09 March, 2023

A difference of opinion

Does pineapple belong on a pizza?

That’s a difference of opinion.

But if you try to tell me the attack on the US Capitol of January 6th, 2021 was simply a peaceful protest which was reported misleadingly by the emessem, that is not a difference of opinion. That is to deny objective truth.

If you think Tucker Carlson’s bowdlerised recut of footage released exclusively to him by a new House Speaker who has already proven he cares more about his personal ambition than the good of both his country and his party, is just a different point of view, then your opinion is worthless.

Carlson himself has been outed by subpoenaed text messages as someone who would rather lie to his audience than lose that audience to even bigger psychopaths. Those of us who understand that objective truth is still a real thing knew this long ago but it’s something else to have it confirmed by the horse’s ass’s mouth. Even liars can tell the truth sometimes, but nobody should ever believe them without confirming sources.

There is an old adage that if one side says it’s raining and another side says it’s sunny, it’s not journalism’s role to report both statements equally; it’s journalisms role to open a bloody window and see who’s lying.

You can blather on about the hidden agenda of CNN, or The New York Times, or any outlet whose name doesn’t have an X at the end all you like. But if you choose to believe the one voice claiming it’s sunny outside, then why are you still dripping wet?

If you think pineapple is a valid pizza topping, then I respect your opinion. If you don’t, that’s okay too. We can all get along.

If you tell me the events at the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021 were anything less than a coup attempt, egged on by the outgoing president himself, that is not a valid opinion. I am going to tell you you’re wrong and I’m going to tell you why.

This was not a peaceful protest

Your mileage may vary

28 February, 2023

True confessions of Generation X

They say that in all the generation wars (which are phoney anyway) Generation X (1965 to 1980) are the forgotten generation.

And that’s the way it ought to be.

We were the ones who were supposed to bring in a kinder, more caring community. But five minutes in, most of us got disillusioned and gave up. And despite all our rage, we’re still just a rat in a cage.

Meanwhile, a lot of the conservatives we like to dismiss as boomers yearning for the past are in fact, Generation X.

Scott Morrison was born in 1968.
Peter Dutton, 1970.
Liz Truss, 1975.
Ron DeSantis, 1978. That’s right, the guy who is taking the Florida education system back to the 19th century isn’t even 45 yet!
Rishi Sunak, right on the cusp having been born in 1980. 

You could accuse me of cherry-picking the worst examples but who else do we have, Liam Gallagher?

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but these were the go-getters of our generation and we let it happen. This is on us. WB Yeats could have been thinking about Gen-X when he wrote The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

I don’t hate boomers. I don’t hate millennials. I hate Generation X.

… which is about the most Gen-X thing you can do.



30 December, 2022

I read 12 Rules for Life

 …and I didn’t completely hate it. Until I did.

Each year, I try to read a book which has been widely discussed as being terrible, so as to have an independent opinion on it. This year’s selection was Dr Jordan B Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, subtitled ‘An Antidote to Chaos.’

In the introduction, sorry, “overture,” 🙄 he explains how the book grew out of Quora contributions. This makes perfect sense. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the “rules” as they exist in chapter headings. It would probably have made a pretty good long-form listicle but instead, he had a book deal and 400 pages to fill. This means that in describing, explaining and justifying each “rule,” he goes off on bizarre tangents which can end up turning what started out as reasonable suggestions into very, very bad advice.

As mentioned, I did not hate this book straight away. Up until about half way through, I was willing to give Dr Peterson the benefit of the doubt that like, say, Morrissey or Glenn Greenwald, he had started out reasonable (if challenging) and then become so addicted to his own iconoclasm as to lose all perspective.

Yeah, nah.

Dr Peterson’s rambling justifications for his rules boil down into three categories: psychological, evolutionary, and Biblical. In fact, as a psychologist, he makes a fascinating Biblical scholar. I say that in all sincerity. It’s in his interpretation of evolution that he really starts to come a cropper. He dances dangerously close to eugenics but despite this, maintains deep sympathy for men who find themselves at the unfortunate end of natural selection. It’s easy to see why he is the intellectual of choice for young men who want to blame women for denying them sexual gratification.

