Monday, April 21, 2003

junk for code has shifted

A heap of junk for code has shifted to Moveable Type. The new address is here.

Thanks to Scott Wickstein for organizing the move. I could not have done it without him. I was too whacked from painting the roof of the porch of the electronic cottage and decorated front of the house above the porch to be able to do anything other than collapse and stair in the distance.

Then I had to shift clothes and furniture to the new townhouse in the early evening.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Moving 11

We travelled back to Adelaide from Victor Harbor this morning. Everybody was going the other way. It was glorious weather on the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula coast. Balmy autumn days, no wind, glorious sunshine. The place was jumping with Easter holiday makers. We were so reluctant to leave.

Adelaide was dead and empty. Shops were closed. So were the cafes. Everybody had gone south for fun, romance and family joy. We called into the new townhouse in Sturt Street. It was empty as the previous owners had gone. It was ready for us to move in. The Vogue grey walls were very noticeble. Ari hated it. He couldn't see the street and he refused to go upstairs to the bedrooms, study and balconies----the stairs were too step, the gaps between the stairs were too great and the steps were too polished. The great white hunter, killer of possums, galahs and magpies, had to be carried up and down the stairs.

It had a very urban feel---so different from the electronic cottage in the South east corner which has a friendly residential/community village atmosphere even though it is in the inner city of Adelaide. Sturt Street was more hard edged. Street kids hanging about; a drunk squatter reeking of metho staggering out of a derelict house; cars moving all the time; people walking down the street; no speaks to anyone. There is no eye contact. Agtet sat by the front security gate and lapped all the sounds up ---it promised to be a 24 hour day party.

Suzanne had cold feet. She is a suburban girl at heart. The electronic cottage was cute and sweet with its mornign sun in the back courtyard and afternoon sun in the front porch. Sturt Street was too raw. It was in area where people worked and business was conducted. We have gone deep into debt to do this and we keep our fingers crossed that house prices continue to rise, consumers go on a spending binge in the US, American businesses invest big time; unemployment keeps coming down in Australia; economic growth continues in SA and the Reserve Bank keeps saying no to interest rate rises and huge tax cuts are offered to those who reckon the meaning of life is spend, spend spend.

Yep it's a gamble. Australian house prices have got to hold. We trust no one. The market sucks. Its all blind faith and naked greed. The market says justice is a mirage.Its grab what you can when you can. The regulators only care about covering their back from the follies, indulgences and stupidities of others.

Then back to the electronic cottage to continue the renovations, pack and met the new tenant---a female computer programmer who works from home ---and her parents. 20 something professional women have yet to fully gain independence. The parents have to check the landlord out to see that he doesn't take advantage of their daughter. A century of emancipation and still the parents keep a watchful on their daughters. Urban life is seen to be threatening by those baby boomer adults whose horizons are formed by a suburbia that was a refuge from the harsh city.

Time is short. We have to be out by Thursday. And to make it worse we are going to shift ourselves.

At twilight time, after all the days work was done, we sat on the front porch, sipped a Coonawarra red and listened to a Kookaburra in the city celebrate life.

I've decided that a heap of junk for code is going to leave Blogger after the disasters I've experienced over the last two days--Saturday and Sunday. This weblog will move to Moveable Type. Like James Russell I've had enough. Blogger sucks big time. Even though I'm paying for Blogger Pro. the service is deplorable.

Blogger is now back online but Sqwarkbox is out. Great. Easter is time for everything to fall aprt.

Nothing much will change with the content of a junk for code. The mask will continue to be a melancholy cultural critic whose roots are in a pessmistic, western continental marxism concerned with a damaged life.; a cultural critic who affirms the particularity of individual experience in the face of a systematic neo-liberalism that speaks for American-style techocratic Enlightenment.

Friday, April 18, 2003

I see that Norman Mailer has a new book out called The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing. You can find some reviews here and here, if interested.

I gave up reading Mailer years ago. I found his writing too macho, pugilistic, sexist and too much of a traditional conservative baroom brawler. I recall that I stopped reading his work about the time that I sort of decided that Anglo-American literary culture was in decline.

I do appreciate Mailer as the political being and his ability to decode those American flag conservatives (neo-cons) who desire an Empire as a way to prevent the country from going down the drain. Mailer reads the subtexts of that political scene very well; understands the flag conservatives (ie., the neo-cons) deep hate for Bill Clinton when he was US President; and he is able to clue right into an American political unconscious that is marked by a great guilt that it has meant the Americans have lost their compassion.

Mailer also has a sense of the tragic. He understands that Israel has now become one more powerhouse in the world; that they treat the Palestinians as if the Palestinians were ghetto Jews; and that Sharon is a brute, a powerhouse general, whose defense would be that “I am what fate has made me.”

To his credit Mailer understands that Anglo-American literary culture was in decline. He grasps that the new media of television, radio, and substandard cinema----the culture industry----has caused literature as art to wither into a literary journalism. And journalism has withered into entertainment ass they became cogs in the production machine of the culture industry. Something went badly wrong with an Anglo-American literary culture in the last quarter of the 20th century---writers are no longer taken seriously anymore----but Mailer is unsure what to do about it.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

wog sterotypes

The server was down last night. I could not post a weblog in Victor Harbor after giving a talk on the Murray River to the local Marine Society. It was a good socratic question and answer session. I will post the talk on sometime next week.

