Wednesday, April 27, 2005

MUSU (Truth and) Lies

For those keeping an eye on the rivetting saga of the collapse of the Melbourne Uni Student Union there's a curious little teaser which recently popped up on the web at www.MUSUlies.com:

MUSU TRUTH & LIES
The consipracy of silence: what Melbourne's media, academic elite, political commentariat and labor apparatchiks won't tell you about the downfall of the Melbourne University Student Union Inc

The inside story, authorised by former President Darren Ray.

LAUNCHING SOON


And that's it. For now, at least.

Is it really former president... sorry, that should read disgraced former president... Dazzling Darren who's behind this curious little piece of internet publishing? Too early to tell at this stage, although the owner of the domain name has gone to some lengths to conceal their identity.

The folks at NetworkSolutions have this information on the registration of the domain name:

Registrant:
Domains by Proxy, Inc.
DomainsByProxy.com
15511 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
United States

Registered through: GoDaddy.com
Domain Name: MUSULIES.COM
Created on: 22-Apr-05
Expires on: 22-Apr-06
Last Updated on: 22-Apr-05

Hmmm, the date makes sense, with the site coming on line just days after the registration, but what do we know about DomainsByProxy? DbyP have this little teaser on their front page:

The law requires that the personal information you provide with every domain you register be made public in the "WHOIS" database. Your identity becomes instantly available - and vulnerable - to spammers, scammers, prying eyes and worse.

But now there's a solution: Domains By Proxy!

Worse?? Like what? The Supreme Court of Victoria?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

China and the US: Australia's balancing act

The fine folks at Vibewire have picked up a piece I wrote on Australia's relationship with China and the US. First two paragraphs here, the rest in the comments, or you could head straight to the source:

In the giant game of musical chairs which is international relations, who will be sitting and who will be standing when the music stops … and who the hell chose the music anyhow?

During the Cold War, understanding global power was easy – even Ronnie Reagan got his head around it. There were two, strongly opposed sides, each fiercely convinced of its own rightness, and nations around the world aligned with one or the other. On one side the US and Western Europe represented democracy and capitalism, whilst on the other side was the Soviet Union, with its own network of supporters committed to socialist solidarity and the wearing of silly hats. Economically, each possessed the power to woo nations around the world to its cause. Militarily, after the instability of the first half of the twentieth century, stability in the second half was ensured through the two great powers balancing each other out – Mutually Assured Destruction. MAD by name, but generally it worked.

CONTINUED IN 'COMMENTS'

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Stop whinging

This afternoon I received a chain email which appeared to have pased through many pairs of electronic hands before it came to me. This one had a local touch, withe fine folks at the Ex-Service, Service and Veterans Party deciding to perpetuate a small bit of lunacy.

The thrust of the email is that we the poor oil-guzzling consumers are being ripped off by those mean, nasty oil companies who are changing extortionate amounts for the black gold that so many pour into their vehicles each day. The email encourages consumers to fight back against this awful, awful injustice which empoverishes us, we the bright sparks of the wide brwon land should boycott the two major petrol vendors, Mobil and BP, in the hope that they will lower their prices and hence start a price war. Okay, got that?

The email is monumentally stupid for multiple reasons, and it is surprising that intelligent, respectable people have decided to forward it in the hope of achieving their petrol-soaked orgy.

First, the fundamental practical argument. Petrol prices are high because oil is resource of which supply is dwindling whilst demand is ever increasing. It's simple free-market economics, and no amount of industry price tit-for-tat can obscure the fact that the scarsity of oil is a reality, and prices will continue to rise.

Secondly, the philosophical argument. Why are enlighted people becoming so incredibly vain and self-indulgent in deciding that petrol prices is their cause celebre. The campaign posits petrol consumers as poor, innocent victims desperately needing to be freed from their hated oppressors. One can well imagine the Tsunami victims of Banda Aceh taking pity upon the poor motorist of Kew, forced to pay $1.35... YES, A DOLLAR THIRTY FIVE... for their petrol this winter. They know a real tragedy when they see it.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the alternative. Consumers would be much better served by developing alternative fuels rather than bitching and moaning like spolit kids over the price of petrol. For the first time in ages, alternative fuel sources like hydrogen and ethanol are being taken seriously, and this can be directly attributed to the fact that high oil prices are making the alternatives more relatively viable. This is the future of energy production, and the sooner we embrace it, the sooner we can move toward containing the cost of living... oh yeah, and saving the planet.

