Outnumbered, Merlin, and other recently seen TV

One of my regular viewing blocks lately on a Saturday and Sunday has been the “kid’s channel” ABC3 between 6pm and 7.15. Why?


That’s the cast of the very funny, very clever, and only just suitable for children, comedy from BBC, Outnumbered.

…written, directed and produced by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, It is about a family where the parents are outnumbered by their three children. The first series first aired between the 28 August and the 5 September 2007. A second series aired between the 15 November and the 27 December 2008. A Comic Relief Special, Christmas Special and Sport Relief special aired on the 13 March 2009, the 27 December 2009 and the 19 March 2010, respectively. A third series aired between 8 April 2010 and 20 May 2010. The fourth series aired between 2 September 2011 and 7 October 2011.

I had, coincidentally, borrowed the DVD of  Series 1-3 from Wollongong Library a while ago. The final episode of Series 4 was shown on ABC3 last week. The pic above is from Series 1. ABC3 is now replaying Series 1 so if you want to catch up! Apparently there was a series 5 in 2014. See the episode list.

Tyger Drew-Honey, who played Jake the older boy – right above – is now 18:


That’s not from Outnumbered!

But it is quite something the way the show was partly adlibbed, and therefore how spontaneous it often seemed. The kids became real characters, growing up before our eyes over the various series.

That Outnumbered’s trio of child comedians manages to produce exceptional performances is a testament to their ability. The youngest, Ramona Marquez, eight, who was named best female newcomer last night, has, according to its director, Andy Hamilton, “the face of an angel and the mind of a barrister”. He knew only too well the difficulties of getting children to act after casting his own daughter, Isobel, then seven, in Bedtime, his 2001 comedy series. What he learnt stayed with him – and in Outnumbered, neither Ramona, nor her fellow child star Daniel Roche, is permitted to see the script. Instead, they’re briefed with a rough outline of what they’re supposed to do before each scene is shot – and the rest, as they say, is carnage.

Guy Jenkin, the show’s co-writer, who also worked on the newsroom sitcom Drop the Dead Donkey, gave an example: “We wanted Ramona to say, ‘You smell like you’ve been to the pub. She actually said, ‘You smell of pub’. It’s more like a child, and funnier.”

As Tyger Drew-Honey recalls:

Do you and Jake have much in common?

Quite a lot of Jake was me, because we got to choose our own character names and the writers and directors knew the show was going to be heavily improvised to get naturalistic performances. The audition was all improvisation exercises.

Back then you never used to see the script. Has that changed?

From series two I always used to see a script at the start of the day. Sometimes it says “improvisation session” and we’ll sit down with the director and talk about ideas, but it will be one half-hour take when there’s no script at all.

If you have never seen Outnumbered, do have a look if you get the chance.

After Outnumbered I have become rather fond of the fantasy series The Adventures of Merlin, loosely based on the Arthurian legends – ABC3 6.30 – 7.15 Saturday and Sunday.


Beautifully filmed in Wales and France, the series is really hitting its stride now on ABC3. It would appear there are quite a few episodes left for us to see, though apparently it was cancelled in the UK in 2012-13.

Merlin series 5 is already halfway through in the UK – but won’t debut in the United States until January 4, 2013 on Syfy. Without giving too much away, series 5 of Merlin will see Arthur finally ascending the throne as king, while using the recently assembled Knights of the Round Table to battle his legendary villain Mordred.

Completely different from either of the above and from just about anything else on the box has been ABC2’s Please Like Me.  It has grown on me, particularly after the outstanding Episode 7. “Mum and Josh go hiking in Tasmania. There are some funny and revealing times. Mum cries herself to sleep a lot and gets trapped in a waterhole. CAST: Josh Thomas. #pleaselikeme” In the US the show has made quite an impression, it appears: Emmys take a shine to Josh Thomas’ Australian comedy Please Like Me.

Depicting the realities of mental health on the small screen

As part of Mental As week across ABC platforms, Please Like Me again revisited the relationship shared between Thomas and his mother.

In including their story and depicting the realities of mental health on the small screen, Thomas said it meant his mother had been heavily involved in the production of the show.

