The second in a new series of adventures for Salmon & Dusk is now complete.
Artist Joe Miller is about to hit the big time. But on the opening night for his first exhibition, a stranger tells him to stop painting. If he doesn't, he'll unleash something terrible on an unsuspecting world.
When Joe doesn't listen, his work starts to take on a terrifying life of its own. Can detectives Salmon and Dusk stop him painting us all into a corner?
I sometimes worry that people like me are responsible for Andrew Bolt's position as Australia's top blogger.
I don't want him getting the wrong idea, I'm not a true believer. Or disbeliever, as the case may be. As a teacher, I was fond of using his pieces to teach persuasive language, due to his transparent use of language techniques.
More than that, in terms of entertainment value - as long as you like your entertainment tinged with disbelief and pity - it's hard to beat. For years, I was convinced his persona was a fiction, if not the man himself: a great experiment in irony.
But then, see him speak, with those dull, humourless eyes and you'll realise this is no performance. This is a man who can't quite understand why the world is the way it is.
Luckily for him, he's not alone. There are, in case you preferred not to know, a lot of people out there who find it endlessly frustrating that their views are not borne out by the world around them. I can understand that. When I was younger, it was a source of serious upset to me that a) I wasn't Spider-Man and b) I would probably never own a TARDIS.
(Note that I had to qualify that last statement with 'probably'. I mean, it could happen, couldn't it? If I wished really hard? No? Well, fuck you, universe!)
A certain amount of denial or willing ignorance is, to be honest, essential for one's sense of well-being.
If someone tells us everything's okay, a lot of us are going to be ready to listen. But, when the world seems less and less the sort of place we want it to be, it's inevitable this denial is going to be challenged now and then.
Appearing on right-wing-wingnut Hannity's show, lecturing leftist Michael Moore attempted to share some facts about the recent credit crunch. It was clear Hannity didn't want to know. Perhaps he was protecting his viewers, worrying they didn't want to know either.
People do have opinions that differ from ours, which is difficult. Tell me about it. We all like to be right. (Luckily, I always am.) But there is a difference between avoiding an argument and avoiding proving ourselves wrong. Which brings me to Bolt's favourite bugbear - climate change.
Now, Bolt prefers the term 'global warming', as most sceptics do. Why? Well, probably because it simplifies an incredibly complex climate mechanism and gives us two options: cold and hot. It allows for powerful arguments like this: "Is it cold today?" "Why, yes." "Aha, so global warming is a lie."
Possibly I'm misrepresenting the arguments by over-simplification, but Bolt can hardly complain on that score. His favourite argument is that, since the hottest year on record (in terms of global averages) was 1998, global warming is over. Besides, we've had, like, some really nasty winters since then.
The first point, of course, is misunderstanding the difference between an overall warming trend and a year that was anomalously hot (Australia's hottest year was 2005, by the way). The second point returns us to the 'cold' vs 'hot' simplification. What climate change promises, in the short term, is more extreme weather events, hot and cold.
Now, like Bolt, I'm not a climate scientist. But I'm not a doctor either and if, say, 90% of doctors say I will die without taking medication, I'll take my medication. Even if it makes life a little less comfortable for a little while.
If the same number of doctors see me a week later and tell me I don't need the medication and everything's fine, I'll be quite genuinely happy.
Professor Richard Dawkins, outspoken atheism advocate, says in his book The God Delusion that he only considers himself 6/7 sure that there is no God. He's just going by the evidence but, like a good scientist, he's willing to change his mind if more compelling evidence comes to light.
I feel this way about climate change, having written on connected issues for a few publications. Not too long ago, I compared Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth with Martin Durkin's Great Global Warming Swindle. Both were far from perfect, but it was Durkin's that unnerved me.
Its claims were startling, sending me back to the books, wondering if Gore and his kind had it wrong. They did, on a few points. Durkin, on the other hand, grossly misrepresented his facts and figures in an attempt to prop up theories that had been long discredited. You can find details here. (Warning: ABC site, so full of lefties. You may feel safer here or here.)
One of the reasons I still enjoy reading Bolt's blog is to find the various anti-warming theories he has dug up. Some, it must be said, appear genuinely confronting. Until you do a bit of independent research. (Crikey did just this with two bits of 'evidence' Bolt recently seized upon. A summary of arguments against most of his favourites can also be found at the Guardian.)
But lately, it's begun to bore me. I'll read a study talking about the cooling of the oceans and already know how he'll misinterpret it. We all like a bit of denial, but it tends to be a bit more effective when it's a bit less transparent.
