Showing posts with label Australian society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian society. Show all posts

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Talking about Australia

Up until recently, I used to make comments in this blog—often of a critical nature—on various aspects of my land of birth, Australia. But I've always realized that it's preferable, for several reasons, to avoid this bad habit. These days, I find it harder and harder to even know what's happening in Australia, because my two principal sources of information—the online web versions of The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald—have implemented paywalls. And since I have no intention of patronizing such low-quality newspapers, I no longer necessarily know what's happening Down Under.
NOTE: Method for getting around paywalls. Copy the title of the desired article. Paste it into Google as an argument. This usually works. [Don't tell anybody I told you.]
Here in France, funnily enough, I constantly run into situations that have encouraged me to remain abreast, as best I can, of current events in Australia. You see, every time I open my mouth, French people realize that I speak with a curious accent (my Franco-Australian daughter and son have always disagreed), and they often ask me where I come from. And, as soon as I say Australia, French people inevitably wonder out loud why on earth any sane individual (?) with an Australian passport would have left his native Antipodean paradise for a harsh land such as France... where taxes are astronomical, the economic climate is disastrous, young folk can't find jobs, the sky is constantly overcast, people are arrogant, mustached males eat smelly cheeses and frogs' legs smothered in garlic, nobody speaks English, etc... It would be ridiculous to suggest (even if it were true) that I was attracted to France, long ago, because of all the wonderful women. These days, thanks to the Internet and YouTube,  French people know that Australia, too, has superb female creatures such as Jesinta Campbell.


Besides, it's a known fact that, here in France, flamboyant females sit around lazily in cafés getting pissed on coarse red wine... which is hardly a man's idea of nice womanhood.


When French people ask me why I moved here from a fabulous land of milk and honey such as Australia, I make an attempt to reply truthfully... which is possibly a personal weakness, indeed a stupid mistake. Maybe it would be simpler if I were to tell a few white lies, and concoct a standard explanation capable of satisfying everybody. For example, I've already noticed that, as soon as I speak of owning farm animals (merely a couple of donkeys today, but there used to be sheep and goats), most people seem to see that as a plausible reason for my staying put, stoically and permanently, in rural France. French folk who hear such an "explanation" must imagine that, if the Aussie fellow's so stupid as to have purchased French farm animals, then he surely doesn't deserve to return to his native wonderland in the southern hemisphere. After all, not even a French farmer and his wife, booking in for a Mediterranean cruise, would expect to be able to bring their dog along with them.

The basic problem, I believe, is that the Australian tourist authorities have done such a splendid job of presenting Australia to foreign audiences (through TV documentaries, above all) that French people imagine sincerely that my native land is something like a mythical Switzerland transported into the tropics, surrounded by white sands and warm turquoise waters, where countless ordinary citizens have become immensely wealthy simply by digging up precious minerals in the backyards of their suburban homes and selling the stuff to less lucky lands (such as France).

My personal evaluation of Australian society has been dominated, over the years, by three major negative themes:

1. The absence of a profound political culture in Australia (as opposed to politics as a lucrative career) means that the nation's wealth has never been distributed justly to the people. Consequently, Australia's infrastructure and lifestyle (apart from an abundance of good weather) are deplorable.

2. Contrary to what Australians themselves seem to imagine, their land is relatively uninteresting, indeed boring, from a touristic point of view. While there's a lot of empty scenery (which can be interesting at times), there is no visible culture, history or non-superficial social atmosphere.

3. As my Francophile friend Geoff once put it, there are no traditions of written culture in Australia. Among other things, there is no role in Australia for individuals who would be designated in France as intellectual observers.

Concerning that final remark, I was most intrigued to come upon a short critical article written by a young Australian lady named Alecia Simmonds, who's a journalist, an adjunct lecturer of law at the University of New South Wales, and a Merewether Fellow at the prestigious Mitchell Library in Sydney.


Click here to find Alecia's article, entitled Why Australia hates thinkers.

To whet your appetite, I'm appending a few lengthy excerpts of Alecia's excellent article. Certain specimens of colloquial language and parochial allusions might puzzle the non-Australian readers of my Antipodes blog. While insisting upon the fact that I do not necessarily share the strong opinions of Alecia Simmonds, I refrain from commenting upon the detailed substance of her paper.
[...] in Straya, we don't give a dead dingo's donger about academics. Universities make a perfect target because, like few other Western countries, Australia hates thinkers. In contrast to France, where philosophers often grace the covers of Le Monde, and England where Slavoj Zizek writes regular columns in The Guardian Weekly. In Australia, we have Peter Hartcher on anti-Gillard autopilot and the bile-flecked bleating of shock-jocks like Alan Jones.

