Revisited Keating

The musical, that is. I saw it at the Belvoir in 2007: My 2007: retired and blogging.

This afternoon is when Lord Malcolm, Sirdan and I are booked to see Keating the Musical at the Belvoir. It seemed unlikely not long ago, as you may have read. It is still not a total cakewalk. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sad news

Lord Malcolm is not well enough to go.


Those tickets were booked back in November, in hope, but Lord Malcolm can’t actually walk at the moment. Sirdan and I went though, and I have to say it was great. The reviewers gave Keating 10/10 and it really deserves it. Afterwards we went to one of Surry Hills’s more delightful multicultural features: Erciyes Turkish Restaurant. Sirdan had never eaten Turkish before, and so liked it we have vowed we will do it again.

And would you believe it — Delenio and maybe The Rabbit may be interested — who should be in the restaurant but Oscar and his parents, whom I haven’t seen since many a Mine debate many a year ago? In fact, if you want to feel old, well if I want to feel old, just reflect on the facts. 1) Oscar turns 25 this year. 2) All the events portrayed in Keating happened since the time I met M! In the toilets at the Belvoir I said to another geriatric at interval: “Isn’t it terrible? It just seems like yesterday!” He replied, “Yes indeed. Sometimes the past is all you have left to live for!” I knew exactly what he meant.

Keating is sold out to the end of January. A new season is happening in March. If you are in Sydney, don’t miss it.

Extraordinary kindness…

10 JAN 2007

I just received an email from the writer/star of Keating!


I’m sorry to hear that Lord Malcolm couldn’t make it to the show last Sunday. Please let me know if his condition improves enough that he might be interested in going (and that it wouldn’t be too exhausting, volume and commotion etc.) and I’ll scrounge around for tickets – there are generally a couple of house seats each show set aside for emergencies.

Thanks for your words on the show; glad you enjoyed it!

Casey B

If ever I doubt this blogging thing is worthwhile, I’ll just reread this entry. 🙂

So having saved a copy some years ago to an external hard drive I was able to play it back yesterday on Junior HP. Wonderful.


What was I up to in October 2006?

These entries from my WordPress blog of ten years ago.

Screenshot - 11_10_2016 , 7_49_58 AM

Gay Erasmus is reading Jonestown

31 OCT 2006

I will wait for it to appear in the Library. Meanwhile, check Erasmus’s first impressions [no longer online]. It certainly doesn’t sound boring.

I had lunch with Lord Malcolm at The Shakespeare; he is still struggling on, by the way, with all his usual courage. He told me that Piers Akerman had written a non-homophobic piece in the Telegraph. Amazed at that possibility, I said: “Oh, was it a defence of Alan Jones?” Indeed it was, so not having read it I have searched it out. I should add that Lord Malcolm is himself more than somewhat right wing on a whole range of things, but that’s OK. Except when I read the article I wondered if it was the one Malcolm referred to, but indeed it is.

I guess you would have to say it is not exactly homophobic, despite phrases like “purported homosexual” applied to the Herald’s David Marr*; I wonder if Lord Malcolm picked up the allusion to “Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite [sic]”? Marr also committed the crime, in Akerman’s eyes, of having “promoted the Sydney Mardi Gras but who was actually married for a brief period before coming to terms with his own sexuality”. Could that qualify as “a cheap and smarmy shot in a nasty political vendetta” or is Akerman merely informing us? Given Marr’s adolescence as described in The High Price of Heaven, this is hardly a revelation; furthermore, many, many gays and lesbians have been married to persons of the opposite sex, often for very long periods, and sometimes even happily. In fact many of my older gay and lesbian friends were, Dorothy McRae-McMahon for starters; I wasn’t, but was able to convince myself it was because I was virtuous, for a while anyway.

No, Marr’s real crime, according to Akerman (and Bolt) is that he has expressed support for the distinctly non-gay Chris Masters, author of Jonestown, because Alan Jones is a well-known high profile right-winger. Not that Akerman’s defence of Jones is based on Jones being a prominent member of his own political club, of course. Akerman would go into bat just as vigorously on behalf of some closeted leftie, wouldn’t he? “Fairfax has displayed an unhealthy prurience in pandering to those titivated by salacious innuendo, but Marr’s defence of Masters’ notion that sexuality determines an individual’s persona is intellectually risible.” Unless, apparently, that person is called Michael Kirby (who is not a leftie, by the way, but rather an old-fashioned liberal conservative) or Patrick White. Or David Marr.


* Marcel has pointed to my misreading this sentence in his comment below, as the “purported homosexual” is in fact Alan Jones; Marr is an acknowledged homosexual. Nonetheless, my points from then on still apply, though the echo of Oscar Wilde I thought I saw may be part of my misreading, even if that would now make Akerman’s wording somewhat deliciously (if unintentionally) ironic.

COMMENT: marcelproust

November 1, 2006 at 3:19 am

A misreading. The reference is: “But when the purported homosexual Marr has determined should be publicly dragged from the closet is prominent broadcaster Alan Jones…” ie, “when the purported homosexual [who] Marr has determined should be publicly dragged from the closet is prominent broadcaster Alan Jones” — so it is Jones who is identified as a “purported homosexual.”

Keating: the musical

31 OCT 2006

Keating! opens at the Belvoir Theatre (I live next to it, almost) on November 11, a nice irony that. I am very tempted to avail myself of my Seniors Card discount and go.

Casey Bennetto’s scathingly hilarious lyrics tear through the reign and tragic fall of the Placido Domingo of Australian politics in a production with Neil Armfield and comic satirist John Clarke blowing wind into Casey’s spinnaker.

Part French farce, part Greek tragedy, and all Australian history, “the country soul opera we had to have” transports you back to a time less politically grey as it charts the rise, fall and rise again of an antique clock collector from Bankstown.

SIGH over duets between a love-struck Cheryl and Gareth!
HISS the mean spirited ghost of Lazarus with a triple bypass!
THRILL to the spectacular settings from the plush sitting rooms of Kirribilli House to the Bankstown RSL!

How could I miss it?

PJK, meanwhile, has been the perfect grumpy old man with his attack on the post-modernisation of Sydney.

In a scattergun speech to rank alongside his most famous fusillades, the former prime minister yesterday unloaded on the NSW Minister for Planning.

