Archive for September, 2017

Don’t read the comments

September 26, 2017

One night last December, Jaden Duong drove a rented van to the premises of the Australian “Christian” Lobby (ACL) in Canberra.  In the van were four LPG gas cylinders.  There was a fire/explosion, causing substantial damage to ACL’s offices.  It can’t have taken the police long to find Duong – suffering severe burns, he had walked 4km or so to Canberra Hospital.  He told police he had been trying to kill himself.

Lyle Shelton, the head of ACL, rushed back from his holidays.  He tweeted that he was shocked that things could come to this in Australia.  There was more about how violence was being incited against ACL by opponents calling ACL bigots etc.

Police, who had spoken to Duong, hastened to reassure the community that they were satisfied that this was not a terrorist incident.  The basis for this appears to have been their own assessment of Duong and his statements to them that his primary motive had been to kill himself and that the choice of location was subsidiary – though in fact there was some material pretty early on which indicated that Duong was unhappy about organised religion and ACL.

Duong spent some months in hospital (including for mental issues) in Sydney.  It wasn’t until June 2017 that he first appeared in court and his identity was disclosed to the world.

Straight away, what the Chinese call the “human flesh” engine got to work.  They were interested in depicting Duong as a “SJW” (that’s “Social Justice Warrior”) at whose hands ACL were being victimised.  They wanted to establish that the ACT Police were giving Duong a soft ride.

Duong had spent some time in San Francisco in about 2014 when his partner was working there.  He did some volunteer work for democrat politicians and a cat shelter; he appeared in a gay fundraising Mr Gay Asian and Pacific pageant; he welcomed the striking down by the US Supreme Court of the Defence of Marriage Act.  It looks as though he was doing volunteer work because as a gay partner he couldn’t get a working visa.

Back in 2003 or so Duong had also made a comment about gay law reform which was published in the SMH.

That’s about it, but on the strength of this the Murdoch press followed up this narrative, describing Duong as a “gay activist.”

If you find opinion pieces by someone, even if only 2 over 15 years, I guess you could say they are an activist.  After all someone who writes for News Limited/News Corp is a journalist.

Here’s a sample of the Catallaxy forum  from 7 June when Duong’s name was first released and the human flesh engine unleashed. Leigh Lowe is a particular charmer.

Look, let’s not jump to conclusions.
It could be that the court might just be trying to spare Duonger some embarrassment.
Maybe he was found in leopard print leggings with red stilettos or some other ghastly ensemble that any self-respecting poove wouldn’t be (cough) found dead in.

And picking up on this found material:

Jaden Duong, an Australian living in San Francisco, welcomed the high court’s decision on DOMA.
“My partner’s here in the U.S. for work,” he said. “I’m here on a tourist visa indefinitely because of DOMA. Now they have to recognize us … which means his work visa includes me.”

to say

Jaden (WTF?) appears to be front and centre everywhere.
The volunteer work is explained by the fact that his partner was in the US for work.
I wonder if the partner had a gummint posting? If so, if he is hooked up with someone who tried to commit a terrorist act, both Duonger and the partner may appear on DHS watchlist, and both may be banned from travelling to and working in the US.
Just wait for some screaming fag to bung on a Mem Fox if detained at an airport and you night have your suspected boyfriend.
Look, I am prepared to acknowledge the possibility that … and I know this sounds crazy … that Duonger was a common-or-garden drama queen, who was approaching (OMG!) his 40th birthday, maybe had a series of failed relationships in quick succession, and decided to top himself.
It’s just that blowing yourself to bits in a van doesn’t scan like a typical drama-queen suicide MO.
Whatever, there is no excuse for brushing it under the carpet. The AFP’s rush to call “nothing to see here” whilst the Duonger hadn’t even been interviewed is suspect to say the least.

Jo was particularly witty:

jo

Leigh Lowe
#2404865, posted on June 7, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Sorry ..
“ring wear” should read “ring to wear”.
sorry.
Won’t happen again.

A lefty in San Francisco will have plenty of “ring wear”.

Another scintillator referred to “tontine fanging.”  (Geddit?)

Duong had another court date in August and then last week.  Each date was the occasion of a fresh dose of the Newscorp treatment describing him as a gay activist.  Duong pleaded not guilty on account of mental impairment.  It’s clear that police (who despite the Newscorp and altrite commentary, are not softies about this sort of thing) recognized Duong had mental difficulties.  The press commentary trawled through court papers and snippets of remarks in the hearings to build up the contrary picture, in simple terms, that Duong was bad, not mad, or at least bad enough and not mad enough to be responsible.

On Sunday Duong, aged 36, was found dead.  There were no suspicious circumstances.

It is very very sad.

