Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Lockdown 3

July 20, 2021

General mood (not just me): Cranky.

Where to start?

Forget the specifics of the pandemic.  Too depressing.

Better far a remoaner grudge against the forced amalgamation in 2016 of Canterbury with Bankstown to form the mega Canterbury-Bankstown “LGA” (Local Government Area, if you haven’t mastered the lingo).  This has been revived by the NSW Health Officer’s habit of imposing restrictions based on LGAs.

From today’s SMH:

Suburbs such as Hurlstone Park, Earlwood, Croydon Park and Canterbury have barely a case between them and are a 28-kilometre drive from virus-ridden Fairfield.

They appear to have been caught in tougher restrictions due to 2016 council amalgamations, when Canterbury and Bankstown merged to form the most populous local government area in Sydney.

‘‘We at the ‘Paris end’ of Canterbury should not be lumped in with Bankstown, Fairfield,’’ commented [Hurlstone Park] local Jeff Swain.

What about Ashbury? Is this how the SMH rewards Con Vaitsas?

On the posh bus

June 6, 2021

“Wow, this is a posh bus!” I thought to myself as I settled down on the 442 from the city to Balmain a bit before 6pm.  The mix of passengers was a cross-section well above that on other buses I generally catch towards where I live in Canterbury.

Balmain’s current upward social trajectory started about 50 years ago, as the locale invoked (retrospectively, he’d left years ago) by Neville Wran as a tough school (“Balmain boys don’t cry”) became a byword for inner-urban trendiness (“Balmain basket weavers”).  There’s still some public housing in Balmain, but its residents are in the main public housing aristocrats. They probably weren’t on an early evening bus out of the CBD.

I was on my way to a “conversation” between Benjamin Law and Emily McGuire about Emily’s new novel, Love Objects.

The bus heads straight out of the CBD over Darling Harbour without any of the usual (for me) jolting stop and start through city streets, and the crawl over ANZAC Bridge passed more quickly than I expected before the first stop after the bus turned off Victoria Road into the lower reaches of Rozelle.  I got off at the last stop before Darling Street, just around from the Balmain Library, where the “conversation” was to occur.

The library occupies the ground floor of the Balmain Town Hall.  In fact the event was in the actual hall, upstairs.  I’d never been there before.  You can get better pictures on the web. The one at the head of this post is mine.

I was particularly taken with this (I’m guessing) ventilation thingy in the middle of the ceiling.

I’d not seen one of these before.  I wonder why they stopped being built.  Is it a relic of gas lighting?

A few more people arrived after took the top picture, though I doubt if our number rose above fifty.  Aside from me and D (who came direct from home, though passing up the opportunity to take the 445) there were perhaps 3 or 4 men apart from the pair manning the desk pre-emptively set up at the back corner for post-event book sales and signing.

Benjamin and Emily took to the stage.  Benjamin (I’m going to presume on first-name terms for the balance of this post) thanked us for coming out on a rather chilly “school night” and the conversation got underway.

Benjamin started the ball rolling by talking about hoarding.  His play which was put on last year in Melbourne dealt with this topic, and it is also a central theme of Love Objects.  Though Benjamin didn’t mention it I recalled that, in a detail which didn’t make it into the TV adaptation of The Family Law, he had his own experience of something not quite hoarding but not so far removed.  In the 80s his (from memory here) uncle and aunt and their family were on the run from Australian immigration.  They were ultimately deported.  Their personal effects remained, stuffed in cupboards, in Benjamin’s childhood home.

It’s hard to sit through a conversation about a book you haven’t read – God knows I did that in a few tutorials when I did a degree in English Literature.  Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the smart phone, I was able to read a first-chapter teaser from the online preview.  It starts with the main character, Nina, on her way home in Leichhardt from her job at a local supermarket, lingering over various found objects.  It is artfully done from Nina’s point of view and textbook dramatic irony.  As the details build up little by little you gradually triangulate your own perspective. 

I may not be a hoarder at Nina’s level but I am definitely on the spectrum.  My appetite was whetted.

Benjamin is obviously a dab hand at this sort of thing and he steered the conversation adroitly through the three main characters and some plot themes.  The questions afterwards, unlike many questions at such events, were mercifully unexcruciating.  There were not all that many.  To each of them Benjamin responded “Thank you so much for your question.”  Laying it on with a trowel?  “He’s very sweet,” D later remarked.

Then it was over.  We were asked to fill in audience-feedback sheets, and people began to gather and line up at the desk in the back corner.  As far as D is concerned, I have far more than enough books already.  “Don’t even think about it!” he said – or words to that effect. 

The Inner West Library has 6 copies of Love Objects.  I am 74 on the reservation list.

