Horror movies right there on my TV…

Too much Cory Bernadi perhaps…

So here I am recuperating from casting my say in the Postal Survey.

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Actually, I was reading an ebook: Gone With the Wind in fact.

Last night I felt a bit gone with the wind myself as I watched Classic Countdown on ABC. It was very good. Lots of uninterrupted acts.

But was it all really over 40 years ago? And did I look like this back then?

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Asian-Australian sitcoms — and a reflection

Here are Benjamin Law, Australian writer, and Trystan Go who plays Benjamin in the sitcom The Family Law, now in its second season on SBS.

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The casting has been brilliant. One of the funniest things I have seen on TV lately was in Episode 2 where a drama teacher uses off-the-wall casting techniques whereby young Benjamin gets the role of Medea after a melt-down in the school toilets. Looking forward to how that plotline develops. On Trystan Go:

The actor, whose theatre credits include The King And I, plays Benjamin Law in the small screen adaptation of the best-selling memoir about life on the Sunshine Coast in 1990s Queensland…

“When I read the scripts, I could really see that I’d enjoy playing Ben,” Go recalls.

“The things he does are so wacky and weird. Ben is funny, without trying to be — a real showman. He’s intense too, a bit self-centred, but also really courageous. He’s trying to get his family back together, so he’s full of heart.”

The cast:

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On a rather serious note, Benjamin Law writes in The Good Weekend today: I’d love an Asian-Australian family on TV to be unremarkable.

…I used to think Australia was overwhelmingly white, too. I didn’t have the internet as a kid, and TV told me Australia was nearly 100 per cent Anglo. It was only when I moved to the city that I saw Australia for what it is: one of the most diverse nations on earth. According to analysis by Screen Australia based on the 2011 census, Australia was 67 per cent Anglo-Celtic, 12 per cent non-Anglo European, and the remaining fifth Asian, African, South American and Indigenous. New census data released later this year will show the latter figures have jumped.

Shouldn’t we see “past” race?

Ideally, yes. But for now, no. Only when we acknowledge how ethnically diverse Australia is, can we ask whether mostly white workplaces are meritocracies. Or whether there is an excuse for overwhelmingly white TV shows. I’d love for an Asian-Australian family on TV to be unremarkable. But it’s not. So until it is, let’s keep the conversation going.

See also ‘It’s like a turducken of mums’: Benjamin Law on fact, fiction and The Family Law.

It’s hard to watch a show like The Family Law without feeling like it was crafted with a lot of love and the cast and production team are so tight-knit that, when I ask about their motivations for the show, their answers are so similar that I briefly wonder if they have been coached. Is it possible, in the age of shows as bleak and cynical as House of Cards, or Fargo, or A Handmaid’s Tale, to create television with genuine warmth and generosity? But it’s only a moment of doubt, because it’s hard to leave The Family Law without feeling like this big, sprawling family has just claimed you as a member, too.

ABC coincidentally has been screening Ronny Chieng: International Student. It has its moments, but personally I don’t find it as good as The Family Law. Too over-the-top at times, maybe?

I can’t get too stirred up by…

That storm in a middy glass about Coopers and the Bible Society. I am simply not offended. Why should I be?

Update: Compare John Birmingham:

But having lost seven minutes of my life I’ll never get back again – thanks a lot Bible Society – I  came away thinking the outrage was misplaced. The debate was even-handed, if a little anodyne and wilfully ignorant of the real and violent passions this topic arouses, especially among Twitter eggs with 12 followers.

But WTAF were these two numpties doing shooting a promo spot for a beer company within the grounds of Parliament House? Or anywhere, for that matter?

They could have been debating which of Buffy’s boyfriends was the worst for the 20-year anniversary of the most important show on television and it would still have been bizarrely inappropriate to sit there necking the product of an industry they’re responsible for regulating.

But nobody seems to be talking about that.

Update 2: Equal Marriage advocate Rodney Croome on Facebook

I don’t understand the objections to this filmed marriage equality debate between two Liberal MPs sponsored by Cooper’s beer to commemorate the founding of the Bible Society. It promotes civility in the marriage equality debate. It shows there is a divergence of opinion in the Liberal Party (implicitly making the case for a free vote). Most of all it helps get the pro-equality message to people of faith who may not have heard that message, especially from a Liberal. Some LGBTI people may feel uncomfortable about the involvement of the Bible Society, but whether we like it or not it has stake in this debate. Some may not like the involvement of Cooper’s, but unlike the bulk of the businesses that say they support marriage equality Cooper’s is at least playing an active in the debate….

