and who they are working for--Bob Benson, the guy from upstairs who is neither God nor Cooper but is now buying Pete's toilet paper, could be a Russian spy for all the insight we have into his motivations, and the three-minute scene which would have explained who the Brotherhood Without Banners are was clearly cut so we could see the crucial plot development of a topless girl do contortions...!

There is such a lot of plot my head is spinning, then again I could watch Cersei and Tyrion move chairs with sarcastic expressions for a whole episode, or Roger lie on a couch in analysis. Neither advances the plot but they're my favourite moments so far this season.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

But then again God works in mysterious ways...

Hello everyone,
Well, wasn't yesterday historic, what with the Pope choosing to retire? He reckoned that he was too weak to go on working and yet he gave the speech about his retirement in Latin! He sure has high standards for competency, something which seems an interesting line to take in view of the fact that others have remained Pope when in prison or exile, etc., etc. However, what it brings home is an intriguing issue I have been talking about for a while and which has been transformed perhaps by developments in modern technology and society. For a long time ordinary people have been taking for granted the notion of a retirement in old age, something which sits oddly with institutions such as monarchy or bishoprics which traditionally are held until death and are seen as coming to one from divine grant. This in turn enmeshes with medical advances which make it possible for infirm people to live much longer than they would have formerly. It remains uncertain how our conception of such offices will work in future. It seems most odd to imagine that there might be two or even three consecrated popes at a given time...But then again God works in mysterious ways...


Friday, 18 January 2013

TV Life after Tragedy

Well, a well slightly delayed happy new year year to you all... And the world is still here! However, one of the main characters in a favourite television drama is not. Spoiler alert for those Australians who still haven't seen Downton Abbey! The death of Matthew Crawley thanks to Dan Stevens' desire to leave for pastures new in the US was agonising. And it got me to thinking about the characters a show can lose before we begin to worry about shark-jumping. Game of Thrones recently provided us with a brilliant exemplum for killing a show's much-loved hero while the ratings simply keep climbing; however, some of you might remember the nose-dive Primeval took a long while ago when its hero Nick Cutter left the series. Or again contrast how happy we were when in season two of Babylon Five--yes, I am nerdy enough to remember that far--Sinclair was replaced by Sheridan with the way none of the Doctor's companions since Rose Tyler has quite been the same...

Though of course the case Matthew's death most reminded me of was the final season of Deep Space Nine which was conducted without Jadzia Dax because her portrayer, Terry Farrel wanted to pursue other opportunities. It still annoys me whenever I think about it that Worf and Jadzia were denied their happy ending because of a miniseries I have never seen...

Then again we thought Seachange couldn't go on without Diver Dan... So we'll see.


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Whose birthday is it anyway?

Well, Christmas is on us again, if we believe it! Every year it seems to start earlier, seem scarier (we just never got when were younger what a mad scramble it is to get all the gifts nor did we know that a fifth of English men buy their presents on Christmas eve in service stations) and to involve less religion. Think about it, could you find a religious advent calendar? Cards with a message mentioning God? A nativity set on sale beside the innumerable Santas?

I do understand that a lot of people celebrate Christmas despite being atheists or Buddhists, or whatever, but it seems to me that the difference between our modern celebration of Christmas and the ancient Roman Saturnalia is becoming increasingly obscured. And do you want my verdict on why this is happening? Yeah, sure you do, it's Christmas, you're rushed off your feet and worrying that the Joneses are going to arrive over from next door any moment now and find that your house  (unlike theirs, which has a giant blow-up reindeer on the lawn and a 'jingle-bells' door alarm) looks as though a bomb has hit it--and what you want to think about is spirituality in modern society.

I think that religion is being leached out of Christmas because of the vanilla problem. People are crying out for a spiritual compass in today's hard times but Christianity in particular (though other religious traditions such as Judaism or Buddhism in Japan have the same problem) is just too beige these days. Where once they used to erect large cathedrals filled with some of the best art and music ever composed by mankind, today's Christians worship in white-washed suburban boxes in which they mutter dirge-like hymns. Where's the emotion, excitement and beauty? Well, there's certainly some temporary excitement to be gained in evangelical mega-churches, but we all know that that isn't the same.

Maybe next year we should try to make Jesus as exciting as Santa Claus, if only to make it easier to explain to children whose birthday it is.

Merry Christmas,