Years ago, I saw a wonderfully obscene stand up performance by Sean Hughes who, having been exposed to Daryl Somers, wondered if the plaudit "All-round-entertainer" was Australian slang for "c*nt". Certainly, in the actually-rather-lovely light of Thursday morning, Somers and his entourage were all looking like a bunch of complete all-round-entertainers.
If ever we need a warning of the perils of nostalgia, then the creaky resurrection of 80s variety show Hey Hey, it's Saturday will be there as a steaming beacon. It's appropriate that our lust for simpler times should bring with it a clear reminder of the sort of bigotry that we prefer to forget. Both Hey Hey and its casual racism belong in the past. Hopefully, after last night, they will stay there.
The controversy around last night's "Jackson Jive" performance did achieve something significant, however. It actually managed to interest me in Hey Hey, It's Saturday. I vaguely remember the show as being the impossibly long and boring thing that stopped Channel 9 showing a film on Saturday evenings. And, as Marieke Hardy said in today's Green Guide, it's comforting to see it's just as shit as I remember.
The reaction from the media overseas has been suitably damning. The reaction from the media here has, frankly, been slightly embarrassing. News.com.au led the way by asking the public whether they felt the incident was racist. Aside from the blacked-up morons, additional highlights for me included:
the Kamahl cartoon
the "allriiight" from whoever the fuck it is who laughs in that sinister way in the background
Somers summing up by saying "there's a lot of colour on this show." No, really.
As of this evening, 69 per cent of 30,000 Australians didn't think any of that was racist. To me, this is more damning than the act itself. Sure, there's a certain amount of the cultural cringe in my embarrassment but, on this occasion, we don't need to worry that people from "more sophisticated" parts of the world might look down on us. They are looking down on us. The general online reaction from defiant Australians can be neatly summed up by the following comment from an article on the Telegraph:
Just because Australia isn't as brow beaten by the poltically correct brigades of the world. Doesn't mean we're racist.
In other words, youse guys need to lighten up and learn how to take a joke.
Now, I like a joke, as you may have noticed. My sense of humour also leans slightly to the black side (no pun intended). You may have noticed that too. Here are some reasons I didn't get this one:
The lack of irony.
Actually, that's pretty much reason enough. Had the joke been about a group of unreconstructed whiteys who didn't realise it wasn't appropriate to dress up in blackface, I might have laughed.
A friend asked today if it would have been offensive to women had these men dressed up as women. I would argue in some cases it might have been, but this is to say nothing of the aped imagery particular to the Black and White minstrels.
Chris Lilley has recently shown it's possible to skate the thin ice of racial parody - doubtless John Safran's forthcoming show will do the same - but to unironically reference a clumsy racial parody that, in the UK, was seen as racist as early as 1967 shows a terrifying lack of self-awareness. And, whether we like it or not, reflects badly on the culture that allowed it to go to air.
In this, Somer's half-hearted apology at the end of the show missed the point. Apologising for offending Connick Jr is like saying to your partner "I'm sorry you feel upset whenever I have sex with your friends, poor you". Neither is it sufficient to say "I guess in your part of the world that might have been inappropriate". Come off it, Australia might be backward, but we're not that backward.
Possibly the strangest defence comes from the skit's frontman. He said it was "ironic" people should accuse him of racism, since he's of Indian descent. Quite honestly, I'm not sure what he means.
Does he mean that only white people can be racist? Or does he mean it's ironic that an Indian man could be accused of being racist when everyone knows Australians hate Indians? I worry it might be the latter.
The short answer is I seriously underestimated my recent workload.
A more extended answer would detail the death of my PC - taking After Dusk 3 with it - and the subsequent death of my iBook, taking what was stupidly my only copy of the next Salmon and Dusk story. Whichever celestial entity looks after technology must be seriously displeased with me.
Honestly, it's all been rather depressing. But, you know, these things happen. To me. A lot.
The good news is that I'm a fair way into a replacement Salmon and Dusk tale (can't quite bring myself to rewrite the lost story just yet) and I only have three weeks left of my journalism course. After that, it's all unemployment and roses. (Apart from a three week newspaper internship.)
So, I'm hoping the new Salmon and Dusk story will be with us by the end of the month. After that, we'll be seeing a bit more of Kilbey and co.
In the meantime, I'll do a better job of keeping in touch.
Thanks (again) for your patience!
ps. I invite you all to check out my journalistic blog over at www.wickedtocare.com - lots of cultural and media commentary and a bit of swearing (not on my part, of course.) You'll all be most welcome.
