Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rainy Days

I talked myself out of going to school today. I was on my way, but then the thought of waiting endlessly in the rain for overcrowded buses that may not turn up clinched my decision to head home.

I’d already been to the other university where I do my RA work. I’d woken up late, at ten minutes past ten, groggy from several nights of dreams involving the most complex of narratives; I had wanted to stay asleep so I could find out what happened next. Since the research meeting was scheduled for 11, I only really had time to have a shower, get dressed and walk to the other university. The meeting finished just in time for me to walk into the most horrendous downpour. It was made worse by the fact that I was juggling a bit fat folder containing a book manuscript, my hand bag, a coffee (that I dripped down my front—nothing like a great brown stain on your breasts to make everybody seem as though they’re leering at you), and a flimsy umbrella that was scant protection against the rain.

Still at this point, I intended to go to school and work on my forthcoming thesis presentation. I did some fiddly bits related to the RA work, before catching a bus (late, of course) into the city. On the way to the bus stop, with my trousers dripping wet from mid-thigh, I thought about how excellent it was to have another day of rain in this drought stricken part of the continent. The other day when this rain had not long started, I’d been in the city, on my way home. The rain had made me smile, as if I could stretch my face for the first time in a long time, without it cracking in the dryness.

To give you some indication of the extent to which the rain was welcome, you should know that under the eaves outside of the shops, all the way along the Queen Street Mall, people were taking photos with their cameras and mobile phones. It was if no-one in sub-tropical Brisbane had ever seen rain. I joined the fray, inspired by the sight of water gushing from a roof into a fountain catchment:

As I was sitting on the bus, the thoughts of crowded buses and delayed services and wet shoes and cold trousers were soon followed by thoughts of vegetable soup, hot cups of tea and sheepskin slippers that I could enjoy at home. The sheepskin slippers won the day, and any pangs of guilt about work were allayed as I reasoned that I could easily do some work at home—everything is on a memory stick that I always carry with me, and I have a few books to use for research as well.

So here I am, I’ve had some lunch, I’m sipping on tea, my feet are warmly ensconced, and I’m going to do some work. Any minute now.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

There Is Something Wrong With My Liver

Today is the first anniversary of this blog. A year ago today I was lying on my bed going spare from underemployment, and making yet another attempt to read Notes From Underground (the one by Dostoevsky, I read Stephen Duncombe’s version a gazillion times as part of the Master’s)

Oh! How life has changed. Last September was a bottomless cavern into which 100 undergraduate papers on film fluttered like birds come to free me from endless nothingness. This September is presenting more like an overstuffed drawer.

This time the 100 undergraduate papers are on television and they’re crammed beneath the first public presentation on my thesis—a kind of dress rehearsal for the confirmation early next year; another presentation in an advanced subject I’m taking on Theory; my RA work; writing letters and such for my brother’s new business; my voluntary but eager participation in a Cultural Studies reading group... I haven’t even mentioned where blogging fits in to this.

Blogging has become a significant part of my everyday life. On the one hand, checking for updates to other people’s blogs has become part of my ritual when I first approach the computer in the morning. After I read my university email accounts and determine if I need to prioritise anything for my thesis or RA work, I go into my gmail account to see if anyone has left a comment on my blog, or the various threads at Sarsaparilla, and lately, the Patrick White Readers’ Group, that I’m following. Then, despite knowing I should get to work on my thesis, I have a quick look at my bloglines subscriptions. There are some bloggers whose posts I read the moment they become available. Other subscriptions pile up to double digits. Sometimes I reflect on my reasons for making the distinction, and then I picture the few subscribers to my blog making the same evasion. (I am working on the concept of the shorter post as a more accessible, readable ideal. Really!) At the end of the university working day, I repeat the whole process, taking time over the accumulated subscriptions.