Second, much as I rejected the notorious Bill Leak cartoon as a throwback to even more racist times, I cannot find joy in putting a self-righteous boot into the now dead cartoonist. I didn’t watch #QandA last night. I rarely do these days. Apparently this happened:

“And we need to have control of those stories. I need to be able to put something out there and go, ‘That’s not all Aboriginal fathers. That’s not all Aboriginal women. That’s not all mothers.’ I am a mother first and foremost. I don’t identify as an Aboriginal mother. I’m a mother. I was mortified when I saw that particular cartoon.”

Adelaide Festival director Neil Armfield – who directed Yovich in The Secret River – said: “I knew Bill. And enjoyed his company. Respected him. I thought those cartoons in The Australian were despicable. I think that as he grew older he became more and more, for whatever reason, sort of narrowed into a corner. And I thought that he was playing into an attitude which was completely the attitude of the racist and the powerful. And that he was ignoring the inheritance of rage and pain that those social situations that he was … showing in his cartoon are the result of.”

Then the audience protests erupted, screams of: “Bill Leak is racist.”

Host Ballard moved to calm things. And then it was back to Mem Fox.

“I looked and I thought, ‘Bill, Bill, no, please, no’. And I loved Bill Leak’s cartoons. And I thought they were fabulous. But … there is another word for political correctness. And it is a simple word. It’s called politeness.”

There is politeness, and then there is politics, and then there is art. As Q&A showed once more, we are surely bound never to agree on where the boundaries of each of them are properly drawn.

Fair comments, except for the howls of the audience. I find those howls offensive and somewhat pharisaical.

Now for something that made me proud of my country. And I wouldn’t mind betting he eats halal food…

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NSW Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson (far right) with the recently sworn in Local Court Magistrates Julie Soars (left) and Imad Abdul-Karim at the Downing Centre Local Court. Photo: Kate Geraghty, Sydney Morning Herald.

He fled war-torn Lebanon aged 14 with his family and learned to speak English in an annex to Beverly Hills Girls High School.

More than a few pairs of eyes were suspiciously moist in the Local Court as former Sydney prosecutor Imad Abdul-Karim was sworn in as a magistrate…

A former Commonwealth prosecutor who oversaw high-profile terrorism cases, including Operation Pendennis which uncovered jihadist cells in Melbourne and Sydney, Mr Abdul-Karim joked that “I lost my hair working on some of these matters”…

Mr Abdul-Karim’s eyes shone with tears as he thanked his late mother Salwa, who came from a “poor and illiterate” background and went on to become a teacher, first in Lebanon and then in Australia.

His voice also cracked as he paid tribute to his wife and “best friend” Salma, an honours law graduate who made “many sacrifices” to allow him “selfishly” to pursue his legal career.

Arthur Moses, SC, the senior vice-president of the Bar Association, said it gave him “added pleasure as a child of Lebanese parents who fled their country to the safety and prosperity of this country as teenagers” to speak at Mr Abdul-Karim’s swearing-in ceremony.

“Upon arrival in Australia as a teenager Your Honour was fluent in Arabic and French – but did not speak a single word of English,” Mr Moses said…

Mr Abdul-Karim worked as a taxi driver and a kitchen hand to support his young family while he studied Science at the University of Wollongong and later at Western Sydney University Law School, where he was in the first class of graduates…

Ian Thorpe, Bullied, USA insight

The first two are related to a must see coming to ABC this week: Bullied.

There are two episodes, and at time of writing only the first was available for viewing. It isn’t perfect television, but it should be compulsory viewing for every schoolchild, parent, teacher and education bureaucrat in the country.

The focus in the first episode is on Kelsey, a 14-year-old in Queensland whose greatest loves are cricket and his long, floppy, blonde hair.

The latter has earned him a litany of abuse from his schoolmates. Their animus is all-consuming. He’s been cyberbullied (“why don’t you kill/harm urself”), he’s been physically bullied. He’s been ostracised and he’s had his sexuality questioned (they call him “shemale” and “faggot”).

His family and friends claim they have reported all this to the school. The response? He is on reduced hours, allowed to attend only a couple of periods a day, and encouraged to spend his lunch hours in the office…

Kelsey is sent to school with a backpack containing a hidden camera and a microphone to capture what happens to him over a week…

How many bullied kids have access to a camera crew and an Olympic champion to argue their case? How many advocates can hang around for four weeks – long enough to wear down the school’s stonewalling? How many principals will be forced to make a choice between dealing with a difficult issue or being made to look like a totally uncaring ass-hat on national television?

If Bullied were compulsory viewing in every school – and I mean for staff as well as students – it might help force this scourge out of the dark, where it thrives, and into the light, where there’s a fighting chance of it being given six
of the best.

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Specialist child psychologist Marilyn Campbell provides ethical guidance to Ian Thorpe and the documentary makers on Bullied.

The  second is a must read, and a hat tip to Au Waipang in Singapore for posting it to Facebook: An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America.

