Friday, June 26, 2009

Why? God, why?

From the Herald Sun:

Tom Cappola ’s devotion to Michael Jackson goes beyond his love of the music the King of Pop is his life.

Cappola, a Jackson impersonator, had front-row tickets to Jackson ’s first London concert on July 13.

He is shattered that he will never see his hero in the flesh.

"My dream came true to personally see him, and then all this has happened," he said.

Oh God, why does everything have to happen to YOU, Tom? What did you do to deserve this?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Man in the Mirror

Let us think about why I am not particularly sad about Michael Jackson's death, beyond a vague, oh isn't that a shame feeling that has not impacted significantly on my mood at all.

Well, firstly, I tend not to get that upset about celebrities' deaths anyway. Farrah Fawcett I barely care about...but then, we knew she was going for ages. Although news of her last days was very poignant. Steve Irwin I was shocked by, but not very upset about. But then I never liked Steve Irwin and loathed watching him on TV - given that I am a great fan of Jackson's music, one might have expected me to be more cut-up, as I WAS about Heath Ledger's death - that one got to me.

But then the fact that Ledger was my age, and Australian, someone I knew about "before he was famous", made it a little closer to home. Also, there was no doubt that he seemed to have great things ahead of him, a lot of unfulfilled potential.

Let's be honest, Michael Jackson was probably tapped out. We may have had great hopes for his comeback tour, but he said that would be the end of it, and I don't think anyone was expecting any more classic albums. Or any albums at all really. So there's no great artistic mourning here.

Also, unlike some other artists whose work I like, I feel no particular connection to him as a person. He was always too alien to relate to.

Finally, what DID make me sad, for years, was what happened to him. He seemed to have such an unhappy life, and to warp himself so in apparently desperate attempts to be happy, that his life seemed to me to be the real tragedy.

And I suppose ultimately, his life made me a lot sadder than his death could have.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

In the Sunday Tasmanian

Jack Sonnemann of Tunbridge writes:

"Rhode Island is the only state in the US to decriminalise prostitution (in Nevada it ’s only legal in a few counties).

Their legislature, like Tasmania ’s, is currently debating the prostitution issue but with the intent to abolish it, not legitimise it.

State Representative Joanne Giannini says, "If we really care about the women who are the victims of prostitution and human trafficking, we need to shut down the industry." Turning their women into whores seems to be a bad idea in Rhode Island. Is it a good idea for Tasmanian women?"

Well, is it?

Ben Pobjie's Wonderful World of Objects says YES!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Check It

A new article by me on newmatilda, exploring the fall of Peter Costello and why it's so unimportant to everyone.

Also, done some refreshing of the links at the side, updating the visible articles and upcoming performances etc.

And on that note, do mark down July 23 in your diaries, because that's when I'll be on for ONE NIGHT ONLY at Blue Velvet in Collingwood.

It's true, we don't.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm Mad As Hell And Will Only Take It For A Little While Longer

OK, so The Chaser. Everyone knows about it. They'll be back next week, and hopefully the experience will not turn them tame and insipid in any way, but drive them on to more inspired feats of comedy.

Below is something I wrote in the aftermath of the infamous sketch, because every bit of commentary I saw seemed to miss the point by some distance. Some pieces made some good points - I agree with those sticking up for the Chaser's right to make bad-taste jokes, I agree with those who said it's the show's job to push boundaries and test the limits and so forth - but even those mostly missed the point of what the sketch was actually about. And as for those blasting the show for crossing lines, destroying lives, spitting in faces etc, I found it unbearable. Those who claimed the problem is that the show was no longer funny may or may not be right, but it was irrelevant to the issue at hand - which was the only good point contained in what I thought was one of the most ridiculously wrongheaded articles, by Shaun Carney and I'm not in the slightest bit interested in debating whether something's funny or not). And even now, two weeks later, all commentary continues to miss the point, to my mind.

Everyone must make up their own minds, but I honestly think the media hysteria has blinded people to what the sketch actually was, and I also think I'm at least as well-qualified to comment on it as the political analysts and shock jocks that have dominated the debate. And since the piece below was not wanted by a variety of media outlets, I'm having my say here. If you hate The Chaser and all it stands for and always will, you probably won't get much out of it. If not, do read on:


Making fun of sick children? Disgusting. Outrageous. Disgraceful. Unacceptable. For doing such a revolting thing, those terrible Chaser boys should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. For mocking those poor kids, they should be sacked. Blackballed. The ABC should lose its funding. How could they do such a thing?

