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Sunday, July 31, 2005

A Very Personal Page 8

The final play in the current winter season for the Malthouse Theatre is Page 8 written (with Louis Nowra) and performed by David Page.

In what the Age describes as "another knockout one person play at the Malthouse", Page takes us on a very personal journey through his life - as a child in an aboriginal family in Brisbane, as a successful adolescent pop star, as a concretor and as a dancer.

Why Page 8? Simple - David was the eighth child in a family of 12 children.

This is a very easy story to like. There is real talent here from an artist who is a lover of the strength of a family and the values that bind and one who doesn't take himself too seriously.

But I have to confess I found myself asking whether this very real exposure of the person telling a real story was "good theatre" or just a bit too self indulgent.

In the end it is just a good story , well told by a very talented man. Perhaps it is me who is taking himself too seriously?
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Thursday, July 28, 2005

What is happening to The Age?

Since the arrival of Andrew Jaspan as Editor of The Age, the paper has undergone a series of changes that make me wonder just where Mr Jaspan thinks he is taking the paper.

Now I admit that grumpy old men of my age dislike anything that upsets their world view.

I liked the Age that had a different supplement each day of the week. It gave me comfort, appealed to my biases and confirmed my view of things.

Jaspan decided that had to go.

But being the accommodating person I am, I grew to like the Metro supplement that replaced the daily themed supplements. My family likes to read the Age and each of them have particular favourite sections. The separate sections of the paper allowed for it to be broken up for parallel reading. But Mr Jaspan didn't like that either.

So now the separate Metro has been absorbed into the main part of the paper. How can someone do the Sudoko now without tearing out a page? Does Jaspan understand how people read and share the paper? Seemingly not.

Jaspan wake up. The things that differentiate a newspaper are not the wire service news items at the front. They are the things that reflect the community it serves.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Straying for Good Coffee

In the 22 years I have been in Melbourne, like many inner suburban inhabitants I have developed a taste for a "good coffee". Over that time there have been a small number of coffee shops that qualified as regulars. But the clear favourite over all those years has been Pellegrinis at the top end of Bourke Street. Why? I was introduced soon after I arrived and was at first intimidated by the gruff, almost unfriendly service from those on the other side of the counter.

But you went for the coffee. And over time those gruff characters behind the counter became familiar. Eventually after something like 10 years, Cisto (one the the co-owners) actually called me by my first name. Surely I had arrived.

And while the coffee makers changed over time - and some were terrible - you could usually rely on a consistently "good coffee". Some were fantastic. But you came to learn that these people had lives beyond Pellegrinis - and sometimes those lives had very rough periods. Sometimes they left altogether to regain that order and balance.

Currently Pellegrinis is going through what would have to be called a crisis. During the week the good coffee makers are just not there any more. The coffee is most often so-so and sometimes worthy of missing altogether. So we have strayed in pursuit of the "good lunch time coffee".

For now the regular haunt at lunch time has become the European in Spring Street that not only serves good coffee and reasonable meals, but it also has the allure of wine as well.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Monday Night " Oyster Farmer" at the Nova

With no expectations and some reluctance, I chose to go and see a movie at the Nova on "Cheap Monday" when admission is half price.

The movie is "The Oyster Farmer" set on the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney. It tells the story of young twenty-something Jack Flange (Alex O’Lachlan), a pensive man who moves from Sydney to work in a small oyster farming community on the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney. He moves there to be close to his sister, who is in a local hospital recovering from a serious car accident.

The film has been well received and given praise for its quality of story and character development. Some go so far as to put it in the league of Lantana. These are real people struggling (there is no apparent wealth) to make a living with hard and hot work on a humid river.

It is an easy film to watch but it does not have Lantana's depth and you do not walk away tingling. A great cast including Kerry Armstrong who looks as good as ever and Jack Thompson in a role as the leader of a small band of Vietnam vets living on the river and managing their oyster farm.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Worldcon 2005 UK - Hugo Nominee Links: "

The list of nominees for the Hugo Award in Science Fiction Writing makes for a great list to add to my " To be Read " list:

Best Novel (424 nominating ballots)

The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks (Orbit)
Iron Council by China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross (Ace)
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
River of Gods by Ian McDonald (Simon & Schuster)

Is Small Theatre Going to Work?

The latest production in the current Winter season of the Malthouse Theatre is The Black Swan of Trespass . The play is being performed in the new theatre (The Tower) within the Malthouse complex that seems to respresent some sort of throwback to the La Mama style of theatre. ie small, uncomfortable, and ernest.

Unlike other productions within this current season - all of which are one actor shows - this production has four actors playing on a very small stage in front of an audience of perhaps 100.

The play which revisits the topic of the Ern Malley Affair has been well reviewed in the Age - perhaps even a little too well. Amusingly the created Ern Malley and his fictional sister Ethel are given lives that go beyond the limitations imposed by their creators. But it is a limited joke and the suggestion by the Age reviewer that this is an insightful comment on Australian culture seems to be stretching it just a tad.

Not the best of the season - that remains Alias Grace.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Recognizing Frustration

Robyn Williams is what is often casually described as an icon of the Australian national radio broadcaster - the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He has hosted the Science program on the ABC's Radio National for some 30 years. An erudite man who clearly loves his subject and feels the pain of the difficulties of Australian science.

In addition to the Science Show, Williams conducts a weekly short interview program entitled In Conversation. In the most recent of these programs, he interviews the current Chair of the CSIRO, Catherine Livingstone. Livingstone is another example of a group of Australian "managerialists" who are essentially accountants who view the world and all its complexities through the narrow eyes of accounting, business and the market.

Their language is dominated by the jargon of modern managerialism:

The central doctrine of managerialism is that the differences between such organisations as, for example, a university and a motor-vehicle company, are less important than the similarities, and that the performance of all organisations can be optimised by the application of generic management skills and theory. It follows that the crucial element of institutional reform is the removal of obstacles to ‘the right to manage’.

The rise of managerialism has gone hand in hand with that of the radical program of market-oriented reforms variously referred to as Thatcherism, economic rationalism and neoliberalism. (Despite very different histories, all these terms are now generally used in a pejorative sense). Managerialism may appear inconsistent with traditional free-market thinking in which the ideal form of organisation is that of competitive markets supplied by small firms, in which the manager is also the owner. However, managerialism is entirely consistent with the dominant strand in the neoliberal approach to public policy, which takes the corporation, rather than the small owner-managed firm, as the model for all forms of economic and social organisation.

So here is Robyn Williams attempting to ask this woman about what is currently happening within the CSIRO where the language, behaviour and effects of managerialism is now having its destructive effect.

But Robyn's frustration about the application of this psuedo-science of managerialism to the CSIRO and its proud history of the achievements and application of Australian science was all too obvious. This was not one of his better performances.

People like Livingstone answer questions about managerialism by referring to its necessity. Her responses, like so many of her contemporaries, suggest that there can only be one way foward - and guess what that is.

We need effective leadership in all Australian organisations. The mistake being made is that leadership can only come through the mantra of the market. We need leaders to emerge from somewhere else other than the Macquarie Bank.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

ABC Podcasts to expand - Fantastic!

This extension by the ABC is just a terrific idea

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Departing Friends

Today some friends of our family left Australia to spend two years working and living in New Delhi, India. We hope to visit them in January 2007.

Safe journey to Amanda, Graham, Caitlin and Grace.