We have two days of rest and recuperation on the coast before we go back to Adelaide to finish the painting. We need it as the stress of shifting household is starting to tell. Suzanne has had a migraine for three days straight and is completely out of action. Ari has not eaten for 4 days though he was chasing rabbits this morning.

And renting the electronic cottage has become a hassle.The person selected highly groomed 20's passive something who works in a bank, has a bright, confident, independent persona, and who gaily signed the lease contract last Monday with the flourish of a merchant banker. Lebanese, but definitely not wog glam. Nor a wog sterotype who did not make a radical distinction between wog heritage and Aussie nationality.

The aspiring mechant banker was a bundle of neuroses. We had two phones a day haggling then saying no then yes, then no then yes then no. Family troubles you see. Lebanese immigrant culture. The parents will not allow a mid-20s single woman to live on her own. Wog culture really is anti-urban and anti-liberal. No doubt the 20's something was full of shame because of her foreignness.

Once the shift to the urban townhouse has been made, then we are off for a holiday in Mallacoota; well, more specifically it's the Inlet in East Gippsland, Victoria via the Great Alphine Road A week there to get to know the place.

Will there be an internet cafe in Mallacoota? There is a community weblog but, if there is such a cafe, then I reckon that internet will be a problem. But I don't want no Victorian cultural tourism

Then back home to Adelaide through Melbourne, that great melting pot of wog culture----(Sydney says it is the
multicultural capital
), then along the Great Ocean Road yet again.

Aaah, being a tourist in my own land seek a range of cultural experiences on the road by passing the signs that celebrate white settlement and refuse to offer any kind of critical account of Australian history. Driving through the country towns will be stepping into the pioneer idea of the past as a set of signs, or a set of icons that sit there for easy consumption.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

making it plain

If you to want to see support for the view that the war on Iraq has really been about the cultural wars in Australia, then this piece by Andrew Bolt makes it very plain. It's pay back time for the 1968ers and those who opposed Australia's involvement in Vietnam.

The political unconscious here is one which represents the left as supporting evil (terror, tyranny and genocide); the left driven by the dark passions of resentment and loathing and a left that sneers. Resisting the bad forces are the forces of goodness.

Bolt says it plainly:

"The war in Iraq has been won well. Let's move on to the next war -- a war for our culture. A war for truth, rationality, humanity, democracy and wisdom. Let the accountability begin."

In this war scenario the left is held to be against truth, rationality, humanity democracy and wisdom. The left is the Counter-Enlightenment. Its against the heritage of the West. It is opposed to liberty.

The tone of the conservative attack is harsh. Blood is required for atonement for the past attacks on the West. Sacrifices need to be made. Retribution is necessary. Its a culture war.
Nice quote and .....

"...high culture ... is no longer the dominant culture but is rather a pocket within commodity culture'

(John Frow, Cultural Studies and Cultural Value, Oxford, Clarendon 1995, p. 86).

And the moment of high literary culture? It still stands for the old narrative stories of the intellectual as outsider – the 'maverick' who preserves or redeems the space of rational public discourse from the ravages of the marketplace, the mass media or culture industry and politics. This high literary culture is an aesthetic one that is disdainful of academic life and the plodding dreary academic scholar or researcher for their lack of taste in a lifestyle sense. They come across as monkish hermits who have no sense of romance, joy, flirtation and the pleasures of desire.

I know. They were the very people Suzanne rejected as tenants for the electronic cottage. They were beyond the pale by definition.

Now a single working class female psychiatric nurse who was also a writer of literature -----aah that was a very different story.

The space of the aesthetic in public life is the space that stands in for “unalienated labor”, the whole person. Sorry Chutney and Invisible Adjunct; you got the wrong institution. It ain't the academy, the realm of cold hard theory. Its the literary institution that centres around immediacy, individual experience, sensousness, the unique and sensibility.

It is a literary culture that refers back to European culture and instinctively repudiates philosophy (theory) and criticism (negative harping) whilst emphasising good literary writing. It is an art or a writing that fulfills the hunger for the humane, the spiritual and the remembrance of things past.

Outsiders and mavericks? Well hardly. In a world emptied of meaning these literary voices wearing the mantle of cultural authority are filling the void whilst continuing to distance themselves from the common life.

Its easy to imagine their moral sensibility. Romantic love gone wrong. Boy betrays girl. Young girl hangs herself with the blue ribbon of her lost childhood. The style is effusive with a serious moral undergone. Its all very literary and hastily put together. Standard photo of moody literay type on back cover.

And me? I'm just searching for a way to make melancholy cultural criticism sexy.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Its still the eyes

Blogger was down last night so I could not post at the end of another long day of painting the electronic cottage and dealing with possible tenants.

How do you decide between those interested? A single woman who works in a bank; a young professional couple; a working class nurse just arrived from Sydney; a male academic just arrived from Brisbane on a research contract; a young Korean couple in American street wear who are overseas students and can't speak a word of English; a young lower middle class guy returned from overseas who has a dog; Australian student couple with a hippie/grunge dress style; a young couple planning to live inner city even though the women is terrified of all the nasties that stalk the city streets at all hours etc etc.

What I did notice was that eye contact was still a part of human interaction in establishing trust as one human being to another. It was embodied in the negotiations around 'expressons of interest' that lead to a market contract and to the exchange of money for a service.

Eyes are still the more intimate place of connection betweenone human being and another; the place where human beings continue to express our trust in another being and to the world of convention that joins us.The light of free and generous eyes is most openly expressed in terms of romantic encounters---though not those on the Internet and is what is most cherished.