 As Au Waipang said: “I’m sure this isn’t the whole story, but this article urges us to confront what is likely a big part of the reality.”

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete BS. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to draw attention away from the real problem. The real problem isn’t East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is that rural Americans don’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out….

One year ago

Selections from March 2016.

More “Neil’s Decades” –9: 1946

GEM (Channel 82) shows quite a few antique movies. Yesterday I saw an amiable English comedy of which I had never heard, Quiet Weekend (1946).

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I became fascinated by the objects, the clothing, the cars – all of which transported me to earliest childhood, as I turned 3 in 1946.

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Me in 1945-6. Note the wings: my father had been in the RAAF to 1945.

This Canadian says of Quiet Weekend:

For anyone born in the UK before about 1935 (as I was) this movie will bring back memories of austerity, such as very few cars and very little food and primitive plumbing. We all had to make do with what we had; the top rate of income tax was around 95%. Nevertheless the middle classes had those delicious cut-glass English accents; “thanks” was pronounced “thenks”. The lower classes such as the old poacher, spoke their lines in broad accents and were usually considered to be comic characters.

That has all changed now. This movie is good entertainment but also of value to the social historians. It is the way the British coped with the rigors of victory after WW II, i.e. paying off the huge loans owed to the USA while trying to become a socialist society.

In 1946 I lived in Auburn Street Sutherland, which I memorably visited again in 2002: see a post from that time. See also from the early 2000s my reminiscence of life there. I have subsequently revisited and posted over the years. Here are some 2012 examples:

And on this blog Random Friday memory 21 – wind-up gramophone.

From my earliest Auburn Street post:

The table was in the back room, I suspect a closed-in verandah. On the right was the kitchen, with its fuel range and enormous electric Early Kooka stove with a Kookaburra logo on the oven door. On the left was a partitioned off area, partitioned with mahogany, behind which I and my brother slept in the last years we were in Auburn Street. At an earlier stage, my Uncle Roy must have had that room, as I was still in a cot in my parents’ room at the front of the house, and my brother was in a sleepout on the side verandah, an area somewhat prone to spiders.

Early Kooka!

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Sigh!

The Mad World of You Know Who on WIN/9 last night

Very glad to have watched WIN last night to see this, originally shown on the UK’s Channel 4:

The comment thread on YouTube is rather amazing. [Refers to the YouTube I originally linked to.] For example:

Apparently the American GOV think running a country is a game and enjoys screwing the people over everyday! Obama has screwed us the most..he has taxed the shit out of the middle class.we’ve disappeared …obama is a pot head..he and the rest of the mafia gov should be drug tested immediately…they have destroyed America.Trump will bring it back to a great nation..and we won’t be going to war for 15 god damn years!!!

This is typical anti-American propaganda video attacking the American people, Christians and poor people. The commentator tries to insult Christians by calling them evangelicals which Christ would regard as a compliment. He tries to portray Americans as racist when America has done more to eliminate slavery and racism than most any other nation. American is one of the most pluralistic and diverse nations in the world. The commentator tries to tries to stoke class hatred, even though America has done more to eliminate class distinctions than most any other nation. The commentator ignores the issues that Americans actually care about and just engages in ad hominem attack and slander against Donald Trump. He tries to subvert our election process.

Yes, another post on The Donald. I should know better. You can also watch the doco on the Channel Nine site at the moment, by the way. I urge you to watch it if you haven’t already.

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I was obviously impressed with German-born British doco maker Matt Frei’s expose of Trump, though the name was too tendentious. Rather less impressed was Irish reviewer Ian O’Doherty:

Of course, it’s not that difficult to make anything emerging from America look ridiculous and buffoonish but Frei took to his task with relish – Trump was portrayed variously as a dangerous nutter; a man who may have raped his first wife (until they read a statement from said woman denying the claims); a rich boy done bad; and did I mention dangerous nutter?

The problem with this approach was that it was guilty of the very accusation it was levelling at its subject – being utterly devoid of any nuance or complexity whatsoever.

There was nothing new to be learned here. Everybody knows that he came from wealthy stock. We were already well aware that his behaviour in Scotland was increasingly nasty, and, of course, we all know about his various verbal assaults on the aforementioned Kelly, prisoners of war and, most unpleasantly, his mocking mimicry of a disabled reporter. So, this was basically a potted history of Trump’s various outrages against common decency. But this was Comfort TV and much like comfort food, was designed to provide reassurance to the consumer.

In this case, it was made to reassure the viewers that they were right, all along, to think Trump is an idiot and his supporters are thick.