On another level, blogging has opened up a whole new way for me to make and maintain relationships. I credit blogging with helping me to revitalise existing friendships with people who had moved away from Brisbane. Reading dogpossum’s blog reminded me in an ongoing way what a kick-arse chick she really is. It isn’t that I didn’t already know that, but reading about her thesis, the Smurf-blue paint on her parent’s house, her visits to the shops on Sydney Road etc, re-established it as a present reality, rather than as a kind of nostalgic longing—as have the various conversations we’ve had in the comments sections on each other’s blog. Similarly, while Tseen’s blog is maintained as an extension of her professional identity, I began to experience the collegiality, she is just so great at fostering, first hand. Plus, when she’s visited Brisbane on occasion, I learned she really does do that thing with sugar packets. More recently, I’ve also become reacquainted with Rachael, who I hadn’t been in contact with for years. We first met at uni and were neighbours for a while in the place where I still live. She looked me up when she visited Brisbane at Christmas, and now she’s a blogger! She sends nice emails to me about my blog, and I’m getting all the news on what seems like an idyllic life in Tasmania—except for the deforestation, of course. Stevie, Amber and the new goldfish, Marx and Engels, sound like sources of constant joy.

Then there are the people who I know in real life who have come across my blog, either because I’ve told them about it—that’s about 5 people, only two of whom have become regular readers, as far as I know—or because they’ve stumbled across it by way of other blogs and worked out the real-life connection. It’s the latter group of people that I’ve experienced the most self-consciousness about. I’ve just felt mortified that I’ve written about some horrible, messy aspect of myself that I wouldn’t normally confide to them, not because they’re not nice people, but, well, oh, *blush*. Moving right along to the newly formed friendships that would never have come about, if not for blogging...

Reflecting on my foray into blogging, in addition to the transformations mentioned above, I would point to a number of moments that count as personal highlights for my first year:

  • The response I received from Clare Dudman, whose novel 98 Reasons For Being, I wrote about in a reflection that started as a commentary on changing my avatar and became a meditation on mental health. I’ve been reading Clare’s blog, Keeper of the Snails, ever since, and it is a wonderful blog, clearly not simply maintained as a marketing exercise for her novels, but as an extension of her life as a writer of many forms.
  • The discovery that the editors of Paul Auster (The Definitive Website) included my post on the film Smoke in their list of web-based writings on that film. What a thrill. If you’re a Paul Auster fan, then this is such a useful and informative site. I’m hoping that Auster’s forthcoming book will be released in Australia in line with the UK schedule rather than that of the US. Not sure I can wait those few extra months.
  • Finding out that the Australian Index had singled out the odd musing or two from my blog for special mention in posts on a given day. ‘Mean Streets’ got a few hits that way.
  • Being asked by Laura to contribute to Sarsaparilla, a new group blog on all things literary, media-related and cultural, from an Australian perspective. Since Laura only knows me through this blog, I was quite chuffed that my writing here was the basis for the invitation. It was a welcome validation of what I think I’m trying to achieve through blogging—not journalism or critical academic writing, or any sort of hope for publication of this work in another medium, but personal, non-fiction meditations on the world I observe around me.

Since this is the beginning of a new blog year for me, it seems appropriate to make some New Blog Year resolutions:
  • I will complete the various incomplete blog projects that you may think I’ve abandoned, especially, the ‘Spanish Inquisition’ series on my reading of Don Quixote, and the ‘Parallel Universe’ series on the films I watched at BIFF.
  • I would like to write a bit more on individual television programmes that I enjoy. I’m a bit disappointed in myself that I haven’t put my money where my mouth is and approached television texts in a similar way to the films and novels I’ve watched and read. This resolution might leak a bit into my Sarsaparilla commitments, so don’t think I haven’t attempted this one before checking over there first.
Incidentally, would you like to write a guest post over at Sarsaparilla? Send me an email and tell me your idea, or if I know you, I probably have an idea for you already. (You might think that presumptuous, but I assure you it’s because you’ve already said something very interesting to me that bears consideration by Sarsaparilla’s readers).
  • Read The Vivisector along with the rest of the Patrick White Readers’ Group.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Gastropod 6

Against all reporting to the contrary, there has been some cooking going on in this household. I’ve even used all sorts of exotic ingredients found in end-of-financial-year sales, such as squid ink pasta and dried porcini mushrooms.

