28 July 2008

Wizardry? WTF?

Finally proof that the world is completely rooted, in the Australian usage of the word.

This from Florida, via FoxNews.com (don't ask):

A Florida teacher may have to pull an unemployment check out of his hat after performing magic in front of students, according to reports.

Jim Piculas said he made a toothpick disappear and reappear in front of students at the Rushe Middle School in Land 'O Lakes, Fla., Local6.com reported. He said he later got a call from the supervisor of teachers, saying he had been accused of wizardry.

"I get a call the middle of the day from head of supervisor of substitute teachers. He says, 'Jim, we have a huge issue. You can't take any more assignments. You need to come in right away,'" he told Local6.com.

Piculas said he’s concerned the incident may prevent him from being considered for future jobs.

Fortunately, there are magicians out there who are sympathetic.

25 July 2008

Clearly bored

I'm waiting for something to download, and I see that Tom and Akusai have had a crack at an old one that Bronze Dog did. So I might as well. Have fun, and join in if you're game.

Accent: Supposedly a type of Australian accent known as "ocker". FSM knows that I do try to be well spoken.

Booze: Rather enjoying this Pale Ale renaissance that Australia is going through at the moment. KitKat gave me one called Crackenback for my birthday - I give it 4 stars - very nice with a lovely fragrant hoppy aroma.

Chore I hate: Vacuuming the house. Going to get one of those robo vacuum thingies as soon as I can.

Dog or Cat: Cat. I like dogs, but cats clean up after themselves and don't need baths.

Essential Electronics: My computer(s), my Eee PC, and that's pretty much it since my Sony Walkman got lost down the back of the sofa. OK, maybe MP3 players can be too small.

Favorite Cologne: I liked Activist by The Body Shop. Then they stopped selling it in Australia. Now I've got XY by Hugo Boss. But technically these are Eau de Toilettes, not colognes.

Gold or Silver: Gold. You better believe it, although I'm rather liking oil at the moment.

Hometown: Currently, Melbourne VIC, but I grew up in Sydney NSW.

Insomnia: Negative. But I wish that I voluntarily went to sleep earlier.

Job title: Blogger, Freeloader and Minister. Oh and I have some day job in industry superannuation as well.

Kids: Too young, too poor and too immature.

Living arrangements: A three bedroom unit with my wife and (currently) our friend from the sticks who is in town working at Honda.

Most admirable traits: Standing up for one's personal ethics.

Not going to cop to: Surely this could be phrased better? I have no idea what this one is asking.

Overnight hospital stays: Broken arm, 1985. I was boogie boarding at the time and got dumped by a freak wave.

Phobias: Snakes and crocodiles. Actually, reptiles generally gross me out.

Quote: Primary school poetry: "We had fun, fun, fun, picking boogies in the sun. When the sun got hot, our boogies turned to snot."

Religion: Pretty much quality Australian Pale Ale at the moment. And the Sydney Swans Football Club.

Siblings: Two sisters, both younger, one in Sydney NSW and one in Carson City NV. She's married to my brother-in-law who is originally from somewhere in Indiana. Shit! I know this one. It might be Bloomington. My other brother-in-law is the brother of Ms Dikkii, and he lives in a place called Funkytown.

Time I wake up: Usually after I've hit the snooze button seven or eight times.

Unusual talent or skill: I do this pen-flicking thing that drives people insane.

Vegetable I love:
Peas, nuked with butter and pepper. Carrots, steamed with honey.

Worst habit: I'm not putting this one in.

X-rays: Chest, teeth, foot, arm. I think that's it.

Yummy foods I make: I'm told that my chili con carne is pretty good. Personally, I don't think I've got it right, yet.

Zodiac sign: Crux Australis.

21 July 2008

Choppa's vegemite challenge

I don't normally post stuff this wrong, but I thought I'd make an exception in this case.

This guy is looking at certain heart failure for sure - for the benefit of my non-Australian readers, Vegemite is a concentrated yeast extract made by Kraft with more salt than the Mediterranean in each jar. It's normally spread on toast or sandwiches quite thinly.

You've been warned. I felt a little sick at the end of this.

19 July 2008

Keysar Trad on polygamy

Keysar Trad is an interesting fellow. He's mainly been in the news as an apologist for the controversial former (Sunni) Grand Mufti of Australia, Taj El Din al-Hilaly and currently occupies the president's position in the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia.