 

 

 

The Ecuadorian Question

September 21, 2017

I’ve been thinking about my ancestry a bit recently.

It’s something of a topic du jour, what with the suggestion that ACT Senator Katy Gallagher might be Ecuadorian because her British mother was born there in 1943, or Barnaby Joyce’s statement that he considered himself to be a “fifth generation Australian.” This is presumably on his mother’s side unless his father’s forebears went to NZ from Australia.

Still, “fifth generation” – that’s impressive, isn’t it?  It means – well what does it mean?  Leaving indigenous people aside, if your grandparents all came here from somewhere else and your parents were born here, who is the first generation, and are you the second or the third?

The answer appears on the basis of a little internet research to be the latter, and I’m hazarding a guess that, where ancestors came here in different generations counting back, the claim is made on the basis of the earliest generation and hence biggest number.

 

Too much talking

September 20, 2017

On Saturday to hear/see the Australia Ensemble at UNSW for a program entitled “The Sound of Pictures.”  It featured Andrew Ford as presenter and a focus on film, film music and concert music by composers who also wrote film music.

When this year’s season was announced last year I mentioned my misgivings about this program.  P, my usual companion to these concerts, had her own and stayed away.  D came instead.

The program was:

Shostakovich- Prelude from Piano Quintet

Andrew Ford, Scherzo perpetuo (String quartet; played with short film, Le Sculpteur express, 1907)

Arthur Benjamin, Jamaican Rhumba (transcribed for clarinet and piano)

Film extract, Hitchcock, The Man who Knew Too Much (1956) scene featuring mock cantata by Arthur Benjamin performed in Albert Hall and conducted by Bernard Hermann

Benjamin, arr Ian Munro [for the “standard” AE ensemble – piano quintet + cl, fl] – Suite from Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) and Return of SP (1937)

Shower scene, Psycho (music Bernard Hermann)

Hermann, arr Birchall (2010) Psycho suite (String quartet)

[INTERVAL]

Felicity Wilcox, Vivre sa vie – Composer’s Cut (with extracts from Godard’s film) [cl, fl, piano and Claire Edwards on percussion]

Excerpt, Zefirelli, Romeo and Juliet (score Nina Rota)

Nina Rota, Trio for flute violin and piano

Excerpt, Hamlet (Russian version, 1964; score Shostakovich)

Shostakovich – Scherzo from Piano Quintet

It’s a packed program, but the list is incomplete, because at the start and then between every item we got some thoughts about the music, about film and about film music from Andrew Ford.  He’s a more than competent presenter, but that’s simply too much talking.  If I want that sort of thing, I will read his book or listen to his radio program.

The moment which summed this up for me came at the end of the excerpt from Hamlet – the arrival of the players followed by ‘To be or not to be.’  An atmosphere was set, including (if a little indistinctly in terms of sound quality) by Shostakovich’s score; the piano quintet was waiting expectantly below the screen ready to play the Scherzo.  Couldn’t they have just played it?  No, something more need to be said as Andrew signed off for the night.  That might be right for radio but it wasn’t right for a concert.  Not for me, anyway.

The two most interesting pieces in the program were Ford’s and Felicity Wilcox’s.  Even then I it’s a conflicting experience.  What should I watch?  The musicians or the screen?  What does the live performance add?  I’m prepared to think about that a bit more and Wilcox in particular took this issue by the horns with her “Composer’s Cut.”  Dispiriting to think that rights for the film were obtained on the basis that there would probably be only one performance.

Apart from the bits of Shostakovich (which suffered on account of their isolation), otherwise the Hermann fared best.  Benjamin’s Pimpernel suite never really rose above 1930s historical pastiche – and why should it have? Nino Rota is a fluent composer.  Are we surprised?

 

 

First cuckoo

September 12, 2017

Last night I heard something from the stand of trees in the grounds of the nearby public school.  It sounded like a bird but I couldn’t work out which.

This afternoon I unmistakeably heard a channel-billed cuckoo in full voice.

Could it be the more subdued sounds last night were the marks of exhaustion after a long commute?

I was there

September 11, 2017

Yesterday at D’s insistence and with him I did my part and went to the marriage equality rally in town.  There was a festival atmosphere on the train as we headed in with about 15 minutes to spare before the advertised start of 1 pm.

The last demonstrations I went to were the marches that broke many Australians’ heart – the big ones in 2003 against the invasion of Iraq.

The worst thing about such rallies is that practically every member of the organising coalition, and then a few more, has to have someone up there giving a speech.  This can really try one’s patience.  There is also the problem that in such a coalition on one issue, people will want to push the envelope out to the corner of their particular concerns.  Mostly I was with them at every corner and suspicious bulge to the package, but in the light of the “No” case campaigners’ attempt to make this postal opinion poll about every other issue than marriage of people not of a different sex, it would have been prudent, in my opinion, to keep things tight.