Of course when the romance goes right, convention is flouted and we are betrayed by naked self-interest we seek revenge by wishing to blind those who have betrayed us and weep false tears. American's miss this, as the deep wish for revenge in American movies shown on TV is usually expressed in terms of killing the other; or mutilating their genitals. Much better to return to the Greeks (eg; Hecuba) and mutilate their vision. They abused 'the look of the eyes', the promise with trustworthy look, and so blind to romantic convention. We turn away from them in disgust.

In such situations why not set the world to rights by bringing to light what is really between the romantic couple? Mutilate the vision of the betrayer because they are blind to convention?

Does that not capture the tragic moment of romantic love?

Saturday, April 12, 2003

just another day in Adelaide

The sun was shining this morning. It promised to be a glorious autumn day. After an early coffee at Lucias (7.20 am), a hug at the Coles checkout counter and a big shop in the Central Market, we had a quick breakfast on the front 'porch' of the electronic cottage.

We chatted to the local councillors about quality of life issues of Adelaide city as they came by canvassing votes whilst taking phone calls about renting out the inner city electronic cottage.

Yep the big shift has started to happen. Its on. Another week and we are out of here.

The rest of the morning and early was spent painting the front fence and showing young professionals around the cottage. Then lunch, a quick glance through the Financial Review looking for blogging topics. More phone calls about renting the one bedroom cottage.

So many peoples lives in transit. Broken relationships, houses being sold under tenants, women asserting their autonomy from boy friends, students moving from hosue to house and so on. Then sealing the sandstone tiles on the porch. A passing squall and washed away the sealer. I cried.

My tears were washed away by the rain and they flowed down the gutter with the storm water, then out to the sea in the St Vincents Gulf.

More people having a squeeze at the cottage. Everyone found it cute. A quick shower then walking the dogs in the parklands amidst grey skies, swirling leaves, mild temperatures and the odd drop of rain.

Returned home to Suzanne getting dressed up for a dinner with a long-term female friend at one of those Italio-Australian New Cusine resturants where the wine starts at $50+ a bottle and the food is cutting edge.

Just another day really. Its called stark reality. Everybody was jolly and friendly. No one mentioned the war in Iraq, Israel, the woes of Australian democracy, the sources of instablity in the world of nations or Rupert Murdoch's liking for a good bombing.

In Adelaide in post-war Australia the economy is booming, house prices are rising, rents are increasing, happiness is in the air.

It is a balmy night, the Barossa chardonnay is full of flavour and the poodles are happily crunching on their bones in the back courtyard.

No more postings from Salam Pax but Chris Allberton is going great guns. I read Ralph Peters to get into the swing of things.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Dear Doctor

I woke up this morning feeling depressed. Winter is coming.

You can feel the cold in this chill world where people talk past each other, and behind the masks there is a tacit acceptance of inhumanity.

Doctor do you think that we are losing the capacity to distinguish who has done what harm to whom.

Doctor we seem to be spending our energies disentangling ourselves from past intimacies. We accept that romance is a fragmentary collision of wary strangers full of sociability lacking appropriate objects.

I was in a pub last night doing a bit of networking over a drink and overheard a bright young professional saying that all spontaneity should be mistrusted. Only romantics let themselves go and even that was a pose they'd learned from their counseller or therapist about the advantage gained from appealing impulses.

Her companion presented herself as a victim of injustice. She had the air of someone who knew what life was like. A malignancy of hardness, hate and intolerance.

What is happening to me. My life seems to lack meaning. I no longer know why I get of the bed each morning. I no longer know how to live serenely.

Doctor, how nice of you to give me two minutes of your time to listen to my woes about the poisons of individualism for a fee.
romance in cyberspace

The form in which life's little pleasures are expressed are changing.

I thought that a bit of theory was needed after reading some of the sad comments on 'tears the heart'.

If you don't enjoy that theorizing romance, then how about a bit of social science-US style on Love on the Internet?

Bounce out of it as if you'd hit a brick wall? Cold science has nothing to do with warm desire?

Then this whimsical Chagall-like image will appeal to all those who think that romance is alive and well, even though the good men out there are entrapped in drunken dysfunctionality; or they are just plain too tired for sex. They've ended in up a place where they can be witty and clever but are no longer able to be be sensitive and romantic.

I don't think the Internet Guys are clued into romance. Of course Cyberspace provides only virtual romance. It just ain't the real thing. But maybe its all we have. Maybe then maybe my romantic feelings are transferred to the computer, now that our experience of the other person is limited to the text.

Maybe its just me and the yawning void. The poetry is pretty bleak. Shouldn't we be listening the poets now that we no longer trust?

Life's little pleasures. They are so difficult to manage.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Top war photos

These are some of the better photos of the war plus a commentary. But we do not see the charnel-house reality of bits of bodies.

The one that catches my eye is the one of the family leaving Basra with the little girl dressed in white frock. That face expresses terror. It says a lot about the battle for hearts and minds.
Imre's junk
I have been at the office all day; meetings phone calls, briefings etc. You know the usual stuff that people do everyday in political life. No time to read the newspapers or hear the news. Just on the go. Switching from this to that to this. You know what I mean. Its modern life.

So I have no idea what's going on in the world. Nor did I care. I feel jaded. Depressed. I feel my life is ebbing away.