[...] The problem is that as a country we are hostile to those who are well-educated. We prefer home-spun wisdom to years of research. Our language is peppered with vitriol reserved for those who think for a living: "chattering classes", "latte-sipping libertarians", "intellectual elites" and now Nick Cater's most unlovely term "bunyip elite". If we want to emphasise the importance of something we say that the issue "is not just academic". Any idea that takes longer than a nano-second to understand is howled down.

[...] There's no doubt that Australia is a vast, sunny, intellectual gulag. The question is why. It's certainly not for want of thinkers.

[...] Perhaps there's a link between the myth of Australian egalitarianism and anti-intellectualism. Australian history is popularly told as a story of democracy, equality and classlessness that broke from England's stuffy, poncy, aristocratic elitism. We're a place where hard yakka, not birth, will earn you success and by hard yakka we don't mean intellectual labour. Although, of course, equality is a great goal, we've interpreted it to mean cultural conformity rather than a redistribution of wealth and power. The lowest common denominator exerts a tyrannical sway and tall poppies are lopped with blood-soaked scythes. Children learn from an early age that being clever is a source of shame. Ignorance is cool.

[...] There's also no room for cleverness in our models of masculinity or femininity. For women, intelligence equates with a dangerous independence that doesn't sit well with your role as a docile adoring fan to the boys at the pub. It's equated with sexual unattractiveness. And for men, carrying a book and using words longer than one syllable is a form of gender treason. It's as good as wearing bumless chaps to a suburban barbecue. Real blokes have practical wisdom expressed through grunts and murmurs. Real Aussie chicks just giggle.
Getting back to the personal question of why I reside in France rather than in my native Australia, the most honest and meaningful answer is, of course, that the three members of my family live here (in Paris and Brittany).

BREAKING NEWS: As proof of my resolution to refrain from criticizing my native land, I do not intend to comment unduly and at length upon an astonishing news flash in the latest online issue of The Daily Examiner [here]:
E coli bacteria in the Lower Clarence water supply system
On the other hand, I wish to criticize their ill-informed journalist who wrote the following statement:
E. coli itself is generally not harmful but its presence in drinking water indicates that the water may be contaminated with organisms that may cause disease.
The presence of Escherichia coli indicates, almost certainly, that the municipal water supply has been contaminated by sewage: possibly human fecal matter. The journalist writes as if this bacteria were a mere indicator: some kind of biological litmus paper. He/she doesn't seem to understand, or doesn't wish to say explicitly, that it's the E coli bacterium itself that "may cause disease". A more serious article would have indicated the actual levels of E coli that have been detected.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Inevitable pranks

Even if society were to decide that pranks should be forbidden, it would be impossible to enforce such a ban. So, one has to learn to live with pranks. And maybe even die...

A trivially-funny fake phone call to Kate Middleton's London hospital from an Australian radio station upset the nurse Jacintha Saldanha to the point of convincing her that life was no longer worth living.


Jeez, this poor woman must have had few profound survival values, reasons for believing in human existence, in Life (with a capital L). The celebrated Darwin Awards honor individuals who have "contributed to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization due to their own (unnecessarily foolish) actions". I reckon that Jacintha merits this posthumous honor. Her courageous act of self-destruction has possibly cleansed our gene pool a little of future incentives to commit suicide because of the Windsors... who (in my humble opinion) don't really deserve such a silly sacrifice.

Above all, let's not be tempted to castigate the Aussie radio couple of 2Day FM: Mel Greig and Michael Christian.


They're talented professionals, and we must assume that they know what they're doing. If publicity revenues drop as a result of this incident, that must not be a pretext for casting aspersion upon Mel and Michael. It's in no way their fault if a certain dull lady in London couldn't support the weight of a prank, of humor. It goes without saying that I know nothing of Samantha. I'm therefore reduced to evaluating her psychology—dull lady?—uniquely through her stupendously silly act of suicide.

I hope that Mel/Michael will be back on board for the infinitely more oppressive Mayan-inspired events that the planet will be facing in a fortnight: the end of the universe. The radio couple would do well to look upon the Kate Middleton incident as a warmup to communications of all kinds concerning the forthcoming apocalypse. It would be a great idea if a big international channel such as CNN or the BBC were to hire the Mel/Michael team to put out global phone feelers to all kinds of folk (philosophers, pollies, nurses, royals, etc) on 21 December 2012, for feedback on our Final Evening. That would be great entertainment. Only the next day (if it were to come about) might Mel/Michael be sacked retrospectively for failure to have licked Windsor arses.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dumb ways to be xenophobes

In Melbourne (Australia), the transport authorities have commissioned a cute little video that's supposed to encourage train travelers to be more cautious on city platforms.