After eleven years of potato-headed rule, it's comforting to know that Australia finally has a good Aussie bloke as PM. At least, that's the message being put out - however subliminally - by the Rudd party. Kev might look like a church-going accountant, but he's as red-blooded an Aussie as Peter Russell-Clarke. (More of him later.)
How do we know our Kev's a good 'un? Because he's more than happy to tell those Labor party f**kers to f**k off if they're not f**king doing what he f**king wants them to. How do we know this? Well, Labor told us. Glenn Milne of News Ltd broke the story, revealing "hardened" party staffers were left "shocked" by the outburst. Rudd might "cultivate" an image of cool-headedness, Milne reminded us, but sometimes he does like a bit of a strop.
According to sources present, Mr Rudd said: "I don't care what you f---ers think!" He then went on, singling out Senator David Feeney declaring, "You can get f---ed", before asking, "Don't you f---ing understand?"
- Sunday Herald Sun, 20 September 2009.
If Milne is expecting the Australian populace to share his shock at this outrage, he may be disappointed. Rudd himself was unapologetic, using the outburst as an example of his "robust" commitment to tackling important issues. A shame then the issue in question was how much the government was spending on printing. Still, a few f-bombs are unlikely to hurt the PM's standing any more than a quick visit to a strip club or describing the financial crisis as a “shitstorm.”
Milne was quick to jump on the strip club incident as damaging to Rudd’s electoral chances but, again, had misread the national character. Rudd may have seemed red-faced, but a bit of nocturnal naughtiness gave his bland character some appealing coarse edges. Here was a fun-loving bloke who liked the occasional drink and occasionally woke up with one or two things to regret. Who couldn’t identify with that?
Of course, there remains a whiff of antiseptic to these sweary shenanigans. Listen to Rudd say “shitstorm” and you wonder if that hesitation isn’t him checking his foul tongue but instead checking he remembered to swear. Similarly, this week’s f**king leaks seem more deliberate than accidental. Next week we’ll probably hear that Rudd scribbles “Anarchy” symbols across the top of Parliament House notepaper. And, once, he left a dirty coffee cup in the sink, instead of putting it in the dishwasher. The Rebel.
Still, Rude Rudd can go too far. Not six months ago, the reported tongue-lashing of an air stewardess did deliver a slight wobble to his standing and spark accusations that our blokey PM was "Un-Australian". On the face of it, here was a man using a position of authority to dominate his inferiors - not very egalitarian, really. So why don't we care that he branded a whole swathe of his staff f**kers?
Susie O'Brien, in a rather tedious opinion piece, might have (somewhat) inadvertently put her finger on the problem. Imagine if Kev had been talking to Therese like that, she suggested, would we still be so unmoved? And there we have it: it's just not Aussie to swear at a sheila. They're delicate flowers, those chicks.
As it is, Rudd soon might not need to make an effort at playing the rude boy. A new Greenpeace campaign seeks to make his own name a dirty word with its new Dirty Kev campaign, warning the PM to clean up his act when it comes to coal.
Once again though, Rudd probably has a good read on the Australian populace. He knows that the majority of Australians want action on climate change, we just don't care what the action is. In fact, a newspoll this week suggested most Australians would rather Rudd made whatever changes are necessary to get his Emissions Trading Scheme through the senate, than for us to have to go to the polls again. And fair enough, elections do put a hole in your Saturday. Besides, didn't we used to like it when it didn't rain? Harden the f**k up, greenies.
For a masterclass in Australian swearing, let me leave you in the crude but capable hands of Peter (G'day) Russell (G'day) Claaarke. (Warning: might seriously offend sheilas.)
Real Americans™ - as Palin would have it - are fighting for their lives.
Soon these working class white folks, who proudly eschew the biased liberal media in favour of Fox pundits like Hannity, will be sent off to face government death boards who will prescribe mandatory euthanasia. Or something.Even if they're not, it's socialism gone mad, just like with them Nazis. Or, worse, like Europe today.
The venom with which factions of the American public have resisted Obama's promise of "free universal health care" (legal notice: not actually on offer) and its attendant death camps (ditto), may seem surprising to those of us who live in countries where governments still subsidise medical treatment.
But are anti-Obamacare protests masking prejudices that have been bubbling under since Obama's election last November? According to Ex-Pres Jimmy Carter, it's all about race.
Plenty of folks (Real Americans™ prefer to be called folks, not "people") from the south still have reservations about the ability of a black man to run their country. Of course, the liberal scum media have been jumping up and down with excitement over the claim.