The only trouble, of course, is that they did no such thing. They never made fun of sick kids. Not in the slightest. And no reasonable person making up their mind based on the actual sketch – as opposed to having their mind made up for them by squawking tabloid headlines – would come to the conclusion that they had.

Now, I admit I do not know any Chaser members personally – as the 800 pound gorillas of Australian comedy to my pygmy shrew, we move in different circles – and so it is, I concede, possible that they sat down and thought, “Bloody sick kids, let’s take them down a peg or two”. However, I consider it susbtantially more likely they sat down and thought, “You know the Make A Wish Foundation? Wouldn’t it be funny if there was an organisation like that, but one that was really, really bad at its job?” I think this is more likey for the simple reason that that is precisely what they did in the sketch.

Contrary to those who saw it as a vicious attack on sick kids, or on the real Make A Wish Foundation, it wasn’t an attack on anyone. It was actually a conventional piece of sketch comedy based on the classic premise of taking a well-known character, situation or institution, and coming up with an absurd, grotesque or incompetent version. The Make A Realistic Wish Foundation is, in fact, nothing more than The Chaser’s version of Monty Python’s Silly Olympics, Saturday Night Live’s male, talentless synchronised swimmers, or even bumbling Maxwell Smart. The humour lies not in laughing at sick kids, but in the very fact that we know how appalling the “Make A Realistic Wish Foundation” is. The fictitious foundation itself is the butt of the joke – in essence, the point is not to mock the sick kids, but to side with them against the dreadful fools at their bedsides. To suggest that the fact that terrible fictional characters do terrible things to others means the creators are mocking the victims is just silly. The Chaser was no more mocking sick kids than John Cleese mocked Germans by making Basil fawlty a racist, or that Ricky Gervais mocked the disabled when his David Brent showed his utter insensivity to a wheelchair-bound colleague. Comedic characters are often terrible people – this is what makes them comedic. We’re laughing at them, not the innocent folk who have to suffer their obnoxiousness.

Please note, this is not in any way attempt to convince those who didn’t find the sketch funny that it was; comedy is utterly subjective, and to try to claim that one’s own opinion on what’s funny is in any way objective or definitive is ridiculous. That, of course, does not stop people trying, and a hundred comedic experts have sprung up since The Chaser aired to claimed that the “real problem” is that the sketch just wasn’t funny. Patently untrue – people don’t call for sackings and funding cuts just because things aren’t funny. Thousands of hours of unfunny material is broadcast every year without a furore. Commentators like to claim that unfunniness is the problem in order to dodge the quite accurate accusation that they are joining a herd of confected moral outrage and self-righteousness. The fact is, whether it was funny or not is completely irrelevant to the question of whether The Chaser was mocking sick kids. If they were, making every last person on earth bust a gut wouldn’t change the fact, and if they’re not, stony silence from every viewer does not give reason for moral condemnation.

I don’t doubt that some were upset by the sketch. That’s unfortunate, but as any comedian or comedy writer knows, if you want any hope of amusing people, you have to risk giving offence. I’ve seen comedy deal with subjects including racism, Nazism, incest, bestiality, sexual assault, domestic violence, murder, war, disease and famine. Any of these and a hundred other apparently tamer topics could cause distress – there’s practically no subject that has no chance of offending anyone. That’s the nature of comedy, and any comedian worth their salt takes that chance all the time. But the fact that a piece of work can strike a nerve with you doesn’t mean it was targeted at you, and the fact a TV show upset someone – however worthy and genuinely long-suffering that someone is – doesn’t mean that they are right and the makers of the show deserve to be cast into the outer darkness. Especially when, one suspects, much of the outrage and offence being expressed comes less from genuine spontaneous reaction and more from the efforts of media hypocrites desperate to whip up a new moral panic to reinforce their self-assumed position as guardians of the public good. After all, sketch show The Mansion did a similar gag last year. America’s The Onion and Australia’s Shaun Micallef have both in the past given their own spin to “make-a-wish comedy”. No howls of outrage there, because they weren’t The Chaser, the enemy that Murdoch papers and “current affairs” programmes alike are just itching to snipe at. The Chaser could act out verbatim re-enactments of Mother and Son, and the Herald Sun would scream about their tasteless assault on Alzheimer’s sufferers.

So it’s a shame if you were offended, especially if you have suffered the trauma of ill children. But be assured, The Chaser wasn’t having a go at you, or your kids, or anyone. And if you are the sensitive type, perhaps you shouldn’t be watching the show (and nor should children, sick or otherwise). Personally, I’m going to go on watching. Because even if it’s not perfect, I know that it’s comedy. If you don’t understand that, maybe you should go look for the remote.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The world needs to shut its stupid face

Quit calls on Australians to change the name of a smoko to "quito".