Anyhow, enough from me... here's Barry's plan which got me all fired up:

Petrol prices - worth thinking about!

I called the number on the bottom of the email, and it is for real. This initiative does come from Barry Minster, worth calling and chatting to him if you need reassurance.

Apparently we are going to hit close to $1.35 a litre by the winter. If this happens the prices will flow on down to the price of every thing we buy! Want petrol prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action. Philip Hollsworth, offered this good idea.

This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy petrol on a certain "day" campaign that was going around last April or May! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt ourselves" by refusing to buy petrol. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work.

Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a litre is CHEAP at .89 / .95 cents, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace not sellers. With the price of petrol going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of petrol come down is if we hit someone in the pocket by not purchasing their Petrol!

And we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.

Here's the idea:

For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY petrol from the two biggest oil companies (which now are: BP and Mobil). If they are not selling any petrol, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of BP petrol buyers. It's really simple to do!!

Now, don't wimp out on me at this point...keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!! I am sending this note to a lot of people. If each of you send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300) ...and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000)... and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth generation of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That's all. (and not buy at BP and Mobil) How long would all that take? If each of us sends this email out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!! I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you! Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on.

PLEASE HOLD OUT UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE 80 cents a LITRE RANGE.

It's easy to make this happen. Just forward this email, and buy your petrol at Shell, Caltex, GAS. or Gull Outlets and drive past BP and MOBIL Stations.


Barry Minster ~ National President
Ex Service, Service & Veterans Party
www.esvp.asn.au
13 Ermington Place
Kew 3101
Telephone: 03 9816 9713

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

China-Japan tussle up close

I received a really interesting email yesterday from a friend of mine (who wishes to remain anonymous... I wouldn't own up to being a friend of Ari's either) who is an American working in Shanghai. It follows on from the angry protests in the city on Saturday in opposition to Japan, particularly the representation in Japanese textbooks of Japan's control of China last century. It was interesting to see the first public protest in China in 6 years, and the passive support given to the rally by the government.

Hey Ari,

You know, I can't tell you too much, as I didn't go. Reports were only counting 10 or 20 thousand, which really is low frankly, compared to the overall population. When people really get excited about something then you could see a hundred thousand plus, what would that be, maybe 2 percent of the overall population? But that is also reflective of the Shanghai mindset, which is laid-back and cooperative.

So it didn't have any big impact. Everyone was out with their kids or friends like it was nothing. Traffic was awful was the only problem, and yes there were a decent number of cops about, but nothing draconian.

It was a big topic of conversation all this past week though. At work people were sending emails back and forth about the protest. There is talk of a boycott also, which could hurt lower-end Japanese goods. According to my sources, high-end Japanese good are just too attractive to consumers to sustain an effective boycott for long.

Personally I am just glad no one got hurt. It is too bad that some restaurants were damaged, but that is a minor matter. And I am also concerned about how this
issue can lead to a different environment vis a vis foreigners. In one case, a simple miscommunication somehow changed an otherwise typical friendly chat into a situation where the driver (who mistakenly thought both that I was rich and also that I was taking the subway to my final destination rather than taking his cab)ends up muttering about 'cheap Americans'!! Very, very not normal in Shanghai. Another guy selling vegetables told me if there was war he'd be the first to sign up. He was cool towards me, just passionate.

Other than that not much to report. This will be interesting because it is the first time the young'uns have seen this kind of thing. Watch to see if the boycott materializes, that could put strains on the nations' relationship if it were to be effective.

While I don't buy the simplistic malarky that the mainstream media produces about how the whole thing is directed like a play by the state, China needs to be careful. The lousy economy in Japan (for what seems like 15 years now) puts pressure on Japanese politicians to play their own nationalist cards, and if both sides do that the situation could sour. As we all know, nationalism dies hard.

Anyway that's what I got for you for now. Take it easy and hit me up when you got time.

