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Issue the Third Volume 1 Novtober 2012
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Editorial Letters Bananarama by Tom Schinckel An Open Letter To The City-State of Adelaide by Will Gloster 700 Intellectuals Worship An Oil Tank (translated) by Simon Collinson A Responsibility To Feel Outraged by Justin Boden Hollywood Rebel a review by Daryl McCann Humans Are Too Smart. Monkeys Have More Fun by Scott Hillard Exclusive Interview With Flight of the Conchords Caleb’s Crossing a review by Rohan Williams The Autobiography Of An Execution a review by Serrin Prior A Corner Of White a review by Kate Murphy The Crunch by Mark Tripodi Interview: Jay Kristoff by Chris Kemp Post-Modern Self-Referentialism Boring and Cliché... etc. by Thomas Murphy On Moving Out Of Home by Gloria Wang Not So ‘Politically Illiterate’ by Monica Chang Aural Delights Film Crossword No Laughing Matter by Bryn Adams
Edward I Edward II Richard II - Henry IV Henry V Henry VI Edward IV Edward V - Richard III Henry VII Henry VIII - Edward VI Lady Jane Grey Mary I Mary I Elizabeth I - James I Charles I - Oliver Cromwell Dick Cromwell Charles II James II William III and Mary II - Anne George I - George IV William IV Edward VII
SPUR Issue the Third If, having died, you awoke in hell, would you not, in some small way, for some small time, rejoice? For you will have been saved from the abyss, from total nothingness and meaninglessness. Saved, indeed, so that you may suffer for all eternity, but saved none the less. Certainly, one would regret not being in heaven, and regret not having played by the rules, but surely one would also be deeply relieved that there had, in fact, been rules after all? Having been ensnared in the constipation of the unease in not knowing, surely hell would be like a diarrhetic flow of relief, relinquishing that strange feeling we all have in our gut. SPUR Magazine, however, is the recipe for a high-fibre diet of excellence. To continue the analogy, next year editions will be expelled more regularly. To ruin the analogy, by more regularly, we mean monthly. Love, SPUR Magazine
Editors Serrin Prior, Sam McDonough and James McCann Edward I
Dear Spur magazine,
I am writing in response to the article in your first issue, ‘Modern-day Antisemitism and the Campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)’ on the weekly pickets in front of the Myer Centre in Rundle Mall.
Thank you for you for writing to SPUR! We were looking forward to reading your response to the article in our first issue, but you seem to have accidently described your own organization instead.
The pickets target the Seacret cosmetics store in the Myer Centre because Seacret is a company that profits from the Israeli military occupation and colonisation of the Palestinian territories.
Here is a poem by the incomparable Pablo Neruda:
The picketers are asking the public to boycott Seacret products as a part of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which calls on Israel to ‘recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully compl[y] with the precepts of international law by: 1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall 2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and 3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194’ (bdsmovement.net/call). International Palestine solidarity is founded on the recognition that the Israeli military occupation and colonisation of the Palestinian territories is the main reason the ‘Israel/Palestine conflict’ continues, and that the state of Israel and many companies and institutions profit from the current situation. Like any colonial project, the Israeli colonisation of the Palestinian territories is illegal under international law (see ‘Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’, available at icj-cij.org - the International Court of Justice website) although due to international political conditions this has never been acted upon. Hence the weekly pickets of the Seacret cosmetics store in the Myer Centre are about upholding the principles of international law by asking people to boycott a company that profits from the Israeli military occupation and colonisation of the Palestinian territories with the aim of bringing about a just settlement to the ‘Israel/Palestine conflict’. There is a ‘Justice for Palestine’ club based at the University of Adelaide and more information on all of the above points is available at: justiceforpalestineadelaide.wordpress.com Thank you, Sean Robinson President of ‘Justice for Palestine – Adelaide’
Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still for once on the face of the earth, let's not speak in any language; let's stop for a second, and not move our arms so much. It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines; we would all be together in a sudden strangeness. Fishermen in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would not look at his hurt hands. Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing. What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about... If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Now I'll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go. (Keeping Quiet) Love, SPUR Magazine.
I don’t think there’s any particular pride to be had in being a banana farmer. Don’t get me wrong – I love bananas, and am more than happy to pay good money for them. But I don’t somehow consider it to be something of a national priority to ensure Queenslanders can be banana farmers. Worse, I don’t think it’s a good idea to force me to pay more for my beloved bananas just so a bunch of Queenslanders can follow in their fathers’ footsteps and farm bananas. Bob Katter wants you to subsidize his constituents’ lifestyles. His economic policy calls for widespread trade protectionism of agriculture and other industries, in the form of 10% tariff on imported goods. Tariffs are a terrible, terrible idea. It’s nearly impossible to find an actual economist who endorses them. They’re essentially a tax, except the revenue raised goes not to the government but rather directly to the special interests protected by them. Thanks to the noble efforts spearheaded by those in the right of both the Labor and Coalition, Australia has one of the lowest tariff rates in world. Tariffs are bad enough, but Katter goes a step further with bananas. He wants to ban imported bananas. To understand how horrifically bad this idea is, you have to understand what value foreign bananas being available on the Australian market have for us, the banana buying public, even if you personally
never buy them. Foreign bananas provide a clear market choice for consumers if Queensland bananas get too expensive. This, for a start, prevents banana growers from arbitrarily raising their prices. It also forces banana growers to constantly innovate to ensure we get better and more affordable bananas. Protecting the Australian agricultural industry results in all Australians being worse off by paying higher prices for food, which in turn leaves us with less to spend on other goods and services, which hurts other Australian industries – as money spent on food is money we can’t spend on other things we want. It hurts the agricultural industry, because, sheltered and protected from economic realities, there is little economic incentive to innovate to ensure their products are competitive on a global – or even local - market. Instead, the protected growers grow fat and lazy on the easy profits of entrapped banana lovers. I get more expensive bananas of no better quality, and should they, one day in the future, be forced to face international competition, they’re heading for a clobbering. Imports are not a dirty word. We love exports, but we have to remember that there can be no exports without imports. After all, it’s called international trade, not international selling. While we don’t trade wheat for widgets directly, at one stage or another, whether directly or through a third party, a trade of goods or services has to take place. Using China for example, while modern trade is conducted with currency, no one in their right mind
would trade Australian goods for yuan if we didn’t ever buy anything from China. Likewise, the Chinese would have no AUD to purchase Australian goods if we never imported anything from China. Trade has to be a two-way street. Ultimately, Australian dollars have to be spent in Australia by someone. Even if they trade them for other currencies, they eventually have to be spent by someone – and the only thing you can buy with AUD is Australian goods and services. And if it isn’t? Even better. If the Chinese want to sit on hordes of AUD they get from importing masses of widgets, beautiful. Since you can only buy Australian goods and services with AUD, hoarding it overseas is akin to accepting payment by cheque but never cashing it. Of course, that AUD coming back into Australia is unlikely to be spent on Queensland bananas if they’re not a commercially viable proposition. Instead, they’re likely to be directed to industry which can sustainably grow profits, create wealth and jobs without the need for their foreign competition to be locked out of the market and their profits subsidized by the bananabuying public. But what about food security? Isn’t Australia a net importer of food now? To the later point, the only way to calculate Australia as a net importer of food (often deceptively bundled as ‘food and groceries’) is to discount wheat, live animals and other raw food products and include ‘grocery and manufacturing products’, including pharmaceuticals, paper products and detergent. According to the Department
of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in 2011 Australia exported $28.3 billion dollars of processed and unprocessed food, while we imported a scant $11.7 billion. According to Katter, somehow this imbalance will reverse in 3 ½ years. I’m skeptical. But even if this was true, is being ‘food secure’ really that important? Arbitrarily deciding that we must produce one particular good to meet our entire national need is absurd. We don’t worry about being pharmaceutical secure, oil secure or fighter jet secure – despite the fact that all of these commodities are essential to a happy and safe Australia. If at some theoretical future stage we were a net importer of food and if some sort of import food crisis faced us, there would be several ways to respond: looking to alternative sources for food, reclaiming land used for other purpose to farming; changing our diets to be richer in domestic food sources and (gasp) subsidizing otherwise uneconomic farming practices. The only way Katter’s thesis can be proved is if Australia was suddenly blockaded by a naval force powerful enough to defeat the Australian Navy and it’s allies; a scenario so unlikely I’ll happily go without rations and instead subside on Katter’s ten-gallon hat should it come to fruition in my lifetime.
Looking beyond Australia, implementing Katter’s policies would have severe consequences for those living beyond our shores. Agricultural protectionism is a great way to ensure third-world countries retain a distinctly third-world vibe. These countries’ main industries tend to be agriculture, and a banana import ban would leave poor farmers overseas unable to utilize their low labor costs to compete with Queenslanders’ superior productivity thanks to mechanization and other technology advances, leaving them to only sell their bananas in the third world for third-world prices. In the meantime, the premium paid to Queensland banana growers by the Australian public thanks to the lack of competition allows the growers to sell their bananas overseas at a price far lower than they could if Australians were paying the fair economic price for their bananas. Possibly, we could be subsidizing them to a level where they can crush the aforementioned poor banana farmers in the third-world markets, which they’re limited to accessing. Great for Katter’s constituents. Not so great for poor banana farmers. Bob Katter wants the bush to survive – but his proposed method would be to do so perpetually and artificially with a direct
transfusion from our pockets and away from the arteries of Australia’s productive industries. While this may be good for the farmers he represents, for the rest of us it means less money in our pockets and fewer job opportunities. It means the poor in other countries are being shut away from the only successful cure to poverty – economic growth from trade. There’s no doubt some banana farmers will suffer economically if they have to face foreign competition. But the alternative is all of us suffering. Sorry Bob, but good public policy demands we look to the interests of our nation (and our world), not just those lucky enough to live in an electorate where the member holds the balance of power in the federal parliament. Tom Schinckel is a law student at Flinders University who loves economic freedom, because it gives him what he loves: Chick-Fil-A, small diesel vehicles and cheap books. He was once a legislative fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives, and likes to think that qualifies him to prattle on about just about anything. You can email him at email@example.com.