Mr Keating said Frank Sartor had become “the mayor for [Harry] Triguboff”, called for a ban on political donations by developers and expressed disgust at the “mediocrity” of modernist design…

The greatest reaction, though, came as the self-styled aesthete was still at the podium, telling his audience that “knocking back outdoor advertising companies, kicking them in the bum, should be a national sport”.

Mr Keating was clearly enjoying the guffaws as he worked through a list of his favourite targets, principally architects and developers. He said if councils did not stop “rapacious” property magnates such as Mr Triguboff, chairman of Meriton, spreading the “disfiguring eczema” of modernist design, Australian cities could look as barren as Tokyo…

Worse, however, was “the NSW planning minister – whoever that may be from time to time; they do have a history of not lasting – [who] is the mayor for Triguboff, and the mayor for the other developers who’ve got projects over a certain value”.

“The wall of money coming at a minister in these jobs is phenomenal because as you know, the industry is into political donations, which in my opinion should be outlawed.”

Property developers have donated more than $5 million to NSW Labor since it was re-elected in 2003.

Later, Mr Sartor said he did not “believe [Mr Keating] was referring to me, as he made a point of telling me afterwards. In any case, my record as lord mayor of Sydney clearly shows otherwise.”

I live in an earlier Meriton development, as does M in another. I have seen how they were built. My father was a builder/carpenter, as it happens, who had certain standards about quality of workmanship. He used to say back in the 1970s that such standards had gone the way of all greed. He must be turning in his grave today.

Still on Keating, Peter Costello, the PM in waiting and waiting and waiting, has given PJK a serve over the granting of permanent residence to Sheik Hilaly after the infamous 1988 sermon on the International Zionist Conspiracy.

The Australian Federal Police said they were monitoring the sheik but it was understood his comments about jihadists did not amount to incitement under the new sedition laws.

Mr Costello said the former prime minister Paul Keating should not have intervened to keep Sheik Hilaly in Australia when he was due to have been deported. “Keating wanted his votes, not just for the election but probably for branch-stacking purposes.”

Mr Keating refused to answer questions about the sheik yesterday, saying he would not be harassed by journalists.

Mr Costello added: “This sermon, it was preached to 5000 people, wasn’t it? No-one seemed to complain when it was preached. It took a long time for it to come out. No people stood up in the middle of the sermon and said, ‘This is unacceptable.”‘

John Howard certainly didn’t at the time, not that I recall anyway. His focus was elsewhere at that time:

Meanwhile the McPhee-Howard wet-dry conflict continued. Howard had sacked McPhee from his frontbench in April 1987. In August 1988 McPhee crossed the floor to vote against Howard when Howard wanted an immigration policy to discriminate against Asians. The Victorian Party machine set to work and in April 1989 McPhee lost pre-selection to David Kemp, with Howard watching ‘passively’ on the sidelines while his greasy staffer Graeme Morris was working the media.

I was teaching at Masada College, an excellent Orthodox Jewish school, in 1988 when Hilaly preached that sermon. I was surrounded by South Africans and Israelis. No-one, as I recall, suggested Hilaly should be deported back then, though they were none too pleased by what he said, but they had heard it all before and were not surprised. There has always been, at least since the foundation of the State of Israel, a strand of political Islam that bears quite an amazing resemblance at an ideological level to some of the ideas that had currency in Nazi Germany or Tsarist Russia, where that obscene forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion had its origins. It is still in circulation in parts of the Islamic world, and among the KKK and White Supremacist nutters in the USA and elsewhere. So nothing Hilaly said surprised them.

Rather, I remember asking a colleague at Masada what she liked about Australia compared with South Africa. “Not being woken at 3am by secret police searching for subversive literature,” she replied. When they felt nostalgic, my Israeli colleagues used to go down to the Lebanese restaurants in Surry Hills for a bit of home-style cooking…

We were all a bit less paranoid in 1988.

The importance of context revisited

30 OCT 2006

NOTE: Very relevant to much that follows: Truth and Truthfulness, yesterday’s Encounter on Radio National. See also Truth and Truthfulness in Uncertain Times. The lecture on Gandhi was outstanding.


Well, context is in part what this entry is about. In his latest entry Deus Lo Vult performs a valuable service for all of us who have been unduly influenced by media representations of the Pope’s alleged bagging of Islam earlier this year. I stand corrected, and would encourage everyone, including the Kashmiri Nomad, to reconsider the facts as well. I say this as one who simply does not accept, and never has accepted, the primacy of Rome in the Christian church, let alone the absurd (to me) doctrine of papal infallibility. (As a Catholic priest said to me in the 1970s, Pius IX was “round the twist” when he came up with that one.) I have on the other hand a proper appreciation of the importance of the Catholic Church in the story of Western civilisation in terms of art, music, philosophy, and so much else, and respect the Church’s many good works and acknowledge its great diversity, the last being a fact many overlook.

Deus Lo Vult simply quotes the Pope’s remark in its full context. The result is a no-brainer, by which I mean (lest that expression is misinterpreted) DLV is right: the Pope was quoted out of context, the whole thing was a beatup, and the extreme reactions in the Muslim world were very silly. Go to Deus Lo Vult’s site and read it for yourselves. Unfortunately, here in Sydney Cardinal Pell actually muddied the waters by saying a few gratuitous things of his own at that time.

I fear though that Deus Lo Vult is on shakier ground when it comes to freedom of speech, thorny as that issue is. Both he and I would agree this is a concept not honoured in North Korea or Iran or Saudi Arabia (which funds many an Islamic school in Australia), and in fact hard to find in much of the world, but it is also one of the things the so-called war on terror is actually about.

We need to be aware of the diversity of the Catholic Church, and have a nuanced view of Christianity in general, even of American evangelical Christianity which ranges from Sojourners on the one hand, which I regard as particularly healthy and enlightened, to real-life versions of Landover Baptist Church on the other, which deliver bigotry, parochialism and hate by the bucketful. (The current issue of Sojourners magazine features Senator Barack Obama on the cover.) We need to develop a similarly nuanced view of Islam, which ranges from things like the Wahid Institute on the one hand (and I notice Ahmad Shuja links to that) through a whole array of often conflicting positions and traditions to, well, you-know-who on the other. Or, putting it another way, there is a world of difference between even the conservative Islam of Seyyed Hossein Nasr on the one hand and the kind of Islam represented by the Lakemba Mufti on the other. See also a very thoughtful American, Charles Notess with whose approach I have much in common; he also does his homework.