What is it with dictators and flip cards?

Kim Il Sung

Robert Mugabe


Mugabe has just showed himself to be a true dictator, not because of the farcial elections which saw him easily re-elected a fortnight ago, but because of his Kim-like public celebration of Zimbabwean independence on Monday.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Comedy Festival '05 - My best bits

This morning I received this email from the wonderful Annette at The Groggy Squirrel, the fine Melbourne comedy publication that have been publishing some of my Comedy Festival reviews during the Festival, which closed last night:
Hey Guys,

I've decided to be so audacious as to create my own award, the "Squirrel Grip Award". The idea is that it's kinda like The Age Critics' award, just not quite as well known (but far more prestigious!). What I need is for you guys to all let me know your favourites of the festival so I can collate the results. If you could e-mail me with your favorite five shows in order (or however many you wanna list) that would be great.

Cheers


Tough question, but a list that is great fun to put together. I've seen enough shows in the Festival to know that there are a handful of terrific ones, some pretty terrible ones, and plenty hiding in the middle trying to get noticed. This year, I didn't have a chance to see many of the international acts, but saw quite a few of the locals, and this bias is reflected in the final list. Anyhow, for my amusement, your curiousity, and the sake of The Groggy Squirrel, here is my top five list:

5. Eskimos With Polaroids. Some top class, super silly sketches from The 3rd Degree, with the sort of production values that make you glad your bothered, cos you sure as hell know they did.

4. The Wilson Dixon Hour. Brilliantly droll country and western songs performed by a character who had his sense of irony surgically removed at birth. Played by Jesse Griffin, it's a character of David Brent-like cringeworthiness.

3. Jason Byrne. A perfomer who's show is driven by a hilarious ability to improvise everything out of nothing, Byrne is so alive with energy that watching him is hilariously exhausting.

2. Keating!. This rock country soul rap jazz opera theatre thing has taken the city by storm, and with good reason. The second show by Drowsy Drivers Die. it's cleverly writen, brilliantly performed, and proudly nerdy. More please.

1. Dark Side. Tim Minchin takes humourous songwriting to a whole new level, mixing hilariously subversive lyrics with a charming desire to offend everyone who walks through the door, thereby winning them over. Go figure.

And for the lesser awards announced at the Hi Fi Bar on Saturday night (and reported in The Age today):

Barry Award for Most Outstanding Festival Show - Drowsy Drivers Die: Keating!
The Age Critics Award for Best Australian Act - Drowsy Drivers Die: Keating!
Golden Gibbo - Drowsy Drivers Die: Keating!
Best Newcomer - Christina Adams: To Miss, With Love
Piece of Wood (performers' choice) - Tony Law
Director's Choice Award - Tim Minchin: Dark Side


Anyhow, enough of my egotism - what are other people's nominations for favourite show/s?

WILLIAM (Shatner) and COLLINs (Friels)

1:53am, Satuday, 16 April - Corner of Collins and William Streets:

Hundreds of film production people milling around outside the AXA building on that very intersection. Bright lights shine on the scene from half a dozen vantage points. Security guards patrol the perimetre of the site. In the middle of the throng a scene from a Hollywood film using Melbourne as the location for the shoot. Couldn't tell what the film was, but there was plenty of shattered concrete outside the entrance to the building, in what looked like the 'after' shot from a Nias 'before and after'. On the street, a handful of vehicles with fake Texan number plates and the SWAT logo - Special Weapons A-somethingarather Team. Got no idea what it's all about, but it's coming to a screen near you.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

MICF - Josh Earl: Broke

When I think of Tasmania, all sorts of things come to mind. Bad haircuts. Odd family associations. Folk music. All of these things and more are a part of the very cosy and very Tasmanian Broke, performed by Josh Earl. Earl doesn't set out to be hip and cool, but somehow manages to achieve it. The show is breezy and simple - Earl is on stage, with his guitar in hand and a few props in his pocket, and he sings about his life. Songs about family, relationships, movies starring Guy Pierce all get a good run, and despite the often pedestrian topics, there are regular laughs aplenty. As well as his solid musicianship, Earl is adept at the between song banter, which is the source of many of the best gags of the night. There were no signs of nervousness or discomfort despite being very exposed to the small crowd. Despite notionally being a one-man show, Earl happily brings on some assorted others to keep him company. At the climax to the show his AUSLAN-speaking (?) girlfriend Bec/Bek/Beq makes an appearance on the glockenspiel, whilst as a warmup act, two Tassie friends of the Earlster, Tully and Sam, sing some brilliant comedic songs which merge Pythonesque-absurdity with odd looking glasses. A strong team of performers with plenty of potential.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I wonder what Ari's up to...