Popular discontent

May 12, 2021

Continuing a series, of sorts. This last September at Dulwich Hill shops:

Anarchism in the suburbs

May 4, 2021

Following on from my last post:

New Canterbury Road, Hurlstone Park. Presumably with educational intent as just in front of the [Roman] Catholic primary school.

Letting off steam

April 18, 2021

Posted in a bus shelter on Canterbury Road near my place. I find such signs of resistance on the part of local anarchists cheering, though it seems unlikely they will persuade any actual police to quit the force.

The man in the iron mask

November 19, 2019

A man has been found guilty  and imprisoned in Canberra in secrecy so complete that the prison administrator (if you can believe this) did not even know what he was in gaol for.  He has now been released after what could have been about a year inside or maybe more (it’s a secret, you see).  Likely as not he is still on parole. His identity and details of his crime still cannot be published.   See [2019] ACTSC 311.

I find this pretty disturbing. The judgment mentions  that orders were made about the conditions of the man’s imprisonment with the man’s consent and it seems likely to me that he pleaded guilty to whatever the offence or offences were.  But is his consent (if given: someone claiming to be him on twitter says not) the end of the matter?  What about open justice? What agency is being protected from embarrassment by these secretive acts done in our name?

Postscript: more here.

Academically approved

August 21, 2019

On Friday with D to the Conservatorium to see/hear a “dress rehearsal” of Psyche, billed as an opera by Meta Overman.

What is she? I hear you ask (not) – assuming you’d even determined the gender.

MO was born in Rotterdam in about 1907. She emigrated to Australia not long after WWII with her young son and pianist husband.  The impetus seems to have been to escape post-war privations in the Netherlands – relatives had accommodation on offer in Perth.  To escape the Perth heat, they moved to Albany.

Albany!  I have spent time there on account of my late aunt.  In the early 50s it must have been a remote spot indeed.

Overman wrote Psyche for the first Perth Festival, in 1953.  It is based on a novella/fairtytale by the Dutch writer, Louis Couperus.  A 1908 translation is available online.

The Perth Festival was and remains a venture of the University of Western Australia.  Psyche was conceived to be performed at the sunken garden there which was used as an outdoor theatre (my mother related to me more than once seeing Jacqui Kott there in Midsummer Night’s Dream).  It’s a special place amidst the sandy wastes of the West.  Meta Overman’s ashes were scattered there and, as it happens, I scattered (unauthorised by the University but at her written request in a document found amidst her effects) some of my Albany aunt’s there when the time came.

Psyche eventually had 10 performances there in the 1955 festival.  It was poorly attended and a financial disaster and this amongst other things apparently led to the end of Overman’s marriage.  She decamped to Melbourne with her son and  (I infer: he is  apparently still living and was active as a jazz pianist as recently as 2012) a rather younger man (not that there is anything wrong with that).

It is easy to imagine why Psyche was not a success with the 1955 Perth public. Aside from the obscurity of its fin-de-siecle source, it  was a novel work – scarcely an opera in conventional terms.  Only two characters – Eros and Psyche’s elder sister, Emeralda, are portrayed by singers.  Psyche herself was represented by a dancer, a male (I assume) dancer represented the Chimera and a Satyr who interact with her – with the Satyr (shades of Debussy) also shadowed by an obbligato flute soloist.  Psyche’s younger sister was represented by a harp solo.  The balance of the instrumental music was provided by Overman’s husband on the piano.  Two other characters were spoken by actors.

For this revival, Jeanell Carrigan semi-orchestrated the piano part for a small ensemble whose makeup seems to have been determined by the availability of the SSO fellows – a string quartet, double bass, flute, oboe and bassoon.  The solo harp and flute parts  were retained and JC herself played a still-extensive piano part.

The music was accessible and dramatically apt without stretching many boundaries and to that extent can be excused criticism of the sort that Dr Carrigan (in my opinion unduly dismissively) levelled against Elliott Gyger’s music in her review of Oscar and Lucinda .

In the scene involving the Satyr the music launched slightly incongrously into treatments of O du lieber Augustin and another song which I recognized but still cannot name.  There may have been other songs referred to here.  The best I can do by way of explanation for this is that in the novel as translated the Satyr is dismissive of “classical music” and these songs therefore represent something more popular. he Wikipedia entry on O..Augustin, which should be updated in the section on “Use in other musical works” to include reference to Psyche, mentions that “The melody is also used in “Daar wordt aan de deur geklopt”, a Dutch children’s song for the celebration of Saint Nicholas Day

I felt the instrumentation was a little cautious and could profitably have expanded, even with the available forces, more beyond the still very evident backbone of the piano part.

The actors both had microphones, which was in my opinion a misstep even if necessary for them.  Singers and actors had books (not always consulted) and it didn’t look to me as if this was just for the dress rehearsal.  The dancers (who were excellent) gave the most fully realised performances.