I have to hand, in fact, a tract called Understanding Islam, Basic Principles — that’s it there, but my copy is stamped “not for sale” and ultimately came from Lakemba Mosque — which sets out to “provide accessible and direct information about the basic principles of Islam as seen by Muslims themselves in order to facilitate the understanding of Islam by non-Muslims”. It is, compared to Nasr, a sad book. For a start, it recycles a great piece of nonsense about the so-called Gospel of Barnabas, assuming in best Da Vinci Code style it was meant to be in the New Testament, which conveniently has Jesus proclaim we should all keep our eyes out for the advent of Muhammad, who it names in some post-Muslim versions. The Qu’ran seems to have been aware of such a tradition (Sura 61:6), but the truth is the Gospel of Barnabas exists only in highly corrupted and suspect very late translations, and whatever its ultimate origins, it is far less attested than the recently publicised Gospel of Judas or the much more authentic Gospel of Thomas or the heaps of other gospels that The Da Vinci Code gets so excited about, and all of them are far less well attested than the four that made it into the New Testament, dubious as even they are as history in our sense of the word. The Gospel of Barnabas as we know it has almost certainly been doctored by someone under the Spanish Caliphate. Wikipedia notes:

Some Islamic organizations cite this work in support of the Islamic view of Jesus; in particular, the noted Muslim thinkers Rashid Rida in Egypt and Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi in Pakistan have given it qualified acceptance (though the latter rejects its naming of Muhammad as an interpolation). While some Muslim scholars also agree that this Gospel of Barnabas is fabricated or has been changed over time, others believe that Barnabas himself wrote the Gospel, whereas the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by followers of Paul long after the events they describe, and that therefore the Gospel of Barnabas is more authentic than the other Gospels. Some Muslims take a position between these poles, suggesting that, while the work contains “Muslim interpolations”, it nonetheless consists mainly of early material that contradicts Christian traditions and confirms Muslim beliefs.

Although the Gospel of Barnabas is, in several respects, inconsistent with Islamic teaching, some Muslim scholars cite this as evidence of the genuineness of the gospel by arguing that no Muslim would fake a document and have it contradict the Qur’an. They believe the contradictions of the Qur’an in the Gospel of Barnabas are signs of textual corruption (which Muslims already ascribe for a majority of the Bible), but that the Gospel of Barnabas would not be as corrupt as other religious works, and would still maintain the truth about Jesus not being crucified and not being God or son of God.

Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi is another name to conjure with, along with Sayyid Qutb, whom I mentioned a few days back. They are both in their way very much twentieth century and very much part of postcolonialism. They are also arguably among the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, and we have only heard of them lately because some of what they have inspired has got up and bitten us very badly, and continues to do so. People like Karen Armstrong and Malise Ruthven have been able to tell us quite a lot about them for some time now, if we care to look.

One very significant aspect of the situation we are now in is an ongoing struggle within Islam, which is after all the cradle of some 1.3 billion people. In our own interests, if for no other reason, we need to avoid sweeping generalisations about Muslims, and politicians need to be very measured in their response to provocateurs like al-Hilaly. Heavy-handed tactics, or tactics that could be described as following double standards, or that unfairly generalise, or derive from fear or suspicion or discomfort with difference, may serve simply to drive people further towards an extreme position, and I am not talking here only of Muslims. The advice Isis offers (see yesterday’s entry) is very, very apt.

As Abdelwahab Meddeb says in this interview:

Could you outline the development of fundamentalist Muslim ideology?

This ideology originates from a combination of three things. For the first, you have to look at the text of the Koran itself. There is, for example, the infamous “verse of the sword” which gives the order to pursue and kill all polytheists. The fundamentalists argue that this verse cancels out all the nuances of tolerance found in the Koran. The second element refers to the literalist thinking that developed over the centuries, and which found a spectacular incarnation in Ibn Hanbal (780-855), the founder of one of the four schools of orthodox Islam.

This theologian fought against the mu’tazilites, the rationalist current supported by the Baghdad authorities in the 9th century. He was imprisoned and persecuted for his hard-line beliefs. After his death, his disciples radicalized his thinking. For example, fundamentalists today, who claim to have their roots in Hanbalism, often evoke takfir, even though Ibn Hanbal challenged thisnotion.The second key figure in this traditionalist trend is the Hanbalist thinker Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328). Within his monumental body of work is a little book entitled As-siyassa ash-Shar’ia (“Politics in the name of divine law”), which is like a bible for the fundamentalist. In his time, Ibn Taymiyya was criticized, even from within the Hanbalist school, and spent part of his life in prison. But today, he is a central reference point for fundamentalists.

The third pillar of fundamentalist ideology is a figure called Ibn Abd Al Wahhab, who called for a radical return to the most literal interpretation. Taking up the theory of Ibn Taymiyya, he refused any form of intercession between God and man. He was responsible for the disappearance of all the tombs of saints on the Arabian Peninsula and the destruction of the rites of popular Sufism, which were very rich from an anthropological point of view. The ideas of Abd Al Wahhab (1703-1792) were decried while he was alive, but later became the official doctrine of Saudi Arabia.

And what are the external causes?

They go back to Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt, and the momentous encounter with the West. The people of the Middle East discovered that Europe was powerful and that henceforth they themselves would occupy a position of weakness. The first reaction, around 1830, was Muhammad Ali’s plan to modernize Egypt. The intellectual Rifaa Al-Tahtawi (1801-1874) represented this school of thought. He undertook the huge job of translating scientific manuals. In the politico-theological sphere, sheikhs Al-Afghani (1838-1897) and Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) then created what we call the salafiyya, a form of fundamentalism, not to be confused with Muslim fundamentalism.

What is the difference?

Afghani and Abduh were defeated historically but their approach was wider. What were they searching for? They wanted to return to the foundations of Islam and adapt them so that Muslim societies could rebuild themselves, taking Western contributions into account, particularly democracy and parliamentary government. Their plan was to use these concepts to fight against the hold of colonialism and local despotism. In fact, they used to meet in a cafe in Cairo called Al-Barlaman (the Parliament).

How did we get from this modernist fundamentalism to Muslim fundamentalism?