Today, however, is about this morning’s breakfast. I hadn’t planned to have breakfast out, I was just going for a walk to get some coffee for home, the newspaper, and some bread from the Sol Breads that has recently opened not far from me—for years I’ve been casting envious glances at West End (which is not so far from me really, but it would be about a 45 minute walk).

Anyone who has been into a Sol’s will know the dilemma involved in choosing a bread for the week from so many delicious varieties. I stood there, weighing up the relative merits of the olive and thyme loaf against the versatility of the walnut loaf. The olive and thyme loaf is one of my long time favourites, but the walnut loaf would go well with both the macadamia honey I bought from the Ekka and some cheddar cheese with the beetroot relish I haven’t yet opened from the Red Elephant on the way to Toowoomba.

Overwhelmed with the choice between the promise of two great breads, I decided to take some time to ponder my decision by ordering breakfast.

As I waited for my order, I looked at the view from Sol’s window. It was such a beautiful day, I tried to capture it with my phone camera:

I’m not such a fan of the images I get from this phone. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to the range of my digital camera.

It would have allowed me to focus on the detail of the weather vane on the point of the garage roof below. It was a wire-fashioned rooster with the blades of a tiny windmill for its body. Never mind.

My breakfast arrived:

Lovely sour-dough fruit toast topped with a squillion blue poppy-seeds, served with ricotta cheese and honey. It was as delicious as it looks*.

The toast was accompanied by refreshing green tea with ginger and lemon grass.

I decided on the walnut bread and added a ciabatta loaf for good measure.

*For some excellent food photography, visit my brother’s website. I could be biased. The vanilla bean is my favourite.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Meme Duck

Remember to Breathe Meme (or: 12 simple things that keep me going from year to year day to day).

Originated by Ampersand Duck

MC Escher
I have an MC Escher calendar. Every morning, on my way to the bathroom, I turn the page on the calender to see what artwork is in store for me that day.
On the weekends, there are quotes which say things like: 'Are you really sure that a floor can't be a ceiling?' and 'I believe that, at bottom, every artist wants no more than to tell the world what he has to say. I have sometimes heard painters say that they work "for themselves", but I think they would soon have painted their fill if they lived on a desert island.'

The coffee maker is my first point of call after the bathroom. I love everything about it. I like folding the paper filter so it fits, just so; scooping the grounds into the coffee maker; pouring in the water; listening to the gurgle of percolating water; becoming aware of the aroma of brewing coffee; thinking about surface tension as I pour the coffee into a cup, trying not spill any; and finally drinking it, as I slowly wake up.

Something triple milled and exotic smelling to make me feel special for the day ahead.

Winter Sky
In Brisbane, the winter sky is an astonishing blue. It is clear and crisp, and reason alone to live in this city.

Preferably the kind that creates a really solid black hand. Although I don't mind a fine tipped, easy flowing ballpoint either.

Thoughts of Hannah 1
Long time readers will know that Hannah is my niece. I am besotted, and I think the feeling is mutual:

Me: I'm going to order some lunch.
Hannah: I'm coming with you.
Me: Oh, okay.
Hannah: Do you know why I'm coming with you?
Me: No, why?
Hannah: Because you're my aunty.

Thoughts of Hannah 2
Me: You haven't eaten the broccoli I gave you. I don't give my broccoli to just anyone, you know.
Hannah: But you gave some to me.
Me: Yes, well that's because I like broccoli and I like you.
Hannah: (Eats the broccoli). I like you... I love you.

Praise from Supervisor

Is there anything better than when you surprise your supervisor with what you've discovered since your last meeting two weeks ago? It's especially good when his reaction is theatrical, ie he put his legs up on the desk and said 'Fuck! ... That's amazing'.

I eat olives everyday. I like black kalamatas and a green lemon and garlic variety, available from the deli I frequent. Both types go very nicely with ciabatta, olive oil and a glass of red wine, just after I get home at the end of each day.

There is nothing better than watching one of my many favourite television programmes. There are too many to mention here, but I have to single out Boston Legal for the moment. One of the things I like most about BL is that, through the regular and guest cast, it's a homage to American television itself: Star Trek (William Shatner), Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen), Benson (Rene Auberjonois), Ed (Julie Bowen), Magnum PI (Tom Selleck), Family Ties (Michael J. Fox), The Golden Girls (Betty White), Cheers (Shelley Long) etc., etc...

