Showing posts from April, 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 : 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. 15511 N. Hay

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

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, t

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. Ev

What is it with dictators and flip cards?

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.

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 i

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.

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

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.

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 Bak

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

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 li

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 c

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 deci

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

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

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 t

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?

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 eclecticall

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.