I don't read enough. It's true, and I'm thoroughly ashamed. As someone who claims to be a writer, I am not thoroughly immersed in enough wide-ranging narratives of diverse authorial voices.
Sometimes I think of my relationship with reading and literature as analagous Bart's brief adventures in the fourth grade classroom at Cypress Creek:
Teacher: You don't know your multiplication tables? Long division? Bart: I know of them.
So, continuing along the gratuitous all-life-is-reduced-to-Simpsons-quotes path, when Jay Sherman tells Patty and Salma that he 'said to Woody Allen, well Camus can do, but Sartre is smartrer!' I can giggle knowingly at the reference, even though I've only ever read Camus' two shortest books and, at most, three or four chapters from Being and Nothingness. (Oh, and No Exit, but that was because we workshopped it in Drama. But plays don't really count. Hell is other people though, JP definitely was onto something there.)
One genre in which I'm relatively well-read, however, is crime fiction, specifically British murder mysteries. I'm positively nannaesque in my love of Christie, Rendell, James etc and their corresponding high-brow Brit TV adaptations. And much as I love the grandes dames of the genre, I'm equally compelled by the new wavers - Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Minette Walters, Val McDermid etc - who write for the cynical CSI generation that has no patience for Lady Gwendoline Highbottom being poisoned during the garden party with that suspicious glass of lemonade with the unmistakable fragrance of bitter almonds, served by that swarthy sub-continental type.
There's something oddly comforting about being taken to a depressing, fictional northern, Sussexian or Scottish city in the middle of a grey winter, to join a bitter, alcoholic, middle-aged male detective and his sexually-tensed female partner investigate the grizzly discovery of a charred teenage corpse at the banks of the (insert name of river flowing through fictional northern, Sussexian or Scottish city here).
There's no way around it: The Poms do grizzly and depressing brilliantly, and their crime writers are no exception. The Yanks are too plot-driven and the Aussies don't seem to appreciate the genre enough to nurture a strong, unique narrative - though I will say, in a nauseatingly self-indulgent plug, that my aunt Gabrielle Lord is among the best. Whipping Boy, Bones and Lethal Factor among others are outstanding.
(PS - Note to Oz TV producers: When the hell are you going to do the 'Scobie Malone Mysteries?' Hello, definitive Australian murder investigator by internationally-renowned writer so you can sell it to the overseas markets? Honestly.)
I'm concerned, however, that the days of quality Brit murder mysteries may be numbered. I'm currently reading Rendell's latest Chief Inspector Wexford mystery, Not in the Flesh, and with Dame Ruth nearing 80, I fear this might be the last we see of the good Kingsmarkham CI. Similarly, my all-time favourite, Dame PD James, is nearing 90 and we haven't had a Commander Dalgleish mystery since 2005. Reginald Hill has just 'killed' Andy Dalzeil and I know the next book on my to-read list, Exit Music, will be the last we see of Ian Rankin's Rebus.
So in the future, it would seem my thirst for the genre will be primarily quenched by Peter Robinson's Chief Inspector Banks (and much as I like this man's work, I can't shake the feeling he's too much of a 'lighter' Rebus) and McDermid's impotent Dr Tony Hill and his totally dysfunctional relationship with DCI Carol Jordan. Will that be enough?
I'm sure other authors will emerge in the void left behind by the greats - I'm just not sure if they'll be as compelling. Frankly, I'm starting to wonder if it's just too quaint a genre to sustain in the forensic age. Forensic science has taken all the guessing and ambiguity - and therefore the fun - out of the whodunnit. Nowadays it's essentially the 'howdunnit' genre, which is interesting and all, but to me it's a bit like substituting a Mahler symphony with the Schrodinger equation. Sure, it's complex, thought-provoking and probably has a satisfying resolution to those who can follow it from the start, but there's little music or lyricism involved.
In the meantime, however, I've just bought the Marple (Geraldine McEwan) box set and am enjoying every minute. I know by definition I should have a knitted blanket over my knees, digestive biscuit by my side and keep yelling at my half-dead husband of 53 years to turn up the volume while watching, but I don't care. I need my fix, man.
Two doozy news bytes waiting for me at work this morning. First up, the misadventures of this particular Fundies First candidate and his wacky genitalia. It's not quite on par with 'burning lesbians at the stake' but it is kinda funny - especially his defence: 'I might have been drunk off my face or my political enemies might have drugged me.' Riiiiight.
Further: 'But that's not my penis ... Look, maybe somebody photoshopped it, and put another one on the photo ... I can tell you, it's not me. I know these things. But really, I can't remember … All I know, I have been humiliated.'
Bit all over the shop, isn't he? Makes you think he's making up his defence as he goes along. Still, it's a good laff and it's a blow against Fundies First, which can never be a bad thing.