Five points for Quit executive director Fiona Sharkie to mull over while she's putting her feet up in Quit's impenetrable Fortress of Wank, getting a well-deserved rest after a hard day's burbling:

1. You are an idiot.

2. To make a public call for the entire population to change a colloquial term shows a misunderstanding of the word "colloquial".

3. Using the word "quito" is as likely to encourage people to quit smoking as telling teenagers smoking isn't cool.

4. "Quito" is a moronic word that doesn't even make sense. It's called a smoko because people tend to smoke on the break. What does "quito" mean? People will duck outside to spend five minutes quitting things?

5. You are an idiot.

Seriously, Fiona Sharkie. I am going to take up smoking for the first time just to spite you because of this.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

If that's what turns you on

Apart from the explicit racism and violent pornography, the worst thing about reading this blog is that you can only read it with your eyes, not your ears.

To read me with your ears, go here, where you can hear me podcasting away with Cam Smith, well-known scruffy disreputable communist.

It's audio-tastic!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Misogyny like Mother used to make

Lincoln Lewis's mother speaks out about her darling boy's charming behaviour.

"I don't want that as a daughter-in -law," she said.

And who would want "that" in their family?

It's good to see that even in these days of extreme feminism and fuzzy-headed political correctness, there are still some mothers willing to parent the old-fashioned way - by excusing their children's actions and teaching them women are things.

Bravo, Mrs Lewis. We could all learn a lot

And here...

From the Herald Sun itself, the very crux of the issue. As the paper says:

"The segment, titled "Making A Realistic Wish Foundation", ended with actor Chris Taylor saying there was no point in making expensive wishes come true as "they're going to die anyway"."

The entire hysterical reaction from papers and parents and moral guardians has been predicated on the assumption that when Chris Taylor said that, he meant it.

In other words, the controversy is based 100% on the outrage of people who don't know the meanings of the words "Fiction", "comedy" or indeed "actor".


In short, everyone stop being so freaking stupid.


Now, Georgette Fishlock is clearly a very courageous woman who has been through a lot, and deserves much credit, but sadly, suffering does not make one infallible, and the little piece she wrote for the Herald Sun about the Chaser skit seems to me to way, way off-base.

'Their "Making A Realistic Wish Foundation" skit shows they have absolutely no value for children's lives.'

Really, Georgette? It shows that? Seriously? They wrote a sketch featuring an imaginary foundation that acted terribly toward imaginary children, and they therefore "have absolutely no value for children's live"? Please.

"Help from Make A Wish and other charities is more than a free holiday."

Who said it wasn't? The sketch is about the "Making A Realistic Wish Foundation", which does not in fact exist, Georgette. I don't know what relevance the above sentence has to it.

"But The Chaser has made a mockery of that."

What nonsense. You think your son's experience is devalued because of a comedy skit? Again, please. Moreover, The Chaser didn't mock you, or Tyler, or the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They invented a fictional foundation based on the quite common comedic concept of a ridiculous version of a real-life situation.

The joke, in fact, is that the "Make A Realistic Wish Foundation" is TERRIBLE at their jobs. It's quite bizarre that Georgette, and seemingly many, many other people, think that the creators of a comedic skit would actually be trying to promote the message they have put in the mouths of fictional comedy characters. The entire point is that the fictional foundation is dreadful. So how can you criticise the sketch on the grounds that the Chaser crew approve of the foundation's attitude?

'What would these people say about Tyler? "He is blind so he doesn't need to do anything in life?"'

No, they wouldn't. The FICTIONAL "Make A Realistic Wish Foundation" might, because they are terrible people, which is the WHOLE POINT. It's not "laugh at these poor kids", it's "laugh at these appalling people treating these poor kids so badly". The sketch is on the CHILDREN's side. The Chaser boys, if you want to analyse it more than it's worth, are pretty much saying exactly the opposite of what they're being accused of.

"Despite Tyler being brave enough to overcome losing both eyes to beat cancer, his mother GEORGETTE, writing here, has kept news of the Chaser furore a secret because he would find it too distressing."

This is, I have to say, pretty ridiculous. Tyler's a little boy. Does his mother usually fill him in on The Chaser's weekly doings? Is it a huge effort to keep this from him? Is Tyler sitting around wondering why his mum isn't reading the papers aloud to him like she usually does? "Kept it a secret", give me a freaking break.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A little late

But still, here's an article that is in small part about me.

The evening went very well in the end.