At one point in the celebrated Gangnam Style video, Psy is singing in Korean on a bus.


In Australia, it can dangerous for foreigners to sing on a bus, particularly when they happen to be singing in a language other than what is thought of as English. In Melbourne, we've just seen the ugly heads of several particularly dumb xenophobes who assaulted a French girl who felt like singing.


The creators of Dumb ways to die were happy because their little video started to go viral. But its fame was nothing compared to the notoriety, in the French media, of the incident involving the Melbourne xenophobes who assaulted the French girl who dared to sing in French in an Australian bus. Today, in France, this story has hit the front pages of Internet media.

The Australian tourist authorities have been striving for years to entice visitors to Down Under. In one fell swoop, the dumb bastards on the bus have probably cancelled a good part of the positive effects of this promotional work, at least as far as potential French visitors are concerned.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Urunga nightmare

Three months ago, I wrote a blog article titled In the early hours of an Australian Morning [display] about a fatal accident in which two people were killed on the Pacific Highway at Urunga in northern New South Wales. Like many observers, I had imagined immediately that the underlying blame for this terrible collision was no doubt the deplorable state of the Pacific Highway at Urunga. Everybody seems to agree that major investments would be required to transform the present road into a modern highway, safe for all categories of road users including drivers of giant trucks of the B-double category. And safe, too, for people who live alongside the highway.

Today, in the wake of that terrible night of Saturday, 7 January 2012—terminating at 5 am on Sunday, 8 January 2012—only the empty shells of the tragedy are visible. Here are the remains of the house in which 11-year-old Max McGregor died.


Max, from South Penrith, had been staying there with his parents in their holiday home, accompanied by his 14-year-old brother Bruce, who miraculously survived the disaster.

PHOTOS The above two photos of the destroyed house were taken by Frank Redward.

On January 27, a Urunga resident named Kath Black sent a comment to my blog:
That was our family home. My Dad and Mum moved there in 1937 and stayed there until Dad built the house next door and the granny flat behind. When we were kids, we would play cricket on that road, as there was not much traffic. My nephew owns it now, but the government has not kept up with the amount of traffic that travels that road.
In other words, Kath Black seems to suggest that, in the context of the terrible Urunga accident, the state of the highway was one of the factors at fault.

Here is the carcass of the blue Holden Commodore 1999-model utility vehicle, driven by 38-year-old David Levett from nearby Nambucca Heads:


The driver couldn't get out of that mess alive... and he didn't. But how come that he apparently steered his lethal way wildly, almost with determination, on the wrong side of the road, straight between the front wheels of an approaching B-double?

PHOTOS The above two photos of the blue ute were taken by Frank Redward.

In the case of a tragedy of this kind, before jumping to conclusions, one needs to reconstruct a representation of what actually happened. And a major witness of the terrible final instants of the catastrophe is a miraculous survivor: Trevor, the 51-year-old Queenslander at the wheel of a 2002-model Kenworth prime mover with a B-double trailer full of bananas. That night, Trevor was accompanied by a co-driver, his 31-year old Townsville nephew Tim.

Trevor was no newcomer to the B-double business: he has been driving heavy vehicles for three decades. On the eve of that fateful night, he had been completing his first four hours of driving with a new employer, and the load was 70 tons of bananas.

At around 8.30 pm, that Saturday evening, after picking up Trevor for his first run in the new job, Tim took the B-double out of Toowoomba. Their destination was the south: Sydney. Two hours later, in the vicinity of Dinmore, at the level of Ipswich, Trevor took the wheel. Four hours later, around 2.30 on the morning of January 8, they halted for a 45-minute break at a place I know well: Halfway Creek. (In the vicinity of my unique childhood mountain, Glenugie, Halfway Creek got its dull name because it was located midway between Grafton and the beach town of Woolgoolga.) After a snack and coffee, Trevor checked the tires and lights of his giant vehicle, then he drove off, while Tim crawled into the bunk, to sleep.

Just before entering Urunga, Trevor would have crossed the Kalang River at a picturesque place (whose natural beauty is surely enhanced in the twilight of a summer dawn) where the road and rail bridges run parallel to each other. In the following Google Maps rendition of that place, facing south, you must readjust your vision to allow for the fact that Trevor's B-double was being driven southwards on the left-hand side of the road, whereas the Google vehicle from which this image was taken was obviously moving in a northwards direction.


This crossing has always caught my attention for a roundabout reason. Up in my native town of Grafton, they chose a quite different solution. Road and rail traffic cross the great Clarence River on a curious two-storied bridge.