Haneen Martin Some of the images in this edition are not intended to have any connection with the article they are in proximity to. This is one of them. We just like it. If you’re OCD, you should be warned that later on there’s a picture of a swan next to an article about David Mamet. Please, try not to get too upset.
An open letter to the City-State of Adelaide primarily located in rural areas, with the revenues they generate flowing to Adelaide. Do you My point is that the regions are very much believe in justice? Do you believe in equal the bread winners in this state. representation? Do you believe that it is wrong to neglect a part of society because Once you realise the above consider this of political expediency? I do, and seeing as - the cost, at taxpayers’ expense, of a new you’re still reading I’ll assume you do too. panda enclosure at the Adelaide Zoo? $19 million, or $28 million if one includes adI say “To the City-State of Adelaide” be- ditional funding for a new Adelaide Zoo cause it is abundantly clear that this is no entrance as well. The estimated current longer the state of South Australia. It is a cost of the rebuilding of the Adelaide Oval? city-state, whose borders end somewhere $530 million. The cost of replacing the near Gawler in the north and the Toll-Gate Royal Adelaide Hospital? $2.1 billion.
in the east. You may ask “why is this?” What motivates me to make such a broad I’m not necessarily criticising the individual worth of these decisions. What I don’t and sweeping statement? like is WHERE THEY ARE. Out of roughIt’s simple. I’m from the country and there ly 1.7 million people in this state, only 1.2 are more and more times where I find my- million live in Adelaide. So where is the self thinking “What do we get out of being justice in half a million people being left in governed from Adelaide? Where is the jus- the dark when it comes to services, education and representation? tice, the way things are now?” We get hospitals, like the Keith & District Hospital, having their funding slashed, and robbing vast areas of health care. Local schools being shut down or losing the buses they need to get their students to class. Yes, it costs more to provide services in rural area – it’s a question of distance and economies of scale. Of course, one could justify these closures on the grounds of economic necessity and if the state’s finances were in such a bad state that this was happening across the board, it would be understandable. It’s easy for someone 20 minutes (at the outside) from their nearest emergency hospital to talk about the economic necessity of closing a hospital in the country. Put yourself in our shoes Adelaide – what if a 40 minute drive to a hospital became 60 minutes, or more. Wouldn’t you feel robbed?
Of course, that is where the real problem lies. We have roughly a quarter of the population – hence we only have roughly a quarter of state parliament’s seats. Now on paper, this is fair and just, the theory being that every person’s vote is worth the same, regardless of where they live. That does not mean it is perfect. As you can probably tell, this means the current system is basically a tyranny of the majority and if a majority of the votes are concentrated in one area, you can guarantee that area will receive a majority of political attention. As political attention translates to government funding for services, roads, education and so on, the lack of rural political representation translates directly to the starvation of services.
tain percentage of revenue from rural areas is legislatively guaranteed to return there. This would probably address the symptoms of the problem – declining services in the country. It would also be as easy to implement as any other piece of legislation. However, it would be vulnerable to being removed by a parliament that disliked it. Moreover, would it address the actual problem? I think not. Rather, increase political representation to rural areas – the lack of which, as I’ve said, is the problem. Divide the state into several regions, as is already done by the government for policy administration, promoting tourism (see http://www.southaustralia.com/regions.aspx) and by people themselves (“I’m from the South-East/the Riverland etc). Then, give each of those regions, regardless of population or area, an equal number of members of the upper house (the Legislative Council) to represent it. If this arrangement sounds familiar, then it should be - it’s inspired by the Senate’s 12 senators from each state, irrespective of population or area. Some might allege this is an undemocratic arrangement, theoretically giving voters in some states more power than. I disagree – it would help to prevent a ‘tyranny of the majority’, and would help to balance out the domination of the population-based lower house by metropolitan Adelaide. If one party happens to consistently provide such members, then the other party will just have to work a bit harder to be a bit more appealing. Isn’t that democracy, where people elect a government that can best provide for them?
So then, dear Adelaide, what’s it to be? Are you going to help us turn this into a decent, So is there a solution, dear Adelaide, by fair state, where we all get an equal voice But I’ve yet to see proof that our state’s fi- which means we can fix this problem as op- and an equal chance? Or will you continue with the way things are? nances are so bad. Adelaide reaps the riches posed to my just whinging? Well, yes. of the rest of our state. Think of it this way. Out of SA’s four major industries (agri- Firstly, we could put into practice a “Royal- Sincerely, culture, fishing/aquaculture, mining and ties for Regions” program, similar to what William Gloster manufacturing) the first three of these are exists in Western Australia, whereby a cer-
700 Intellectuals Worship an Oil Bertolt Brecht, tr. by Simon Collinson
Ohne Einladung Sind wir gekommen 700 (und viele sind noch unterwegs) Überall her, wo kein Wind mehr weht Von den Mühlen, die langsam mahlen, und Von den Öfen, hinter denen es heißt Daß kein Hund mehr vorkommt.
Without invitation We have come 700 (and many are still on the way) From all quarters, where no wind blows From the mills which slowly grind and From the kilns which are warming Behind which not even dogs appear, any more.
Und haben dich gesehen Plötzlich über Nacht Öltank.
And we have seen you Suddenly, during the night, Oil Tank.
Gestern warst du noch nicht da Aber heute Bist nur du mehr.
Yesterday you weren’t yet there But today There is only you.
Eilet herbei, alle! Die ihr absägt den Ast, auf dem ihr sitzet Werktätige! Gott ist wiedergekommen In Gestalt eines Öltanks.
Hurry here, everyone! You who reject the bough on which you sit Workers! God has come again In the form of an Oil Tank.
Du Häßlicher Du bist der Schönste! Tue uns Gewalt an Du Sachlicher! Lösche aus unser Ich! Mache uns kollektiv! Denn nicht, wie wir wollen: Sondern, wie du willst.
You ugly one You are the fairest! Do us violence You objective thing! Erase the I! Make us collective! Not how we want: But as You wish.
Du bist nicht gemacht aus Elfenbein Und Ebenholz, sondern aus Eisen. Herrlich! Herrlich! Herrlich! Du Unscheinbarer!
You are not made of ivory And ebony, but Iron. Glorious! Glorious! Glorious! You insignificant one!
Du bist kein Unsichtbarer Nicht unendlich bist du! Sondern sieben Meter hoch. In dir ist kein Geheimnis Sondern Öl. Und du verfährst mit uns Nicht nach Gutdünken noch unerforschlich Sondern nach Berechnung.
You are not invisible You are not infinite! Rather, You’re seven metres tall. You hold no secrets Except oil. And You deal with us Not with discretion or inscrutability. But by the bill.
Was ist für dich ein Gras? Du sitzest darauf. Wo ehedem ein Gras war Da sitzest jetzt du, Öltank! Und vor dir ist ein Gefühl Nichts.
What is a patch of grass to You? You sit on it. Where once there was a patch of grass There You sit, Oil Tank! And before You an emotion is Nothing.
Darum erhöre uns und erlöse uns von dem Übel des Geistes. Im Namen der Elektrifizierung Des Fordschritts und der Statistik!
Therefore heed our invocation And deliver us from the evil of Spirits. In the name of Electrification, Progress and Statistics!
A Responsibility To Feel Outraged Ira Glass, host of Chicago Public Radio’s show This American Life, toured Australia in January on the back of his most successful radio broadcast to date, “Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory.” The episode prominently featured a theatrical monologue by Mike Daisey on the workers’ conditions he witnessed inside the factories of Shenzhen, China, where the iPhone, iPad and much of the world’s consumer electronics are manufactured. It was broadcasted to 1.8 million listeners, downloaded 800,000 times and streamed 200,000 more. The story went on to be picked up by the New York Times and made Daisey Apple’s most outspoken critic in the American media, which prompted Apple to make an announcement that it would for the first time allow independent auditors to verify workers’ conditions in its suppliers’ factories and to release a list of who those suppliers were.