I enjoyed my encounter with a slightly clunky oddity.

Some peculiar properties of glass

August 13, 2019

On Friday night a couple of weeks back and with D the following Saturday to  Carriageworks to see Sydney Chamber Opera’s production of the new chamber opera, Oscar & Lucinda, based on Peter Carey’s novel. Tthe music is by Elliott Gyger and the libretto by Pierce Wilcox.  They collaborated a few years ago on an adaptation of David Malouf’s Fly away Peter, which I didn’t see.

That makes two new Australian operas seen within a fortnight of each other.  You certainly can’t say that happens often.

In comparison to Kats-Chernin’s, a member of the Dulwich Hill gang who’d been to Whiteley earlier that week described Gyger’s style as “academically approved.”

If so, not by Associate Professor Jeanell Carrigan of the Conservatorium, who didn’t think much of the music at all.

In an opera adaption surely the most important feature is the music and how well adapted to the story it is….[I]n the opinion of this reviewer, the music did not react to or reflect the action on stage or in the story.

Had one not had the visual aspect and the text ….displayed on surtitles, hearing the music would not have given the listener the effect of what was transpiring….

Gyger writes in the program notes:

The guiding metaphor for the music is one not found in the novel …In a kaleidoscope, small fragments of coloured glass fall into arbitrary relationships which are then mirrored geometrically to create the illusion of order. Different settings of the kaleidoscope generate particular harmonic colours

If this was the guiding principle behind the composition then Gyger was successful, as the music does sound like a kaleidoscope, pieces of coloured glass falling into space. However, it seemed to this listener that the music never changed to reflect the story presented.

In the love scene, the kaleidoscope of colours did not reflect a warmth normally associated with such a scene. In the death scene, which was rather protracted, the colours were again so much of the sameness of other parts of the action. What began as colourful and very exciting became uninteresting and no longer captivating.

…..

it was doubtful whether the music portrayed enough of the story line to warrant putting this story into an operatic medium.

That’s harsh.

On first listening, I had something like Carrigan’s reaction, though not as adverse.

A particular bugbear of mine with much contemporary music is that often intricate details, which can themselves be quite rhythmic (in this case, often coming from the words), are laid out against a basically time-measuring background seemingly devoid of  metre.  Where is the ritornello rhythmic pattern that we can (metaphorically) tap our feet to?  Where are the non-duple metres?

That’s probably also a stalking horse (switching metaphors in mid-stream) for regret at the absence of the straightforwardly lyrical.  Give us a song, not mere declamation!

Actually that’s an argument which goes back beyond antagonism to contemporary music.  People made that complaint about Wagner’s vocal writing, and I felt something a bit like that in relation to the constant (and ever so admired by critics as responsive to the text) recits and ariosos in The Return of Ulysses.

There is a bit of a lyricism deficit in Oscar and Lucinda – or at least there is lots of very angular and leapy music.

When I returned on Saturday – better rested than I had been on Friday and with the advantage of already having heard the music once – I found much more variety – even metrical variety – in the music than I had noticed first time around.

As for the two scenes Carrigan picked on: as to the first, her complaint should possibly be with the libretto rather than the music. It is an “in love” scene rather than a “love scene” – the whole point is that they are happy together without having declared their love to each other.  I thought the music captured this well, though perhaps you could have wished for something warmer.

The scene which Carrigan calls the “death scene” is more than that. The libretto ingeniously manages to wrap up the Miriam-Lucinda plot at the same time.  The scene is fittingly a culmination of the glass-themed style which has featured throughout the work.  True, it is a bit static (so a bit of that time-measuring that I am not so keen on) but a glass church on a barge is sinking into the river.  It’s too late to slip into a waltz.  in truth I expect Carrigan just didn’t like the style that much and by the end was sick of it.

Perhaps she should have gone again to gain a better impression.

There is more I could say about the the staging (minimalist, imaginative) and the performances (energetic, impressive, though some of the chorus-commentary harmony could have been better tempered)  and even about the music, but I’ve run out of energy for that right now.

I enjoyed both nights and they made me think about the novel afresh.  The audience was enthusiastic.  Carriageworks is a funky venue.

The ticket price of $35 was very accessible.  It was even more accessible to me because on the Friday, expecting to be too tired, I made a special trip to Carriageworks to book a ticket for the Saturday so as to be sure of one for the last night. Naively I also thought I might avoid the hated booking fee that way.  That was not to be, but there was a consolation: as I was concluding the bargain, a man returned a ticket to be given away for free.  “I’ll take it!” I cried, leaving no chance before any more tentative bystanders could put in a claim. If I flagged, I could always leave at half time secure in the knowledge I still had a ticket for the next night.  In fact, though impaired by a long day and a couple of post-work drinks I never felt the slightest bit tempted to leave.  It was totally engrossing.