So let’s address the misogyny directly. It’s clear that Dr Peterson is deeply enamoured of what some might call “traditional values,” particularly when it comes to gender roles, and defines “chaos” as anything which doesn’t conform to these narrow definitions. As such, he delves deep into the animal world for examples of gender inequality. These examples are undeniable of course, except for the fact that humans, while also products of evolution, are not animals. We have evolved to a point where animal behaviour like eating one’s own vomit, procreating in public, and infanticide are now frowned upon. I’m sure Dr Peterson would not advocate for any of those things. We have also reached a point where we can control our own development, meaning if anyone should wish to do a job traditionally delegated to the other gender, they can, and why shouldn’t they?

This is a book written by a man, about men, for men. In Dr Peterson’s view, it’s man’s world. Women just live in it and men tragically have to live with them. At one point he denies the patriarchy exists because a man invented tampons. In the next chapter he says the patriarchy absolutely exists and that’s just the natural order of things.

And this is the point where he falls into the perennial trap of using his qualification to justify what are little more than feelpinions. In defining order as masculine and chaos as feminine, he makes the assumption that his experiences are more valid than anyone else’s for no other reason than that he has experienced them or indeed, is capable of experiencing it. It’s as ridiculous as a woman saying a knee to the groin doesn’t really hurt on the grounds that she doesn’t find it too painful so the rest must all be male drama. There is a good reason no woman has ever said this.

Throughout the book, Peterson reiterates what a big fan he is of Freud. It’s ironic that not since Freud has anyone inadvertently revealed so much about himself while professing to speak about others.

It’s not to say that there aren’t nuggets of wisdom in here. To set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world is undoubtedly good advice. I look forward to a time when Dr Peterson takes it.

27 December, 2021

Review: The Case for Courage

Alright, I know Kevin Rudd is problematic. He’s the policy wonk who got ideas above his station in a way that even ending a decade of regressive Liberal government wasn’t enough to make up for. He was torn down by his supporters and then, as if to justify their action, did everything he could to destroy those who tore him down, even if it meant destroying his legacy at the same time.

We can only wonder how much better off we would be if Rudd had been the policy brains behind Julia Gillard’s political nous, but here we are. As he points out in this pamphlet though, first you have to win elections, and the fact remains Rudd is the only Labor leader to ever win a majority in the last quarter century. At some point, we have to face up to that fact and the reasons behind it.

So yes, Rudd is problematic but for all that, everyone should read this. It is effectively an alternative manifesto for the ALP and it’s one they should take very seriously. It contains many ideas both rusted-on Labor-right and the progressive left will find, well, courageous, but it’s hard to fault any of them. In fact, if Paul Keating had written this very document – as he well could have – all the Gen X Labor fanbois would be all over it, and rightly so.

There are plenty of potential Gotcha! moments. He calls out the bully boy tactics of the Murdoch media and proposes standing up to them in a way he completely neglected to do when in government. He returns to a pragmatically compassionate refugee intake – the one he threw out the window in 2013 for a chance at leading Labor to a third term. There is also no small amount of score-settling and told-you-so moments, from the early stimulus of the GFC to the NBN, and the truth is, he’s perfectly justified in doing so.

The contradictions are there for all to see but I encourage you to look beyond the chance to shout Aha! and judge the policies and tactics on their merits. Although it’s personal, not official, this is the most mature and forward-thinking policy document I’ve read since, well, since Kevin07.

17 October, 2021

The Bonus Discs - Let It Be

Regardless of the new evidence in the companion book and Peter Jackson’s re-cut of the film, that the experience wasn’t as bad as we’ve all been led to believe. Let It Be remains The Beatles’ most difficult album, both during and after its making.

Giles Martin’s new mix of the album is a subtle tweaking rather than a full reimagining. Phil Spector’s orchestrations are still in there. Martin states in the notes that Spector’s mix lacked the sensitivity of George Martin but created a sound of its own which had to be respected.

Personally, I can’t fault Phil Spector for doing what he did to the original Let It Be. The fact he did not share the same vision as The Beatles should have been obvious. The Beatles had washed their hands of the project a year earlier and Spector was handed weeks’ worth of tapes to create something of releasable quality from. He did this the only way he knew how, which was to turn it into a Phil Spector record. I can blame him for being a creepy, abusive murderer but I can’t blame him for doing the job he was hired to do.