James Spader as Alan Shore is just a bonus for anyone with fond memories of the eighties.

Text messages
These are often sent while watching Grey's Anatomy. They contain things like: 'That Apocalypse Now-like music is way too effective', and I get replies like: 'I like Dr Burke more and more'. That one came just after Dr Burke told Dr McDreamy he didn't like him.

Text messages are also good for company while taking public transport alone over long distances, and is there a better way to arrange a coffee date?

They are part of my end of the day ritual. I light a candle, then get into bed, and it burns while I read. When I'm too tired to read anymore, I blow out the candle and get a last whiff of cherry blossom, or whatever fragrance the candle happens to be.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Parallel Universe

The second film I saw at the Brisbane International Film Festival, Yol, was one that screened as part of Unveiling Islam, a major focus on films from Turkey and Iran. As the emphasis on the veil in the programme’s title suggests, the films that ran as part of the focus were concerned with women in the cinemas of the two Islamic countries. The BIFF catalogue offers, ‘In both countries, cinema began as entertainment for men by men. At the turn of the century in Turkey, armed fundamentalists were occupying theatres and threatening to knife any woman who dared to enter. In Iran, ordinary men experienced cinema in 1908, but ordinary women had to wait another twenty-one years, until a movie-theatre was opened for women.’ In addition to limits placed on even being able to go to the cinema, Muslim women did not appear in the films of Turkey and Iran until 1923 and 1933, respectively. In Turkey, Muslim women needed their husband’s permission to appear in films and therefore it was no surprise to learn that the representations were less than empowering: ‘In both countries, women were generally depicted as gullible weak creatures, a threat to the nation’.

If you’re interested in learning more about the programme and the history of cinema in Turkey and Iran, you can go and read the full text (pdf) that appeared in the free BIFF Catalogue. It seems superfluous to continue replicating it here, plus it diverts from my professed intention of offering a personal response to the films I’ve seen at the Festival. In total, I saw three feature length films and one short in this focus, and I watched them half aghast and half in admiration when I thought about the odds that the film-makers had to overcome, not only to get these stories to the screen, but also to ensure that prints of their films even continue to exist.

In an aside, I also went to a seminar this week about the documentation of the second wave feminist movement in Australia. As part of her presentation, Margaret Henderson recounted the dismal tone of Gisela Kaplan’s A Meagre Harvest, which laments the failure of the feminist movement in Australia as one that only yielded rewards for middle-class women and ‘a few film-makers and artists’. After seeing these films from Turkey and Iran, I couldn’t help but think that while human rights for all classes of women should continue to be a priority, we could probably afford to be a lot more optimistic about the ground made by those women who fought for all of our rights to represent ourselves.


After I saw Yol (1982), by Turkish film-makers Yilmaz Güney and Serif Gören, I was a bit fragile. I ran into someone I knew, who asked me how I’d enjoyed it, and I had to blink rapidly, because as I began to talk about it I started to tear up.

Güney wrote Yol while he was in prison and Gören directed the film on his behalf. It tells the story of five men who are granted leave from their prison sentences for a week so they can visit their families. The film follows the prisoners on their journeys home to various parts of Turkey, and it is in this way that a mosaic of Turkish society emerges.

The men travel by bus and train and are all stopped at some point by the military demanding to see identification. One of the men has lost his ID, so he spends his leave detained, while the guards seek confirmation from the prison of his legitimacy. Others have their travelling delayed due to a curfew imposed by the military. Again, these men are detained, but at least only until the next morning.

The film shows a society where the military subject the Kurdish people to ongoing assault, and the Kurdish do not publicly admit to the identities of their dead for fear of further retribution; where a man is duty bound to marry his brother’s widow, and a widow has no choice but to accept her dead husband’s brother; where men freely visit prostitutes, and women are condemned to death for making a living in their husband’s absence.