But I'm digressing. It goes without saying that B-double vehicles could never use the bridge at Grafton to cross the Clarence (maybe a blessing?) for the simple reason that it incorporates a pair of amazing road-traffic bends based upon the geometrical fact that trains can't normally be expected to turn corners, whereas motor vehicles can !

Driving through Urunga, Trevor recalled a slight incline ending in a bend to the left, where he changed gears in order to maintain his speed. I would imagine that the following Google Maps image provides us with a daylight version of Trevor's vision at that crucial moment:


At that point, at 5 o'clock in the morning, Trevor was suddenly hurled into what might be called a nightmare vision. While changing gears, he saw a dark blue utility coming towards him in the north-bound lane (on the right of the above image). When this utility vehicle was about 30 meters away from him, Trevor discovered with stupor that the driver suddenly turned to his right, straight into the path of Trevor's prime mover.

Today, in his memory of those fatal instants, Trevor recalls the utility vehicle on a direct collision course with Trevor's B-double. There was no avoidance on the part of the ute driver or slowing in speed. His vehicle impacted violently with the front of the prime mover, sending the truck on a direct line towards the houses and the people inside.

Trevor was not wearing a seat belt. In fact, many truck drivers prefer not to wear seat belts, saying: "You never know when you might need to get out of the cabin in a hurry." Today, Trevor can claim that he owes his life to the fact that he wasn't belted into his seat, since he was thrown from the driver's seat and out of the way of the timber and other debris crashing in through the driver's window of the cabin. However Trevor's pierced lung and broken ribs meant that he had to spend a week in the intensive care and surgical wards of Coffs Harbour Hospital. Today, he would appear to be recovering his spirits, while awaiting inspiration on how he and his wife Heather might possibly recover—psychologically and professionally—from this accident.

A minor anecdote caught my attention, and moved me concerning the ethical attitudes of this country truck driver who will inevitably live the rest of his life in the shadow of those two individuals who died suddenly in the early hours of an Australian morning. Trevor recalls his anguish, while being bounced about as the prime mover hurtled madly on its uncontrollable path of destruction, by his inability to reach down and access the emergency brakes for the trailers, located in a lower region of the cabin. In the days that followed the accident, Trevor said to himself constantly that, if only he had been able to get at those brakes, he might have been able to avoid the catastrophe. Finally, after technical inspection of the wrecked prime mover, experts told Trevor that the shock of the utility's impact had in fact broken the front axle of the prime mover, and pushed it back some 25 cm, where it cut through the B-double's system of hydraulic lines. So, even if Trevor had succeeded in reaching the emergency brakes, they would have been totally inoperable.

Political decisions will now be made concerning the advantages and possibility of investing in a costly bypass of Urunga. To an outside observer, the sense of this bypass theme is not obvious. At present, the Pacific Highway does not appear to go through the center of Urunga, as can be seen in the following map:


A month after the crash, it was revealed that the driver of the utility vehicle was nearly 5 times over the legal BAC limit [Blood Alcohol Content]. Police said that the amount was 0.245 over the Australian limit of 0.05. This means the driver would have consumed approximately 30 standard drinks before getting into his vehicle and driving off into the night.

Conclusion: In the case of calamities of this kind, the real culprits are surely certain drivers.

——————————————
RIP Max McGregor and David Levett 
——————————————

ADDENDUM: Basic information concerning this accident has appeared in an excellent local newspaper:


Click here for a short moving statement, published in that newspaper ten days after the accident, from Trevor's wife Heather.

BREAKING NEWS (January 11, 2013): Click here to access a fine article in The Sydney Morning Herald concerning the aftermath of this tragedy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Aussie psychologist creates monsters

This is really weird stuff. And so it should be, because the Queensland psychologist Matthew Thomson has hit upon a way of transforming portraits of ordinary individuals into fleeting images of monsters.

Should we be surprised by the fact that this bright young Fullbright scholar happens to be an expert in criminal fingerprinting, who'll soon be comparing notes with the Los Angeles police and the FBI? No comment… except to suggest that it might have been nicer if Matthew's monsters had sprung into existence, say, in the course of an artistic career devoted to the production of ghost movies for Aussie kids. But psychologists are psychologists, and they need to earn their living in the most propitious manner.

Let's look at the monsters. You might click around in such a way as to fill up your entire screen with the following video. Then you should watch it at least twice.

• The first time, keep your eyes on the cross in the middle of the screen, and try to recollect your impressions of the kind of unrecognizable faces that are fleeting past you on both sides of the cross. You'll probably feel that these fleeting images are monstrous.