"As a Christian, I do not agree with the idea of homosexuality. That's the reality. I can't put it any other way," Mr Curtis told The Sunday Age yesterday. "I certainly could never change my views that homosexuality is a perversion, because it is a perversion."
Oh - but don't fret kids, it's not like he's a gay-bashing extremist or anything:
"I'd offer myself as a genuine grassroots candidate who would be delighted to represent them and who would have no favouritism or negative approach to any individual based on their lifestyle. I would love to represent them, I would love to represent anybody."
Phew! That's OK then. For a moment I thought you might be a right-wing homophobic preacher positing a scientifically, medically and psychologically disproved theory about 'perversion'. You sure put my mind at ease.
The reason why I'm taking this seriously is that this is not some extremist from One Nation or Fundies First - this is a Liberal candidate for the John Howard government. Granted, he's running for a safe Labor seat he has little chance of winning, but he has influence within the party, having been vice-president of the party's Werribee branch since 2001, delegate to state council since 2002 and a member of its policy assembly committee since 2004.
Personally, I find the thought of a government being filled with men like this a mite scarier than one filled with ex union hacks. Of course, the Libs could do the right thing and disendorse this man straight away - but I'm guessing they won't. There are simply too many people in the party - including elder statesmen like Abbott and Andrews - who agree with Curtis' views.
I can already hear J-Ho's soothing tones: 'Look, I don't personally agree with the pastor's views, I don't, but I wouldn't want to infringe on his right to express them ...' something along those lines.
Julia Gillard is the member for Lalor. I'll greatly look forward to the press release she issues condemning her opponent's views as having no place in a progressive, secular nation and demanding the Liberal Party disendorse him immediately.
Was fun watching Krudd kick J-Ho's tired arse all over the Great Hall at last night's Mass Debate. Krudd's cool, unruffled demeanour shat J-Ho to tears, who by comparison was unnecessarily crusty, flailing his fisted arms about (hitting his mike several times, gold) and often speaking over his allocated time. Way to stick to the rules you yourself set, J-Ho.
The moderator was pretty wet but most of the journos asked decent questions - Paul Kelly actually challenged J-Ho on an answer he gave. Crazy stuff!
Krudd finally addressed the biggest elephants in the Labor room - high interest rates under Hawke/Keating and union affiliation - by pointing out J-Ho's 22% interest rate goodness while he was Treasurer under Fraser. Apparently Latham and Beazley always refused to bring this up because invariably it would also bring up memories of the Hawke/Keating legacy, which both were keen to avoid like the plague. Krudd called it, talked of mistakes of the past on both sides and looking onwards and upwards instead. Nicely played. He also romanticised the union movement with reference to their involvement in James Hardie asbestos compensation.
J-Ho's bovver boys, Costello and Downer, were in the audience and reprimanded for heckling, typifying the standard to which they've dragged down public debate in this country.
J-Ho hates Krudd with a fiery passion, and no doubt the feeling's mutual, but the difference is Krudd doesn't let it show. J-Ho resents that finally there is a Labor opposition leader who can get the better of him. He hates having his authoritah genuinely undermined and looked correspondingly rattled for most of the night. After years of mastering his otherwise woeful TV performance, it was like watching him in '96 again debating Keating.
Of course, the Mass Debate counts for very little where it matters. Howard frequently loses them, often by big margins, but goes on to win elections. Still, this was a key moment of truth for Rudd and he set the bar high for the remaining election campaign. This may not have won him many votes, but it certainly wouldn't have lost him any either.
The worm conspiracy is a bit of a laff. I'd say 'so much for democracy' is a tad hyperbolic, cheers Ray, since 9 was under strict instruction not to use it. Plus it's such a useless gimmick anyway - the figure showing 65% of the studio audience saying Rudd won in favour against Howard's 29% is what matters.
Still, says a lot about Howard's paranoia around public response to his debating that he's so terrified about the worm's use, donut?
Overall, a tiny, tiny glimmer of hope for us most.
So, who do you trust to keep interest rates low, huh? Huh?
It's hard not to be cynical and join some dots that shouldn't be joined: Rise in support for J-Ho and Libs around the same time they announce their $34 billion tax cuts.
That is, some undecided voters may be swayed when he offers them a big juicy tax cut.
The. Fuck? I don't pretend to be an economist - I struggled with it in Yr 12 - but even I know the most basic of equations: Tax cuts = greater spending = increased upwards pressure on inflation = increased upwards pressure on interest rates.
Are some voters genuinely so dim that they're prepared to be bribed at election time by a cynical vote-grab, scratch their heads when interest rates rise, say, five times after the bribers to whom they give their vote win the election, then forget about that long enough to vote for them the next time round?
Never mind the necessary slashing of department, service and infrastructure funding required to fund the bribe - that can start six months after the election, when voters' apparently eccy-fucked short-term memories fail to remember their part in helping it happen.