The most disturbing scenes of the film for me were those where one of the men travelled on a horse through the snow to retrieve his wife who had been locked up by her family for eight months, fed only bread and water, and denied any bathing facilities. The man’s brothers-in-law had been waiting for him to return home so he could have the first opportunity to restore their family’s honour, which had apparently been damaged by their sister when she prostituted herself. While the prisoner is angry at his wife’s infidelity, he is reluctant to kill her because he loves her. He has no choice but to make the journey through the snow—again, it is a matter of honour, his brothers-in-law will kill their sister anyway, but will condemn her husband if he doesn’t assert his authority.

There is no happy ending. The horse doesn’t make it, and on the journey back, its carcass has been scavenged by birds of prey and wolves. The wife begs that her fate not be the same as she too struggles against the snow, trailing after her husband and son, ill-dressed for the weather. Belatedly, the man tries the same method to restore his wife against the freezing conditions that he used on the horse, flogging her, to no avail.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Parallel Universe


My recent cinema viewing cannot be done justice through my usual practice of listing the last five films I’ve watched on the side-bar. To begin with, I’ve been attending the 15th Brisbane International Film Festival, and I bought two ‘Take Five’ passes, so the films I saw just last week would have already dropped off the list if I’d been listing them as per usual. As it is, I think I’m going to go back and just list the BIFF as one entry, that is if I can retrieve, either from my memory or an old index page, the films I watched before the Festival started.

The purpose of this post is to give due respect to the films I’ve seen at BIFF, and maybe create a record to serve my own memory. I don’t really want to review them in any concerted way, just comment on what I got out of them. On another level, it intrigues me that any number of people can attend an event like BIFF and have entirely distinct, or parallel, experiences of the Festival. This is my BIFF universe.


The first film I saw was Klimt, a kind of surrealist bio-pic of the eponymous artist, by Chilean director, Raul Ruìz. If Klimt’s work has become a hollow currency through mass-produced popular culture in the form of prints that grace the walls of aspiring intellectuals, then Ruìz’s film portrays an artist whose vision was at odds with the political elite of his day. It becomes clear that Gustav Klimt depended upon the acceptance and patronage of the Viennese government to continue inhabiting and working in Vienna. Despite this state of affairs, Klimt is not inclined to flatter those upon whose good will he depends. He is only saved, it seems, from being banished, because he wins an award or two.

There is no coherent narrative in Klimt, a decision that is motivated by the perspective of Klimt as he is being treated for syphilis. While the mercury treatment is cause enough to addle anyone’s brains, the point-of-view is also an attempt to convey Klimt’s artistic vision. The BIFF catalogue describes this as ‘kaleidoscopic, mysterious and passionate’. ‘Mysterious’ could simply be the charitable interpretation of what might otherwise be deemed obscure, but, apparently, as far as Ruìz’s films go, this one is accessible. ‘Kaleidoscopic’ is probably a more accurate description than ‘impressionistic’, which is the term I initially wanted to use to describe the disjointed narrative. But I suppose there isn’t an entirely coherent picture of either the film or the artist that emerges in the end, and I guess it’s best to avoid confusing your artistic movements.

Visually, the film is impressive. Distorted and mirrored images convey a sense of the complexity of Klimt as an individual. For me, John Malkovich in the lead role was a bit of a distraction. I had high hopes, since I had just seen him play Charles II in The Libertine, and for once he hadn’t used that voice he does: slightly effete with lots of disdainful pauses. Unfortunately, that voice was back in Klimt. In spite of this irritation, the portrait of Klimt could be deemed successful. The film avoided the usual pitfalls of bio-pics where the artiste is a misunderstood genius. Klimt sketches a man who is difficult and sexually promiscuous (and prolific, if the reports of the numbers of children he fathered are accurate) ; he wasn’t terribly likeable if you weren’t in his favour.
Most importantly, I think, the film pays attention to Klimt’s art. Its beauty is suitably fêted in the representation of the artist models, the golden glow that suffuses every frame, and in one glorious moment where gold leaf flies into the air and continues to rain down long after it would have stopped in a realist picture.