For my own amusement more than anything else, I've launched a new section on the right hand side - The Diary. Basically, any events around town that take my fancy will get a mention, and anyone who is interested in coming along is especially welcome to get in touch. Arts, academic, cultural, political, social, I'm pretty much an events whore. Yep, it's about as self-indulgent as it gets, but welcome to the world of blogging!

It's raining inside Melbourne Central.

As the rain came tumbling down over Melbourne on Thursday morning, it is likely to be pants that were wet amongst the management of Melbourne Central. After years of renovations and not long before the big relaunch, the deluge of rain poured in through the upside-down glass cone which forms the ceiling of the famous shopping centre. Along with the thousands of other commuters who pass through the forecourt, I saw large garbage bins positioned strategically to capture water as it dripped down from the ceiling. Not a healthy sign. Do'h.

A file photo... not my file, but the SMH's.  Still, who's gonna know the difference?

Launch of Centre for the Study of Contemporary Islam

Wednesday night saw the launch of an intriguing new group at Melbourne Uni, the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Islam. Studies of Islam have becoming increasingly important over the last couple of years, and it is telling that the Uni has decided to group the various academics in the field into the one centre. There has been a problem with centres of this type merely being sycophantic apologists for the fundamentalists - not just in the case of Islamic studies, but in various academic groups dedicated to particular nations, religions, cultures and minorities. Take, for example, the way that Women's Studies and Feminism has been thoroughly captured by the Radical Feminists whilst failing at the tasks of critical analysis or diversity of viewpoints.

If the launch on Wednesday was any guide, the Centre will be a site for plenty of vigourous discussion and debate. The topic of discussion at the launch forum was the political and psychology of terrorists, particularly Abu Bakar Bashir and his merry men in Indonesia.

The founding director of the Centre Prof. Abdullah Saeed spoke about the origins of the word Jihad, which apparently has a much wider meaning and usage than merely Holy War - indeed it can be used to mean "striving to achieve a specific objective" (in the Qur'an, that is).

The ANU's Dr Grey Fealy spoke about the anti-Western paranoia which runs deep in JI, particularly some fascinating writing by Imam Samudra, who has clearly watched too many Wes Craven films and talks of the West as "draculas, monsters and vampires" (if only, Imam, if only...). According to Fealy, the Indonesian Government has yet to acknowledge the existance of JI in Indonesia, and are still deluding themselves that it only exists in other parts of SEAsia.

Finally, Unimelb's own Tim Lindsey had some interesting information about the training that many of the JIers recieved in 1980s Afghanistan. Amongst the allumni from the Afghan militant training camps were Irdis, Mukhlas, Hambali and Ali Imron, which are essentially all the senior terrorist figures within Indo. So that's how they do it. What a small world we live in...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

MICF - Justin Kennedy: I'm With Stupid

For too many comics, a festival show is a chance to do an hour of their typical stand up, flitting listlessly from topic to topic until they find an excuse to bag Eddie McGuire/John Howard/women. Thankfully, Justin Kennedy is not one of these comics. For his show this year, I'm With Stupid, Kennedy has set himself the task of exploring the subconscious, and has taken to the challenge with gusto, even giving his own subconscious a silly French accent and a hat. The show is an admirable success, taking some of the more complex ideas of psychoanalysis and making them both understandable and funny, two prerequisites for comedic success. The start is simple enough, with a few gags to warm up the crowd, which were made largely at the expense of the comic-unfriendly basement room at Flinders Lane's Duckboard House. Once he gets into the swing of the main material, the gags flow thick and fast. Creative use has been made of the sparse multimedia on offer in the room - some music, conversation between Kennedy and prerecorded voice from his subconscious, and spectacular lighting effects (light on... light off!!) - to add to the vibe. Kennedy is establishing himself as an intelligent and clever comic who stands out from the mire of mediocre Melbourne males.