uncontrollably” from exposure to the industrial chemical n-hexane, a potent neurotoxin. This had happened, but much earlier in a widely-publicised events far away from Shenzhen: Daisey later admitted that he’d never met with these workers, or any others suffering from n-hexane exposure, but that he’d included them in his monologue regardless. When the show was being put together he’d told the producers that his translator Cathy was unavailable to corroborate his story, but she was located after it had aired and disputed his narrative of events. He claimed to have interviewed underage workers, girls of thirteen and younger, who worked Apple’s production lines. Cathy flatly refuted this: they’d met workers who were young women, she said, but none who were underaged. His story was, it turned out, a pastiche of industrial horror stories of what he had personally witnessed, liberally embellished with deIt wasn’t a small feat. Apple is famously tails he had uncovered in his research - or paranoid about potential leaks and averse those he expected would strike a chord to having third parties witness their pro- with Western listeners. duction lines. If Daisey weren’t so effective as a story-teller Apple probably wouldn’t In the West we’re often cynical to stories have made any substantial changes to their of human misery. We hear of the atrocities supplier code of conduct. As Ira Glass put but we doubt whether the accounts are acit, what Daisey did was “took this fact that curate or representative. By most measures, we all already know, this fact that our stuff after all, sweatshops are good for developis made overseas in maybe not the greatest ing countries. Over time they increase working conditions, and he made the au- standards of living and raise per capita dience actually feel something about that GDP. The conditions aren’t any Westerners fact.” Enough that he prompted real change would subject themselves to, with sixty+ to be made to those not-so-great working hours a week at $22 per day, but rural peasconditions. ants will line up for days for the opportunity. The conditions might be exploitative, Just two months later, however, This Amer- but do we have any right to object if they’re ican Life retracted the story. Under scru- ultimately having a positive effect? tiny, elements of the monologue turned out to be unlikely or false. Daisey had claimed Mike Daisey might have lied, but he did to have met workers whose “hands shook it to get people to care about a genuinely
artwork: Margot Turner
tragic situation. Because it is tragic, if not in the manner Daisey described. We know from Apple’s audits, for example, that supplier factories in China have illegally employed children. By all accounts this is an issue that Apple has aggressively pursued, but because Apple wouldn’t disclose which manufacturers were breaching this condition we had no way of knowing if appropriate action was being taken against it. We also have confirmation from Apple of separate incidents where the build-up of aluminium dust killed 4 workers and injured another 77. The distinctive, textured finish of an iPad is achieved by a process which results in a combustible aluminium- there’s no issue if appropriate extraction exists, but when a new product is about to be released demand can become heated and workers’ safety is sometimes ignored in the rush to produce. The tragedy is not that an aluminium explosion happened, but that it had to happen twice before Apple enforced extraction requirements for all its suppliers. There’s that famous Orwell quote that the future is a boot stomping the human face forever. It’s unfortunate but as Westerners we’re hesitant to acknowledge that it’s often our foot in that boot. We don’t have to boycott iPods, but we can become outraged when low-cost, well-understood safety measures aren’t implemented when they easily could be. It’s our duty as responsible consumers to insist that our technological fix is delivered to us with fundamental human rights concerns in mind, and to become outraged when corporations don’t acknowledge these concerns. Chinese workers don’t have much leverage to improve their lot, but Western consumers do. Justin Boden
Hollywood Rebel David Mamet’s THE SECRET KNOWLEDGE: On the Dismantling of American Culture (Sentinel, New York, 2011)
Leftist theatre critics used to love David Mamet. The restaging of Glengarry Glen Ross at the London Apollo in 2007 sent the Guardian’s Michael Billington into paroxysms of socialist joy at the “pleasing irony” of “this attack on capitalism finally installed in our theatre’s commercial heartland”. Though careful to note Mamet’s “sneaking regard” for the salesmen portrayed in the play, Billington assured his readers that the real kick in the work sprang from its depiction of “the ugliness of a society that depends on greed and gullibility”. Six months later, Billington was crestfallen after the hitherto leftist Mamet announced a political volte-face. David Mamet is one of Hollywood’s most successful screenwriters and directors. Some of his work includes Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), The Verdict (1982), About Last Night…(1986), The Untouchables (1987), Wag the Dog (1997), The Winslow Boy (1999), and State and Main (2000). He is also one of America’s foremost playwrights: American Buffalo (1975), The Water Engine (1976), and Speed-thePlow (1988). Not surprisingly, Mamet’s “coming out” as a conservative shocked the arts world. Ben Crair, writing in May 2011 for the blog site The Daily Beast, acknowledged Mamet’s standing as “the best living American playwright”. However, the decision of an artist with such gravitas to proclaim publicly his political apostasy prompted Crair to wonder if Mamet had “lost his mind”. The grand home and ostentatious lifestyle of the film producer portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in Wag the Dog might or might not echo the reality of Mamet’s everyday life, but it would surely be within his grasp if that were what he chose to pursue. Mamet’s “turn to the Right” leaves him open to the charge that the kid who grew up “on the South Side of Chicago” before finding fame and fortune in New York and Los Angeles has betrayed his roots. In other words, he has forsworn the Hollywood celebrity’s time-honoured defence against accusations of snobbery and elitism, which
includes advocating political correctness, praising Cuba’s state-run health system, campaigning for Democratic candidates, and flouncing about in strategically-torn designer jeans, the latter suggesting an identification with the common man even if said jeans are $1,000 a pair. Members of the entertainment industry elite, according to Mamet, occupy two entirely distinct moral universes. Celebrities spend most of the waking hours pursuing their own self-interests, looking for “any opportunity to earn more with less expenditure of effort and in more congenial circumstances”. That is to say, they work the free market for all it is worth and yet, as Mamet confesses about his own longtime double standards, rarely question the “tribal assumption that Capitalism was bad”. They crusade for the state to redistribute the wealth of others as they themselves minimize their own taxation and carry on amassing private fortunes. In The Secret Knowledge Mamet modestly equates his own talents with that of “the plumber, the grocer, the carpet salesman, the fire fighter, the Marine”, reasoning that in selling one’s skills on the free market a person engages with reality and not only refines their expertise but also attains maturity. The worker becomes “a regular person”, somebody with common sense, somebody we would not mind being “on a jury trying our case”. Mamet has deftly turned Marxist logic on its head. The free market is not the location of our alienation and exploitation, but the socio-economic context in which we discover our true or mature self. Our mature self, argues The Secret Knowledge, is unlikely to be discovered in a university liberal-arts course detached from reality and emphasising Identity Politics. Mamet contends the result of politically correct disseminations by progressive educators is not “productive Citizens” but “intolerant, uneducated, and incurious graduates”. The Secret Knowledge contains a bleakly humorous account of the author’s own misadventure in a university which
resulted in the convening of a meeting to “vote on whether or not I was barred from appearing on campus”. Too often he finds the modern university a source of “demagoguery” rather than “thoughtfulness, courtesy, respect, circumspection, and pati ence”. The getting of wisdom requires productive endeavours, the making of a movie included: The rules of behaviour on a movie set are largely the Unwritten Law: who shows deference to whom, when one should speak, when one should be silent, how to deal with unpleasantness, with an excess of zeal, with shoddy work; how to evaluate that which falls short of the perfect. The set is fused with a sense of commonality and dedication not only to the project at hand, but to training by example the new workers, by extending and protecting the precious lessons of the past. Gainful employment requires actual skills: on a movie set the “actor must be able to act, the designer to design, the carpenter to build”. Mamet’s vision of America, using the movie set as his metaphor, is “a country of workers” and begins and ends with “the notion that all are created equal”. Mamet concedes that what the market/society deems an appropriate recompense for a given job can be unfair in some cases and outright foolish in others. For instance, the hypothetical street sweeper is paid a comparative pittance for work that is “both essential and disagreeable”, while an American newscaster earns “tens of millions of dollars because he has a square jaw”. The inequity of all this prompts the leftist or progressive to call for the government to redistribute wealth along Marxist lines, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. Mamet, the newly minted conservative, disagrees. To make the state the distributor of goods and services – and what other mechanism can serve this purpose if not the free market? – is to proceed, as Friedrich Hayek warned, down the road to serfdom.
In The Secret Knowledge Mamet asserts that the United States of America is “a 230-yearold experiment” that “represents the triumph of Judaeo-Christian values”. This does not mean that to flourish in America a citizen must necessarily be a practising Christian or an observant Jew. Instead, Mamet is suggesting that Judaeo-Christian precepts, as distilled in the American Constitution, allow for the possession by human beings of “a conscience” and “free will”, while taking into account human “imperfectability, and, thus, the inevitability of conflict”. The remedy for injustice is not politically correct social justice, but blind justice: blind in the sense that it is neutral and disinterested, and therefore unswayed by special pleading, since affirmative action (however well-intentioned) results in just another form of discrimination. Mamet, who is of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, says it best in this passage:
ket openings, portraying cut-out heroes; they are given the chance to inhabit that fantasyturned-real and discover, in themselves, real heroism
The Guardian’s Michael Billington was not wrong to claim Mamet’s earlier plays “concerned Capitalism and business”. Where Billington goes awry is in his assumption that any criticism of the modern world presupposes progressive politics on the part of the artist. A leftist perspective invariably contains within it a strain of utopianism, but there is little in Mamet’s work to suggest he ever sought a new world in the morning, a post-Capitalist universe in which humanity is cleansed of evil, oppression and violence. Besides, the advent of such a soporific state of affairs would only vex a man with such keen dramatic sensibilities.
Similarly, in his treatise about the stage, Theatre (2010), Mamet lambasted the kind of play that begins with a conclusion – “capitalism, America, men, and so on, are bad” – and then does no more in the ensuing ninety minutes than invite the (heavyeyed) audience to affirm the viewpoint of the writer. This, argues Mamet, has its origins in Soviet agit-prop and is not drama, at least not in the Aristotelian or Western sense of depicting free men in conflict with each other. It is, rather, a spectacle – and, more often than not, a subsidized one. Daryl McCann www.darylmccann.blogspot.com
I will not say this Christian country has been good to Jews, for this suggests an altruism or acceptance, neither of which exists. But America has been good for the Jews, as it has been, eventually, good for every immigrant group whether fleeing oppression, seeking prosperity, or, indeed, brought here in chains. That Tinsel Town has been a bastion of shameless progressivism seems indisputable. Ben Shapiro’s recent expose, Primetime Propaganda (2011), does no more than confirm the obvious. The various creators of everything from Happy Days to Sesame Street were only too glad, according Shapiro, to put on the record their desire to “shape America in their own leftist image”. Mamet, if only for aesthetic reasons, seems to have always steered clear of the idea that the entertainment industry should attempt to do anything other than entertain. It is the unfolding of an impeccably executed plot, and not some barbed political message, that attracts Mamet’s admiration. Mamet outlined his position on the centrality of plot in Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose and Practise of the Movie Business (2007): The Godfather, A Place in the Sun, Dodsworthy, Galaxy Quest – these are perfect films. They start with a simple premise and proceed logically, and inevitably, toward a conclusion both surprising and inevitable. The godfather wants to protect his best-loved son from contamination by the family criminal enterprise; the son eventually becomes the godfather…A washed-up bunch of television actors curse the long-gone success of their show; it has mired them in supermar-
Only SPUR Magazine is the choice of both people and swans. Whether it’s hard hitting journalism you’re after, or paper that tastes like bread, choose SPUR.
Humans Are Too Smart; Monkeys Have More Fun. Being the dominant species on planet Earth is great. Ask any human being and I’m sure they’ll tell you the same thing. But with this form of dominance comes an undeniable and surprisingly noticeable form of dependence. Certain ecologists garner the theory that true ecological balance can only be achieved by the removal of the most disruptive species in history. What is that species? I’ll give you a clue - it’s not fucking dragons. That’s right, it’s people.
nature implies that we aren’t a part of it, that we are something different entirely. It says that little Susie nature was minding her own business one day when a big bully called ‘human race’ came charging over, pushed her into some mud and stole all the metaphorical lunch money that she had. We weren’t produced in an evil lab somewhere with the sole intention of beating up Susie. We came to existence in the same way every thing else did, we evolved to become dominant and we have come to call ourselves better. Then we got so smart that we self appointed ourselves as the boss of the planet. When the planet is in apparent peril (as it so often now is) we believe that the world is in our care and it’s our duty to fix it.
such a question. Does a cow stand in its field wondering if his ecosystem would function better without him? Does a lion avoid killing a gazelle in order to maintain a suitable extrapolation of gazelle population growth? I can’t be sure, but I think not. It’s all hard coded species self interest. As pleasing as it seems to constantly reiterate just how dominant we are it seems egotistical if anything that we seem to so conveniently forget that we are no more important than a cow or lion. It is not us and them. We are a part of nature just as much as any other creature and our presence here on Earth has no more significance than the presence of the worm. But we are here and the only difference is we’re the only animals smart enough to ask why. Sometimes life would be a lot less complicated if we were all a little dumber.