Back to the new mix though, and the differences are very subtle – almost to the point of being imperceptible. I played the 2009 remaster immediately afterwards to compare and I was hard pressed to tell the difference. Spector’s syrup is dialled back a bit but not all that much. In any case, if you want to hear the de-Spectored version, there’s Let It Be… Naked, and the Glyn Johns mix, more of which later.

Discs 2 and 3 are split between actual takes, and rehearsals and jams. The content could have fitted on one disc but it makes sense to split, partly because there’s a different theme and partly because this album makes you expect 35 to 40-minute bites.

Because of the live-in-the-studio ethos of the project, the outtakes and rehearsals are the kind of thing that reward repeated listening rather than being mere curios.

Disc 4 is what we’ve really been waiting for though – the first official release of Glyn Johns’ mix of the proposed Get Back album. I haven’t heard any of the bootlegs so this was my first listen. It’s a great snapshot. For me, the problem with it is that it was only ever a work-in-progress mix. Teddy Boy could easily have been jettisoned and the full length version of Dig It was probably unnecessary. Get Back would surely have been tidied up for release if they had seen the project through. On the whole, I prefer the sound of Let It Be… Naked. And there is absolutely no reason why the Naked mix couldn’t have been included in this set.

Disc 5 is a a 4-track EP. Why? I have no idea. It contains the original mix of Across the Universe (fair enough), the Glyn Johns mix of I Mean Mine complete with scratches (why?) plus new mixes of the single versions of Don’t Let Me Down and Let It Be. What the entire box doesn’t include is the original single version of Get Back, either as a remix or the original. Why not?

And so to the Blu-ray which features the stereo mix in hi-res, DTS-HD 5.1 and Dolby Atmos. The surround mix is not mind-blowing but nor should it be. As it well documented, the whole point of the album was to ‘get back’ to basics so being flashy with the surround mix would be further going against the original intention. There also probably wasn’t much more you could do with it. For the most part, the arrangements are spread out a bit more which definitely helps hear details which have previously been buried in the stereo mixes.

I did find the menu animations rather distracting and ended up turning the screen off.

The book is beautiful and is particularly helpful in identifying takes. I hadn’t realised so much of Let It Be… Naked came from the same takes as the original album. I do wish they had saved a page in there for Tony Barrow’s sleeve notes for the Get Back album. The only place they appear in the whole package is on the back of the replica CD cover and it’s bloody hard to read the 4pt type.

Worth paying extra for?
Well, if you’re extremely lucky like I am and happen to have come into some birthday money recently, there are certainly more disappointing things you could spend it on. If you’re itching to hear the legendary Glyn Johns mix though, you could probably go to your nearest purveyor of bootlegs and still come out with enough change to afford the Abbey Road box set.

Let It Be 1987 remaster

Let It Be 2009 remaster

Let It Be 2021 remix

23 August, 2021

Stories my father told me

Perhaps I’m getting old. After all, this will almost certainly be the last thing I write as an under-50. But one of the many unexpected consequences of the ongoing pandemic is it’s finally made me grateful for my father’s stories of hardship and deprivation growing up in the 1940s.

Like the times he would be upset about one of his pet rabbits running away, but at least there was a decent stew for dinner that night. Or the time my grandmother was almost arrested for having a tiny hole in the sheet of iron they covered the window with during blackout. And the guilt he later felt for constantly asking her when Uncle Bill would be coming home and not understanding that the answer was, Never.

Knowing what I know now about trauma, I feel terrible for internally rolling my eyes and thinking ‘Here he goes again,’ when the topics came up.

So what’s this got to do with a pandemic eighty years later?
Perspective. That’s what.

Hearing these stories from an early age, sometimes to the point of cliché, might possibly be the reason I have very little sympathy with anti-lockdown sentiment.

It’s not a stretch to take some of the bad-faith arguments against lockdowns and apply them to wartime efforts.

“The government is telling us what we can eat, what we can spend our money on, how much fuel we can use, what we can write in letters and even when we can have the lights on. They tell us this is to defend our freedom but they’ve already taken all our freedom away. This is already a dictatorship. The question is how long we’re prepared to stand for being treated like this by our own representatives before we just learn to live with a foreign occupation.”