• The second time, verify calmly the look of the various portraits on the left and right of the cross. You'll be astonished to discover that they weren't really monsters at all…



Matthew's diabolical secret? The eyes have it. From one portrait to the next, the eyes remain exactly in the same position on your computer screen. And this is what gives the impression that the faces are being expanded, distended, stretched, compressed and distorted grotesquely around those lovely fixed eyes.

In real life, I have no reasons to believe that Matthew's not a nice guy. But I can't help imagining him as a distorted monster in a Queensland police uniform on a motor bike. In a nightmare, I see the Fullbright scholar pulling me over to the edge of a Gold Coast highway and informing me that I don't look like a normal law-abiding citizen.

EMPTY AFTERTHOUGHT: Jeez, it would be fucking lovely if Australian scholarship, particularly in a domain such as psychology, could move away forever from prisons and police, and our historical heritage as an end-of-the-boat-ride dump for the poor bastards who prevented English aristocracy from living perpetually in a land of fairytale princes and princesses. In the 18th and 19th centuries, long before the psychologist Matthew, vicious Poms had already invented the vision of ordinary folk as monsters.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Atheism in Australia

Here's some sound advice concerning the forthcoming census in Australia:
Through their numbers and their well-organized stance, Australian atheists are making a fine name for themselves on the international scene. Needless to say, that situation makes me happy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Old photos of Australian offenders

Click the banner to find some interesting portraits of Australians who had dealings of one kind or another with the police and justice system of New South Wales during the two decades from 1920 to 1940. Apparently the archives contain some 130,000 photographic negatives of individuals convicted during this period. And it would seem that these images are now being made public, whence the presentation of Down Under delinquents in the pages of a flashy French magazine.

This public display of named portraits of offenders surprises me somewhat, although I wouldn't go so far as to say that I disapprove of it. After all, a researcher in family history can't even access dull census data that's as recent as 1920 to 1940. I can't even request a copy of my birth certificate dated 1940, whereas the authorities are quite happy to release this photo of a guy named Jack Keane, a bookmaker who was shot dead at Mascot in 1933.

Some of the individuals (with hats off) appear to be nice smart guys.

Others (with hats on) seem to be less friendly. In any case, I wouldn't feel like buying a used automobile from such fellows.

There's a spooky-looking female murderer, Dorothy Mort.

A frail fellow named Sydney Skukerman has a regard that doesn't inspire confidence, but he was actually a rather minor wrongdoer. He merely stole stuff in warehouses... which, in later years, became a regular unpunished pastime—so I was told, back in the '50s in Sydney—of many waterside workers in Australian port cities.

Others look like nice blokes who wouldn't hurt a fly.

Our Australian delinquents of that epoch were probably no different to those of any other modern nation. On the other hand, I believe we've had good police photographers, and excellent archivists.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bringing up kids Down Under

During a phone conversation with my aunt who lives in Sydney, she reaffirmed her conviction that Australia, in the eyes of the vast majority of local mothers, is "the best place in the world to bring up kids". Obviously, this is a crazy claim. Even if you were to seek an answer to that dumb question by interviewing hordes of local mothers (?), what could they possibly be expected to know about any other places throughout the planet for bringing up kids beyond the precincts of their own suburb (for example, in the upper-class northern sector of Sydney) where they happened to bring up their own kids?

At one stage, I started to have serious doubts about our bringing up Emmanuelle and François in the heart of Paris, which I tended to compare unfavorably with my childhood environment in South Grafton. Needless to say, I was soon happy to discover that their growing up in the high-powered setting of the great French capital made them more wise and worldly, I believe, than if they had been raised on a farm in South Grafton… where they would have nevertheless learned how to help Christine and me in milking the cows. [Having made that last remark, I realize that my children might well have learned that art—without my knowing it—from their mother's friends in rural Brittany. Maybe, therefore, all was not lost.]

It's true that, out in Australia, there are certain interesting environments in which kids have a chance of becoming wise and worldly. Like the Dunheved Campus of Chifley College, for example. Maybe the following video will be censored sooner or later, but you can always find copies on YouTube by using keywords such as "Casey the punisher" (the fat boy).



Overnight, Casey Haynes has become a hero throughout the world, almost on a par (from a moralistic viewpoint) with Julian Assange. The scrawny weasel who did the bullying (whose body makes an astonishing sound when it hits the concrete) has been the object of rehabilitation endeavors through kind interviews, but it's hard to make him look like anything better than a future sleazy crime boss in Sydney.