'A Parallel Universe' will be continued...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006

100 Days Of Decrepitude

How does it happen? How can someone who spends their days reading, taking notes, and writing, find themselves at a bus stop, bursting with ideas 4 a blog post, only 2 find themselves without a pen? I’ve resorted 2 using the draft msg mode on my mobile. Picture me eating strawberries frm a punnet in my shopping bag, as I sit on a bench and compose these thoughts. I wonder how big the msg will b allowed 2 get? And what’s with more public transport entries when I announced the last instalment yesterday? Fear not, that was the last of the p/t rants, this is in fact a post on Big Brother. I shld probably write about something more worthy, like the stoush on the Cultural Studies List, but dogpossum...

At this point I got sick of texting, and since I was already on the bus by the time I asked you to picture me sitting on a bench eating strawberries, well, there really seemed to be no point continuing the post that way. I would have been home and ready for bed by the time I finished writing what I had to say by means of text messaging. Tomorrow I will endeavour to take my personal organiser with me on my travels—it has two pen holders and lots of yellow notepaper.

So, there’s a stoush going on at the Cultural Studies List in response to an Op Ed piece in The Australian by Emma Dawson. I am tired of The Australian on all sorts of levels, between the Patrick White punk they pulled on Australian publishers and now more of their usual ‘cultural studies scholars speak another language’ guff, well, I am just bored by their disingenuous stoking of ‘debates’, which merely serve their ongoing campaign to undermine the nation’s humanities researchers and educators in order to shore up their own position as the arbiter of all things cultural. Snore.

I was having a bit of a read of Alison Croggan’s blog, Theatre Notes, where she and her commenters lamented the direction of The Age’s arts coverage. Chris Boyd noted that for him, the paper has become increasingly irrelevant as a source for information and discussion of the arts in his home town. And I have to say that’s how I feel about The Australian on any topic. Truth be told, I only buy The Weekend Australian for the TV guide in the ‘Review’ insert—because I will not pay one red cent for the guide in The Sunday Mail, the weekend version of The Courier Mail a.k.a The Curious Snail—and the Victoria Roberts comics in the Magazine.

I wish we could ignore The Australian, but the trouble is that its strategy is such that the ‘evidence’ it offers to ‘prove’ the demise of our cultural identity, due to the apparently incomprehensible theorising of cultural studies and other humanities scholars, provides all the justification that governments need to interfere in the budgets and curricula of humanities institutions.

I liked Danny Butt’s contribution to the debate*, where he questioned the scope of the public that was implicit in Dawson’s piece. It’s really a public that only encompasses the pages of The Australian; it doesn’t account for the academics who routinely communicate on subjects of relevance to their work in discussions on radio and some television programmes. Butt pointed out that The Australian’s public ignores the everyday communication of theoretical work that goes on in universities between lecturers, tutors and students. It completely ignores the vociferous discussion that occurs on the comments pages of blogs where the writers and contributors (on group blogs) are scholars of all kinds and the readers are too, a fact which further makes Amanda Wiseman’s point that you don’t have to be a Cultural Studies academic to be interested in Theory or want to talk about matters of national importance in a way that recognises the complexity of the issues at hand.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to talk about this at all. I feel as though I always struggle to grasp the breadth of the issues that should be worked through to offer any coherent contribution to these kinds of debates. I am in awe of those who can organise their thoughts into a semblance of order. Two such people who have synthesised the discussion and issues at hand in a very temperate and intelligent manner are dogpossum and Tseen from Banana Lounge. Read their summaries and thoughts.

To the topic at hand then: Big Brother. I wasn’t too happy that Jamie won. For me, as soon as Claire and David were ousted, that Camilla should win was a no-brainer. When will I learn? The affable types always triumph. Still there was some consolation that the vote was so close. And, hooray, that John and Ash, who had been removed from the house, weren’t there as part of the finale; the lawyers from both sides probably made sure of that, so we can be thankful to them. John and Ash’s presence would have been too creepy. It was bad enough that Michael dared to show his face. The audience booed him! My goodness. And still he did that stupid Johnny Fairplay gesture, as if it were some badge of honour, rather than marking him as someone who needs to work on being a lot more humble. Maybe Michael will become a pro-wrestler in the same way that the miscreant he so admires did after Survivor. That would save us all from having to put up with the ill-effect that any realisation of his political ambitions would surely have.