I don't know what will happen to interest rates under a Labor government. I do know that unlike Howard, they have not claimed to be single-handedly responsible for interest rate movements.
And I know that I would never trust a government that determines its tax policy solely according to what will maximise their votes at election time. How in godbuddallah's name does this government bask in the misperception that they are great economic managers, when they spend like the drunken proverbial at election time for which the voters suffer in the three years following through higher interest rates and reduced services?
I guess this could be put down to that 'inevitable' narrowing in opinion polls during the election campaign you hear about. But if Labor do not effectively get across the message that what the government's doing right now is by definition grossly irresponsible - and will lead to long-term pain - they'll probably lose yet another election. Whoopee shit.
John Howard's already kick-started his stand-up comedy routine, claiming to know nuzzzink about the Coalition dirt unit.
'I want to make it very clear ... there will be no attacks of people's private lives from me or from the Government.'
Boom-tish. He's here all night folks.
I'll post in greater substance over the next few days and weeks, but for now I offer my final reminder about enrolling to vote:
If you are not on the electoral roll and you are an Australian citizen 18 years of age and over, you must complete an enrolment form and return it to the AEC by 8pm Wednesday 17 October 2007.
If you are already on the roll but need to update your address details, you must do this by 8pm Tuesday 23 October 2007.
Got that? Sweet.
Just a general first thought: Enthusiasm to see Howard gone, no matter how powerful, does not alone equate to the event occurring. Unfortunately, elections are not determined by willpower; they're determined by swinging voters in marginal seats with little allegiance or political conscience beyond their hip-pocket.
This election will only be won by Labor if enough of those voters in enough of those seats are sufficiently angry about their interests having risen 5 times since Uncle John promised to keep them low, to take a chance with an unknown quantity as punishment.
Likewise, enough of the same Howard Battlers need to switch, if not because of interest rates, because their job security has been undermined by SerfChoices.
I think there are a lot of people in this situation, but I'm not sure there are enough to equate to depriving the Coalition of 16 net seats. Sure hope I'm wrong though.
The Yay!:Krudd's money meets his mouth to promise a referendum on fixed, four-year parliamentary terms. And about frickin' time. It is a joke that the election can be called at the whim of a PM - particularly one like this sweetheart, who'll stall as long as electorally possible in the pathetic hope he can still conjur up some last-minute dirt to fling.
Why do we think J-Ho's not putting us all out of our misery by just calling the damn thing? Because his good mate Dennis ShamIam is telling him not to. Personally, I reckon election dates should be determined by we great unwashed voters, not some party hack posing as a journalist.
Four years is a logical term of office. Less elections mean cost savings to the taxpayer and provide elected governments a proper period of time in which to implement its agenda. Fixed dates provide electoral certainty - particularly in these new uncertain times, thanks J-Ho - which in turn strengthens a democracy and its citizens' confidence therein.
The only real negative corollary to this I can see is senators getting eight-year gigs from half-elections. The concept of Barnaby Joyce and/or Steve Fielding wielding significant clout until 2013 is ... scary, to say the least.
Still, you'll never have an entirely perfect system, and this will at least be an improvement on the current one.
The fact is, what Robert McClelland highlighted is absolutely correct: The Howard government claims to oppose the death penalty but the opposition is equivocal, subject to what is or is not electorally popular. Krudd has completely caved on this, purely because of McClelland's so-called 'insensitive' timing - and once again shows himself as a little bit different to Howard, but not much, and not where it really matters.
You either support capital punishment or you don't. Similarly, you either respect the laws of other nations or you don't. Either option is fine, but you must be consistent. This government has not been - remember Shapelle Corby and Thomas McCoskar? - and all I saw McClelland doing was pleading for consistency. This was a perfect opportunity for Krudd to clearly distinguish himself and his party from J-Ho's, and he sank.
Don't forget, a lot of terrorists seek martyrdom; in their fucked-up brains, they believe it's helping their deluded cause being executed before the worldwide media after they themselves have executed civilians. Why give them what they want?
And if you're really enthusiastic about effective state punishment, what's better: Depriving a murderer of his life or of his remaining life's liberty, to be aware every day that he'll never be free again? I would've thought the latter would be more appealing to the salivating law-and-order shriekers.
Went along to a forum at ACON last night put on by the good folk at the GLRL. 'Twas about all things ALP. And Tanya was there...And Anthony was there...And Joe was there...And George was there...And Penny was there...Yeah, you get the drift.
I actually didn't mean to go with an SX hat on - was more as a private citizen directly affected by what they were talking about - but the following article formulated anyway. Hopefully it will get into SX next week, if not here 'tis:
For the purposes of this article, let’s optimistically assume the following: Labor wins this year’s federal election; Labor and the Greens form a Senate majority; and Labor implements its promises within its first term of office.