On the other hand:

Essentially a spoilt, buck-toothed and tubby little rich kid of a bully, as opposed to the deb’s delight into which he’s matured, he must have grown used early to John Q Normal crossing snake-strewn streets to avoid him. Over the decades, his personality matured as do the perfumes of prawns in a jockstrap. Frei was doing the telling, admittedly, but it could have been done by David Irving, David Starkey or the late Alan Clarke. The evidence made the nose wrinkle, whether it was his squandering of Daddy’s millions, his undeserved parachutes from bankruptcy, the crippling immaturity of his misogyny or his treatment of Scotland, though there was much tawdriness to that little tale.

The Trump in Scotland saga was news to me, I have to say.

The Republican Presidential candidate’s much-hyped Aberdeenshire golf course has been a loss-maker since it opened in 2012. He has also made similar threats of pulling investment after losing fights against local residents and failing to block plans for a local wind farm.

A final review of the documentary:

9. Critics made strongest case

Frei hit the campaign trail to conduct (mercifully brief) interviews with Trump’s growing army of exuberant supporters, but it was his detractors whose comments really resonated.

Muslim activist Jibril Hough, who was shown being forcibly ejected from two Trump rallies, said he was a “buffoon that has to be taken seriously”. Ex-Mitt Romney strategist Stuart Stevens called Trump “a huckster, a fraud, a stark raving disaster for the Republican party. This isn’t a reality show, it’s running for President. These displays of stupidity and hate are dangerous.”

10. …But he could yet become President

Trump has already made a meteoric political rise and as we saw here, he’s tapping into the distrust and disenchantment of middle America. Frei, formerly the BBC’s Washington correspondent, said: “I have to say the last time I saw crowds as enthusiastic as this was for Barack Obama in 2008.” Gulp…

Frei’s film reminded us of the dark side beneath the Trump caricature and it was soberingly scary stuff.

It really isn’t too hard to see why so many in the USA are investing in Trump as a secular saviour. Not all is well in the USA, clearly. He offers hope, albeit very randomly articulated by the man himself, while endorsing all kinds of resentments.

Should, God forbid, he ever claim “the crown”, “make America great again” will go down in history as just another vacuous political slogan, one of the most egregious ever — because this is precisely what Donald J Trump will almost inevitably NOT do.

Must watch Citizen Kane again…

Postscript

Just saw Tom Switzer’s The rise of Donald Trump in the US has similarities to the rise of Pauline Hanson in Australia two decades ago.  Well worth reading.

…Both led nationalist movements railing against Washington and Canberra and appealing to voters abandoned by globalisation and betrayed by politicians. Trump reflects a deep-seated belief that Americans have lost the country they know and they want America to stand alone on top again. Hansonism was as much a reaction against Paul Keating’s cultural agenda as an isolationist backlash against Australia’s engagement with Asia.

Both have been purveyors of conservative red meat: thick, juicy cuts of the stuff. But both also blurred the ideological left-right divide. Hanson was an agrarian socialist, who opposed Telstra privatisation and foreign investment. Trump distinguishes himself from fellow Republicans by defending entitlement programs and attacking free-trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership…

Like Trump, Hanson was a political novice who rocked the nation’s establishment with repugnant views. Who can forget her claim that Asians were swamping Australia? Or Trump’s claim that Mexico is exporting its rapists and criminals to the US, not to mention his call for a ban on all Muslim immigrants? …

No words today

Except these.

Brussels: At least 31 people have been killed and hundreds injured in coordinated attacks on Brussels Airport and a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital early on Tuesday, triggering security alerts across Europe and a manhunt for at least one suspect.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which occurred four days after Brussels police captured the prime surviving suspect in the Islamic State attacks on Paris, which killed 130 people in November…

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The good refugees

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“The Good Samaritan,” artwork by Dinah Roe Kendall, age 82, Sheffield, England.

This story seemed most appropriate to share today, especially given the overwhelming nature of recent stories from Europe. I found it lurking on page 13 of today’s print Sydney Morning Herald, but apparently it has been around for a few days. This version is from the UK Daily Telegraph.

A leading member of Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party has thanked two Syrian refugees who came to the aid of another party member after he was seriously injured in a car crash.

Stefan Jagsch, 29, a candidate for the NPD in upcoming local elections, was seriously injured last week after he lost control of his car and crashed into a tree in the town of Büdingen.

Two vans carrying about 16 refugees stopped at the scene – and two Syrian men came to Jagsch’s aid, pulling him from the wreckage and providing first aid treatent while they waited for an ambulance.

They had reportedly left the scene by the time police arrived.

Regional NPD official Jean Christoph Fiedler praised the refugees for performing “a very good, humane act”, the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper reports…

Jagsch, writing on his Facebook page on Tuesday this week, stressed that he was unconscious at the time of the rescue, so couldn’t confirm or deny that the people who came to his assistance were Syrians.

However, he did give thanks to “all the people who were on the spot to help me.” …