But don't get me wrong. I have no opinion on the question of whether Australia might or might not be the best place in the world for bringing up a juvenile asshole such as this obnoxious little bully. Besides, is it correct to suppose that he has, in fact, been "brought up"? As for Casey: The whole wide world admires you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hail Mary, full of grave accusations

Now that all the saintly celebrations have ended, and the papal partying has subsided in Sydney and the suburbs, I think it's time to draw attention to an amazing aspect of the case of our sunburnt made-in-Down-Under Southern Cross saint Mary MacKillop [1842-1909].

I don't know whether or not Benedict XVI did this intentionally, but our illustrious Aussie Saint Mary might be thought of as the patron saint of Catholic sex-crime victims. To obtain the details of her celebrated actions in this domain, click the above image.

Once you're in contact with the highly-documented but low-profile website named Broken Rites Australia, search around for the story, say, of a nice Aussie priest named Rex Brown. In fact, Father Rex is one of many, far too many. Click around in the What's new domain of Broken Rites. It's enlightening but frightening…

Friday, July 30, 2010

The answer is a lemon

My ex-wife Christine, who reads Antipodes regularly, seems to imagine that I've built up some kind of diabolical hate-system against my native land, Australia, as if obscure psychological urges were forcing me to rage at my motherland in the style of a psychotic offspring intent upon eliminating his/her genitors. This cursory analysis of my relationship with Australia is ridiculous, and Christine should know better than to talk that way. After all, she has had a ringside seat in all my dealings with Australia, she has known for ages that Australia is a shallow nation, and she should also know a little about the nature of my profound Francophile motivations. Now, having said this, I hasten to add that Christine's criticisms will continue to merit my attention, but they won't stop me from saying anything and everything that I wish to say about my land of birth. What have I to gain from being falsely and insipidly polite?

At present, there have been major political upheavals in Australia (about which Christine, like most French people, knows almost nothing). I have the impression that many Australians have the impression that the entire world has the impression that, somehow or other, a handful of mediocre individuals—named Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Keneally, etc—would appear to be exerting a meaningful influence upon the destiny of mankind. I am not of that opinion. To my mind, individuals of the caliber of those I've just mentioned are trivial pawns whose only aptitude consists of trying systematically (as they say in French) to fart higher than their arsehole. They are not statesmen, stateswomen, merely egoistic puppets, with limited power to impress us. Lemons? Why not?



The thing about my native land that irks me most (and Christine is totally incapable of detecting this facet of my concern) is that I'm convinced that little is likely to evolve there. The rich will grow richer, and the poor, poorer. And the apathetic hordes in the middle will remain firmly in place. Politicians will remain just as superficial and ineffectual as they've always been. The infrastructure (roads, railways, defense) will remain just as lousy as it has always been. The Australian environment will continue to degrade disastrously. Culture will remain eternally just as narcissist (admiration of one's belly button) as it has always been.

I would jubilate instantly if ever I saw reasons to believe in a bright future for my motherland. Honestly (forgive me, Christine, and others), I don't. I find it less and less possible to take Australia seriously as a role model for the 21st century.

I should add that many of the negative "waves" behind the present article were propagated by a trivial article in the French press, this evening, about planned investments for a future French airport on the Atlantic coast, near Nantes. The airport won't become a reality before 2017, but all the investment discussions are being conducted seriously, of course, at present. I ask myself rhetorically: What infrastructure investments for the horizon 2017 are being discussed today in my native land?

BREAKING NEWS: A startling article in The Sydney Morning Herald entitled Parties bet they will lose [display] reveals that Australian punters (including some senior party members) are starting to gamble massively on the outcome of the forthcoming election, even if this means betting on the defeat of their own party. They're encouraged by the dominant role of voter-intention polls in the Australian political domain. To my mind, non-stop polling and gambling create a really weird and unhealthy (indeed insane) slant on democracy… but I've become an old-fashioned French citizen.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Be wary of Aussie customs

I found this cute image on the web:

It seems to have something to do with customs (the second dog has apparently detected something smelly), but the connection is fuzzy… much like Aussie customs.

Over three years ago, I wrote an article entitled Rambo caught with his pants down [display] on the subject of zealous customs officers in Australia. I still laugh whenever I think of my friend Geoff getting all his precious cans and jars of foie-gras confiscated. "Jeez mate, you don't realize what you're doing: the possible harm you could have caused. French shit like that could kill our local farmers and poison the Australian food and agriculture industries."

Back in 2006, when I last visited my native land, I took my MacBook with me, which enabled me to remain in contact with my French family through emails. (I didn't start my Antipodes blog until a few months later.) Today, in the unlikely event of my deciding to revisit Australia, I would be wary of entering the country with my portable computer, because the nation seems to have gone all wowserish in a "Big Brother" fascist fashion. The customs people would be capable of finding undesirable stuff on my hard disk: I don't know what (since I don't collect child porn), but I wouldn't trust them. Maybe they would find rude references to Stephen Conroy, or shit of that kind. In other words, they could easily decide to "do a Goossens" on me.