Bill Shorten gave a speech where he managed to reference “Climb Every Mountain,” “You’ll never walk alone,” the parable of the Good Samaritan and the St Crispin’s Day speech (those not here today will wish they were and say they were.)  There were probably more references that I missed.

So we stood out the speeches and after a longish wait to decant from Town Hall Square, headed along Park Street, Elizabeth Street, Phillip Street, Bridge Street and Young Street to Circular Quay where we were told Pauline Pantsdown had taken the stage in front of Customs House.  We didn’t actually see her as the square was pretty much full to capacity and we took the opportunity to catch a train home while we still could – just after 3.30.

It felt like a big rally to me so I was a bit peeved that it only ranked No 3 in the evening news. In some cases the rally was coupled with coverage of Malcolm Turnbull attending his own tame (I doubt if a single non-coalition-apparatchik gay person was in attendance) Liberals & Nats forum for the Yes campaign. As if Malcolm’s do was in any way comparable to tens of thousands of people on the streets.  Also a bit rich and doubtless calculated of him to hold it on this day.

I found myself immersed in a terrible emulatory hardness of heart waiting for “our” story to reach the screen: how dare those pesky Hurricane Irma types (No 1, though with predictably much more attention to the yet to suffer Floridians than the already devasted Cubans and Martinians) or Mexican earthquake victims vie with our just cause for attention?

There were lots of colourful costumes. My favourite was more subtle – a t-shirt in the style of an old pale blue Penguin paperback cover worn by a gent, about my age.  The book title?   An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde.

 

 

Misanthropic

September 6, 2017

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In recent years there has been a proliferation of cinema screenings of live theatre events.  Probably the Metropolitan Opera was the first big player, but since then they have been joined by others.  In their countries of origin, these have been done as “live” screenings.  Here in Australia we have to be content with delayed screenings.

Whilst these screenings have their limitations, I have generally enjoyed the ones I have gone to.  They give a better account of a live art form than screen adaptations of plays or “filmed” (mostly mimed) operas.  I would go to many more of these than I do if they were not nearly always scheduled for (generally weekend) daytime screenings.  Even though my present office is well lit, the proverbial dingy little office of the working week hangs over me.  Especially if the weather is fine and sunny, it seems wrong to turn my back on it.  Call me Clancy – even if what usually happens on a weekend is that we sleep in, faff around (mostly inside) the house on weekend domestic chores, and only manage to sally forth, if at all, in the late afternoon.

So it took some effort to leave a glorious day behind me last Sunday in favour of a noon screening of Moliere’s Le Misanthrope, from the ComédieFrançaise.

The misanthrope of the title, Alceste, is a man who is disenchanted with the world and with people and brings difficulty upon himself by his desire only to be sincere – which includes always to tell the truth to others.  This has already brought him into strife; more follows after he takes up the invitation to give his true opinion of Orontes’ verses.  Alceste has fallen, unwisely one might think, for a young widow, Célimène, who has a converse tendency to insincerity, including when in company to offer her adverse opinions of “absent friends.”

There’s got to be a lot you miss when you see a play in a foreign language.  You are pretty much a swine in the face of any verbal pearls.  It was only at the scene – in this production played out over a meal, where Célimène gives a series of cutting character-sketches (known, I suppose to every French school child, as ‘the portrait scene”) that I suddenly realised they had been speaking in rhyming verse all alongThat’s a turn-up for the books from the usual situation.

By the time I got out, at about 3.30, the glorious weather had clouded over.  Still, I was very glad I went.  At a “culture vulture” level, it was good to have seen such a famous play.  There is usually good reason why such plays have earned their fame and this was no exception.  There was much food for thought.  It was also a very handsome and striking production.

This year I have been reading a bit of literature in translation.  It is rather shocking how many even quite famous foreign-language works are almost totally inaccessible and certainly out of circulation in English.

Some of the themes and approaches of the play are familiar – it would be odd if they were unique.  In the alternative title to the play (“The Splenetic Lovers”) and the sallies between Alceste and Célimène, there are reminiscences of Beatrice and Benedict.  Reviews of this production have battened on its delivering a “Chekhovian” version of the play.

In the course of the play, some business is made of a piano on stage.  Alceste tinkers at it from time to time, bending over the keyboard and playing in a most peculiar way.  The picture above does not really fully capture it but gives an idea.  Interviews with director construct a psychology for Alceste as alienated and depressed.  It turns out the piano-playing style is a nod towards Glenn Gould as a modern type of misanthrope.

I doubt if we’d get a reference like that on the stage in Sydney.