MICF - Gavin Baskerville: As Seen on TV

It's a scary thought that many of us feel like we're on a first name basis with Eddie, Dicko (well, not quite first name, more an appropriate description) and Molly whilst most of us struggle to remember the names of our next-door-neighbours or Great Aunties. Such is the power of television that these people are a big part of our lives, and much as we might try and resist it we are sucked into the collective vortex. It is this very theme that inspired Gavin Baskerville's clever Festival show As Seen On TV. Baskerville is a TV insider, and is full of excitement as he shears his televisual insights to a captivated crowd. Baskerville answers the burning questions on why the ads seems louder than the content, why Logies are so easy to make out of paper mache, and why Australian TV is as shite as it is. Through being the only occupant of the stage, Baskerville gives plenty of personality to the TV who occassionally buts in. 'Stevie' sits in the middle, a little like the Blackboard from the old Mr Squiggle days. Plenty of thought and effort has gone into this Moosehead-funded show. The prerecorded sketches and spoof ads are brilliant, the vibe of the show relaxed, and if only there was a tad more pausing for effect, the delivery would be great as well.

MICF - Alec Fry and Troy King: Run, Nerd Boy, Run

There’s something fun and cosy about watching comedy at The Amber Lounge on Lonsdale Street. Three nights of the week, this place is swarming with Melbourne’s beautiful set, strutting their stuff and paying far too much for hip cocktails which sound a bit like the daily kids activities at the Neverland Ranch. For now, though, the place attracts a smallish crowd, tucked nicely into the corner watching a couple of silly buggers, be, well, silly buggers. The trio behind Run, Nerd Boy, Run have a few moments of brilliance, with gags that hit the spot and clever characterisations that spark the imagination. The three have an obvious talent, and the focus moves from one to the other in what can only be termed comedy tag-team. At times, the show can be a bit clunky, with stretches of gags that seem under-rehearsed and fall flat, and the transitions from one performer to another are far from smooth. Rather than running through well-warn gags about drugs, cars and pop-culture, the show could gain plenty by further developing the characterisations, which generally worked well. The hilarious Reverend CE delivers the language of the people as if it’s the word of the lord, and there should be plenty of room to push it further. A clever sequence about different body parts debating with each other also has huge potential to grow. King, Fry and the Rev have a great talented for accents and it would be great to hear more of it… to be sure, to be sure. Grab a drink, find a pew, and try your luck.

MICF - Arj Barker: Ego, No Amigo!

There are few comics in the world who carry with them such endless reserves of street credibility that they can enter the stage in a purple shroud and a pair of South American shmants (“Too long to be shorts, too short to be pants…”) and still have the audience on side. Arj Barker is one of the few. Barker has been to Melbourne countless times before, and in that time has built up a loyal following. Audiences know what to expect, and lap it up with enthusiasm. There is a wonderfully simple formula to the way that Barker constructs a joke. The set up is always a conventional anecdote, usually leading to a predictable and mildly humourous expected conclusion. Just as the audience collectively reaches that point, the punchline is subverted in often devilishly clever ways. Take the improvised gag at the performance I saw: Arj drew everyone’s attention to the woman in the front row, who was resting with her chin upon her palm. The woman is slightly bored, the room collectively decides… except for Arj who is convinced that she has had a freak accident, with her hand attached to her face as part of a gross deformity, and this, he further speculated, was her first night out in ten years, convinced by her family that she could enter the world and people would merely think that she was a tad bored rather than a modern day (and female) elephant woman. Only in the world of Arj Barker does this thought materialise.

MICF - Jonno Katz: Cactus, the seduction...