Click the banner to read an article on this subject in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald. Prying into a visitor's computer is a shocking example of the abuse of civil liberties, which I find intolerable. Every nation ends up with the kind of society it deserves. But I wouldn't wish to live in such a degenerate society.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Insurance, God and Dawkins

It's not an everyday habit of my lovable no-nonsense aunt Nancy Walker [married name Smith] to get involved in conceptual meditations. She's a strictly down-to-earth wise and common-sense lady, who lives at one of the nicest spots in the universe (St Ives, Sydney) and is presently driving through the wilderness with her husband Peter Smith to participate in a golfing tournament out beyond Wagga Wagga. [When I told Nancy on the phone that I intended to talk about her on my blog, she pointed out that it's important—for reasons I didn't fully seize—to include the second element in place names such as Woy Woy and Wagga Wagga.]

In our British-based culture, insurance contracts generally make reference to so-called "acts of God". This expression designates catastrophic happenings that lie beyond the bounds of situations covered by the insurance. Nancy raises the following interesting question concerning my intellectual hero: Would Richard Dawkins be prepared to sign such an insurance contract?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Aussie gangster worship

Ever since I was a child, I've realized that one of the surest ways of being admired in Australia, particularly posthumously, is to become a celebrity gangster. Our celebrated bushranger Ned Kelly surely established this fashion:

At about the age of 25, he was captured after a police shootout.

This photo show him a day before his execution in Melbourne:

There's an etching of his hanging:

Today, Ned Kelly's handmade armor is proudly displayed in an Australian museum:

This Aussie fascination with grand criminals goes all the way back to our convict system, since it's a well-established fact that many of the unfortunate individuals transported to the Antipodes, often for petty offenses, were inoffensive, often fine, individuals.

Be that as it may, there is still, in Australia, a certain fascination with big bandits... who are rarely models of humanity. We see here the gold-plated coffin (Michael Jackson style) of an underworld figure, Carl Williams, who was recently bashed to death inside a prison.

Ridiculous outpourings from his wife Roberta allege that Carl killed for nice personal reasons. Carl only mowed down Melbourne rivals because he loved his family and wanted to protect them. These stupid statements are being placarded disgustingly across the Aussie press.

Every society ends up with the gangsters it deserves. Right down to his fat little daughter, treated as a celebrity, Carl Williams is Australia's ideal dead gangster. He's set to become, like Ned Kelly, a hero.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lenten abstinence Down Under

I would have found it more appropriate if the Australian PM had given up his Mad Minister for Lent... but he at least decided to give up Garrett's botched roof-insulation project.

As for the Mad Monk, he has told us publicly that he's giving up screwing the missus for Lent.

The senate has given up its dignity by allowing Scientologists to record their whingeing officially in Hansard.

Meanwhile, Australia has its first saint. Even if there's no more than a faint chance that Mary MacKillop might be able to bring about miracles, I hope she won't give up trying, because I often feel that Australia needs her divine assistance.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Run, Rupert, run!

My Aussie compatriot Rupert Murdoch—infinitely richer than me, like all these self-made Waltzing-Matilda true-blue buggers—is raging. He has declared war on Google, because he thinks they're burgling news from his media empire.

As for Google, business as usual. They point out that they're merely sucking in (my verb, not Google's) Rupert's headlines and a few explanatory sentences, which they follow by a link to the original Murdoch stuff. Google is a gentleman. Be that as it may, Rupert seems to hate Google's guts, and he's threatening to do all sorts of nasty things, of a vague nature, such as specifying that his websites are out of Google grounds. "Please go ahead," reply Google. "You're free to do as you like." Personally, I don't think Google should talk like that. They're making Rupert see red. He's an aging traditionalist, and God only knows what he might do in the way of hara-kiri.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Business as usual

Australian media can't, of course, be expected to change their ads as a consequence of current events. And it would be spooky to read that 79,998 hotels are henceforth available. Maybe the presence of this ad, alongside the Jakarta account, is intended as a positive statement. The world business show must go on.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hilton sisters boost Aussie economy

The silly verb "to party", popular in The Sydney Morning Herald, might have been invented for Paris Hilton. Partying seems to be her principal vocation in life. But let's not criticize this filthy rich dumb doll. Her partying contributes economic aid to struggling nations... such as Australia. This photo of the Hilton sisters is charming:

Their look and style remind me of countless rough females I've glimpsed, over the years, on various well-known streets in certain big French cities: Paris, Lyon, Marseille... These days, if I understand correctly, the Internet is revolutionizing this ancient profession... but I can vouch for the observed fact that certain determined craftswomen still operate from automobiles parked alongside the road between Grenoble and Valence.