Then I spied this..Its Imre Salusinszky doing his smash left intellectuals number. It evoked a memory of a hurdy gurdy song in a seedy fun fair that had seen better times. Its easy to imagine the scene.

There's a women outside Miss Lottee in 1930s swimsuit and fishnet stockings doing a very passable imitation of Australia's foreign minister singing a Beach Boys song Kokomo in a down town Japanese bar. Miss Lottee invited us inside to see the show called Spoofing the intellectuals.

Inside was a balding sort of guy in need of bit of excercise. He wore a bow tie, non-descript clothes and his shoes needing cleaning. He was standing on a bare stage reading from a text in a flat monotone. Live feeds from Fox Television were being broadcast on a tv on the right front of the stage. Left back the pianist was slumped over the keyboard. It was all very minimalist, spoiled by the huge Australian flag being used as a backdrop. That made the performance kitschy.

I couldn't hear much of what Imre was saying because of the high rev babble on the television. But it got the gist. It had something to do with lefty intellectuals barracking for the enemy in the Iraq war.

Must be a comedy act I thought. I never like comedy. The free to air networks were full of comedy shows. Soem peopel thought that you could never get too much comedy. Whole evenings were devoted to comedy from what I could judge.

My initial take on the show? A postmodern gesture to the soapbox oratory in the park I thought by an old modernist sort of guy who had seen better days as a cultural conservative. Very self-referential. But then I see postmodernsim everywhere.

Yet the vibes didn't feel too good. I looked around . A few people were standing around. It was a free show. But no one made eye contact. "Not good, not good", I mumbled to myself.

I heard this:

"The tradition of critique and scepticism among intellectuals in the West is nothing new; it stretches back nearly 3000 years to Plato's Academy. However, in the age of capitalism and of the mass culture that has arisen alongside it, that critique has in a great many cases become something quite different. As intellectuals have found themselves marginalised, critique has morphed into disgust at the habits and values of ordinary people – a disgust reflected in the title of a "progressive" tract such as Michael Moore's Stupid White Men – and has been accompanied by a wholesale rejection of the habits and values of the open society."

Yawn. God. How many times have I heard this routine. Then a variation. A bit of creative spark.

"But contexts change and what seemed like harmless wankery before September 11 seems like something else now. September 11 put a fundamental question to the intellectuals about their ultimate allegiance and whether their critique functioned within Western liberalism or was, in fact, a challenge to it."

This was no postmodernist gesture. It was the good old either routine. It completely displaced the way critique had functioned within western liberalism and was a challenge to it. Chewing gum and walking the jive.

I yelled out. 'Hey Imre, "critique is good to have around cos its the lifeblood of democracy. Even old Socrates understood that you know."

Imre stopped. It was a theatrical gesture. But he really needed to catch his breathe.

The voice of Miss Lotte drifted in filling the silence. She was singing

"Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take you
To Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama
Key Largo, Montego baby why don't we go

Ooo I wanna take you down to Kokomo."

Imre started winding up on what he meant by harmless wankery ' seeming like something else now'. It took the form of a long detour by way of the moral lessons WW2 and housepainting.

"Give us a break Kokomoa ," I yelled. "Don't you know that its difficult to write poetry after Auschwitz."

I walked out. Miss Lottee smiled at me. She really did look like some guy I saw on television a lot. You know the one who is a bit of mummy's boy. She was singing.

"Ooo I wanna take you down to Kokomo
We'll get there fast
And then we'll take it slow
That's where we wanna go
Way down to Kokomo."

I plunged into the crowds bumping into an astrologist who was talking excitedly to her handbag about the stars being down to earth . I could hear an old David Bowie song being played. I stopped to listen. It was about heroes. A wounded soldier walked by.

Thats another story.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Tears the heart

This is story about romance not love; a postmodern romance.

Yep, there is such a thing. Its all about constructed identities and cyberspace.
The war party

Here is a website that is totally devoted to the photos of the Iraqi victims of the war.

It is under constant attack from hackers---from the war party. Who else?

What's wrong with this crowd that they attack the first amendment of the American constitution? Aren't they meant to be representing the good guys, the Enlightenment, in this clash of civilizations?

Are they meant to be fighting to defend the Ist Amendment?

What it shows is that the American Enlightenment has gone totalitarian, doesn't it?

Oh I know the response from listening to Fox Television. Its patriotism. Those photos support the Iraqi's political strategy to swing world opinion away from the Anglo-Americans.


American nationalism and exceptionalism have swallowed up the liberal tradition.

Lets hope it resurfaces for all our sakes.

Statute of Liberty

These are night thoughts.

I couldn't sleep. It rained all day yesterday.The plumber, who was meant to come at 9am, turned up 5.30pm. That's the time the poodles were really chafing to go their walk. The plumber was Lebanese and hated dogs.

I was depressed last night after watching 4 Corners on the ABC.

Suzanne was in Brisbane. My mind was racing. Not even a glass of wine slowed me down. And we move in 3 weeks.

This is as far as I've got in making the night thoughts coherent.

In the opening passage of Kafka's Amerika we read of a statue of liberty with a "sword" in hand. Should we accept Kafka's substitution of a sword for the actual torch?

Or should there be a torch of Enlightenment in one hand and a sword in the other.

I favour both. That gives me America as the militarised enlightenment.

No one else seems to like that idea though.