“A lot of the story is based on her and because you’re not allowed to do that without someone’s permission, she has to sign this huge contract,” he explained.

“She has the highest level of script approval, higher than the ABC or the America network.”

While Thomas said that his mother had approved most of the content, there was one instance he fondly recalled.

“She once ripped up the script in the first two pages that said her house was really untidy (because she’d been depressed),” he said.

“That upset her. That was the only thing she’s pulled me up on.

“It’s hard to get people to care about mental health.

“It’s only something I’ve heard people talk about and understand in the last five years. It’s really built traction.”

That Mental Health Week programming was quite wonderful. A highlight was the three part documentary Changing Minds.

Filmed inside one of the busiest Psychiatric Units in the country, Changing Minds: the Inside Story uncovers the realities of 21st century mental health treatment as we meet the patients and staff who are challenging, with humour and honesty, the stigma and taboos that exist around mental health.

In order to film the series at Liverpool Hospital, an intensive 6 months of pre-production, involving protocols, legal and access agreements was undertaken by the team before filming commenced.

Over 12 weeks, a small crew from Northern Pictures filmed inside the locked wards of the Mental Health Unit. From electro convulsive therapy, to modern psychiatric drug regimes, access has been unprecedented. For the first time on Australian television, we film the proceedings of the Mental Health Review Tribunal and see the legal process that allows unwell people be held against their will whilst being treated.

The series follows the journeys back to health of patients unwell at the time of their admittance. It’s raw, funny and sometimes uncomfortable. But the message is clear – help is available.

EDL Changing Minds_0

See also the comments here.

There was also a rather wonderful QandA in which this memorable exchange occurred:

TRINETTE STEVENS: I would say that your reluctance to address homosexuals, as well as their civil rights, is quite detrimental to their mental health.
BOB KATTER: I am quite happy to address that issue any time anyone brings it to me, right? I have an electorate where I have a person committing suicide between Longreach and the Gulf of Carpentaria every two weeks in the cattle section. I have large First Australian communities, where it is absolutely endemic, right, and if you’re saying, well, what’s your priorities? Well, the priorities that I got are the people that are confronting me and quite rightly confronting me. That is the problem that I have to deal with. You have a problem that you may have to deal with in your life and if I can assist you in my way, I’m only too happy to do that.
JOSH THOMAS: I think probably the issue, right, is you say that it’s not a priority but you talk about it quite a bit and when you do talk about it, you say awful things, so that is the problem. So if you’re – if you’re – if you’re going to – if you’re going to go out there as an elected member of Parliament and deny the existence of homosexuals in your electorate, which is kooky – adorable but kooky – of course people are going to get upset, right? And what worries me when I hear you talk like this – and I spent the day Googling you and you’re adorable – is you say a lot of really important powerful things, right, like what you have said tonight, I hear it and I think this is a guy that cares and it’s really important and when I hear you talk about dairy farmers and you say people in the cities should spend more than $2 on milk, I agree with you. But then when you go out and you deny the existence of homosexuals in north Queensland – they exist, there is an app called Grindr, I will put it on your phone – you disenfranchise the community. I mean I spoke earlier about guys and being afraid of talking about their feelings and afraid of being feminine and afraid of looking gay, right, and that is all tied to the kind of homophobic talk you get all through society. If you are trying to talk about mental health and on one hand saying this is very important but these guys don’t matter, then the whole community just falls apart.
BOB KATTER: You know, I most certainly have been guilty of cracking jokes upon myself, upon just about everyone.
JOSH THOMAS: I don’t think it’s a joke. I don’t think you were joking.

To be fair, much the greater part of what Bob Katter said was passionate and compassionate – in his rather unique way. I was impressed, and so indeed at times was Josh Thomas. There were also other panellists of note, and much was canvassed. It was in fact one of the best episodes of #QandA ever – and politician-free. As is tonight’s episode.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Finally, ABC News 24’s One Plus One is often heartbreakingly good these days.

Something different

Who is this person? When do you think such a photo may have been taken? Where? Why?



1865. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Alexander Gardner’s portrait of Lewis Payne, 1865.