It was a gradual process. Rashid Ridha (1865-1935) served as an intermediary link in the ancestry of this form of fundamentalism. He began by taking up the ideas of Abduh and criticising Wahhabism, making a name for himself in the early 20th century, and eventually taking power on the Arabian Peninsula in 1932. But towards the end of his life, Ridha changed his opinions and wrote a text supporting Wahhabism, which was not as opportunist as it sounds. He pointed to the evolution of man at a time of colonial conquest which sparked the rise of anti-Western feeling.

So fundamentalism was born in the 1920s…

Yes, with Rashid Ridha’s pupil, Hassan Al-Banna (1906-1949), who remains famous for creating the Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimun) in Egypt in 1928. Next came a virulent wave of anti-Western sentiment, with democracy portrayed as trickery and an ideology of domination. If democracy existed, Hassan Al-Banna asked, how could there be colonialism? He concluded that Muslim countries do not need the West but instead need to renew their political systems in their own way. You could say that there was a move from a watchword of modernizing Islam to another, which preaches an Islamization of modernity. For example, instead of defending the parliamentary system, we turn to the Koran and substitute the word choura for the word barlaman. But choura has nothing to do with parliamentarianism. It is not founded on elections or equality, but is simply a matter of consultation, to guide the prince in making decisions.

How were these ideas received?

At first, the Muslim Brotherhood experienced repression, nationalist tyranny and the emergence of the post-colonial totalitarian State. Despotism has traditionally taken place where there is little State intervention. But in an age of technical progress, all Arab countries have moved towards maximum state intervention. The model of the party-State has triumphed. And the fundamentalists have gained ground as this model has reached its limits. They benefited from the failure of Arab nationalism, the defeat by Israel in 1967, the failure to develop and from the elimination of any form of political expression. The rise in power of the Saudi rulers after the 1973 oil crisis added a new element. Petrodollars helped the spectacular spread of a hard-line form of Islam, founded on a single orthopraxy: the strict observance of prayer became the basis of social censure and wiped out local practices in favour of a uniform Islam.

But how did we veer towards terrorism?

The end of Nasserism and the arrival in power of Sadat in Egypt saw a migration of semi-literate Egyptians to Saudi Arabia, where the Muslim Brotherhood had married their ideas with those of Wahhabism. Then there was a second, explosive, encounter in Afghanistan. Egyptians, Saudis and Pakistanis joined together in the jihad, orchestrated and supervised by the United States to fight against the Soviet invasion. You know what happened next.

How do you see the future?

Today, the Muslim world is in a state of civil war. But internal criticism is growing. The French revolution of 1789 was preceded by two centuries of intellectual effort. Faced with violence, critical thought is spreading, particularly in the Shi’ite world. In Iran, the concept of vilayat e-faqih introduced by Khomenei has been criticised by theologians. In Iraq, the idea of spiritual caliphate, which presupposes a separation of religion from politics, seems to be gaining ground among the Shi’ite majority. As for Saudi Arabia, if it does not want to implode it must resolve the contradiction between its religious discourse, which leads to anti-Western sentiment, and its geo-political alliance with the United States.

And which way is public opinion likely to lean?

Since the 1970s, a diffuse fundamentalism has developed in Arab-Muslim societies. But that may be beginning to ebb away. The terrorist attacks in several Muslim countries have shocked the public. The challenge now is to separate Islam from Islamism. We must make sure that Islam plays a role in the war against fundamentalism.

We need to know much more than we have cared to so far.

COMMENT:  Clayton Northcutt (aka Deus Lo Vult/Thomas)

October 30, 2006 at 7:29 pm

Great to see a little disagreement still can be the catalyst for healthy discussion in this day and age.

I would agree with you, 100%, that North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia do not honour freedom of speech, and I ask this question: how many Sheikhs do they have preaching the ‘justification’ of rape? [Probably quite a few in Iran and Saudi Arabia, Clayton, and none in North Korea!] And another question: how many Cardinals do they have saying just as offensive things? Then again, how many people are actually speaking in those countries with as much freedom as us?

But if it meant me giving up the ability to offend another person at the benefit of another offending me, I’ll be honest, I’d be happy with that. I don’t agree that everyone should be gagged, but there should exist some form of censorship. It’s almost as if that word’s double meaning is socially offensive. But looking at it objectively, there could be rules and regulations that apply and prevent someone from saying bullshit like the two cases brought up here, while still being able to exercise (not as) free speech. Critiquing government, discussing politics, debates and the like do not offend people if done correctly. It is only when someone actively seeks out to offend another that it goes wrong.

And, as a side note, if anyone, the Sheikh, an adviser, a contemporary, thought that saying the shit he said wouldn’t offend anyone, or wasn’t sure, he shouldn’t have said it, or cleared it with someone. Anyone. And the same goes for the Cardinal. It is a simple fact of society that you cannot say those sorts of things. The sad fact is, however, that some people do and some people continue to get away with it, which is testament to how much of a disgrace mass media, politics, and societal views have become.

Anyway, all this is a tad long for a comment, and not long enough for a post, so perhaps I’ll extrapolate on my views of freedom of speech so that the (thought) context I am writing in is much more clearer, and anything I might say here (that possibly offends anyone, which is sincerely not my intentions, otherwise that would make me a hypocrite (a title, though, I am much accustomed to)) is understood to its fullest extent.

And a side not to balance out both sides, you did something pretty close to a miracle Ninglun. Welcome back (for what such an illustrious link on my blog is worth). [Thanks, Clayton.]

Clayton Northcutt.

Footnote from Ninglun.

Go to Planet Irf (Irfan Yusuf) who finishes his latest post with this quote:

Perhaps the most colourful comment comes from one Canberra Muslim who e-mailed this to me: “Hilaly with two similar sphincter muscles at either end and nothing but **** comes out at either end I don’t whether to laugh or cry at his outburst; who needs enemies when we have this loose cannon on board. He should be reprimanded by Muslims first then others.”

Now playing: Lang Lang

21 OCT 2006

Lang_LangThere’s such a lot of dross on TV we forget what a boon the medium can be at times. It is just delightful to find a real treasure. Such was my experience just now when I happened to turn on SBS at 4pm and caught a German documentary, Lang Lang: Pianist of the Middle Kingdom.