Who? Us? I am slightly offended if nothing else. What are we ‘disrupting’ exactly? Earth? Those same ecologists claim that humans are the worst thing to ever happen to nature. Yet they seem to be forgetting where we come from. We are nature. We are a product of it, just like every other slimy, furry, bitey creature on the planet. Would Earth be better without humans? Saying we’re the worst thing to happen to No other species would ever contemplate Scott Hillard
Exclusive Interview with Flight of the Conchords
SPUR Magazine spoke to New Zealand’s premier folk parody duo earlier this year, when they played the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. SPUR: Any plans to release a new album? Bret turned his head in my direction – perhaps he was embarrassed, or perhaps this was a sensitive subject, or perhaps I hadn’t spoken loudly enough for him to hear me. Jemaine: This next one is called ‘Business Time’! The tens of thousands of people who had come to see the concert whooped and hollered. It was then I knew that I had made a terrible mistake.
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (Macmillan, 2012) Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing is a good book, and you should read it. Everything else will flow from these two ideas, and it is to these two ideas to which we will together return. My diction may be obtuse, and my reasoning circuitous, but if you take but two ideas from me, it should be these to which I first introduced you, and to which the following are merely supplementary. The great strength of historical fiction is that it often side-steps questions of political histories and of verifiability and instead creates narratives open to the voices of the unheard that echo through the slipstream of modern cultural identity. In Caleb’s Crossing, the reader engages with the titular journey through the narrator, young Bethia’s, own frustrated crossing. The journey of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, a Native American, toward and through colonial tertiary education to become Harvard’s first Native American graduate serves as foil for Bethia Mayfield’s own often-frustrated journey. Some respondents have questioned the perceived oddity that Brooks’ novel is more about the vivacious puritan Bethia than the transcultural Wampanoag Caleb. In truth, Brooks’ choice to narrate through Bethia is, at its most cynical, a pragmatic choice that circumvents uncomfortable questions of the ownership of post-colonial narratives. Looking past such cynicism toward a more literarily analytic reading, Brooks breathes into Bethia the engaging and enduring image of a complex and convincing woman of her time, who speaks across the centuries to the modern reader through the dreams, aspirations and courage of an expertly crafted narrative character. Through her choice in narrative style, Brooks also makes excellent use of absent spaces, forgotten or misremembered stories and testimonies, and frustrated or inverted expectations, and Caleb’s transcultural journey certainly fits within her pattern of absent-presence as it relates to Bethia’s own frustrated aspirations.
and one that Brooks utilises in Caleb’s Crossing to drag the reader deep into a cultural setting with which they are likely both unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Bethia’s narrative oversights are alternatively mocking, shocking, and appalling; this is a novel that makes great use of what is not written, and the use of the diary-narrative will frustrate and thrill the reader. Bethia’s alternatively stoic and sardonic attitude certainly infuriated me, just as it demonstrably humanised her. Brooks does not merely instrumentalise the psychology of her protagonist, but also the hermeneutic expectations and demands of her reader. That is to say, in their own way, the reader becomes just as much Brooks’ instrument as is Bethia, mystified where we are called upon to be mystified, thrilled where we are called to be thrilled, and so on. At times the morbid horror gnawing at my gut was exceeded only by my admiration for an author who could seemingly time the tenor and timing of my response to near-perfection. Through such a process, Geraldine Brooks certainly confirms the literary status she has won in her earlier works. As a purely aesthetic experience, I found reading Caleb’s Crossing incredibly enjoyable. Although sensibly hybridised, the historically appropriate diction and elegant syntax mark a style both economic and deeply characterful. Through her mastery of the written word and the lively and complex relationships between her characters, Brooks engages with the cultural gulf between her characters in a manner both sensitive and critical. With a gentle touch, she introduces the animating spirits and gods of the Wampanoag, as well as the Christian God, as influential peripheral characters, challenging and influencing the expectations of self-realisation within the traditional bildungsroman.
tirely dissimilar to this instance. The use of Christian imagery, which is in both cases the language of the conqueror, manages to capture and interweave the deeply personal struggles of individual people with the turbulent struggles of the transcultural period. In Caleb’s Crossing, this language is used by Brooks when the young Caleb challenges Bethia’s faith in their early friendship, and the contest between alternative belief-systems often comes to a confusing but compelling fruition. Such language also frames the mindset of both Wampanoag and Puritan as being in the midst of spiritual warfare, and the skirmishes between the Wampanoag pawaaw and Bethia’s father, a Christian Missionary, are certainly reminiscent of the spiritual conflicts of other postcolonial works, including Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God. Brooks’ language is both crucial and invaluable in reconstructing a worldview with which most readers will previously have had little understanding and less sympathy. My attraction to historical fiction in particular has always been rooted in its nebulous and oft-contested educational value. That’s not a proud admission of mine, but there you have it. Like Wikipedia.org or Tvtropes.org, you feel like you’re learning, even if you will often have to find more reputable sources to actually justify this, that, or any other claim. In Caleb’s Crossing, Brooks takes a setting that for many of us would otherwise be unreachable; hidden behind the centuries and the morass of political, historical and cultural context. She takes this setting and into it she breathes life; the lives of flawed but human people living in an incredibly brutal time that challenges our notions of the equitable, the just, and the sensible. She takes this setting and she drags us into it and drowns us in it, until we see through eyes perhaps a little more capable of understanding worlds to which we are otherwise no longer privy.
Brooks’ language, rich with Christian and Classical allusion, reminds me of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat, and the Rohan Williams The use of the first person narrative style in recommission of language for that posta piece of historical fiction is a bold choice colonial project serves a purpose not en-
Something You Probably Haven’t Read Before:
The Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow
C h a p t David R. Dow is a professor and practising defence attorney in Texas, the state responsible for the most death-row executions in the U.S. (though it is sunny California that can boast the most prisoners on deathrow, and Oklahoma that executes the most prisoners as a percentage of its population). Dow is a former supporter of the death penalty and is ready to admit in his thoughtful way what a judgemental, “unforgiving” person he is. Nevertheless, since starting his work representing death-row inmates (the number of which now reaches over one hundred), something changed. Prior to The Autobiography of an Execution, he wrote a book called Executed on a Technicality, which argues not that death as punishment is wrong because the defendant might be innocent (“abolitionists’ single-minded focus on innocence makes them seem as indifferent to principle as the vigilantes are”), but because it’s wrong to kill people. That’s all. Of course it also doesn’t help that the system is so raciallyand socio-economically-skewed; given two guilty parties, one black and poor, the other rich and white, the former may never be called to court, while the latter might not leave it alive.
covering the executions (and the prior mad scrambles for pleas for stays and retrials) of a number of Dow’s charges, is highlight the extreme arbitrariness and systematised injustices of this branch of the legal system, even below the obvious racial differential treatment. This might be news to those who want to believe that America’s Freedom Eagle still flies straight and true (if it ever has). Dow explains that in practice, the principle of presumption of innocence until proof of guilt is often overlooked, if only implicitly. The fact that a man has been brought to trial at all may often be a point against him in the eyes of a jury. And when the defence attorney falls asleep in the middle of proceedings, it could only be difficult for said jury to give credit to the conviction of his arguments (that is, if he wakes up in time to say anything, with conviction or otherwise).
O n e listen as his prematurely wise six-year old son and fervent vegetarian, berates him for eating meat. As an aside, there does seem to be such an abundance of references to the many, rich and meaty meals he enjoys, that a coincidental contrast to the men made dead meat by the American penal system looks unlikely. It’s though he’s admitting that he doesn’t have all the answers; he’s only - an omnivorous - human after all. The question of the death penalty in to the average Australian reader may seem like a mostly irrelevant one, what with the death penalty having been abolished here – and in Queensland first, of all states (though it may come as a surprise that the last person sentenced in this way was as recently as 1984 in the case of Brenda Hodge). The Autobiography of an Execution will nevertheless be of interest to anyone who is concerned with the question of how we treat the ‘least’ among us. At the very least, it presents the sometimes despairing, frequently philosophical, yet largely hopeful recollections of a man who must learn to find successes where he can.
The book covers more than this though. It is as much an autobiography of Dow’s own life during this time as it is of the people he is fighting to save. We hear how he returns home from visiting prison to compulsively shower immediately, and to wash in a separate load the clothes he wore there. We’ll see him with his wife, knowing that Serrin Prior This isn’t exactly news though. What The he has just been sexually propositioned by Autobiography of an Execution does, while the judge ruling over his appeals case. We’ll
A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty If Jasper Fforde and Neil Gaiman were stranded together on a desert island, this is the sort of story they might come up with. A Corner of White by award-winning Australian author Jaclyn Moriarty is the oddly captivating tale of two young teenagers from two very different worlds. Madeline Tully lives in Cambridge, England, where people sip on cups of English Breakfast and debate the lives of Lord Byron and Isaac Newton. Elliot Baranski lives in a town called Bonfire, in the magical kingdom of Cello – a fantasy land where seasons roam, Colours kill and butterfly children fall from the sky in people’s paddocks.
– a friendship that seems to transcend the laws of space and time begins to bloom.