Upon reflection, I think this was one of the better years of Big Brother. Even as a fairly avid viewer—although only of the PG-rated programmes—I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the final show. In previous years I have flicked between the finale and whatever programmed happened to be screening at the same time on another commercial station. I was interested to see that the housemates were thanked by ‘Big Brother’ for their contribution to the programme and especially the point that they had made themselves vulnerable to criticism by participating. Whether you agree or not that the participants are due any charity for volunteering to be housemates, it is certainly true that being a Big Brother contestant is to attract some of the most vehement assassinations of your character. Take this comment from Elizabeth Meryment in the ‘Review’ supplement of The Weekend Australian: ‘we are drawing to the close of yet another of this rather tawdry series in which some truly vile individuals ... are placed in a house together...’ I don’t know where anyone gets the conviction to so thoroughly dismiss another human being—one they’ve only seen on television!—in such a cavalier manner. As for what Meryment writes about Gretel... I’m obviously watching a different Gretel to everyone else. I find her quite funny. Really. I don’t think she deserves to be fired because she has a lot of bad hair days, or perhaps isn’t ageing in an acceptable way. I do think that she and Gaelen were separated at birth; was anybody else struck by how similar their features are?.

I’ve come full circle, almost. I’m back to not liking The Australian. I could go on, but I will leave my tirade against the calibre of television criticism in that newspaper for another day. (The fact that there is no ‘Television’ section on the side bar of their website, that links to their reviews and discussions of the programmes, is indicative, I think, of their low-esteem for the medium).

* This is an excerpt from Butt’s post. I tried to find a link, but couldn’t figure it out:

‘[L]et's talk about this "out there" or "public" where our intellectual work is supposed to have an impact. If Dawson's underlying point is that we need to find greater public impact for our work, I'll say, "Of course, what are you doing a PhD for if you want to write op-ed for the Australian then?". It's like getting an computer science degree to retail computers. That's not saying the Australian doesn't have an impact, but it's through the reflection/refraction of sentiment, rather than evidence-based intellectual argument of the kind academics are trained for (and I think the real transformations of people's imaginations through the press come in feature writing, rather than op-ed, though I think op-ed can have a useful "disrupting storylines" capability when done well). The press is also seductive in its reach, yet impossible to gauge in its real impact, so it's the perfect domain for academics to project their fantasies about changing the world. It's dangerously overrated by CS as a sphere, in a way that only seems to feed the anxieties Dawson and other postgrads are expressing about the field.

I know plenty of people trained in cultural disciplines by the academy who have a massive impact on the "public out there" - they work in policy. I think educators would do well to steer students who
want to affect the public in a general way into that domain. Most would quickly realise they've become too busy with real politics to worry about people writing theory :7. I do policy work occasionally, and it's hard and frustrating and makes me realise I'm much better at other kinds of textual work. But because it's attached to law/resources, the effects are real. In policy/govt. there is an actual political mechanism determining "the common", rather than just a vague sense that your writing should conform to a certain style to be politically effective. I think that lack of confidence in the "publicness" of that style is a part of the resentment and anxiety over theory comes from the chattering classes.

At the other end of the scale, the other place you know your work can have an impact is in teaching. The feedback on your performance is measurable. Whenever I run facilitation exercises where non-academics talk about significant events in their lives, I get surprised at how many will talk about experiences where a teacher inspired them or shifted their thinking. They don't talk about what they read in the paper. Personally, I think that individual good teachers I know have had more of a transformational impact on "culture" than Keith Windschuttle, and that makes me happy. Personal interaction might seem marginal to the "public", but what it lacks in scale, it makes up for in depth, impact and longevity. I'll always forward that against the ivory tower argument, and I miss teaching for that reason.

If you want to talk about *writing* (which is ultimately what Dawson was talking about: language, not real political impact), then your style reflects your own capability and the forum you're working in, and hopefully as an academic or media professional you learn that those are going to be different depending on the circumstance.’