A portrait of China’s exceptional concert pianist, Lang Lang. When he was two years old, his father spent half his annual income to buy him a piano. He started playing by ear and when he was three years old started having proper lessons. Now he is an internationally acclaimed concert pianist and is recognised for his explosive showmanship and extraordinary skill. Throughout the program, interviews with the artist are interspersed with performances from childhood to the present and ending with one where he performs a Chinese composition, accompanied by his father on a traditional monochord.

“Monochord” actually refers to that most beautiful of instruments, the erhu (pronounced arr-hoo). God, what a pianist, and what a personality!

You will find a profile on and can even listen to him play! There is an interview on CNN transcribed here; in the intro it is said: “His name is Lang Lang. And Lang Lang is about to catch fire. Some major critics and conductors believe Lang Lang may very well be the most talented pianist of his generation.” He was born in 1982.

Visit Lang Lang’s official website. Hear him there too, playing some Chinese music. In the documentary, Daniel Barenboim seemed in awe at his talent. I can see why.

COMMENT: marcelproust

October 22, 2006 at 12:42 am

You missed him! He played in Sydney (to enthusiastic and Chinese-packed crowds) in August 2004. I missed him too, as I was in Perth.

Little things that make blogging worthwhile

17 OCT 2006

I have no delusions of grandeur when it comes to this blog. I really don’t think my rants, which are far from infallible anyway, will change the world, though I do believe that the blogosphere as a whole can have a great effect through the channels of communications it may open up. One instance of that is recounted on Jim Belshaw’s blog, and strangely it concerns me and a friend of mine. Through our blogs, Jim and I managed to bring together my friend the Aboriginal actor Kristina Nehm here in Surry Hills and the artist Stozo Da Klown in the USA.

Hi Jim!

I want to thank you for putting me in contact with Kristina, she wrote me and I am completely blown away how the internet works and world community is and just the mysteries of life timing etc. I have been surfing the net for years 20 to be exact well that was even before this internet thing etc. She was a dear lost friend and our connection was priceless for me…

mega thanks!!

I would love to refer you to Jim’s account of this, but at the moment Blogspot is producing, not for the first time:


But it is the comment Ahmad has just added here that prompted my thought this morning: see Meanwhile in a country far away… Thanks, Ahmad.

Meanwhile in a country far away…

11 OCT 2006

Ahmad of MyScribbles is a young Afghan refugee in Pakistan. In his latest post he writes:

Just a notice to tell you that in the last few weeks I have been busy preparing for the SAT–the entrance examination for American universities. It’s now time to take it. The test is very, very important for my future as its result will determine whether or not I will be able to get into a U.S. college, and, subsequently, study journalism.

The test center is in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. It is going to take me a gruelling, 26-hour bus ride to get there. Things are not easy, but I will do my best.

I know he likes Cricket and is not too fond of the Taliban. He also writes well, so I find it hard to think he won’t get his SAT, even though it is, alas, a rather silly test.

So good luck, Ahmad.

COMMENT: MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan

October 17, 2006 at 5:18 am

Thank you, Ninglun, for the post. Your words give me courage and stimulate me to work harder. Sometimes our vision gets blurred and we lose sight of our pesonal characteristics that set us apart; everytime we need an adjustment to put everything back into perspective.

The test passed well and I hope I will get a good result.

SEQUEL 2016 on Ahmad Shuja

Ahmad Shuja

See this from ABC Radio’s Sunday Night program in June 2016.

Ahmad Shuja is the Afghanistan research assistant in the Asia division of the international non-government organisation Human Rights Watch.

His own family were refugees in the 1990’s, and he did some of his growing up in exile in Pakistan. Accentless English reveals he’s been studying English since 9 years of age, and completed his University education in the USA.

Ahmad now monitors the human rights situation in Afghanistan, researching the broader issues facing the country and its religious communities, as well as issues involving Afghans in the diaspora. He spoke to Sunday Nights’ Noel Debien about what it will mean if Australia tries to send back up to 10,000 Afghan refugees who’ve arrived in Australia by boat, and how unsafe and unstable Afghanistan remains

I note a September 2016 article in the Lowy Interpreter: Afghanistan Conflict Fuels Desperate Journeys.

…Some Afghans, desperate like Ibrahim, have set out for Australia and Europe. When they reach their destination, they are often classified as economic migrants and get a hostile reception. But if they are forced to return to Afghanistan, they can face both danger and destitution.

More than 300 of Afghanistan’s 384 districts are no longer secure, according to the Afghan government. Increased fighting has led to massive displacement. From January to March, about 90,000 people were displaced from 23 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces due to conflict. By July, the year’s tally had grown to 182,000 people from 29 provinces across the country. There are now 1.2 million internally displaced people across Afghanistan and this will increase…

The Australian government warns would-be travellers that no part of Afghanistan he country can be considered free from conflict-related violence,’ but it has been returning Hazara minority asylum seekers and producing multimillion dollar films to deter others from seeking asylum in Australia.

Afghans who are forced to return may face significant and growing risk of serious harm, including indiscriminate violence and destitution. Australia has tried to address this by offering generous return packages, but money can’t buy safety, jobs or social support.

The Afghan government’s already limited capacity to assist returnees has been stretched even thinner by the increasing crisis of internal displacement, lack of funds, and corruption…

Closing the gap


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Parliament House, Canberra

Prime Minister

When Prime Minister Keating made his famous Redfern speech in 1992, I was an opposition staffer.

My job was to disagree with everything he said.

While I could quibble with aspects of that speech, I couldn’t disagree with its central point: that our failures towards Australia’s first people were a stain on our soul.

That was a watershed moment for me, as for others.

Many of us have been on a long journey.

I can’t say that I have always been where I am now.

The further this journey has gone, the more, for me, Aboriginal policy has become personal rather than just political.

It has become a personal mission to help my fellow Australians to open their hearts, as much as to change their minds, on Aboriginal policy.

We are a great country – I firmly believe the best on Earth.

But we will never be all that we should be until we do better in this…

So Prime Minister Abbott on “closing the gap”.

And in 1992:

And six years ago:

That stands as another necessary step on the path of reconciliation. There are different views about where that path needs still to go, but I think all would agree that a real closing of the gap is well overdue. Of course it isn’t, hasn’t been, easy: otherwise that gap would no longer be there.

I am on record as giving Tony Abbott the benefit of the doubt in this area, hoping indeed there will be good come of it. See my 2012 posts Tony Abbott was right: we really should move on, Back to my post “Tony Abbott was right: we really should move on” and More on “Tony Abbott was right: we really should move on”.