This is a story that rejoices in the nonsensical. If, at times, Moriarty’s prose does tend a little purple, in a story where Colours (yes, with a capital C) come alive, it is forgivable. What this book truly celebrates are its characters. Against the backdrop of these curious, captivating twin worlds, it is the protagonists themselves that shine through. Madeleine and Elliot struggle with and confront those universal questions all teenagers know – questions of parenthood and friendship, of isolation and connection. Moriarty captures beautifully those tenA crack between these two disparate worlds sions and anxieties of adolescence, allows Madeleine and Elliot to begin writ- and does so with heartfelt humour and ing to each other – even as the two grapple verve. with their own sleuth of problems at home
A Corner of White is wonderfully original and to anyone who picks up this book, I encourage you to sit back, let go and allow yourself to be swept away to a world beyond the rainbow. Kate Murphy
The Crunch fiction:
‘Hit me.’ I was being serious. But Kim didn’t me, and how one time he’d said bye to me, think I was, so I was met with silence. ‘I despite me not saying a single word to him said hit me!’ I shouted. the entire time, and how he had ‘the lisp’ and was so fucking adorable that it made ‘I can’t hit you,’ Kim said. ‘Besides, I’m a me sick, and how that bye he’d said totally girl. I punch like a girl.’ This was a joke. meant he at least acknowledged I existed as Kim punched much better than most men. something other than a regular customer, I didn’t laugh though. This was about as and how I had run out of excuses to visit serious as it got. If you could see my face, the optometrist now that I’d gotten my new you would probably tell me to lighten up, glasses. I’d explained all of that. And yet or something, and stop being so serious. still, she wouldn’t break my nose. What a bitch. I wouldn’t have said that out aloud, ‘Please,’ I said. And I was pretty much on to her, though. my knees here. ‘I need you to punch me. Or like, grab a bat or something. Just break ‘Love’s a good reason,’ I said. I was commy nose.’ pletely genuine here, too. There was no irony in my voice. ‘I’m not going to break your nose, I told you! You’re being stupid. This is stupid. Kim just rolled her eyes. ‘This is not love. This is the most stupid idea you have ever You’re just starved of attention. Just go on had in your entire history of stupid ideas. Grindr or something. Just do an En-Ess-Ay One day, when you have stupid children, deal.’ she spelled it out for me. I was the one and they do stupid things every day, one who’d told her what that damn term meant. day, you’ll tell them, in a fit of stupidity, ‘Get rid of that goo or whatever you guys how you asked your best friend to punch call it.’ I don’t think she or I or anyone had you in the nose for no good reason.’ ever called it that.
She huffed the next bit out, with her arms crossed. ‘Man, you fall in love with every guy that shows you even the slightest bit of attention,’ she said. ‘You need some help. And I don’t mean a psychiatrist. I mean you need a fucking wingman, so you can get fucking laid.’ ‘I didn’t mean that.’ I had a plan. I had a fucking plan. ‘I mean, you’re wrong about that too. But I mean about the best friend thing.’ Kim just folded her arms. ‘Oh yeah? Who’s your best friend then?’ ‘Carl.’ I said, as seriously as I could. This plan was perfect. So perfect.
‘Carl?!’ she spat. ‘You have got to be kidding me. Carl’s a fucking dick, and you know’ she stopped. And then she changed her tone. Fuck. ‘Oh, I see what you’re doing.’ She saw what I was doing. Double fuck. ‘You’re not going to make me angry. You’re not going to make me want to hit you. It won’t work. Fuck you.’ Triple goddamn ‘No good reason?’ Hadn’t she been listen- ‘You’re wrong,’ I said, pointing out her fuck. So it wasn’t a great plan after all. Well, ing? I’d explained it all to her already. How wrongness. there was always the back-up plan. the guy at the optometrist was totally into
‘I’ll just break my own nose.’
that fell off of the sphinx’s face decided to fall onto mine.’ I tapped it, knowingly. ‘I’d ‘Mark, I fucking told you,’ she said. ‘This is be able to get some reconstructive surgery literally the worst way to see the guy again. with a good reason, and even if it looked I mean, you get your glasses adjusted-’ stupid, I’d have an excuse, so you’d be doing me two favours. Come on, just break my ‘You gotta admit, that part’s kind genius, nose. Please.’ I thought I sounded pretty right?’ reasonable. ‘No I don’t. It’s fucking stupid. I told you, you’re fucking stupid. You get your glasses adjusted, and then what? You ask him out? You never ask anyone out. Not unless it’s through the internet.’ She had a point there. I hadn’t asked anyone out in person since I was like eighteen. I was a bit of a coward like that, but it worked, so I guess that’s how it goes. But this time would be different. I would ask him out this time. I’d have the incentive of a broken nose.
from some tragic hypothetical disease or hypothetical cancer or something, I could use these deep emotions for the hypothetical eulogy. These were the emotions I was saving for making others feel as bad as I was. These were manipulation emotions. But this... this was important. This was the most important thing in the entire world. It was probably far more important, howKim had been silent throughout that entire ever, that I stopped thinking about hypomonologue. theticals. Also, the word hypothetical. If I’d been speaking out aloud, the word would ‘You’ve got some good reasoning there,’ she have lost all meaning. So yeah. Emotional said. ‘No.’ manipulation time. Fuuuuuuuck. I mean, she’s like a fucking wall sometimes, which is why I love her, but I also hated it at the same time. Which is why I had to be drastic. So I slapped her. ‘Did... did you just slap me?’
‘Yes. And I’ll slap you again.’ ‘If you broke my nose, I’d have to ask him out,’ I explained. Kim’s mouth was a perfect O. ‘Yeah, you’re damn right you’d have to. You’d have to ask him out, or I’d break more than just your nose. But it’s not going to happen, so stop trying to get me to hit you.’
‘Kim,’ I gasped. ‘Kim. This is the most important thing you could ever do for me. Kim. I trust you so much. That’s why I want you to break my nose. When I marry this guy, you’ll be my bridesmaid or whatever the fuck you call a gay man’s female best man, and I’ll be proud to have you tell the story of how the guy, so foolishly in love with the guy from the optometrist asked his best friend to break his nose, just so he could see him again, and I’d let you tell it every time you wanted, because you, making that hypothetical motion would mean so much to me. Kim. Please. Do it for love. Do it for me.’
‘I’ll just slap you back, you little shit,’ she said. And she did. She slapped me back. And I slapped her back. And she slapped me back. This wasn’t going to work. I had to punch her. So I punched her arm. Pretty ‘I’m going to break my nose either way. lightly, but not lightly enough that it could Kim and I were silent for a moment. Or, With or without your help.’ be ignored. really, I was silent and Kim was thoughtful. I’d exhausted all my emotions. And my Kim unfolded her arms. It looked like she ‘You fucking dick. That hurt,’ she said. ‘I body. My body was really exhausted. Kicks was going to throw a punch. She lifted her mean, those slaps stung, but you slap like a to the groin tend to do that. arms... and then grabbed my shoulders. bitch. I’m not going to break your nose. So God fucking dammit. don’t fucking punch me.’ ‘Please.’ I must have looked sympathetic on the ground, curled up in a ball. Surely her ‘You are not breaking anything, you stupid I punched her in the same arm again. She motherly instincts must be kicking in or fuck!’ She shook me, so the words sounded kicked me in the groin. something. Or whatever Kim had instead a bit garbled. Like when you talk into a fan. of motherly instincts. Probably the killer ‘I won’t let you be a dick!’ I doubled over, the desire to vomit greater instinct. than I cared to let on, and then I decided ‘Yes I am!’ I garbled back. ‘I’m gonna break that falling all the way onto the floor was ‘What’s his name?’ she asked. it. I’m gonna be a dick.’ Kim couldn’t stand okay. I simply clenched and huffed, hopit when I said stupid shit like that. ing the pain would go away. Clench. Huff. ‘I have no fucking idea.’ Clench. Huff. God, Kim was such a bitch. ‘I won’t let you,’ she said. ‘You’ll do some- If she didn’t break my nose, I was so gonna *** thing wrong, you’ll cut your nose off or get her back for this. something. You’re that much of an idiot. The doctor’s said it wasn’t exactly a clean That’s what will happen.’ Oh, so she cared ‘I’m not going to break your nose,’ she said. break. I need surgery. That was awesome. enough that my nose might get cut off, but Kim was awesome. She stepped on my not enough to hit me? That’s friendship? That was it. I had to dip into the emotional fucking face. For me. That’s friendship. reserves I never thought I would have to That’s dedication. She even drove me to the Maybe I should try the first tactic again. dip into. I was going to save these emotions hospital. I hadn’t even asked her to do that. ‘Think about it this way,’ I said. ‘I hate my for my hypothetical proposal day, or wed- I bled all over her seats, saying sorry the nose as it is. It’s my number one cause of ding, or maybe the day me and my hypo- whole time. She was just laughing. That’s self-conscious thought. I freak out about thetical husband finally got our hypotheti- friendship. And I owe her. Big time. If she my nose. If I had a blog on the internet and cally adopted baby from a foreign country ever needs me to Falcon Punch her out of posted pictures of myself cutting, I would (hypothetically, China), or maybe even the a situation, I’m there. I’m her man. Because always write shit about how my nose was day of my hypothetical child’s wedding. Or Kim? Kim is a fucking goddess. all awful. Look at this thing. It’s like the bit hell, if my hypothetical husband died early
Jay Kristoff, author of Stormdancer The prize in a major bidding war among publishers in the States, Stormdancer is Australian author Jay Kristoff ’s debut novel and the first in The Lotus War Trilogy. It is dystopian, Steampunk, and set in Japan - if that doesn’t send shivers down your spine at the possibilities, then it really should. Stormdancer uses both aspects of Japanese Mythology and classical Steampunk heavy industry to create a complex, dark and above all absorbing story. It features revolution, swordplay, the clash of mythological creatures, magnificent tattoos and the keeping of dark secrets. Needless to say, the book sucks you in and does not let you go until you have read every last word. *** The nation of Shima is at war with the Gajin westerners. The mighty war machine is powered by the Blood Lotus, a plant which supplies fuel for the engines, fibre for textiles and provides a powerful and all-pervading narcotic drug. On the orders of the Emperor, the plant has taken over almost all usable land, replacing everything before it with swathes of its red flower. Due to the pollution of the great industries and engines darkening the skies, people have become sick and almost all natural life has been wiped from everywhere but the most distant parts of the empire. When the Emperor asks for an Ashitora – a Thunder Tiger – The imperial hunt mas-
ter is sent to hunt one down and bring it back. The problem is that everyone knows Ashitora have been extinct for over a century and the price of failing the Emperor is death. Travelling with the hunt master is his daughter Yukiko, who is possessed of a hidden talent which would have her burned alive at the stake if ever it were revealed... ***
I wrote it over the course of about four months, getting the first draft down. Actually, I stopped writing it for a little while and put it down and wrote something else, but the story kinda drew me back in, I wanted to know how it finished. S: To have it down in four months, you must have been full of ideas and things you wanted to happen.