I can see historical precedents. The 'enlightened absolutist', Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia. Maybe the party of humanity can dismiss Frederick's Prussia -as a militarized, war-hungry state indifferent to individual civil and political liberties and so resembling a perversion of the true goals of the 'party of humanity' rather than their fulfilment.

But we do have the co-joining of enlightenment and military. The neo-con US is another kind of co-joining though instrumental reason.

You see it if you see the current events in MIddle East in terms of a clash of civilizations and then view the clash from the perspective of a conflict between the accelerating forces of modernity and the resistance by a faltering, defensive, traditional religion-infused Islam.

Its crude. I know. But its okay as a first cut.

What you do see is the American eagle over the Middle East.

The eagle swoops on prey. It likes babies and the innocent.
A query
'vulgar aesthetic irrationalism'

A suitable definition of that right wing tabloid network Fox Television?

Do you think that Rupert Murdoch reckons Fox News eludes rational understanding and that feeling is everything?

Well I saw a bit of Fox cable on Media Watch. One of its executives celebrates praiseworthy immediacy.

What I saw was a babbling along with the stream of media images. The primary reception response was one of consumption.
New oz blog

This is high class writing. Sets the standard.

Sunday, April 06, 2003


I am reading Paul McGeough's, Manhattan to Baghdad: Dispatches from the frontline in the War of Terror. I come across this scene.

An Egyptian man dancing alone in a nightclub a few hours before the opening fury of Operation Desert Storm in 199. He says:

"You live, you dance, you die."

No, 'you love'?

The Iraqi's in 1991 knew too well what the impact of the US bombing would be. They would become hamburger meat.
Indivdual voices

If we take multiculturalism in Australia seriously, then we need to listen to different Iraqi voices and hear what they are saying. Zainab Al-Badry is one such voice. She is an Iraqi living in Australia. She speaks here and here about the war. It is a more complex and ambivalent response than that offered by the masculine, rightwing voice of Wogblog.

Here is another voice from an Iraqi living in Britain.
Back to Iraq

Christopher is going great guns walking the mountains over the Turkish Iraq border as he makes his way back to Iraq.
War dogs

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this. This is the history of the dogs of war.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

good ole wogblog

I see that the conservative Wogblog (April 3, 2003) has been dishing out the trash again to lefty Oz webloggers (public opinion and She sells sanctuary to keep the cultural wars going in Australia. The cultural wars have been flagging a bit with the failure of the conservative Iraqi war wedge.

The responses to the trashing can be found here and here. I want to come at it from a different perspective.

I would take the cultural fight more seriously if conservative ethnics, such as the proudly Italian Wogblog, broadened their historical perspective of being under attack by the institutionalised racism of Anglo Americans, and started acknowledging the racism within ethnic communities towards Anglo-Australians, Aborigines Arabs, Muslims and Asians. Reverse racism is the phenomena.

Those subject to white racism are not necessarily pure or free from racism----ie., defining a particular cultural group (eg., Arabs) in a negative way.

Of course, just raising this means being charged with being anti-migrant and anti-ethnic.

But white Australians are not the bearers/repository of all cultural evil, whilst the non-white migrants or aborigines are the bearers/repository of all cultural goodness. Social reality is more complex than the dualism of a defensive, communal multiculturalism makes out.

Its about time the question mark was placed over wog as in wog culture in Australia. This is a good start. What is taken to be wog culture has its roots in the European immigrants who came to Australia after WW2. Since they came from agricultural areas and small towns, rather than the big cities, they were peasants, culturally, religiously and socially. It is this deeply conservative and patriarchal culture that informs wog culture; and it is one that is at odds with urban cosmopolitan culture of liberal Australia.

Friday, April 04, 2003

new OZ weblogs

I came across this one by Ian McMillan in Sydney courtesy of Tim Dunlop. And this one has some good photos of graffiti in Newtown Sydney. Weblogging in Australia is going great guns.
Pioneer History

I collapsed last night. Running 3 weblogs, holding down a job, doing renovations to the 1890s cottage and shifting to a new electronic townhouse in the city (Sturt Street) took its toll. After visiting the chiropractor to fix a twisted, painful back and walking the dogs in the Adelaide Parklands I barely had enough energy to do a transport run down to Victor Harbor, grab a pizza at the Beachside Cafe along Franklin Parade, open a bottle of red and eat my dinner. I was asleep in the armchair before Taggart on our ABC had ended.

This morning, after doing the morning shopping, we sat on the outside tables at the Barvarian Coffee shop near the causeway to Granite Island in the sun. It was a glorious sunny day with a cool sea breeze and I was thinking about returning to the Corrong National Park to take some photos in late autumn.

The three stately poles of the Margaret Worth Sculpture, On Occupied, which had been officially opened last week, looked magnificent against the backdrop of the bright blue sky. It referrred to the 1802 encounter between Mathew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin and the encounter with the local Aboriginal nation

As I was reading the Sorry Statement from the Victor Harbor Council (no link) and looking after the poodles whilst Suzanne was ordering coffee. A Grand Pioneer Parade of people, costumes and machinery from the 19th century cruised past. It was Heritage Week in Victor Harbor. What was presented was pioneer history for tourists. There was no sign of the destructive relationship between the Ngarrindjeri people and British colonists in the Grand Parade; or any indication why the Ngarrindjeri people were now living at at ex-mission settlement at Point McLeay.

That was Saturday morning coffee. I needed the time out.