In Barthes’s now canonical meditation on the photograph, Camera Lucida, he is pricked by a condemned man, by Alexander Gardner’s winsome portrait of Lewis Payne. “He is going to die,” Barthes writes of the Lincoln conspirator, “I read at the same time: This will be and this has been.” As Barthes considers Payne’s portrait—taken for reasons similar to Vaillat’s—he shudders “over a catastrophe which has already occurred.”

That is from Photographing the Guillotine by Stassa Edwards, an article in The Appendix, October 14, 2014.

The Appendix is a quarterly journal of experimental and narrative history; though at times outlandish, everything in its pages is as true as the sources allow. The Appendix solicits articles from historians, writers, and artists committed to good storytelling, with an eye for the strange and a suspicion of both jargon and traditional narratives. A creature of the web, its format takes advantage of the flexibility of hypertext and modern web presentation techniques to experiment with and explore the process and method of writing history.

There is also a blog.  I will certainly be exploring further. I was immediately drawn to an item on that remarkable Victorian era traveller Isabella Bird, some of whose work I have read.

Unlike myself, Isabella was an exceptional packer. When she explored the interior of Japan, she described the provisions with which she set out. She writes:

I have a folding-chair… and air-pillow for kuruma [rickshaw] travelling, an india-rubber bath, sheets, a blanket, and last, and more important than all else, a canvas stretcher [for sleeping] … I have brought only a small supply of Leibig’s extract of meat, 4 lbs. of raisins, some chocolate, both for eating and drinking, and some brandy in case of need. I have my own Mexican saddle and bridle, a reasonable quantity of clothes, including a loose wrapper for wearing in the evenings, some candles, Mr. Brunton’s large map of Japan, volumes of the Transactions of the English Asiatic Society, and Mr. Satow’s Anglo-Japanese Dictionary.

One hundred and thirty-six years later, it’s still a pretty good list for someone on the move. When I first discovered Isabella, I found a kindred spirit, a fellow wanderer to share my journeys with as I shared hers (see: “brandy in case of need”).

See the list of contributors.


I had a letter from the Prime Minister!

He said “I know where you live and I’m going to come around and shirtfront you if you keep saying nasty things about me and my friends.” Or was that, “I’ll rip your bloody arms off?”

No, of course he didn’t say either. It was addressed to no-one in particular, except on the envelope. It began:

In recent weeks, you will have noticed an increase in your pension…

It went on – mentioning the Carbon Tax of course and the need to bring the Budget back under control – to say that there were nasty liars out there saying the government is cutting pensions. It didn’t actually mention the change that has happened to the way pension increases are calculated, but hey!

Good to see Australia Post scoring a good dose of snail mail, by the way. Though the Herald-Sun didn’t think so:

TAXPAYERS face a $1.2 million bill for the Prime Minister’s national mailout to every aged pensioner in Australia to reassure them he will not cut their payments.

Despite the “budget emergency” alert earlier this year, the Abbott Government has confirmed it is spending a seven-figure sum sending out a ­personal letter to every aged ­pensioner.

The letters, mailed to ­1.7 million pensioners this week, will cost an estimated 70c each, a total spend of ­$1.2 million.

“There have been claims that the Government is cutting pensions. This is not true,’’ PM Tony Abbott writes in the letter.

“There are no cuts to pensions. I want to reassure you that the pension will continue to rise in March and September every year.’’

The letter does not explain to voters that the Abbott Government resolved in the May Budget to change the indexation rate for pensions from 2017. These changes would deny pensioners an estimated $449 million in pension rises by 2020…

But here is the bit NO-ONE has yet noticed: Mr Abbott reveals his secret signature on this letter!showscan

Look at that, people! Does it not say Tony ALLAH? Eh? Eh?  “What can that mean?” I hear you cry! Exactly! The game’s up, Tones! You’re sprung, mate! I reckon the security agencies should check out the Manchurian Candidate in the Lodge RIGHT NOW! (Excuse me while I wipe that annoying white spittle from the corner of my mouth….)