Ho hum, just another comedy festival show about an adrenaline-pumped maniac debating with his subconscious as he treks through the arid desert of Mexico with a bizarre Russian by his side. Been there, done that, bought the tequilla. Okay, sarcasm over. It’s hard to find anything to compare Jonno Katz’s Cactus with. It’s an exotic mix of stand up, character acting, psychoanalysis, melodrama and some goddam good thespianism, all performed deep in the bowels of the Victoria Hotels “Toilet”, or something similar to that name. The energy levels are high throughout the show, with Katz developing a thick layer of sweat as he frenetically zooms around the stage, moving seemlessly through half a dozen characters and back again. Conceptually, the show is clever. The ideas are good, the narrative is strong, and Katz is a performer who clearly enjoys his work. The writing is weak, though, and the gags dribble out with little impact, often barely registering on the Cack-O-Meter. It seems like a lot of labour to get to each punchline, and once we the audience gets there it often wonders why it bothered. Remarkably, this show boasts rave reviews from the Canadian press, where it has been performed previously. Obviously Canadians laugh at very different things to what Australians do. That, or they’re mad. Cactus is a brave endeavour, and it certainly stands out from a crowded programme of middle-of-the-road stand up at the Festival. Is it funny, though? Nyet.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Pope buried, Chuckie and Cam married

It's hard to get excited about either event, really. I suppose there was no real surprise about them, and the events were so painfully closely stage managed that about the most exciting thing to come out of the events was a bunch of crazed (possibly drunken) Poles campaigning for Sainthood... and that sure as hell wasn't for Charlie.

During his lifetime, I wasn't a big fan of the Pope. JP2 was the latest in a long line of conservative Catholics who oversaw the slow disintegration of the Church. His reign saw many of the Church's more absurd positions stand solid which circumstances around the world revealed just how absurd they were. Take the AIDS epidemic which swept the third world in the early 80s (were, ironically, the Catholic Church is now at its strongest) - if a Catholic ban on condoms wasn't laughable before the epidemic hit, it was positively murderous afterwards. So whilst the facts of life around the world fundamentally shifted, the Catholic Church under JP2 didn't move an inch. Ditto attitudes toward homosexuality, the ordination of women, and the celibacy of the Priesthood. The facts were screaming for change, and the Church didn't budge. What a shame that is.

And the Royal Wedding. I've been amazed at the animosity toward CP-B. I suspect that whoever was to be the second wife of Charles was always going to face unfortunate comparisons with Diana, who will forever have pride of place in the oversized bosom of the British public. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with CP-B, she is seen as being far too 'establishment' for ordinary punters to relate to her, and perceived as much less likely to provide the sort of innane titilation that the British media seem to thrive on. As for the suggestion that CP-B is ugly, she is... but so what? It's like the entire Commonwealth have psychologically reverted back to the days of school yard bullying, and have collectively decided that Camilla is ugly and we all need to be constantly reminded of it. I have no more respect for the moronic commentariat who make fugly jokes (Why the long face, Camilla?) then I do for the grade 4 bullies who call everyone fat and ugly. Grow up, world, and find someone worth hating to hate. You might just have a new man in Rome to get in the cross-hairs.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Injustice in Fiji, but what about Corby?

A couple of disappointing stories about encounters between Australians and justice systems around the world. Firstly, a story from Fiji (story from AAP, via The Age):

Australian jailed for gay sex

A Fiji court has jailed an Australian tourist for two years for what the judge called a "shameful" and "disgusting" homosexual act.

Retired university lecturer Thomas Maxwell McCoskar, 55, and a Fijian man had pleaded guilty to having sex in the city of Nadi over the Easter period and asked the court for leniency, the Fiji Times reported.

Gay sex is illegal in Fiji, a nation of conservative Christian values, and carries a jail sentence of up to 14 years.

In sentencing the pair yesterday, Magistrate Syed Muhktar Shah said the crimes committed by McCoskar, from Victoria, and Dhirendra Nandan, 23, were "something so disgusting that it would make any person vomit". (Glad to hear the magistrate was unbiased and didn't let his own personal opinion get in the way of his judgement.)

Shah said McCoskar's actions bordered on paedophilia. (McCoskar's partner was 23, so I guess the average Fijian kid is a late, late bloomer.)

"If you wanted to have fun, you should have stayed in Australia instead of trying to come to Fiji and exploit our young boys," he said. (You can see that race is hiding just beneath the surface, despite being irrelevant to the facts of the case.)