SPUR magazine recently caught up with JK: The one thing I really knew when I Jay Kristoff to talk about Stormdancer: started was how it ends, which always helps. If you know where you are driving SPUR: Did you start off with a particular to you can get there quicker than most. The idea of what you wanted to write, or did it funny thing was, the way I thought it was form as you went along? going to end in the end it didn't end that way at all. Jay Kristoff: I kind of picked it up as I went along. I had an image in my head of what S: There was something of a bidding war I wanted the world to look like. I actually over the manuscript. Can you tell me what had a dream which started it all – Storm- happened? dancer was the second book I wrote - and I was querying the first one and people were JK: Yeah, that was really surprising. I got saying nice things about the writing style my agent in November, my US agent, and but didn't actually want to buy the book. he warned me that November is traditionAround this time I had a dream about a ally a pretty slow time, Thanksgiving in the little kid who was trying to teach a griffin States, so most editors are on vacation, so how to fly, but its wings were broken and I wasn't supposed to expect anything until it couldn't get off of the ground. The kid the new year. But by Christmas we had two was me and the griffin was the book that of the big six publishers in the states bidI wrote. No matter how much I yelled at ding on it and in early January a third kind it it was never going to get up into the air. of came into the mix. Its kind of weird, I But that idea, that image kind of stuck with had heard of book auctions but I didn't reme, a griffin that couldn't fly, that might ally know what to expect. Its basically just make a cool character. So that was where a bunch of emails flying back and forth and it all started. people kinda one upping each other on
the amount they are offering or the perks they are offering or whatever. I had always kinda imagined it would be like a real auction would be. I don't know why I thought that, people standing around in suits waving little paddles, but its just emails. Its still pretty exciting. C: Watching that must have been a real rush for you. J: Yeah. I didn't really expect the first book to get sold. My goal with this book was to get myself an agent. The plan was in my head. The first was to learn how to write, by writing it and the second book would get an agent and maybe the third book I wrote would actually sell. This is the second one and it kinda took off a lot quicker. It was crazy, a good Christmas, it was very exciting.
lupi who wrote a book called 'The Windup Girl' a couple of years ago. I was reading The Wind-up Girl while I was writing Stormdancer so I probably channelled him a little bit stylisticly. But I am also a huge Stephen King fan, I have been reading Stephen king since I was 8 years old. My mum used to drop me off at the newsagent when she did the grocery shopping and I would just pick up a Stephen King book and start reading, just skip to the good bits, you know. But I really appreciate his simplicity of storytelling, I think he has got a fantastic way of cutting to the bone. But I also get and read a huge number of comic books, I am a huge manga fan. A comic book Akira I grew up reading, Katsuhiro Otomo; I am a huge fan of him. Neil Gaiman as well; I am a massive sandman fan. So yeah, its from all over the place I draw inspiration from, but stylisticly I would say I am a big William Gibson fanboy.
C: What do you think you were influenced by? There is obviously quite a lot of the C: I noticed you distinctly went with a very Japanese themes in the book. Can you tell powerful leading female character. Was me where this came from? that something you thought of from the start, or was that something that came out J: My UK editor actually edits China Miev- of the idea? ille, so that was one of the things, signing with him. There is another writer who is J: It was from the start. When I was trying obviously also very influenced by (Wil- to become, you know, a proper author, I liam) Gibson as well called Paolo Baciga- read a lot of books that were popular at the
time. The female characters, I don't know, a lot of them were really co-dependant on the boy or the boys in the story. A lot of them were very reactionary rather than, they didn't have a lot of forward momentum, a lot of 'agency', which is a word that gets thrown around a lot, they didn't have agency. I wanted to make a female character who could stand on her own two feet and wasn't defined by the boys in her life that had a story of her own to tell and already knew who she was. 75% or readers nowadays are women, so you need to be aware of that if you want to, hopefully, you know, quit your day-job, because that would be great. So I think that the days of male dominated fantasy are drawing to a close, and I think that is an awesome thing, my wife is a huge fantasy buff, probably more than I am. And she is always talking about how there need to be stronger female characters in fantasy, but hopefully I achieved that. Possessed of a damn fine sense of humour and the will to go the distance, Jay is already writing the third instalment of the The Lotus War Trilogy of which Stormdancer is but the first. The second in the trilogy is set to come out in mid 2013.
You can find Jay Kristoff at: http://misterkristoff.wordpress.com/ or http://www.jaykristoff.com/
Stomdancer is being released in September by Pan Macmillan.
Post-Modern Self-Referentialism Boring and Cliché, Claims Author of This Fake News Story. It’s official – Thomas Murphy, the man who pretends that fake news events genuinely happen, has declared that post-modern self-referentialism is no longer a clever literary device for the purpose of comedy or art, shocking critics and important figures around the globe.
“You know, it’s just that thing where you get to that point and think to yourself, why refer to yourself in your own work? We get that it seems clever on the surface, but ultimately it just seems narcissistic,” revealed Murphy in an exclusive interview with himself. While many critics have been vocally against Murphy’s opinion, Murphy has some prominent art juggernauts at his side, particularly Joseph W. Polisi, president of the Julliard School of Arts in New York. “Thomas is dead right about the point of self-referentialism’s inherent narcissism, though I’m not surprised, as I honestly have never witnessed him being wrong about anything. Self-referentialism is dead – and what’s worse, it’s just as passé as other techniques such as fictionalisation of one’s self in a story. It is blatant self-aggrandisement, for example, to claim that one has some
connection with a rich, important and famous individual,” claims Murphy’s close friend Julliard’s Predisent Joseph W. Polisi, resting back in his 100% leather chair, surrounded by the myriad of industry awards that he has won, on his mahogany desk.
“The truth is that these pathetic attempts at irony in self-referentialism and self-fictionalisation are just boring. In reality, whenever anyone writes in this style, they are really just on a computer in their room, with chip crumbs falling onto their bare chest, sauce stains on their jeans, and with a separate tab open in which to browse through facebook photos of their ex-boyfriend, quietly singing the song to which they made the most passionate love. It’s an unimpressive self-concerned and childish display of their unexpressed emotions,” claims the successful and attractive Thomas Murphy.
like this article. It’s pathetic. No one actually considers that I am clever for writing something like this. Yes, the layers of irony eventually pile thick atop each other that it becomes impossible to know when the piece will stop becoming more about itself. Just now, I am sitting in my University computer lab, finishing off this fake news story about myself, knowing that the punchline I am about to write is awful, predictable and ultimately a cop-out of which I am ashamed, and hate myself for,” said the skinny yet toned Murphy, before leaving to “And then, what’s even worse, is that the go to his penthouse to have dinner (fillet writer will try to combine this with some mignon) with his supermodel boyfriend. true, sincere and self-piteous remark about what they are really like. Metafiction is dead, and we have to stop thinking that Thomas Murphy anyone is clever when they do it. I mean, www.tomhelpsyouout.tumblr.com
On Moving Out Of Home After 18 years living at home, I decided it was time to move out. I had finished university, I was working, and my parents had asked me to start paying rent –so it seemed as good a time as any to get on with being an independent human being. I felt like my parents took the news alarmingly well; more than anything they seemed relieved that I wasn’t going to be a burden upon them anymore. On the day I left, my mother, possibly sensing that I was a little hurt by her nonchalance, got no closer to a heartfelt moment than ‘I mean sure, I’m going to miss you, but Christ, I’m not going to miss your mess.’ So eager was I to have my own place I took the first cheap apartment I inspected – a tiny two bedroom unit with a living room, greedily transformed by the landlord into a three bedroom hell without a living room - and I didn’t even think to inspect either the bathroom or the flatmate, Ethan. Since moving in I have become more familiar with both of them than I wish I ever had been. I am not going to describe the state the bathroom was in when I got there, because you might be eating while you read this. I will, however, describe the man who put the bathroom in that state. Ethan’s diet consists of cornflakes for breakfast, mi goring noodles for lunch, fried fish for dinner, and lots and lots of cigarettes smoked indoors. He eats the same thing every single day, and the noodles and fish are cooked in the same frying pan, using the grease from the preceding meal as the oil for the next meal. Not once has he washed the pan in all the time I have lived with him. I have asked him
to stop smoking inside on account of my asthma, and that we are not living in the 1950’s. He pretends not to hear me. We are at an impasse. He isn’t the only flatmate. A middle aged Italian man moved into the spare bedroom/ex-living room some time after I arrived. The only piece of furniture he brought with him to go with the provided single bed was a sofa. The night he moved in I caught a little old Italian lady, dripping wet, covering herself with a towel, coming out of the bathroom. She was visibly distressed that I had seen her, and shuffled into what I assume is her son’s room. The day they moved in was the last time I saw either of them, and that was two months ago. Ethan told me recently that they haven’t yet paid rent, and that the old lady isn’t even a registered tenant. The only indication I have that they still live in our apartment is that sometimes, in the middle of the night, I am awoken by muffled Mediterranean shouting/conversation. As well as coming to terms with my living conditions, I’ve had to learn to take care of myself. My parents’ eagerness to have me move out seemed cruel at the time, but now that I’ve been away for a while, it almost seems like they were being sentimental. It is shocking they didn’t make me leave years ago; they had long told me that I was the laziest person on the planet, and it is with absolute horror that I have discovered they were right. I didn’t cook, clean, do my washing, my shopping, or make my bed on a regular basis. I had no idea how much arduous and boring work goes into just keeping yourself alive. Hard lessons learnt include: ~ You have to do your laundry at least
once a week, otherwise you’re going to get stared at on the bus; either because you smell, or because society is not ready for the ‘creative’ outfits you’ve had to start putting together. ~ If you drop a glass and it breaks, you have to clean it up immediately. You might know where to walk carefully, but your flatmates will not. ~ Money can be saved by buying food in bulk, but only if you have somebody to share it with or are a big eater. Bread goes mouldy, eggs go rotten, and milk will become something entirely unlike milk. But aside from the terrible place itself, and the awful flatmate, and the loud squatters, and the having to look after myself, it has been an exquisite experience! Not materially exquisite, but exquisite for my soul – the exquisite benefits that only come of a real lack of exquisite benefits. My relationship with my parents has changed into something that feels healthy; now that I can take care of myself a little better I feel like I have been relieved of the burden of being a burden. We actually talk to each other when I go and stay over once a week, about things like books and movies and music and our lives, way more than we ever did when I lived there. I instinctively try and help out now, and when they do things I didn’t even really notice before, like cook my dinner, or clean my dishes, I get all emotional. In a twisted way, going away from my family has helped me be a better part of my family. Gloria Wang
Pictured: a young David Mamet. Hey, when you get your own magazine, you can put whatever damn picture on whatever damn page you like. While you’re in our magazine, you’re going to get pictures, when we want them. If you’re not okay with that, you can leave.