Bonus!

PS: the title to this post is set by Gyger to a melodic fragment not entirely unreminiscent of “Peter Grimes I here advise.”

 

PTSD Snowflake

August 8, 2019

The NSW Legislative Assembly has been debating the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill – a private members’ bill which seeks to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and to bring NSW law roughly in line with the law in Queensland and Victoria. Within Australia, only NSW still deals with abortion as a specific offence under the Crimes Act.

In so many respects this is a replay of the agonizing process of “homosexual law” reform and specifically the marriage equality debates leading up to 2017.  On the anti-reform side all the usual road-blocks are thrown up.  There must be consultation.  The change is rushed.  The change and the path to change should be offset by obstacles and even set backs (not in the town-planning sense).

There is misrepresentation of the current state of the law and of the effect of the bill if passed.

Amendments proposed by attorney-general  Mark Speakman will make the position worse for persons seeking abortions (and those performing them) than they are under the judge-made (and for that reason inherently uncertain and liable to reconsideration) work-arounds under which abortions are presently performed. Unsatisfactory as the mutable status of such judge-made law is, it would be better there were no new Act than the Act as so amended. That’s a wedge of sorts.

The NSW Legislative Assembly now webcasts its debates and I have been watching some of them.  It is a depressing spectacle.

And if the bill passes the Legislative Assembly unscathed or amended, we still have the Legislative Council to go.

Oh, joy.

Postscript: the bill passed.  Speakman’s worst amendment didn’t get in but there are still some pretty unsatisfactory provisions.  Not that the proponents of any of these amendments including Speakman ended up voting for the bill as so amended anyway.  The pr flak painting him and Stokes as “peacemakers” was nonsense.

There was some weak wavering by temporizers in the middle watching their back against organized religion in their branches.  That’s democracy at work.  Women and the general community support for availability of abortion are less tightly organised than the “pro-life” groups.  The RC Church still has political muscle to flex.

It’s reported that supporters of the bill in the public gallery cheered.  My own response would have been a more modified rapture.

Law skool memories

July 31, 2019

Every one knows about the snail in the ginger beer bottle (though it was never actually proved to have been there) and probably a few people who dropped out of law courses can remember the Carbolic Smoke Ball case, but there are plenty of other cases that stick in one’s memory.

One came to mind today with a news story from the ABC.  A former deputy mayor is facing charges that he murdered his brother in Victoria and his mother in NSW.

In the body of the story was the following:

Cross-border crime presents ‘complex legal issues’

Mr Brand was a police prosecutor for 12 years in NSW and said he had not dealt with a serious cross-border criminal case like this before.

Excuse me!  That’s not a cross-border crime!  That’s two crimes, one on each side of a border.

To be fair, Mr Brand didn’t say it was – only the author of the sub-headline.

A cross border crime is one posed by the question, asked rhetorically of us in Criminal Law:

A man  fires a shot across the Murray River  and kills someone.  In which state has the homicide occurred?  Victoria or NSW?

The answer is: where the person was hit by the bullet.  (There are some other technicalities such as the year-and-a-day rule.  I don’t think it matters where the victim actually died.)

The more amazing thing is that there was  actually a High Court case about this.  That case is Ward v R [1980] HCA 11; (1980) 142 CLR 308.

Edward Donald Ward shot and killed Alexander Joseph Reed beside the Murray River near Echuca. He fired from the top of the steep bank of the river down at Reed, who was fishing by the river’s edge, some thirty feet below.

Ward fired from the Southern bank. He was tried and found guilty of murder in the Victorian Supreme Court. The High Court upheld his appeal because the river bed was in NSW. The border had been fixed in 1855 as being at the southern side of the “whole of the watercourse.”  The whole of the watercourse did not just mean where the water was at a particular time or even where water normally flowed, but the watercourse as defined by the banks.  Reed was killed in NSW.

This wasn’t merely academic, because if the homicide occurred in NSW Ward had available to him a defence of “diminished responsibility” which if accepted would reduce the offence from murder to manslaughter.  This defence did not exist if the case was to be tried as a crime which took place in Victoria.  (However, it was also a question of jurisdiction.  The appeal was upheld on the basis that the Victorian court had no jurisdiction.)

So, to the ABC news site I say: come back to me when you have a real cross-border (alleged) crime to report!

I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to track down Ward’s ultimate legal fate.  The best outcome for him would have been that a plea of guilty to manslaughter was accepted.  (Postscript: it seems he was still convicted of murder on the retrial – see comment below.)

Diminished responsibility  was abolished in NSW in 1998 and replaced with substantial impairment