Barry Spurr trending on Facebook

Currently the topic University of Sydney is absolutely dominated by the unfortunate Bazza. Honi Soit reports:

A rally titled ‘Sack Barry Spurr, Professor of Bigotry’ ended with an announcement that Professor of Poetry and Poetics Barry Spurr has been suspended from teaching and banned from campus.

Over the last two years Spurr used his university email account to send messages littered with racist and sexist slurs, New Matilda revealed yesterday.

“Professor Spurr is suspended, effective immediately, from teaching and engaging in any other University business and is precluded from attending any University campus, while the matter is investigated and dealt with in accordance with the terms of the University’s Enterprise Agreement,” Vice-Chancellor Spence wrote in an email to students.

“Racist, sexist or offensive language is not tolerated at the University of Sydney. The expectations for our staff and affiliates in respect of their professional and personal conduct are clearly set out in the University’s Code of Conduct.”…

USyd staff and students were shocked by revelations of Spurr’s private correspondence.

“Barry’s reputation is for conservatism, not the kind of shocking prejudice and racism there is in these emails”, Dr. Nicholas Riemer, a senior lecturer in the English Department, told Honi.

“It’s important that natural justice be observed in this case just as in any other, but the first priority has to act unequivocally against racism and sexism in the university.”

“I had a great deal of respect for [Spurr],” said Bryant Apolonio, a fifth-year law student, who majored in English. “I’m appalled and angry and what he’s done.”

When asked whether he thought Spurr’s recently discovered views informed the content of his teaching, Apolonio said: “Unsurprisingly every poet he taught was a white dude.”

“I guess you could dismiss that by saying that almost every Modernist poet was a white dude,” he said. “But then he co-ordinated Reading Poetry, every poet was still white and a dude.”

Chris Warren, a first-year arts student, called Spurr a “dinosaur” who lacked “the ability to relate to his fellow human beings.”…


Cartoon from Honi Soit

I participated in some of the Facebook and Twitter responses. For example:

  • Neil James Whitfield I really think he has tipped over the edge, Adam — if the reports are accurate. He was always a reactionary, but this? Weird! 16 October at 21:19 ·

     Adam Aitken He liked me enough to invite me to St Pauls College to have dinner with him and a few of his student friends. I must say I felt a bit ‘out of place’, and am not sure if that had something to do with my ethnicity and the way they talked about me, and talked to me. It’s all a long time ago. 16 October at 21:22 ·

  •  Neil James Whitfield Perhaps he hoped you would join his Latin Mass coven…

The last refers to Church under attack for ‘fifth-rate trendiness’ (2003):

…Dr Spurr bemoaned the way the Church has jettisoned much that was beautiful – the ancient Latin Mass, the Gregorian Chant, graceful architecture, dignified ceremonial – in exchange for “fifth-rate trendiness, social and political correctness, and infantile worship accompanied by badly-strummed guitars”.

The result, all in the name of capturing a younger generation of worshippers and revitalising the Church’s role in the modern world, has been the destruction of the liturgy, the collapse of religious orders worldwide and dwindling congregations. All these factors combined to produce a spiritual life “dumbed down to the level of the consumeristic bread-and-circuses junk culture of modernity,” he said.

He also managed to direct a barb at two favourite Spurrian targets, TV and sport: “Television is the principal transmitter of this gruel-like diet, vomiting endless sport and soft porn … to fill the vacuum where the pro-active imagination and heightened sensibility of the mutely-receptive, ever-sedentary viewers should be.”…

Barry Spurr has mounted a defence on the grounds the offending emails did not represent his real views but were a joking linguistic role-play adopting a kind of Alf Garnett persona and competing with his intended reader to see who could be most outrageous,

Believe it or not I am actually willing to believe that because I once did something analogous with a colleague, though certainly not racist, and not by email! See Still trawling through archives.