Trad was in the news recently after writing this article for Crikey where he discusses opening a dialogue to begin the long road towards polygamous marriages.

This blogger notes that Trad is on the record as having discussed such a union with his wife. Of course, the question that doesn't appear to have been posed by the media to date is about the extent of the conversation that took place.

After thinking about this, I have to conclude that Trad does have a point. What consenting married couples do is really not society's place to say. People should, if they want and if their existing and/or prospective spouse(s) consent, be able to have multiple spouses.

I can really only think of a few reasons as to why such unions shouldn't be permitted:

1. Taxation

Our current tax laws cater, rightly or wrongly, towards singles and married couples, not married trios, quartets and other combinations. This is a potential minefield of confusion that needs to be sorted out before we can consider taxation of polygamous unions. But I don't think that it's insurmountable.

2. Social Security

Likewise welfare laws are not really friendly towards polygamous unions. I think that this may be harder than taxation to sort out, but again, I don't think that this is beyond repair.

3. Estate planning

If memory serves me correctly, estate planning has nasty little bits in it where, for example, wills get rendered null and void by marriage, in most states and territories, anyway. This would be the same for remarriage as well, I suppose, but take this example: A wife has a will in place, but then the husband marries another woman. Does this render the first wife's will ineffective?

4. Divorce

I think that this could be the messiest of the lot. Imagine that in our above example, the wife then divorces her husband. Does this mean that the second wife also has to divorce him? If not, then is the second wife divorcing the first wife? And after sorting this out, how do the property and child custody arrangements work?

5. Superannuation

This has complications as well. I thought of family law splits and contribution splitting, but these seem a dodder compared to spouse superannuation offsets and what happens in the event of a member dying who just happens to be in a polygamous relationship.

Anyway, these are just a few of the issues that need to be thought of before polygamy can be allowed. I don't believe that these are the kinds of thing that we can't fix, but it should be pointed out that there would be a whole stack of work involved in them.

The easiest thing to do would be to abolish marriage outright, and just lock everything under the laws covering de facto relationships that exist in each state and territory, but this is probably not an option.

The absolute last reason that we should be considering is religious considerations for or against marriage, which have been discussed to death.

So the question that the media have not asked Trad regarding his wife's position is this: What was Trad's answer when his wife asked him if he was comfortable with her having multiple husbands?

It's difficult to take Trad seriously when you know that he is most certainly not comfortable. Or even that such a question might not have been posed by Mrs Trad. Does anyone know if Trad is on the record regarding this very question?

14 July 2008

Rock epic of the month: "We Carry On" (Portishead) 2008

Rock epics of the month is a series of posts where I'll look back on classic examples of what I think is the greatest excess of rock and roll - the rock epic.

I'm going to go for something relatively recent here this month. Portishead have just released their third proper longplayer (not counting the live one) and it is currently getting a serious workout whenever I can get the chance to listen to it.

Portishead formed as the second part of a holy trinity of what became known as the Bristol Trip Hop Scene, after Massive Attack and they released their first album, Dummy at about the same time as former Massive Attack alumnus Tricky released his first solo record.

The Bristol trip hop scene really was just a lazy media's way of describing the fact that (a) these musicians did, in fact come from Bristol, and (b) they were attempting a laid back and somewhat trippy take on Hip Hop.

Up until this point, hip hop was largely an unfamiliar genre to the Brits. During the time that hip hop went through the somewhat huge Gangster Rap and G-Funk phases in the States, the Brits were more into the rave scene which was dominated by electronic music genres such as House and later, various Techno sub-genres.

At about this time, the Brits were getting thoroughly confused by the first wave of what went on to be called Drum 'n Bass, and it occurred to some (notably in Bristol) that this hip hop stuff that the Yanks were getting into might be worth giving a second glance to.

Massive Attack released their devastatingly influential Blue Lines album, and suddenly it was game on.

Portishead were formed by Beth Gibbons (vocals), Adrian Utley (guitars) and Geoff Barrow (everything else) in 1991. Barrow had done some work for Massive Attack and Tricky, Gibbons had sung in various things around town and Utley was a known jazz axe-slinger for hire.

And where American hip hop was, at the time, dominated by the g-funk coming out of Dr Dre's stable such as Snoop "Doggy" Dogg and Warren G, Portishead's first album, Dummy, released in 1994 mined its samples from decidedly un-funky sources such as old movie soundtracks and Serge Gainsbourg.