It was with such assumptions in mind that Labor recently outlined its GLBTI policy to a small but passionate assortment of believers and cynics alike, organised by the GLRL and featuring Labor candidates for inner Sydney seats as well as the party’s would-be Attorney General, Senator Joe Ludwig.
As all speakers went to great lengths to make clear, Labor is the better option than the Howard government where ending legislative discrimination against same-sex couples is concerned. Labor is committed not only to amending the 58 laws identified in HREOC’s ‘Same Sex: Same Entitlements’ report, but also an even more comprehensive audit of additional laws and departmental policies. Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek and Wentworth candidate George Newhouse articulated a thorough understanding of other key issues concerning GLBTI folk, including domestic violence and the rise of assaults on Oxford Street, with corresponding action plans.
‘Labor will take action to ensure the development of nationally consistent, state-based relationship recognition legislation that will include the opportunity for couples who have a mutual commitment to a shared life to have those relationships registered and certified. This legislation will: be based on the scheme that has existed in Tasmania since 2004 and that the Victorian government has announced its intention to introduce; (and) not create schemes that mimic marriage or undermine existing laws that define marriage as being between a man and a woman.’
Essentially, Labor is washing its hands of a federal civil union or partnership scheme. Spooked by the gay marriage boogyman, the party is instead offloading responsibility to the states to follow Tasmania’s and Victoria’s lead, establishing their own state-based registries in the hope that a uniform national law would be created through mirrored legislation in each state and territory. Senator Ludwig offered the example of uniform evidence laws, in which states have individually passed identical evidence acts to create a nationally consistent model. He argued that one advantage of this approach is bypassing the Commonwealth parliament, which could be convenient in the particularly horrific event that Family First wins the Senate balance of power.
However, Ludwig’s plan, though no doubt well-intentioned – and by all reports, he’ll be an approachable and informed federal Attorney General for our community to lobby and work with – also seems somewhat naïve. He spoke of a ‘journey’ in which all states can eventually be convinced of the value of registries and motivated to legislate accordingly. But with NSW’s Attorney General, John Hatzistergos, having already made unequivocally clear he does not support enacting Tasmania’s scheme here, it’s difficult to see what Ludwig will say or do to change his mind – or to see a clear timeframe in which this will occur. The bovver boys in NSW Labor Right comprise homophobes who would put John Howard’s Family Values warriors in the shade – and they never give up anything without a fight.
Is the solution, then, that all NSW same-sex couples wishing to be ‘registered’ move to Hobart or Melbourne? Waiting for state-based legislation creates a new layer of delay and potential resistance that could easily be avoided through a Commonwealth law. If NSW and other states – quite likely South Australia, for example – do not wish to enact registries, they have a reasonable defence of autonomy against any pressure exerted by their federal counterparts. To remain consistent, those of us appalled by the Howard government’s trampling of the ACT’s civil unions legislation could not reasonably expect a Rudd government to force intransigent state governments into action. Furthermore, there will eventually come a time where Labor does not have uniform state governments – and there’s little hope an O’Farrell Coalition government, for example, would be any less reluctant than the Iemma Labor government, particularly while ‘Godfather’ David Clarke is calling the shots.
The most frustrating aspect of Labor’s policy is the overriding sense of how it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck… If implemented effectively, federal Labor’s plan would provide same-sex couples with all the same entitlements, rights and responsibilities as heterosexual de facto couples. Ludwig made clear he would not prevent same-sex couples from holding ceremonies in which they made their commitment public. He also specified that same-sex families would not be treated any differently, and that unlike the Coalition’s (barely touched) approach of creating a category of ‘interdependent’ couples, same-sex couples would clearly be considered de facto – that is, the sexual component of our relationships would not be airbrushed out of the legislature.
So why is Labor avoiding a federal civil union scheme in principle, when in practice its alternative is an unnecessarily complicated means to essentially the same end? Is this part of Kevin Rudd’s utopian vision of uniform state and federal Labor governments working together harmoniously, ‘ending the blame game’? Or is this consistent with Rudd and Labor’s general approach to be a little bit different from John Howard and the Coalition, but not so different as to frighten the horses – swinging voters in marginal seats – or indeed Rudd’s own socially conservative beliefs?
Whatever the reason, after 11 years the GLBTI community desperately needs a federal government that will deign to recognise our needs and concerns, and act accordingly. And as seems to be the common theme in this election, though I’m both disappointed and concerned by Labor’s policy, I know it literally could not be any worse than the current alternative.
20-something left-nudging homosexualist with more than a passing resemblance to Roger Federer, except for backhand slices. Pull up a pew to read my ill-conceived, poorly-researched and often grossly inappropriate ravings on politics, cult TV, hot men and...shit.
Or read my weekly column in SX mag if you're really bored.
Email: queerpenguin at hotmail.com