Compare the Sydney Morning Herald today: Tony Abbott credits Paul Keating for Aboriginal policy inspiration.

Tony Abbott has delivered the most powerful, heartfelt and gracious speech of his short prime ministership, crediting political opponent Paul Keating with responsibility for his ”watershed moment” on Aboriginal Australia.

Committing himself to ending ”the tyranny of low expectations” in indigenous affairs, he has also vowed to bring new urgency and horsepower to the task of closing the gap on disadvantage.

He has also declared that his government is as serious about Aboriginal policy as it is about ”stopping the boats, fixing the budget, and building the roads of the 21st century”.

The speech was hailed as a potential defining moment in Australia’s long march to reconciliation by three veterans of indigenous policy: Senior Australian of the Year Fred Chaney, indigenous leader Warren Mundine and prominent academic Marcia Langton.

”I’m prepared to lay my life and reputation on the PM’s sincerity,” Chaney said later. ”You can’t fake it. He’s determined to make a difference and that’s great.”…

It;s just a shame a brief attack of his political  Tourette’s Syndrome made him drag “stopping the boats” into a context that rather spoiled the tone – but overall it was indeed “powerful, heartfelt and gracious.”

Jim Belshaw makes a pertinent point this morning:

I have absolutely no doubt of Mr Abbott’s sincerity. He has earned that right. His longer term commitment has been well demonstrated.  And yet, how can he expect people to identify with this issue when he is polarising so many?

There is a good news story about Glebe Public School also: In inner-city Glebe the gap has been closed. No doubt the work being done there is inspirational, but I would hesitate to say that the very special circumstances of Glebe, an inner Sydney school, bear too much resemblance to issues faced in remote communities.

Glebe Public School

Recent TV and some great personalities

OK, begin with amusing. The second series of Shock Horror Aunty ran last night. Great fun, but at the same time interesting as social history.  

Now what about Ja’mie: Private School Girl?


Mr Rabbit, a teacher, younger than Chris Lilley who turns 40 next year, thinks Ja’mie is about as funny as childhood cancer.  Maximos, a former colleague of mine in SBHS days, could not watch after Episode 1. The Sydney Morning Herald critic Annabel Ross has a good valedictory on the last episode, screened last night.

As others have pointed out, it’s hard to know if Lilley’s critique is aimed at private school girls like Ja’mie or at the society that has bred them.

Ultimately, though, it all feels a bit so what. There’s been no redemption, no downfall, no real sense that Ja’mie has learned anything at all. But maybe that’s the point.

Ja’mie lives without consequence, and should temper tantrums and tears not win her arguments, the rest of her problems can usually be summarily dismissed with a breezy “whatevs”.

Ja’mie shed a third of its viewers over its Australian run, dividing critics, and attracting mainly brickbats in the US this week when it debuted on HBO.

The announcement that high school bully Jonah will be the next Lilley character to get his own series will doubtless delight many fans. But I can’t help wondering if, like Ja’mie, it will feel a little like more of the same.

Perhaps it’s time for Lilley to go back to the drawing board and unleash a new creation.

Because this has been inflicted on the rest of the planet via HBO, The Atlantic Monthly has a go at Ja’mie King: Smart Parody or Destructive Stereotype?

And to be fair, it’s a message with some veracity. “Ja’mie King is a parody of a devastating truth,” writes Madeleine Ryan for The Sydney Morning Herald. “The question raised by Lilley is: are young women, in order to make sense of their place in the world, becoming monsters?”

It’s a question better posed as “Why are young women turning into monsters?” The answer, of course, is the gauntlet of ludicrously high expectations society demands they run through—perhaps the only facet of modern culture Lilley effectively lampoons in Private School Girl. Ja’mie has quite a lot of plates to keep spinning: She must be hot (or “quiche”); she must be thin; she must be charitable, dateable, and creative. She’s the head prefect and the soi-disant “smartest non-Asian” at Hillford Girls’ Grammar, and she’s banked her entire self-worth on receiving an all-school award before shipping off to Africa for a gap-year of aid work. This on top of maintaining her record for “the most Facebook friends” in school.

So maybe we have an inkling as to why Ja’mie and the young women she supposedly represents are turning into monsters. But the next question is, why do we find it so funny?

Private School Girl isn’t likely to offer any useful answers…

But see also Cultural cringe and Ja’mie, Private School Girl.

I watched the whole thing.  Having taught in state schools but also in three private schools – and the South African references were very pertinent to one of those – I found myself having to cringe but acknowledge the degree of truth in Chris Lilley’s merciless satire. His performance is truly amazing – for a guy pushing 40 now! Linguistically he has a great ear. But I did find the whole thing just TOO dark, too, well, cruel.

Brilliant, however, was the modest shoe-string ABC News 24’s One Plus One this last week, an interview with well-known scientist, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.


Do watch it!   Another interview reported in a Victorian regional news site:

To say that Dr Karl has had a varied career is an understatement. After school at Christian Brothers in Wollongong, he laid pipes for a while, then studied physics and maths. By 19 he was working as a physicist and later as a scientist in Papua New Guinea and as a filmmaker in Sydney. From 1972 to the mid-1980s he moonlighted as a taxi driver to beef up his income from various jobs, which included working as a mechanic for a while.

“I felt it was ridiculous that I knew how the universe began but I couldn’t fix my handbrake,” he says.

He has also worked as a roadie for Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry on their Australian tour, a TV weatherman, a doctor at Sydney Children’s Hospital (he somehow managed to fit in a medical degree) and as a biomedical engineer for Fred Hollows, designing a machine that picks up electrical signals from the human eyeball. “My career has been like a Paddle Pop stick in the gutter on a rainy day. I had no control over it.”

In 1981, when the US was preparing to send a shuttle into space, Dr Karl rang the Sydney radio station then known as Double J to offer his services for a show it was making about the event. The station accepted, and that was the beginning of three decades of bringing science to the mainstream and a life in the public eye.

His CV since then makes you wonder if he ever rests: making his TV debut in 1985 as presenter of the first series of Quantum, talking to about 300,000 listeners each week on his Triple J Science Talkback show, writing 34 books, and running (unsuccessfully) for the Senate in 2007. In 2003 he was named Australian Father of the Year, in 2006 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and last year he was declared a National Living Treasure.