And finally, for the time being:

30 December 2001. Childish… but it was fun at the time.

For the past several years a colleague, Max J., and I have amused ourselves at work with a copy of Nuttall’s Dictionary of Quotations that happens to be in the staff room. A product of the early 20th century, Nuttall features hundreds (probably thousands) of quotations from the Greek and Latin, as well as other European languages–and English, of course. Max and I began “translating” some of them, combining in equal parts: some knowledge of Latin, French, German or Greek; sheer perversity in punning and word association; evil. Here are some samples, from a very limited “collected edition” I made several Christmas Holidays ago:

1. Vitae philosophia dux, virtutis indagatrix.
The dux lived for philosophy, but found virtue in doggy tricks.
2. Qui non proficit, deficit.
He who does not make a profit will be shat on.
3. Nec vulta destrue dicta tuo.
Your penis is like the neck of a dead vulture.
4. Sardonicus risus
An erection is a touch comical.
5. Formosa facies muta commendatio est.
In Taiwan, silence at stool is highly prized.
6. Nullum est sine nomine sexum.
Nothing is sinful if it is done in the name of sex.
7. Sumo petit livor.
The Japanese wrestler is looking for a flatmate.
8. Est naturae hominum novitatis avida.
It is natural to show passion towards novices.
9. Fama crescit eunda.
Celebrity makes the nether parts longer.
10. Justitia virtutem regina.
The queen has the power to moisten nipples.
11. Forma bonum fragila est.
An ant’s erection is very delicate.
12. Non obstante veredicto.
Do not oppose a real dickhead.

Well, it was funny at the time… ;-) A couple of my regular readers will be amused at least, if only to see in what aberrant ways teachers may relieve their boredom and/or stress.

Dear me!


In passing, I am delighted to find Nuttall is available online.

That Barry Spurr was one of the reviewers who helped give the Review of the National Curriculum the outcome Christopher Pyne desired is not surprising. I noted Dr Spurr’s form ages ago: The HSC English moanings of Miranda…

…and her mate Barry Spurr.

From the esoteric mind of a Latin Mass Catholic HSC crib writer and a right-wing Catholic newspaper columnist comes this “objective” analysis of the 2009–2012 NSW HSC prescribed texts

Go and read the list for yourselves, carefully. You will see that the real objection may be that some of the texts appear a touch “politically correct”, at least to people like Miranda Devine. If the collected columns of Miranda were set for study, I am sure she would not have complained in the least.

Meantime, HSC students from 2009 will still be able to read Shakespeare (in fact a very large number of students — those doing Advanced — have to) and Jane Austen and, for the first time I can remember, may even read Banjo Paterson. (In the past it was usually the more left-friendly Henry Lawson.) I see John Donne is back too; Professor Sam Goldberg (English Dept Sydney University mid 1960s) would be pleased! But so am I about that one…

There is not one complaint being made about this new list that was not made by the same people in precisely the same way seven years ago about the first set of prescriptions for 2001-2008 when that appeared in 2000. Experience has taught me that the reservations I had about some of it myself in 2000 were unjustified, except I still feel the course is too ambitious, but Miranda and Barry would find that very odd..

Barry managed to adapt his crib empire to it and has no doubt prospered, and will no doubt continue to do so, and despite all I have said I have made good use of Barry’s cribs myself.

Links in that post may not work any more.

See also my post Right-wing education critique is historically inaccurate and perpetuates myths (2007). This is a very substantial entry which is worth rereading, even if I do say so myself.

Big claim? Yes it is, and it is also true.

I have come to this conclusion after reading Shelley Gare’s often entertaining Triumph of the Airheads (Sydney, Park Street Press, 2006) — especially Chapter 7, “How to Educate a Goldfish”, which purports to explain the decline of education at all levels in Australia since the 1960s. In that respect it parallels Kevin Donnelly’s work.

That is not surprising as her “evidence” is largely anecdotal,  based on conversations with Kevin, of course, several advisers to George Bush, Luke Slattery, a Canadian called Catherine Runcie, cognitive scientist Max Coltheart (who in common with several in this list was not in Australia between 1969 and the 1980s and seems to have little idea what actually was being discussed here among teachers, especially English teachers), Barry Spurr, and others. The most reputable figure cited, in my opinion, is writer/critic Pierre Ryckmans (Simon Leys) whose work I do respect for its courage, clarity and subtlety. He is head and shoulders above the rest of that lot….

Minor coda: on Thomas’s old blog I found this comment from The Rabbit, whereby does hang a tale or two that I will leave hanging….