The answer of course was, As long as it takes. And no-one in their right mind would suggest it wasn’t the right thing to do.

Then there are those who don’t deny the risk of letting the virus spread but ask whether life is even worth living without being able to go to the footy, have pint of craft IPA after work, or go out for a smashed avocado brunch. That would be the same smashed avo which in the pre-pandemic times, some claimed was the reason young people can’t afford a house. Turns out it was actually an essential service and a pillar of the economy.

The question of a life worth living is one I would be interested to ask the great uncle I’m named after. It’s not for me to say, but in the scheme of things I suspect he wouldn’t mind spending a few months or even a few years stuck at home without being able to go to the gym or the mall. We’ll never know because he was killed in New Guinea at the age of 23.

He shouldn’t have been there. As a conscript, he couldn’t be sent overseas but he volunteered on the promise of having better opportunies when he came home. He bet his life on a better future and lost. Even then, he should have been on leave at the time but had traded with a mate. A life worth living?

None of this is to minimise the very real trauma people are experiencing over lockdown. My wife is from the US. She hasn’t seen her parents in nearly four years and there’s no chance of that changing any time soon. If she goes to visit them, there’s a serious possibility she won’t be allowed back into Australia. Even so, she is considering it because they are not getting any younger. It’s a terrible choice to have to make.

Any interruption to life as you know it, or expect it to be, is traumatic. Even the ones which used to be tagged #FirstWorldProblems. No-one will come out of COVID unscathed and knowing that you’re not living through a war is of no real comfort.

What can be of comfort is practicing gratitude. Today, I’m grateful for the Afghan refugees I work with, and for the stories Dad would bore me with so often. Both offer some perspective.


27 June, 2021

I’ve had a gutful of Pauline Hanson

Rupert Murdoch’s main New South Wales masthead The Daily Terrorgraph published yet another puff piece with “controversial pollie” Pauline Hanson last Saturday. The headline promises she will speak to the media, again, about how terribly she has been treated by [checks notes] the media.

In other words, it’s just another weekend after 1996.

I haven’t read the piece. Why bother? She probably hasn’t. The headline and promotion tells you all you need to know. It will just be the usual slurry of denying she’s racist, whining about her treatment in the media, something about her love life (EEW! I cannot describe how little I care!), and an added splash of conspiracy theories – she has been flirting with anti-vaxxers since long before COVID. Nothing new.

There are plenty of coherent, fact-based arguments to rebut Poorlean’s outbursts but we all know that’s a fool’s errand. So I’m going to address Hanson in her own language.

Pauline, I’ve had a gutful! You’ve done nothing but whinge and moan for 25 years and I’m bloody sick of it.

Don’t give me any of this rubbish about it being because you’re white, or because you’re a woman, or a redhead, or a single mother, or from Queensland, or conservative or whatever. That’s got nothing to do with it. You’ve been given every opportunity for a successful career in this great country and if you’re still not happy, well you’ve got no-one to blame but yourself.

Yes, I’m a left-leaning (in the same way Malcolm Fraser was considered left-leaning), progressive Uhstrayan. And I’m sick to death of people like you blaming people like me for all your problems. How about taking some personal responsibility for once in your life? How about you stop looking for someone to blame, and start looking at how you can better yourself.

You were young and naïve once but if you can’t learn from your mistakes then stop expecting ordinree Straylans to do it for you. You’ve allowed yourself to be used by a bunch of spivs and carpetbaggers from John Pasquarelli, to David Oldfield and David Ettridge, to James Ashby, to Malcolm Roberts, to Fraser Anning, to Mark Latham.

It’s not my job to rescue you from your own bad decisions. Ornee hardworking Strines shouldn’t have to change just to make you feel comfortable.

You have (allegedly) just reached retirement age so go ahead and quit if it’s all too horrible for you. If that sounds too dull, you could open a B&B&B (bed, breakfast and bullshit) for other people who think everything was better before they started letting women in pubs.

Go and live in England if you hate Straya so much. This is the greatest country in the world and if all you can do is complain about it, then it’s high time you buggered off back to where you came from.