Whilst sitting there relaxing I saw very few blue jeans, coke cans or baseball caps: those symbols of the US version of the good life. Maybe culture does not triump politics and economics after all.

Thursday, April 03, 2003


Recall one of the Howard Government 's reasons for going to war with Iraq once the weapons of mass destruction reason failed to get traction. The Iraqi regime gouged the eyes of children, cut out the tongues of opponents, shredded human beings in shredding machines and killed a million of its citizens. This human rights record is probably quite accurate and it would be a good reason for human beings to flee from state terror and seek asylum elsewhere.

Yet this is the same government which blocked the aslyum seekers from entering Australia and, at the time of the last federal election, implied that these people fleeing from hell were terrorists.

We do not want these sort of people here was the refrain.And it won the election on this hard line of national security

This is a government that has no sympathy for human suffering. It is one that condemns itself by its own words.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

a little myth

The server was down last night but I was too tired to write anyway. I fell asleep watching the 7.30 Report at the end of the interview with Anthony Cordesman. This morning is another day.

There is an article here by Janet Daley, a columnist with The Daily Telegraph London.

Not the Australian one where we find Piers Ackerman holding forth on the way that the term neo-conservative has been used by the ABC's instant experts as if it explains everything. He says, 'Typically, such usage by Four Corners' reporters explains nothing and exposes only the ignorant bias of the national broadcaster's flagship program.'.

Janet is writing about the duty of journalists during war being clear: avoid any hint of treacherous behaviour like talking to the Iraqi state run media. What caught my eye was this paragraph:

"Well, it's easier for members of the commentariat like me: we are paid to give our opinions, the more heated and idiosyncratic the better. In print journalism, partisanship is acceptable. But what about the broadcasters who just report and analyse? When does duty to their supposed impartiality become self-indulgent professional vanity?"

The commentariat are no different to the webloggers. There is no pretence that they are informing, providing news, or being objective. They just have a bigger media platform than their webloggers for their partisan opinions. And they are paid to be over the top and outrageous. It sell copy.

It is the broadcasters who just 'report and analyze' ---but not interpret. Their loyalty is to objectivity which requires them to maintain critical distance from all the interested parties.

Its myth that broadcasters are objective and do not interpret? Thats what they do. Interpret the news. However, interpretation is bias and thats not being objective. Its a myth being recycled here. Interpretation goes all the way down.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

All in a days work

I did manage to see the piece of Oz bloggers on the ABC's 7.30 Report. I was painting the roof of the porch at the time and was trying to listen to Kerry O'Brien. I heard something about the coalition military forces trying to convince Iraqi civilians that they're liberators rather than conquerors.

Then Suzanne my partner called me in. Everybody looked the part. Such a diverse bunch of public intellectuals. But no Tim Blair? Then I went back to painting for an hour or so and I mulled it all over while high on the paint fumes.

The phrase 'they're individuals seated at their computers day and night, unpaid and devoted to keeping themselves and their fellows better informed' did capture some of the phenomenon. John Quiggin's remark that,

"I think what's been published in the Australian weblogs is as good, or better, as what's been published in the opinion papers of the major newspapers"

was very apt. But this insight did not connect the writing on the weblog to other kinds of writing --to the literary institution; nor did it explore the weblogging writing as a new kind of writing. And the programme missed exploring the relationship between 'better informed' , opinion, citizenship and democracy.

The programme missed the diversity of the writing because it viewed weblogging through the eyes of the media. Bloggers will never supersede the mainstream media nor are they parasites on the media. But the insight of James Morrow that,

"The blogs are really kind of the front line.They're like a new wire service of volunteer reporters and rewriters and commentators, who are all out there getting news out to other people and each other.."

only captures one dimension of weblogging. It is the perspective of a journalist weblogger and was reinforced by Gareth Parker's comment that instant feedback is provided bya lot of the bloggers. Yet webloggers make no pretence to be objective and balanced in the way the media say they are. Weblogs are very partisan--- but then so are some of the US television networks on the war. They see themselves (eg. Fox) as an arm of the US military. 'Rewriting' and 'commentating' captures some of it but it misses the polemics.

This weblog, for instance, makes no pretence to be news or provide news. It is an online cultural criticism that situates itself in opposition to the culture industry. It is cultural criticism with a very personal voice.

MIck O'Donnell did mention 'critique' when he said that James Morrow 'delivers a neo-conservative critique of the latest - [news] from the ABC, the American media - all of his pet hates, like the coverage of the deaths of US soldiers., But there was no exploration of the role of 'critique' in Australian society; or how a weblogger does it differently from a neo-conservative journalist in the tabloid media.

Nothing about the role of neo-conservatism in the culture wars or their attack on the liberal media. This sort of weblogging has nothing to do with being "umpires of the net, blowing the whistle on media complacency." It is a political critique of the role of liberal media in a democracy. What is the purpose of this critique? Once again no mention of democracy.

What was most disappointing was the failure to explore the whole relationship between weblogging, poetics and politics briefly mentioned by Gianna. A pity. Because there is a lot of good creative writing being produced by webloggers.

The programme was too centred on the weblogging/journalism relationship and whether or not webloggers woud free themselves from their dependence on mainstream media. But it was a long way ahead of, and far more informative than, the material on weblogging presented on Radio National Summer Show earlier this year. That limited weblogging to social gossip, personal diaries and voyeurism.
A dream
I finished the day's painting around 8.30pm; then fell sleep on the couch whilst having a bit of a relax.I woke up with a start. I had been dreaming. Dreaming that I was having dinner in a Kurdish restaurant with Chemical Ali. Thats all I remember.