I tried reading Paradise Lost once. I think I was trying to impress The Evil Doctor Spurr (of study guide fame). Since then I’ve decided to read what I like.

Neil, Thomas is going to become a public school teacher — BA BEd (Syd). Muhahahahaha!

On the Catallaxy Open Forum is an article from the Oz that represents the second part of Barry Spurr’s defence – and this is worth pondering.

So a couple of Alinskyist wreckers (Graham/Bacon) have found an unscrupulous useful idiot in IT to help execute political enemies. Unless this is quickly upgraded to a police investigation, University of Sydney will become an outlaw badland where anyone can have email accounts hacked and confidences can’t be kept:

Professor Spurr said his email account had been illegitimately accessed and he suspected it was “payback” for his participation in the curriculum review.

“I allege that my account, my emails, have been illegitimately accessed,’’ he said. “Somebody has gone into my university email, which is password sensitive. I don’t give my password to anybody, ergo someone has got into it illegitimately.

“This is being investigated. This is payback for the curriculum review … they decided to go after the messenger.”

When asked whether he was certain the emails were not leaked by others in the chain of recipients, he said he was “absolutely certain.” He said most of the emails were sent to an old friend, with whom he has an ongoing mock exaggerated exchange of language. While New Matilda claimed emails had been forwarded to a dozen university recipients, Professor Spurr said some of the emails obtained by New Mat­ilda had never been forwarded.

“Some of the emails they quote were only sent to my friend,’’ he said. He was positive the friend had not leaked the mat­erial: “I am absolutely sure. He is my oldest friend and he has been assisting me in this matter.

“I don’t know how they got into my email account and trawled through it, but they did.’’

A spokeswoman for the university confirmed “the allegations of email hacking would be investigated and an investigation is under way”. That would form a separate investigation to the one into Professor Spurr’s conduct.

Still, what possessed the man to write things like these? Even in jest?

Line from Spurr’s emails:

“One day the Western world will wake up, when the Mussies and the chinky-poos have taken over”

“He [Australian prime minister Tony Abbott] should have put his foot down and said, ‘No more Abos’. But he’s as gutless and hypocritical of the rest of them”

“No Abos, Chinky-poos, Mussies, graffiti, piercings, jeans, tattoos. BCP [Book of Common Prayer] in all Anglican chruches [sic]; Latin Mass in all Roman ones. Not a woman to be seen in a sanctuary (church) anywhere. And no obese fatsoes.”

I find the jape far from jolly, I’m afraid. And how silly to email the stuff as well! Even the Daily Terror characterised the events in headline as Nutty professor’s bizarre racist rant… What makes me particularly uncomfortable is that some of the views expressed by Alf Garnett Barry are not a hair’s breadth from the known views of Professor of Poetry Barry – on the churches and women in worship in that last quote, for example.

This brief hiatus is brought to you by…

Screenshot - 16_10_2014 , 8_47_38 AM

Yes, that is what I see after logging in (correctly) to my account in order to recharge my dongle. It looks really pretty but just doesn’t work.


The phone alternative offers a discouraging wait of 20-30 minutes before the friendly voice from somewhere on the planet deals with one. (I should add that past experience of actual dealing with those voices, once reached, has been good.)  Clearly a number of irate customers are exhausting their mobile phone batteries because the website is stuffed this morning.

I have a teaspoon of juice left – maybe enough to post this.

It’s just over a week since I posted Revisiting Redfern/Waterloo – archivally — 5.

Meant to publish the last two in this Rabbitohs Big Win series yesterday, but my Virgin Mobile Internet had conniptions: “Mobile Broadband been down for almost a day and a half now. Newcastle NSW”; “In past 24 hours Virgin Network suffers serious data distribution and overload problem and no statement from Virgin on that matter many users wasting hours in calling support and no answer or solution to serious Internet problem.”

Fingers crossed today!

At least it isn’t down today…  Not a good look though.

4 pm

OK, after some time at Diggers and shopping in the new centre, I returned to this note:

Outage notification

Our online services are currently unavailable. We thank you for your patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused.


Fortunately the problem seems to have cleared and my recharge worked. :)