The demented socialists at the BBC have been using it as their lead item for twenty-four hours straight. After months in which America seemed to have resigned itself to having a black president, those deeply-held prejudices have bubbled to the surface.
This might just be the self-satisfied carping of European liberals, however, as there has been comparatively little coverage of Carter's comments in the US. As of today, neither CNN or the New York Times feature the story on their front pages. Fox News does, but at least their coverage is balanced and unbiased - bagging Carter for playing the 'risky race card'.
Carter's comments follow last week's interjection by Republican Joe Wilson during Obama's health care speech. As Obama was promising illegal immigrants wouldn't benefit from health care changes, Wilson yelled out "You Lie", which was seen as a serious breach of decorum.
A New *spit* York *spit* Times *spit* opinion piece by Maureen Dowd, reprinted locally by Fairfax, claimed what Wilson really meant was "You lie, boy!" and that his inability to control his outburst reflected a disbelief that "one of them" could really be President. Bush never had to deal this sort of thing. Well, not in Congress, at least.
George Bush shoe attack
Dowd's comments have been embraced by the liberal media, just as Wilson's outburst has been plastered on placards and bumper stickers all across the States by Real Americans™. "Obama liar!" has become a popular chant for anti-Obamacare protestors, even as the Right express outrage at Democrats playing the race card.
Certainly, the Right would never do such a thing. Well, except for Glen Beck and Sean Hannity (see above), obviously. But then Obama did go out of his way to appoint a "Latino" Judge, when there were plenty of decent, sensibly-aged white men who could have done the job without running the risk of fiery, Hispanic outbursts.
And he did suggest white police were acting stupidly by arresting a black professor. I mean, it's getting so you can't arrest a black man anymore, just to be on the safe side.
On the other hand, he did weigh in with some "off the record" comments in which he branded Kanye West a "jackass" for stage-crashing poor Taylor Swift in her moment of glory. But there's no saying he didn't stick up for the white girl just to throw us all off the scent.
So, is Obama a black supremacist, waiting to revenge his people on their former slave masters? Well, no-one's asked him, but the White House was quick to deny that Joe Wilson was being a racist. If it takes one to spot one, then Obama's failure to finger Wilson can only count in his favour. Still, a recent photoshoot might bring us closer to the true state of affairs.
And we know all about their racist struggles against "the Dark Side" - finally exposed to be run by two sensibly-aged white men. One of whom, when he took his helmet off, did look a bit like John McCain. Coincidence? I think not.
You can tell this is true because the liberal media has been supressing the story. It took courageous conservative blog Conservative Brawler to bring the issue to our attention some months ago. Video evidence follows.
Obama Jedi Mind Trick (Not actually as funny as it wants to be)
I don't have any children. As a result, I have no interest in children.
In fact, their appeal is largely lost on me. To be honest, most of them look the same, until they start to dress themselves, at least. And they smell.
Honestly.Try going to a midday cinema session during the school holidays if you don't believe me.
Generally, I prefer to forget that children exist. I do have friends with children, which is unfortunate, but they're generally good enough not to bring them to the pub. It's hardly an original observation that parents tend to narrow their world view until their offspring obscure all (there's probably a good evolutionary reason for it), but it makes for poor conversation. I mean, I don't follow the football, so if that's all someone wants to talk about, I'll go sit somewhere else.
Sadly, we are expected to care. Even more sadly, social networking allows parents to expect us to care all the time. About everything from the filling of a nappy to how little sleep they managed the previous night. I'm wary about accepting friend requests from old school friends, as there is the very good possibility that they hope to use Facebook to tell as many people as possible about their incontinent offspring. There are some things you don't want to be reading over your cornflakes.
I've discussed this matter with my childless friends and we've all come to the same conclusion - some parents need to be trimmed from your newsfeed. There are countless groups on the wonder of children, yet, curiously, there are no groups (that I could easily find) about how sick people are of hearing about other people's babies. Here then is a genuine social taboo: it's not acceptable to tell your friends that babies bore you. Why? It can't simply be out of fear of causing offence. If that was the case, a lot of slow walking people wouldn't be worrying so many people out there are wanting to punch them in the back of the head.
Instead, the discomfort in badmouthing children highlights the liminal space between public and private that social networking occupies. The more we engage with sites like Facebook, the more difficult it is to function with integrity. The more public we become, the less private we can - or should - be. The most interesting interactions and conversations are forced offline, where no-one is listening. On the flipside, sites like Facebook might be a more pleasurable environment if people understood its public nature.
Not everyone will want to see graphic photos of the birth of your child. (What next, a video of the conception?) Seriously, half-chewed cornflakes can be really hard to fish out from your keyboard. I enjoy hearing people reflect on the minutiae of their days.