Hacks and Crackpots:
Not So ‘Politically Illiterate’
Something a little different this issue; University of Adelaide student Monica Chang has written an article not about why you should join a University Organization, but why people who want you to join such a group aren’t worth your time. Recently the University of Adelaide was inundated with student politicians. All of them offered to make life better for the students. Yet ninety percent of them are cruel, smelly, greasy unimaginative mandarins trying to bolster the odds of one day being allowed to work in the office of a left wing state senator. The other ten percent take more interest in their appearance, and are basically trying to do the same thing, only for the Liberal party. While strolling around the University campus during the student elections, a matronly type, seeking re-election, darted toward me, and implored, nay demanded that I vote for her party ticket. Mildly, I let her know that I was not interested in what she had to say. Rabidly, she told me that I was being willfully ignorant, that I owed it to myself and to all the other students to take her pamphlet, and stop being a ‘political illiterate’. Ah, the ‘political illiterate’. Whether she knew it or not, she was quoting Bertold Brecht, in a voice as shrill and unappealing as any of his plays.
“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.” -- Bertold ‘joined the KPD and chose to work under a Stalinist regime’ Brecht I put it to you, dear reader, that no functioning human being is politically illiterate. Politics, the functioning of the polis, affects everybody within the polis. An Italian school girl might be ‘politically illiterate’ as regards the carbon tax, but will be very well read on the politics of how much arse cheek it is proper for one’s denim shorts to expose. A bespectacled, bepimpled nerd might not know, or want to know, about whose bottom Peter Slipper
has slipped into, but he probably knows about the Samsung-Apple lawsuits, and what kind of dubstep is the right kind of dubstep. A less flippant example: I have met some rather nasty sorts who have assured me that I am politically illiterate to the threats of international Jewry, though they used less delicate words. The question is not who is ‘politically illiterate’, but who it is that is trying to make you feel ashamed for being a political illiterate, and why they are trying to make you feel that way. Was the shrieking mess of a human I met while walking around the University actually upset with my ignorance and apathy, or was she frustrated that I was not going to vote for her? She was right though, in a way; there is no merit to be had in willful ignorance. She only went wrong when I thought I could not read her. Student politicians can be read like a book – a book that is not worth reading. Monica Chang
Aural Japandroids, Celebration Rock
It is generally agreed by most critics that Post-Nothing (Japandroids’ debut album) was an album of distance, being away from home and experiencing love and home sickness. If this is the case, their second release, Celebration Rock, is the return home. With songs about drinking with friends and heading out at night, the album symbolises youth and good times with references to hope and uncertainty about the future.
You know what's cool? Metric. They're sleek and sexy, like smooth vodka poured over an ice statue of Aphrodite who's flipping the bird at the world, man. Guitars squeal in the background. That's Metric. In Synthetica, not only are Metric cool as fuck, but they have their shit together.
(Metric Music International)
The album opens (after the sounds of fireworks) with ‘The Nights of Wine and Roses’ which is in fact about the romantic nights the singer isn’t having. ‘For The Love Of Ivy’ is a bit of a musical homage to their influences as it channels ‘70s and ‘80s punk rock but maintains the distinctive low-fi strumming of Brian King (guitars, vocals). Later comes ‘Younger Us’, a track which was actually released in 2010 on a 7”, yet which fits perfectly in the new album. Directly after is ‘The House That Heaven Built’ which is, simply put, god-damned poetic. With their fuzzy guitar and synchronised woah-ohs, Japandroids have again produced an excellent record. Is it better than their debut? No, but certainly as good and with tour dates being announced across America and Europe one can only hope they tour Australia soon. Harry Smith
Okay, yeah, they've had it together for a long time (maybe always), but not since Live It Out have they had an album that feels so complete. It's more cohesive than Fantasies, but it's equally as distilled. It's there in the album's presentation -- a flipped cover design, mirrored lyrics and a mirror with which to read them are cool gimmicks, but the sound is the same gloss Metric are famous for. Echoes and backtracking add to the album's aesthetic. Lou Reed (seriously) adds credibility to the album, even if he doesn't add much musically. There are some stellar tracks on Synthetica, though perhaps fewer than on Fantasies. Youth Without Youth is a thumpingly awesome track that calls back to Goldfrapp's sexiest phase. Clone is a nice synthy reprieve from an otherwise unrelenting album. If there's any issues to be had, it's with how excessively smooth this album sounds, but it's what made Fantasies such an excellent ride, and this is, at least, a much more thoughtful Metric album. I give it a walkingaway-from-an-explosion-without-looking-back out of 5. Mark Tripodi
William III and Mary II
Delights Death Grips, The Money Store (Epic)
Gangstagrass, Rappalachia (Lauging Outlaw)
The Money Store is full to the brim with indie-pop hits. I don’t know what song is going to crossover from Triple J to Nova and top the Hottest 100 next year, but I bet it will be from this album.
An album blending bluegrass and hiphop? We all hoped it would happen, but knew that it never would. You could accept it, I could accept it, and we could have both moved on with our lives, a little saddened but knowing that it was probably for the best.
Then comes 'Rappalachia' (which is, by the way, a nod to the Appalachia region of the U.S., famed for its roots music, and that most gangsat of genres, 'rap') to prove us both wrong. I will admit that I was so excited for this album that I almost didn't listen to it - just the fact that it existed seemed to me proof enough that there was creative justice in the world. Unfortunately, I did listen to it. The main problem is that Gangstagrass takes two genres of music, throws them at each other, and expects that because people like either or both of hip-hop and bluegrass, that they will also like the kitchy mess that is this album.
Track Review: Pussy Riot ‘Mother of Jesus, Putin banish’ Pussy Riot are a largely unknown Russian ensemble and, if this track is anything to go by, largely unknown they will remain. ‘Mother of Jesus, Putin banish’ resembles, at best, a bad Sex Pistols B-side being covered by angry Russian housewives. The musicianship is poor, the singing pitchy, and the lyrical content uninspiring. I cannot imagine that these pussies will be starting any riots any time soon.
Pretend this never happened, and go back to your Hank Williams or your Kanye West, still with your hope for the future intact. Serrin Prior
Reviews of films that aren’t in cinemas anymore.
Bernie Jack Black plays the gospel-singing funeral assistant and smalltown darling Bernie Tiede, who loses his (obsequious yet genuine) cool and kills the rich, cantankerous Marjorie Nugent (Shirley Maclaine), leaving her in the freezer for a few months. Nobody minds too much. It’s a little slow in parts, but real life can be like that sometimes (Tiede is currently serving a life sentence and will be eligible for parole in 2027).
The Amazing Spider-Man This, the fourth spider-man film in the last 10 years, can only be described as a letdown to fans of the delightful SpiderMan 3. Gone is Tobey Maguire’s over the top acting as Peter Parker. He is replaced by the more nuanced Andrew Garfield, making this a very sad movie in comparison.
The third film in the franchise, best remembered by its delightful musical interludes, excellent Maguire hairstyle choices, and quantity of villains, has been replaced by emotionally realistic characters and ‘script’. Even the beauty of Emma Stone as Spidey’s lady-friend Gwen Stacy can’t compete with the delight of seeing Kirsten Dunst’s teeth on the big screen, something all movie watchers must experience (although closely framed shots of Amazing’s villain ‘The Lizard’ come close). When will filmmakers realise that I don’t want to care about the characters? Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben is given an emotional realism that we didn’t need - in the other spider-man films, the character was given 10 minutes of screen time, and that was all we needed to assume that he and Peter Parker had a loving relationship. Giving him more than that is just adding layers to a relationship we were quite happy to have guessed at in the past. To the makers of Amazing Spider-Man 2: give the people what they want again - less character development, three times as many villains, zany haircuts, and wacky dance numbers. 2 Bruce Campbells out of 5 Angus Hodge
Take This Waltz So it turns out that Attractive Man Sitting Next To You On Plane (Luke Kirby)is your neighbour and you (Michelle Williams) are caught in a passionless and infantile relationship with your chicken cookbook writing husband (Seth Rogan). This film looks stunning, with over-saturated colours and its views of suburban bohemia. Just maybe skip the last twenty minutes (hint: she picks one of them, when she should have chosen neither). Max Hurt
Now here are a few that are: Margaret Margaret is arguably one of the best short films of the last decade. The argument lying in the point that the film runs for a length of 2 ½ hours. Director Kenneth Lonergan, in what I can only assume was a hardcore-narcotics-induced extreme lapse in judgement, has tacked a two-hour epilogue onto what was otherwise a brilliantly depicted tragedy. Anna Paquin (now thirty years old, though in her mid-twenties when the film was shot) plays teenager Lisa Cohen, who is traumatized after her inadvertent involvement in a tragic traffic accident, in which a woman bleeds to death in her arms. The accident which catalyses the events of the rest of the movie occurs at around the ten minute mark. The tragedy is sickening and brilliant due to its timing and extremely well-placed comic-relief, and the disgust of the civilians trying to save the fatally injured woman (played by a tremendous Allison Janney) is a disturbingly realistic and effective touch. Sadly, the movie well and truly peters off at around the 50 minute mark, until we are left with a clunky, sporadically developed collection of ideas interspersed with lingering shots of buildings reflected in the windows of other buildings. The emotionally-charged arguments between Lisa and her friends, family and classmates had the potential to be moving and plot-enriching, as she vocally and psychologically brutalises them to the point of her own alienation. Instead they are tiring, due to their sheer quantity. It is clear that Lisa is making ridiculous, attention-seeking decisions. However, due to overly prolonged plot-advancement and bizarre occurrences such as the sexual relationship with her teacher (Matt Damon) and fleeting claim of a costly abortion, Lisa ultimately comes across as somewhat unbelievable. Had Paquin been involved in a more concise, more coherently directed cut of this film, her performance could be commended. The baffling ending shows Lisa going to the opera with her mother and crying. Note to the director: including another, more interesting art form in your film does not make up for a lack of plot. If it was tighter and had about fifty pointless minutes edited out, it would probably be great (this version was actually shorter than the directors preferred edit). Margaret is one movie you should almost definitely see the first third of. As for the rest? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Demi Lardner
Taken 2 Apparently Taken the first is a rather good film. Not having seen it, fortunately my judgement can’t be clouded by comparisons. Thus, I can critique this, the sequel, on its own terms. Taken 2 was too long (despite its modest hour and a half running time), and reeked of pointlessness. Thejustification for the film is that the father of a man that Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) electrocuted to death in the first film, is seeking revenge. Revenge as a motivator for evil/heroic deeds is great, don’t get me wrong - but if you can’t do it better than The Count of Monte Cristo (and that was published in 1844), then don’t bother. Apparently the father had another couple of sons as well, who will surely be seeking more revenge after Neeson kills their father at the end of this film (Oh. Plot spoiler. Sorry).... Let’s hope this doesn’t lead to a Taken 3. Shirley Galletas
Moonrise Kingdom This is a Wes Anderson film. If you like other films by Wes Anderson, there is a reasonable chance you will like this one. However, if you thought Rushmore was too long and sad, or that The Royal Tenenbaums was lacked a coherent moral centre, or that Fantastic Mr. Fox was too lenient on the bourgeoisie, you will not.