In another story, the day of judgement is getting closer for Schapelle Corby. Again, from AAP via The Age:

Corby set to hear trafficking penalty

Accused Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby may learn tomorrow what penalty she faces if found guilty by an Indonesian court.
....
Tomorrow, as part of the Indonesian justice process, prosecutors are scheduled to tell the court's three-judge panel what punishment they think should be imposed if Corby is convicted.

Ultimately, it will be up to judges to decide Corby's guilt or innocence and what penalty should be handed down, if any.

That decision is not expected until early to mid-May.


Unusually, the Indo courts decide what the penalty for a guilty verdict will be a long time before the verdict itself is delivered. Strangely, Corby may be better off with a severe penalty (ie, death by firing squad) since it makes it more likely that the judge will seek to spare her from it by delivering a Not Guilty verdict. If a less severe penalty was on the table (ie, life inprisonment), one can imagine the judge being much more willing to deliver a Guilty verdict.

Personally, I'm convinced of Corby's innocence. She seems to be the unfortunately victim of some supremely bad luck, and some grossly irresponsible baggage handler. Hopefully the Balinese court will see things the same way.

Not everyone is convinced, though. Recently I was chatting to a friend who has had a heavy involvement in working with drug couriers into South East Asia. She suspected that Corby was likely to have been a willing courier who pleaded ignorance once caught, and that the circumstances that she found herself in were likely to be of her own making. Hmmm, I don't agree, but I do trust the source.

Democratic People's Republic of Camberwell

The top photo is from the Mattress Factory Direct store which has just openned at Camberwell Junction. The bottom photo is from Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. Remarkably similar, don't you think?

DPRC: Democratic People's Republic of Camberwell

Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang

Saturday, April 02, 2005

MICF - Drowsy Drivers Die: Keating!

There are not many operas whose dramatic climax hinges on the arrival of postal votes from Antarctica, but Keating! (yep, with an exclamation mark at the end) is one of them. The cast of eight sings, plays, dances and acts their way through the reign of Paul – or pall of Paul, depending on your politics – in a way that captivates both the hardcore political watches as well as the casual musical buff. A basic knowledge of 1990s Australian politics is a prerequisite for making sense of the silliness, although anyone who lived through the period will be able to appreciate the characterisations. Though the players have an obvious affection for Keating as the hero rather than villain, political figures off all sides get their comeuppance, from a Cheryl-and-Gareth dalliance, to a frankenfurter Downer to the silver haired bodgie, Hawke. The songwriting is exceptionally strong, with pacey, clever lyrics combining with a range of musical styles (the promo bills the show rather eclectically as a ‘country, soul and funk opera’). At some points, the writers seem to delight in throwing in the most far-flung and obscure political references that they can find, including a truly bizarre video featuring ABC election guru Antony Green as the singing psephologist. Come the final curtain, Keating! is a cute and likeable concept brilliantly executed by an enthusiastic and talented cast.

Friday, April 01, 2005

MICF - Paul Zenon: The Wizard in Oz!

Paul Zenon is a smartarse, and proud of it. His act is one that artfully combines sleight-of-hand magic with some vintage bad-taste gags and crass sexism (in a good way), all of which manages to create a smooth and likeable British lad persona. Zenon possesses the rare skill of being a brilliant and talented magician, whilst still allowing his deliciously devious sense of humour to dominate the show. While the audience is breathtaken by each trick, he throws in a few quick setup-to-punchline-in-a-couple-of-seconds gags for no other reason than to keep himself and a few early breath-catchers amused. He then moves onto the next bit of magical brilliance, followed by a couple more quick gags while everyone is catching up. The Zenon personality is not to everyone’s taste, and on the night his audience volunteers appeared less than willing to put their trust in his hands when on stage. He is, however, having great fun doing what he’s doing, and it’s hard not to be captivated by it. Up his considerably lengthy trick-pocket-filled sleeve are a vast array of tricks, the best ones of which are a bowling bowl materialising from no-where, a mysterious holey jacket and a gravity-defying glass of Melbourne Bitter. The tricks are brilliant, the gags subversive, and the finished product is fun to watch.