“I call myself a suboptimal polymath,” he says. “A polymath is good in each of the fields. I was never good at anything in particular but I cover a broad range of fields and dive into them enough to be able to know what’s going on and then explain them to somebody. As a doctor I’m sure I wasn’t incompetent. I wasn’t the world’s best doctor by a long shot. But at least I could help people.”

Karl Kruszelnicki, 65, was born in Sweden to Polish parents. He came to Australia when he was two and spent three years in a refugee camp near the Victorian/New South Wales border. “I grew up in a hut that was the size of a white tradie’s van,” he says. “I’ve got one memory of that time, which is that the family got one egg a week and my parents gave me the egg. That’s what parents do. I didn’t realise this until I was older. And I had this incredible feeling of being loved and thinking what sort of things parents do for their children.”

His father Ludwik, who died in 1980, and his mother Rina, who died 10 years later, were in concentration camps, his mother in Auschwitz in Poland, and his father in Sachsenhausen in Germany. “I went to Sachsenhausen last year,” Dr Karl says. “It was the weirdest thing, to walk across the ground knowing you were walking across the ashes of thousands of dead people. I walked across the camp many times to make sure that I would have intersected with my father’s footsteps at one stage.”

As a young “refo” growing up in Wollongong, Karl always felt like an outsider. “There were the Catholics and the Protestants, and if you weren’t in either tribe you must be something else, so I was a wog. I felt bullied, but it was all I ever knew so I didn’t mind. Everything you could possibly imagine I was bullied (about) at school.”

I ask Dr Karl how this shaped him. “Sympathy for people who get bullied. I was doing a book tour two years ago in Melbourne. The driver seemed like a happy guy and I got talking with him. Turns out he was a Kurd. Every year of his life that he could remember someone tried to kill him and his family, and he became a refugee in Australia and he loves it because no one is trying to kill him. It’s not much to ask for. So I have sympathy for refos.’’

With his wife Mary he has three children, a 25-year-old son who works for a hedge fund, a 23-year-old daughter doing a course in fashion and design technology – “as a result I now know what a circle skirt is” – and a 15-year-old daughter in year 9 at high school….

I would have taught the older son now and again at SBHS – Class of 2005. I see he is currently on the SBHSOBU Executive Council.  Here is an earlier interview with Karl Senior…

KARL KRUSZELNICKI: Well…they’d been a position where other people controlled their lives. And they were both in situations where they should have died. Except…accidents. My mother – they ran out of Zyklon B at Auschwitz. My father was going to be killed, because he was the one who was carrying the dead bodies to put them into the gas ovens. You know, he was going to be killed! And he managed to use a tin of sardines as a bribe to swap identities with somebody who was officially dead.
PETER THOMPSON: When did you find that out?
KARL KRUSZELNICKI: Only late. My father was reluctant, but he would tell me some things. He had this big number on his arm – 95808. That was his tattoo number – big ugly thing. I never found out that my mother was in the concentration camps until she was beginning to dement.
PETER THOMPSON: Well, these had obviously been just huge, formative experiences in their lives. And yet, they withheld them from you.
KARL KRUSZELNICKI: Mmmm. Because they didn’t want me to be bitter and twisted and grow up with hate. And they were pretty good at not having hate. There was one case of my father, who ran into one of the guards at his concentration camp in Wollongong. And gave…my father was involved as a very low-level bureaucrat on the Water Board, helping employ people. And he gave him a job. And later he said to the guy – “You were my guard at the concentration camp.” And he’d done bad things to my father. He said, “Well, why’d you give me job?” He said, “It’s not for you. “I don’t mind, I forgive you, but it’s for your children.”
PETER THOMPSON: By not divulging these things to you till quite late, of course, protects you in one sense. But also, family secrets have got their negative side, too.
KARL KRUSZELNICKI: Yes. And the bad side was – I did not really, really understand why they were how they were. I didn’t understand why they had this distrust of people – they were still nice, and friendly – but there was always a little bit of paranoia.
PETER THOMPSON: You go from Sweden to Wollongong. That’s a big distance.

The third Keating interview on Tuesday night was also brilliant – again, whatever you may think of Paul Keating.

I borrowed Don Watson’s Recollections of a Bleeding Heart from Wollongong Library and had read material that paralleled much that was in Tuesday night’s interview. Watson’s book really is excellent – and long!  But I will persist. It is worth it for such things as Watson’s reflections on political speech writing, his account of what it is actually like in the “rabbit burrow” of Parliament House in Canberra, and much more – as Noel Turnbull says so well:

…this is an important book, which fuses four distinct genres, rather than just a traditional biography.

First, it is a polemic about economic rationalism, seeking to re-insert people and values into political and economic debate. Not that Watson is just some “politically correct” bleeding heart, as his criticisms of the selfishness and self-centredness of many in the arts community and his contempt for the environmental lobby make clear. His heroes are the heroes of civility – Orwell and Havel – and his ethical framework is fundamentally based on Kant’s categorical imperative.

Second, it is a great human political biography of the life and times of a complex Prime Minister. In years to come it will be ranked with some of the great political biographies of the past 100 years: Taylor Branch on Martin Luther King, Lacouture on de Gaulle, and Lord Blake on Bonar Law and Disraeli.

Third, it is a great work of political anthropology with rich descriptions of political office life – the egos, pressures, jealousies, disasters, triumphs and all the physically exhausting unreality of lives lurching between the Coliseum of question time and the tyrannies of hourly news broadcasts.

Fourth, it is a wonderfully entertaining memoir of an historian who is activist, participant and observer. One vignette – towards the end of the book in the period immediately before Keating’s landslide defeat – illustrates how Watson captures moments and people as well as writers like Saint Simon, Alan Clark and Count Ciano. Watson writes: “I bumped into Barry Jones in a Melbourne street one morning when I hadn’t been to bed; he put his face very close to mine as was always his habit, and squinted and said loudly through the corner of his mouth – in exactly the same way as he would tell you why Bach’s 32nd Cantata was superior to his 33rd, or who was state secretary of the Queensland branch in 1911, or what Ludwig of Bavaria said on his deathbed – you’ve lost your sense of humour! And he walked on, leaving me even bleaker.” The brief, churlish appearances of former Victorian Premier, John Cain, are other illustrations of how the memoir miniature can illuminate the “big picture” of which Keating was so fond.