That photo of Paris and her sister led me astray. Let me return to the economic actions of Paris and her sister Nicky... who apparently pocketed about $100,000 to lure guests to a New Year's Eve party at Sydney's Piano Room. Last Monday, Paris established a shopping record of the Sarah Palin kind when she took less than an hour to spend $5560 in Melbourne boutiques. This feat was praised by no less a commentator than Australia's acting prime minister, Julia Gillard: "I think that Miss Hilton is onto something very important, which is: Whether or not you want to have a holiday that's about fashion or a big night out, Australia's a great place to do it." Paris, thrilled, reacted instantly and spontaneously to Gillard's words: "I thought that was very sweet and it's true. I'm in Australia. I think it's important to help out, you know, the economy out here, everywhere in the world. And what's wrong with a doing a little shopping? It's New Year's. I need a New Year's dress."

No doubt about it: As long as Australia can count upon friends such as Paris Hilton, the alleged economic crisis is as dead as a stale Vegemite sandwich.

Post scriptum thought. That insanely large handout investment of $100,000 to entice Paris and Nicky Hilton to a social event in Sydney symbolizes a belief I've often expressed. There's tons of money Down Under. But much of this surplus cash gets funneled into the greedy clutches of foreign billionaires instead of being used to build roads, railways, bridges and a decent defense system.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stratospheric golf

My aunt Nancy Smith in Sydney reads this blog, and she's a keen golfer, like her husband Peter. (The adjective "keen" is a pale approximation for the word I really want: something more like "addicted" or "religious". Maybe Nancy herself will tell me the right word.) Now, I know that the stratospheric privilege for a golfer is to play at Saint Andrews in Scotland, where the game was invented. It's a truly fabulous place: a kind of earthly paradise for golfers... but also a splendid university city, which charmed me immensely back in the 1970s when I was writing my guidebook on Britain.

Getting back to Nancy and her favorite sport, I'm aware that she goes on regular excursions with her husband and friends to exotic faraway golfing places. Well, I've found them a fabulous place for their next outing, in South America, at an altitude of 3,292 meters.

Knowing the physical form of Nancy (an Irish Walker/Kennedy descendant, like me), I reckon she would thrash these Bolivian ladies.

It's marvelously funny (or maybe funnily marvelous) that the universe is full of so many injustices that deserve to be bashed, thrashed and hit on their silly heads by powerful clubs... and yet we prefer to mete out this punishment to poor innocent golf balls. I retain in mind the surrealist image (fuzzy anecdote related to me by my cousin Peter Hakewill) of my dear mother Kath Walker once driving into a cane toad with a wedgie...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Complacency

Although the nature and extent of his planetary media achievements do not necessarily fill me with joy, I listened humbly, with the utmost interest, to the advice meted out by our most successful compatriot (from a financial viewpoint), Rupert Murdoch:

"At this time in our history, the gravest threat to Australia's freedom and prosperity does not come from war or terrorism, it comes from the comfort that can make us content. Today, instant flows of information, the advance of trade and the rise of economies that reward risk and enterprise, are all combining to create a world where the opportunities ahead would be greater than anything we've seen in human history. [...] With so much talent, with so many advantages and with so much potential, I can think of no greater sadness for this century than an Australia that was willing to settle for just getting by. [...] I am reasonably sure that the consequences will probably not be dire. In my mind, that's the problem."

Half a century ago, when I spent a couple of years at Sydney University, I recall that the big keyword that summarized all the apparent evils awaiting students of my generation was apathy, meaning the refusal to get involved in the major challenges of our human existence. So, if we are to believe Murdoch, nothing much seems to have changed greatly over the years. But who knows? Maybe it's a fine quality these days to be accustomed to lounging around lazily, endowed with the basic necessities for survival, while waiting for life to roll on. On the surface, it sounds zen.

Trashy recruiting video

In my October article entitled New approach to Australian tourism [display], I expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the "gotta go walkabout" theme for enticing overseas visitors to lose themselves Down Under. Today, we find far worse, for another national cause: recruiting future champions for the Olympic Games.

[Click the image to see the video.]

I have the impression that the local communication specialists who make such promotional videos (including, above all, the notorious "what the bloody hell" tourism thing) don't have the necessary creative talents to produce the right messages in the right style. The presentation of the fellow with the big mouth is vulgar and offensive to the British. Besides, the violent message at the end—"Let's rip the Brits to bits"—conveys a particularly nasty impression of the alleged Aussie Olympic spirit. Incredibly and embarrassingly trashy.