The Sessions It is a sad reality that even the most vociferous among us in favour of human equality, tend to overlook in our considerations people who are differently-abled. So, sometimes a bite-sized morsel of empathy in the form of a two-hour, independent film is necessary to remind us that there are people out there who have walked (or wheeled, perhaps) a different road. Take, for example, 2001’s I Am Sam, which shows an intellectually disabled father who is fighting to remain in custody of his seven-year-old daughter. Sure, cold, hard reason would dictate that leaving a child under the protection of a father – however loving – whose mental age is younger than her own, is not the most suitable of options. However, this film reminds us of those things that most of us don’t have to think about – things that we hardly think of as our rights, because we have easy access to them already. Things like parenthood. Also, in the case of The Sessions, things like sex. The Sessions tells the true story of Mark O’Brien (played by John Hawkes), who, after contracting polio as a child, suffered severe muscle problems that rendered him a quadriplegic, though –significantly – without a loss of sensation. In many ways, Mark lives a normal life, even one to be envied: he is a poet and journalist, who graduated with a BA from the University of California at Berkeley and who likes baseball and finds comfort in his religion. He also faces the same problems that many men do – those relating to women, lust and love, in particular. Of course, a man who is forced to live the majority of his time in an iron lung in order to breathe, cannot lay claim to a completely normal life, or completely ‘normal’ problems. We see the one of the little opportunities for “power” that Mark has, when he confides in his liberally-minded new priest (William H. Macy, with a surfer’s beach swept hair) his plans to fire his detested, frumpy carer. We also see his much greater powerlessness, when he tells his newer, younger, and altogether more
attractive, carer of his love for her, and she leaves, apparently distraught that she cannot reciprocate. Seeking that which has eluded him, Mark engages the services of a ‘sex surrogate’, Cheryl (Helen Hunt), in order to, at the age of thirty-eight, finally lose his virginity. This is where things could have become interesting – at least in a political sense. Indeed, this is now becoming an issue for the politicians, after earlier in the year here in South Australia, Dignity For Disability MP Kelly Vincent introduced legislation that would see the government provide funding for disabled people to access the services of specially trained sex workers. However the question of whether what Mark is doing is right – more generally that is, whether ‘sex surragacy’ is such a good thing – is never really considered. The wider implications of what this man’s story might mean for others in a similar position is glossed over. Perhaps the trouble, if you could call it that, is that his story takes place in that shining bastion of liberalness; Berkeley, California. In such a place, ‘sex-critical’ feminist, Sheila Jeffreys would not be given the time of day. However her argument, that allowing for ‘sex-surrogates’ means that prostitution, believed by her to be unconditionally sexually exploitative, is given a firmer, more legitimate place in society, seems a pertinent one here. The question of whether Cheryl is being exploited is an interesting one. She is clearly in control, physically, of ‘the sessions’ in which she works with Mark – even when, during the first one, an understandably anxious Mark shouts at her, and she is slightly, yet visibly shaken. However, emotionally, we see her lose some of her control as she forms an attachment to Mark over the – brief! – time they spend together. As a plot development, their deepening relationship seems at best shallow and confused – it certainly seems to argue against the idea that prostitution (or ‘sex surrogacy’ if you must) can be pursued in a professional, dispassionate manner. In the worst case, however, the relationship between Mark and Cheryl is unsettling, and can be viewed as a
professional, dispassionate manner. In the worst case, however, the relationship between Mark and Cheryl is unsettling, and can be viewed as a case of blatant ‘male sex right’ (again, a nod to Sheila Jeffreys) rearing its troubling head. We, as the audience, are expected to sympathise with Mark’s impossible love. We are not supposed to find it disconcerting that he calls Cheryl at her home to invite her out, or that he sends her a love poem in the mail (discovered by her non-too-happy husband). He is just a man in love after all and, moreover, a recent initiate into the uncontrollable joys of sex – guys will be guys, right? In the end, harmless though his actions are, it seems needless to point out that if Mark was an able-bodied man who had bought sexual services from Cheryl, his attempts to intrude in her personal life would be completely inappropriate. It must also be mentioned that while Helen Hunt is frequently shown completely nude, John Hawkes never is. Should we be wondering why the female body is so frequently explicitly shown, when there is nary a penis in sight (after all, when speaking of his plans for an article he will write about his experiences, Mark points out that “sex sells”…and Helen Hunt does look rather trim and terrific in all her de-clothed glory), or is this one more insidious example of how able-bodied society is largely not allowed to think of the differently-abled body in sexual terms? Either way, for a film that is presumably about breaking down the barriers of discrimination, it seems in this instance wanting. Much has been left unsaid here about the little moments of humour to found in The Sessions, or about the fine acting from its cast (a special mention should go to Moon Bloodgood, who plays Mark’s third carer – more sombre, though no less young or attractive than his second). On these points it is a fine film, and well worth the watching. If you go to see this film, you will no doubt be imagining what it would be like to wheel yourself down Mark O’Brien’s path. Imagine this, but also wonder what it would be like if he was walking down yours – how then would we view him and his actions? Serrin Prior
Star crossed He dimmed all the lights and dismantled the stars then threw them at the wall like splashes of paint. The cut in my eye, the dust on my palm, the twist of metal on glass pecks at my chest, wedging its beak between my ribs. The castle has fallen, the gods have folded, the thorn in your side catches and pulls on my clothes, but the walls are paved with stars. Veronica Cherlet
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Kings, Queens and Consorts of England
by Catherine Braganza
Appeals by the Editors 1)
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No Laughing Matter Nobody Loves Raymond - The Decline of Raymond Barone In 2005, the camera panned out on a scene of Raymond, Debra, Ally, Michael, Geoffrey, Frank, Marie, Robert and Amy Barone all lovingly gathered around the kitchen table, ending the nine year documentary on the day to day life of Ray Barone and his family. While many fans of the series look back and fondly remember this last scene of togetherness, the seven years since the end of the show have taken a heavy toll on Ray and his loved ones. Only minutes after the filming of this final shot, Marie went outside to throw a lasagne Debra had just made in the bin, when she slipped on Geoffrey's soccer ball and fell, breaking her hip. Marie was taken to hospital and had hip replacement surgery. While Marie still loved Raymond and her grandchildren very much, she seized this opportunity to once again blame Debra for failing to keep a tidy home, suing Debra for $1.5 million for negligently failing to clean her yard. The case was settled for a slightly smaller sum outside of court, but Marie was soon found smothered to death in her hospital bed. A lack of evidence meant that the culprit was never found. Without Marie to care for him, the physical and mental health of Frank drastically declined. Frank moved in with Raymond and developed dementia. Before his passing in
2008, Frank would often get lost in Ray's house whilst verbally complaining that Marie had let the cleanliness of his home slide to a disgusting state.
absence of the film crew to document her every complaint. Alcoholism cost Ray his job as a sports writer for Newsday, while at home he was the victim of many savage beatings and awful meals at the abusive and The loss of his parents didn't bother Ray- unskilled hands of Debra. mond too much, as evident on the show, he never liked his parents and wished Still unemployed and with ailing health, they had died long ago. Yet true hardship Ray and Debra now live in a small mobile would soon strike Raymond. One even- home on the outskirts of Lynbrook, Long ing, as Ray's police sergeant brother Robert Island. Debra works as a fry cook at a lowas out on duty, his police car was flagged cal diner to pay for Ray's prevailing alcohol down by an armed meth addict who, after problem and her own addiction to cigaplaying Grand Theft Auto IV for thirty five rettes (she doesn't enjoy smoking so much consecutive hours on a crystal meth bend- as she enjoys using them to burn Ray). Ally er, dragged Robert from his car and shot moved away to study hairdressing at a comhim three hundred and fifty six times with munity college in Colorado, while Michael a Gatling gun before using a flame thrower and the flamingly homosexual Geoffrey are he had found in an alley to torch Robert's completing their final years of high school carcass. This would be only the start of this under the foster care of their Aunt Amy. paranoid junky's rampage, which would include hijacking twelve cars, killing one HBO have offered the Barone's substantial hundred and seven pedestrians in Lyn- sums of money to revisit the once popular brook, and circling Manhattan in a stolen series, but on each occasion Debra has used helicopter before finally being run over by a shotgun to resist the move, stating: 'This an army tank. is Debra's time now, and I'll see that nobody loves that momma's boy!' The brutal death of his brother and closest friend had a profound effect on Raymond. Bryn Adams Raymond developed a drinking problem to numb the sadness and the mouth of his nagging bitch of a wife Debra, who had become increasingly aggressive in the
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