But most of all, this book is one of the most insightful yet written about the process of writing speeches and the relationship between speechwriter and speech giver…

In September 2011 Don Watson talked at the Wheeler Centre with Rudd speechwriter James Button. Well worth seeing.  The interview particularly looks at why Paul Keating disliked Watson’s book so much. For background to that see All mine, my dear Watson by Paul Keating (26 August 2010) and Loves lies bleeding: the PM and the pen by Michael Gordon (20 August 2011).

Keating’s view today is unchanged. It matters not that, according to Carmen Lawrence, who writes a new foreword to the book, ”readers almost invariably come away from Recollections with a greater regard for Keating”. As one who remains very close to the former prime minister puts it: ”Paul will go to his grave absolutely convinced that it was an act of betrayal and an act of gross misrepresentation – that Don exaggerates his role and diminishes Paul not only by that manoeuvre, but also by his depiction of Paul as someone who is looking like Hamlet, torn by indecision on the battlements.”

For Keating, it was the final of a string of calamities that began with losing the 1996 election to his political nemesis John Howard, and included the end of his marriage to Annita. As the source quoted above sees it: “In many ways the Watson book was a greater calamity for Paul. That’s where it sits in his psyche.”

Certainly, the two men, who constituted one of this country’s most effective speechwriter and prime minister partnerships, have not been in the same room since the launch. It has not been a public, verbal feud, but it has amounted to one of the most enduring, unexpected fallings-out in modern Australian political history….

Watson also appeared on Radio National’s The Book Show (7 September 2011).

Don Watson: You can only write according to your own lights, and if you are an insider, if you are in the middle of the swim I don’t think you can pretend that you weren’t, that was the principal thing. But I also don’t think, as I say there, that a more elevated view is necessarily going to be a truer picture because you’re going to miss some of the truth that you see close up.

And I quote an example of a book that Paul liked, William Manchester’s biography of Churchill, which Christopher Hitchens called ‘among all the hagiographies, this is the most hagiographic’. And yet not even the hagiographer, the worshipful author, could avoid saying things about Churchill that Churchill wouldn’t have liked, in fact simply turning away from the fact that he wouldn’t hear a word against Edward VIII, and which describes in great detail Churchill’s very, very strange eccentric behaviour including massive alcoholism, bouts of great depression, spending entire days either naked or in his pyjamas sitting in a perfectly calibrated bath with the morning newspapers. I mean, he was a very strange fellow, and drinking about 40 bottles of wine a day.

So I don’t think anyone could write about Paul, from whatever angle you wrote it, without talking about Paul’s very powerful personality, especially in a political climate where everyone seems to be exactly the same, and we think eccentricity is Bob Katter or someone like that. Paul is Paul, there is no other Paul, and to write about him you have to try and get inside and find out what it is that made him the way he is.

Ramona Koval: Get some Paulishness.

Don Watson: Get some Paulishness…

I can’t see what Keating hated so much about Watson’s book.

And here is a taste of Keating in 2011 saying some pertinent things about Tony Abbott:

Some remarkable TV

Yes, they are all on ABC!  Not that remarkable TV isn’t anywhere else – but it so happens…

First, whatever one thinks of the man the Keating Interviews really are something very special. Do make sure you watch them.

Second, Q&A excelled itself in the broadcast from India last Monday night.

TONY JONES: Good evening and Namaste. This is Q&A live from the kingdom of dreams in Gurgaon, south of the Indian capital, New Delhi. I’m Tony Jones and answering your questions tonight: India’s best known television interviewer Karan Thapar; former diplomat, author and now Minister for State for Human Resources Development Shashi Tharoor; Australian-born Bollywood star Pallavi Sharda; the managing editor of India’s leading investigative magazine Shoma Chaudhury; outspoken conservative commentator Swapan Dasgupta; and former Australian Test cricketer Stuart MacGill. Please welcome our panel.

Well, thank you and, as usual, we’re being simulcast on ABC News 24, Australia Network and News Radio. But tonight we’re also live across India on DD National, with the Indian public broadcaster Doordarshan, which has just launched a partnership with ABC International. Of course everyone watching in Australia and India can join the Twitter conversation using the #qanda that just appeared on your screen. Well, India and Australia share growing links in migration, trade, a history of British Empire and Commonwealth and a passion for cricket. But what does the future hold for these Indian Ocean neighbours? Tonight’s Q&A brings together a distinguished panel of Indians and Australians to face live questions from the citizens of both countries. Our first question tonight is from Jasmeen Malhotra…


Third, don’t forget tonight’s Episode of Redfern Now – much of it set in a place dear to me, South Sydney Uniting Church.


From tonight’s Redfern Now

Fourth, two excellent programs from the children’s channel ABC3.

YOU’RE SKITTING ME is an Australian sketch comedy show for kids. The sketches are an edgy mix of zombies, cavemen, naughty girl guides, animations and parodies of Twilight and talent shows. The show stars an ensemble cast of six teenagers, five of which are new to television audiences. YOU’RE SKITTING ME is made for ABC3 by Jigsaw Entertainment.”  It really is very funny, and quite professional.


Nowhere Boys (linked from the image) really is out of the box stuff. Luke Buckmaster on Crikey says:

Ghosts from The Twilight Zone, Paul Jennings stories and Flight of the Navigator (1986) hover throughout ABC3′s upcoming young adult adventure-mystery-drama Nowhere Boys, even if the target demographic may not be old enough to notice them. The first four eps were strung together for the show’s premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival, and it’s good stuff: pacey and addictive yoof-tainment with snazzy packaging and a compelling “what if” existential premise.

Television is becoming “more cinematic” these days, so the common line goes. Small screen productions certainly feel larger in scope and ambition (Game of Thrones, House of Cards, The Wire, Arrested Development) and the same is true here. It’s hard to know whether artists are subconsciously accommodating for larger lounge room screens and merging distribution models or if the idiot box is experiencing a kind of filmic renaissance.

Produced by The Home Song Stories (2007) and The Slap (2011) director Tony Ayres, Nowhere Boys opens with the same structure as Breaking Bad, a simple, borderline cliché but very effective flashback device. An adrenaline rush of what-the-hell-is-happening plonks viewers in a climactic situation interrupted by a placard (“24 hours earlier”) pre-empting an account of circumstances leading up to this event…

I am hooked.