Oh, I do remember another bit. The waiter was from Amnesty International. He called Chemical Ali Ali Hassan al-Majid. They seemed to know one another from somewhere.

More fragements of the dream return. The food was late because the cook kept on burning the Turkish flag.

And the juke box played an old Chuck Berry song called The Promised Land.

Chemical Ali would have nothing of it. All he wanted to hear was Johnny B. Goode, which he played over and over again.
Iraqi Photos
I cannot read Italian so I don't know what is on this website. But I can read the photos.

Why do Australians want to kill these people in order to pay a premium on a security insurance policy with the US?

Monday, March 31, 2003

Where is the support for Turkey
I have been scanning the Australian news looking for Howard, Downer and Hill giving a doorstop to express their strong support for Turkey resolute and courageous stand in the war. As a read it Turkey has acted by sending its troops to establish a defensive ring inside Iraq to prevent the influx of refugees from the war.

This is something Canberra understands well. And Turkey knows a thing or two about Islamic terrorists. Haven't they suffered like Australia from refugees? So where is Canberra's support for a fellow anti-refugee soul mate trying to stop a flood of asylum seekers?

I haven't seen anything in the media? Have I missed it? Or did the above ministers duck their heads?

Shouldn't we misunderstood manly nation states band together and affirm our loyalty?

Oh, such support would mean going against the US line that we should be angry with Turkey because they refused to allow their sovereign territory to be used to launch a northern front, even though they were offered huge bribes. And we cannot criticize the US cos that would be seen as dissent from a loyal and trusted friend of the US.?

Oh dear. What is the world coming to.
Early morning thoughts

Because the job of renovating the electronic cottage is so boring and tedious I have time to think about the worlds around me and what I've been reading (currently, Ghassam Hage, Against Paranoid Nationalism.)

What I thought about yesterday was that those conservatives in power in Canberra who love a good war do offer us hope.

Well, it is hope of a sort. It is something like this.

If I am possessed of the Australian character, then I have the capacity for upward mobility even though I am at the bottom of the heap. Even though my life is one of scrapping the barrel, I not not need equality and the good life handed to me on a plate. I have the capacity to hope for a better life. Unlike Aborigines and ethnic communities in the big cities, I, as a white person have the capacity to get myself out of this hole I'm in, get myself a better job, a better lifestyle and more consumer goods.

Australian society offers me opportunities to make a life for myself and so create and give social significance to my life and so be recognized as a worthy human being living in a decent society.

Does that get it?

What I see as I walk the streets to the Parklands with the poodles is social death: the neo-liberal economics of the past two decades has produced unemployment, poverty, neglect, homelessness, wounded bodies sleeping on park benches or church doorways. Third world conditions have been created within the boundaries of the nation in our cities. A world of the rejects of global capitalism is now in existence, and there is no acceptance of these marginals in our public spaces. It is a world marked by a lack of social hope. The poor, especially those with dark skins, have to be moved on from public spaces, and they are left to defend for themselves. The excluded are seen as potential criminals.

As are whole ethnic communities. Increased penal sanctions is the answer. The media I glance at and the conservative law and order local councilors and state politicians who knock on my door at election time encourage me to make a causal link between criminality, poverty and ethnic identity.

That is what I see daily. A world without hope. And the small business that I pass in Hutt Street as I walk to the parklands? Well they are just hanging on, doing the best they can. There is a sense of entrapment in the air. Hope is scarce as they realise that they too are becoming marginalised. They are unsure what to do about their new life condition of struggle street. They are fearful, wary, insecure and worried.

And me? Well I have given up hope of social advancing. I'm stuck in marginality too. I'm struggling with seeing myself a no-hoper as I endeavour to persevere in my own being. I'm in search of a national cuddle, though I don't expect to find it.

And the big solution to re-connecting to social hope? The conservatives in Canberra say we gotta defend the nation and the Australian way of life from the refugees and the terrorists coming from the Middle East.

Sunday, March 30, 2003


This is the charge often used against the critics of the war.

When so is used it means an irrational aversion to the United States, an opposition to its core values and to the dynamism of its economy and culture. It refuses to acknowledge a distinction between disagreeing US foreign policy in the Middle East as a super-power and affirming the people, democratic culture of the US and the utopian idea of a national America as a land of freedom: the American dream.

In the culture wars waged by conservatives in Australia anti-Americanism stands for 1960s-style radicalism, which is held to undermine Australian traditional culture and values. Left-wing criticism of the US in Australia, which once affirmed Australian cultural diference, is held to be anti-American in its very core. It is a hatred of the American people and and culture per se.

The charge of the anti-Americanism of the Australian left when it is lumped in with the anti-Americanism of Old Europe---we are all against the Iraqi war-- pretty much amounts to the term being used as a political weapon.

That move fails to acknowlege that Australians do not share the European belief of cultural superiority over the US which holds that the US has no real culture'; or that the Europeans see US as a neophyte in international politics and in need of diplomatic guidance by wise European hands.

The anti--Americanism of the Australian left has its roots in the emergence of the US as a major power, the way that it has used that power to further its national interest and a criticism of the idealised of images of America. The cultural criticism decodes both the myth of America and American paranoid nationalism.