I like reading people reflecting on issues, however trivial. I find most things interesting. Even those quizzes that tell your friends which animal you would be if, you know, you were an animal. But I deserve the right to complain when someone keeps banging on and on in my virtual ear. Like if someone's going on and on about how much they hate kids.
Of course, I also reserve the right to non-hypocritically reverse my position in a few years time when I have kids of my own. But you'll love them. And find them endlessly amusing. Oh look, vomit. How sweet. For what it's worth, I also hate happy people. And people who post updates about Jesus. Currently, I have three friends on Facebook. (One of them is my mum.)
A clip from Martin Bashir's controversial documentary "Living with Michael Jackson"
I've never liked Michael Jackson. There, I've said it. Now, I've worked as a music writer (still do, when I have time), spent 10 years working in record stores and have generally been the sort of sad music obsessive who thinks the book/film "High Fidelity" is a portrait of a sensible, well-adjusted young man, if not actually an instructional text. But I remember my childhood disappointment whenever I realised the clip Rage were playing was "Bad", rather than Weird Al Yankovic's far more entertaining "Fat".
My preferences in this matter remain mostly unchanged. I think I was briefly interested in the spectacle of the "Thriller" clip but the actual song left no traces. In that way, it worked as a preview of the last 20 years of so of Jackson's life, when the spectacle came to far exceed the content.
Of course, I'm not saying that I was untouched by his death. There was the usual compassion at the death of a fellow human being, but I was quickly alienated by the incessant blanket coverage. Sadly, with the announcement of a homicide ruling, the saga's legs are looking all too strong. Media coverage of grief, in the wake of a public icon's demise, seems an increasingly blind and brutal beast. The news attempts to reflect public opinion and then magnifies it exponentially until there is only one opinion to be had.
Perhaps understandably, it's not terribly fashionable right now to raise the topic of Jackson's alleged paedophilia, his bizarre family arrangements or his slow, plasticised transformation into a skinny Elizabeth Taylor (via Diana Ross). Death, particularly when the media is watching, makes saints of us all. Witness Jade Goody's transformation from chav-scum pariah to working class martyr. It took an Australian princess to bump Princess Diana off the cover of every single copy of Woman's Weekly and New Idea, but that won't stop her eventual canonisation when we discover her offspring were conceived immaculately. (One of them, certainly, seems not to have required her to sleep with Charles.) Di's death transformed news coverage of the death of an icon. At the time, the news seemed surprised at the strength of feeling from the public, but lessons were learned. The readiness for mass grief is now permanently in the wings, with coverage tending to focus on how we all feel about the loss, to the point that it becomes hard to believe that any of us are carrying on with our tiny lives.
But what if our own grief isn't up to scratch? It can be hard, in these times, to be a cold-hearted bastard. To remain unmoved by the endless tributes and emotional outpourings. Suddenly, we non-be-grievers are aliens to our fellow men and highlighted as such by each new bulletin. Of course, being cold-hearted bastards, we may not care. But maybe we should. Because, really, what's all this grief and tribute-making doing on the news? Was Jackson's death really the most important news items for that many days running?
The BBC reportedly received a vast number of complaints for its incessant coverage, but defended its decison on the grounds that it rated well and "undoubtedly a great many of you were extremely interested." The story was popular, certainly, but can an entertainment story really warrant such coverage to the exclusion of other ongoing stories? When you're chasing the interests of the public, rather than protecting their interests, the answer is probably yes. The charts on the BBC News site (and many like it) are sorted by "Most Read", "Most Emailed" and "Most Watched" but, curiously, not "Most Important." Judging importance might be a subjective decision, but it's still one that might be better made by an informed professional. Here's the current top 5 "Most Shared" stories at the Beeb.
It's hard not to think that chasing news in order to satisfy the clickings of the great unwashed makes a tendency to sensationalism and spectacle somewhat inevitable. On the other hand, maybe I'm being elitist and contrary. Probably. Maybe Jackson's cultural status earned him a couple of weeks at the front of every bulletin.
But, still, wouldn't it be more helpful to see a chart of "Least Read" stories, instead of an endless feedback loop reminding us what we're supposed to be interested in?
The good news is that After Dusk 3 is recorded and just needs to be mixed and uploaded.
The bad news is that both myself and my computer have been ill this week. The computer is on the mend, but still missing a bit of crucial software, while I am lying around the house feeling sorry for myself. Which is quite fun, actually.
I'm hoping we'll see After Dusk 3 toward the end of this week.