Their eponymous second album, Portishead followed in 1997 and then they began a huge lay-off where the members worked on other stuff - Barrow moved to Sydney and did a tonne of work in the Australian hip hop scene amongst other things.

It took until 2008 for their Third album to come out, which featured sounds that were quite a bit harsher than what they had worked with in the past.

I've chosen to do "We Carry On" this month, because, at 6:27, its a true epic, and, quite frankly, it rocks.

It's one that likes a bit of a groove, and it's one that is a real grower. Utley's guitar is about as angular and primal as Portishead get - someone said to me that it's a bit reminiscent of Will Sargent's work with Echo and the Bunnymen - they could be right. I reckon that there's a bit of post-OK Computer Radiohead in there as well.

This video is a gem of Portishead performing this live on Jools Holland's show on UK TV. I love the pained way that Gibbons delivers the vocals, together with Utley and another guitarist fairly fanging away on their guitars towards the end of this. Barrow looks like he's having fun on the drums during this, too.

Hope that you like it - I did.

07 July 2008

The art empire strikes back

One of the things that we learnt from the recent Bill Henson controversy is that there appears to be an orthodox position that artists assume on the the whole "What is an acceptable image?" thing.

That position has been characterised with a great deal of effort by artists in saying, "There has to be exploitation," for an image to be deemed unacceptable.

So what happened this week? A magazine called Art Monthly Australia has run a cover with a nude 6 year old girl on the front. Ostensibly to make a point about the Bill Henson controversy.

I'll be the first to admit, folks, that this country, and perhaps a lot of the western world is a smidge hysterical when it comes to pornography involving children. I don't actually believe that the connection between child pornography and paedophile behaviour will ever be found.

And the requirement for a nude photo to be exploitative in order for it to be porn is so goddamn subjective, I'm actually concerned about pretty much all artistic behaviour at this point.

Having said all that, doesn't it appear to the average onlooker that a 6 year old (she's now 11) has been exploited in order to make a point?

Doesn't this mean that Art Monthly Australia has crossed the line with a flying leap and is therefore guilty of child exploitation?

More to the point, given that this photo was made by the child's mother, doesn't this make her complicit in child exploitation?

After all that, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has waded in after spotting a way to appeal to the lowest common denominator by exploiting our anti-child pornography hysteria. Is he guilty of exploitation by milking this in the theatre of public opinion?

(My 2c: We thoroughly deserve exploitation over this)

Last but not least, in The Age today, the artist's husband (who just happens to be an art critic at The Age) has weighed in and criticised the PM for speaking out on something that he doesn't know any thing about, namely art.

This is all fucked for the following reasons:

1. The guy is a major art critic for a major Australian daily newspaper. Therefore, venturing any opinion, explicit or implied in his wife's work has a conflict of interest. He simply cannot occupy the aggrieved husband's position and therefore has to keep his mouth shut.

2. His comparison of this fiasco to the greenhouse effect is quite possibly the worst hyperbole ever by an artist:

"It's interesting that if the Prime Minister comments on, say the greenhouse effect, he gets expert advice first," Monah (sic) University Associate Professor [Robert] Nelson said. "I would like to know which art expert advised him on this."

3. "I would like to know which art expert advised him on this." An ad-hominem attack is not beneath this guy, even though he's an art critic and a university professor. Furthermore, if he's comfortable implying that the PM is a philistine, then what hope is there for the rest of us art consumers?

4. Nelson wears many hats during this which doesn't help. Hiding behind his academic one does him no favours, although Margaret Cook of The Age should take most of the blame for this. Attempting an argument from authority is a somewhat ham-fisted approach, n'est-ce pas?

5. Dissecting the above quote further, we now have evidence that the arts world, or at least the visual arts world, sees the consumer as an inconvenience. The performing arts do not. Theirs is a world where the consumer is king, whereas in the world of visual arts, the consumer is treated pretty shabbily when the artist refuses to consider their own audience.

6. Further to 5, as an arts consumer, I frankly (by and large) don't care about the artist's intention. I'm concerned with how visually appealing an image is. What's lost on Associate Professor Nelson is that most art consumers feel exactly the same way. And some of us are sick of being dictated to by those who think that they know better.

If there was ever any more evidence required that artists have lost touch with the rest of us, it is this. Ironically, it is on an issue where the rest of us have lost all sense of perspective (I speak of society generally) and become hysterical over the merest suggestion of someone getting their rocks off on kiddie nudity.