The field of power relations is the key because they give rise to the tension between dependence and independence in Australia's relationship with the US, a feeling of resentment at the limitations on Australia's autonomy as a nation state by that relationship, and the ongoing internationalisation of American mass culture. What arouses antagonism is the way the US governments uses their power to establish optimium conditions for US companies, often at he expense of Australian concerns and interests.
Alternative voices

There is a great post on motherhood and the duties of citizenship in a war situation here. Do take time to read this post by a weblog that is of very high quality.

The post raises the issue: when should mothers with young children go off to fight in a just war. How old should the children be? It raises the issue in response to photos of mothers in the New York Times going off to war.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

A little bit of silliness?

I read in The Weekend Australian (no link) that Brendan Nelson, the federal Minister of Education, has been privately telling state governments to rigorously inspect teaching at Islamic schools fearing that anti-Western feeling was being promoted. Publicly the Minister is saying that the allegations are unfounded.

After reading that bit of news I decided to immediately affirm the Muslim custom of drinking a strong black coffee.

Oh, I know its a silly middle class response to the paranoia of the national security state. But then I am no-hoper ---newly marginalised is my new life condition.

In a multicultural liberal society that Australia proclaims itself to be, the federal Minister of education would have also been privately telling state governments to rigorously inspect teaching at Christian and Jewish schools fearing that anti-Islam feeling was being promoted. He didn't.

He didn't, did he? The perception of threat to the security of the nation was onesided. So much for multiculturalism.

Do you get the sense that our national culture is becoming claustrophobic and our public spaces full of fear?

Paraniod nationalism. That is the culture of the national security state.
Historical shudders

The ongong shock and awe tactics, coupled with the urban battle for Baghdad, look like razing Iraq. How many wounds can the Iraqi people take from the blowtorch of the militarized enlightenment? I shudder to think what the country will look like after the war. I shudder at the extent of the suffering of the Iraqi people. I shudder at the leagacy of this conflict in Iraq.

I find the blanket coverage of war provided by the TV network's news services is boring and mind numbing. Matt Price sums up the experience well. He says:

'Last weekend I watched John Howard give a televised press conference where he declared the war was going "better than expected". Moments later the caption – "Howard: War going better than expected" – appeared at the bottom of the screen. When Howard finished, the newsreader summed up that the PM thought the war was "going better than expected". They crossed to a correspondent in Canberra who agreed that, yes indeed, Howard thought things were "going better than expected".It's inane and mind-numbing, yet perversely hypnotic. Amid the dross there has been brave and informative reporting, although many correspondents embedded with US and British forces appear to be going native.'

Its not hypnotic. Its boring. That's why my energies are concentrated in renovating the inner city cottage and increasing household debt.

Renovating is boring as well. But at least I have a sense of achieving something at the end of the day. Watching blanket coverage of war by the TV networks leaves me with a feeling of ennui.
Says it well

Paul Dibb, an Australian defence analyist, sums up the previous post about the e- military types on the ABC's 7.30 Report in one pithy sentence:

"The mistake military analysts make is to think this is a military operation with a military end."

Its not. The military operation to overthrow a tyrant is an instrument of the political goal to contain and roll back a militant Islam.

Friday, March 28, 2003

I have given up watching the ABC's 7.30 Report on the war with Iraq. Its pretty poor stuff. Those two ex-military types, JIM WALLACE & PETER NICHOLSON, are a pretty poor show. They are advocates of “a new kind of war”, based on the combination of high-precision airpower and a few elite units on the ground. Their view of things is summed up in this prediction:

"When the long-anticipated fight against Iraq begins, it may not last long. A reasonably optimistic timeline might look like this: simultaneous airstrikes, Shia revolts and manoeuvres of the coalition ground force on the first day; by Day Four, substantial allied ground forces are near Baghdad; by Day Seven the defences around the capital have fallen; by Day 14 most organised resistance has been defeated, except for isolated elements in the city."

The two resident ex-military types on the 7.30 Report continue to see success just around the corner.

What they say is that things are great, victories are being won, and there are only minor hiccups. They do not take into account judgements that Rumsfeld sent too few troops, say retired generals. They have no feel for the political side of the war at all. based on Arab media portray a bloody conquest. No attempt is made by them to analyse Iraqi military tactics and strategies based on reports like this Because everything is viewed from the Anglo American military perspective we get no sense of how the battle is being waged across the country. The Iraqi's are almost seen as incompetent goons instead of the Anglo-American military having significantly underestimated the enemy, the psych.ops strategy based around shock and awe being a failure.

The Major General on SBS's World News Iraqi Special cuts them for dead.

The only person on the 7.30 Report talking any sense is Hugh White. He is the only one with a broad perspective.The others should be pensioned off and let Hugh White take over. He is the only one with a sense that the perception of war is shifting----from one of welcome liberation to one of a war of conquest. Since the ABC won't pension the others of, then we are best reading war analysis accounts here. Much more sophisticated and informed.

And ABC Watch has been running a pretty poor show in criticism of the ABC. He just points the finger at Kerry O'Brien's pessimism. He should be burning along with his watchdog role.

The only person on the 7.30 Report talking any sense is Hugh White. He is the only one with a broad perspective.The others should be pensioned off and let Hugh White take over. He is the only one with sense that the perception of war is shifting --from welcome liberation to a war of conquest and a sense of what the battle for Baghdad will be like.

This contains some plain accounts from westerners in Baghdad about the impact of bombing on ordinary Iraqi's.