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German Overalls

June 15, 2019

[For title allusion, see here.]

It’s June so it’s film festival time.

That mainly means the Sydney Film Festival.  More of that later.

First, (starting in May) was the German Film Festival.  That is now one of the many “festivals” mounted by Palace Cinemas through the year.  It can be difficult to keep up with them.  They are these days not so much festivals as special promotions.  Ironically, now that almost all films are screened from DVDs, festivals have lost their logistical ontological necessity.

The equivalent French and Italian film festivals draw bigger crowds – the French because France is so chic; the Italian because there are more Italians here.

I went to:

Adam und Evelyn;
Sealed Lips
The Captain.

There’s a kind of theme, or perhaps double theme, at work here.

The first three are all about “die ehemalige DDR.”

Balloon is a “true story” about an escape from East to West made by two families in about 1978.  There was a Disney film made not long after. This remake could equally be a Disney film from a later age – it was fun though (justly, I’d say) it has been critically panned.

The main premise of the drama is that, one family having failed in their initial escape attempt, the two families must make their escape before the Stasi catch up with them by following the clues.  There is more than one dramatic cliche.  The local Stasi man lives just over the road and his daughter and the son of one escaping family have a romance (I’m thinking “I am sixteen going on seventeen” here).  And the chief escapee-hunter always chews some kind of peppermint or chewing gum, so you know he is a baddie – think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the opposite direction and Robert Helpmann as the child-catcher general.

Of the three I liked Adam und Evelyn the best.  It’s based on a novel, about a young couple who almost accidentally leave the DDR via Hungary in the summer of 1989.  The allegory is hardly subtle though amazingly I didn’t really pick up on the hint in the title  until a scene where Adam starts reading to Evelyn from the Gideon’s bible they find in a hotel room once they have crossed to the west.  Not everyone will agree with the implication that the DDR was paradise (it depends really on the very particular circumstances of Adam in this story).  One point I took away from the film was that the people who left in the summer of 89 had little way of knowing that a mere 4 or 5 months later the wall would be coming down. (As a corollary, nor had those who did not go: in the film, when Adam returns to his home at the end of the year he finds it has been emptied of its contents – probably by his neighbours.  Why not?  They weren’t expecting him back.)

I reckon I have detected a new stock figure.  In both films there is a sympathetic character from the mainstream – a bit like the legendary “Cossack who winked” of 1917, or (to draw a more tenuous bow)  the gay boys’ sympathetic (though generally also marginalised in some way) female friend (eg Beautiful Thing).  In Ballon it is a young child’s kindergarten teacher who keeps to herself what the child has blurted out at school; in Adam & Evelyn it is a Czech border guard on the way to Hungary who says nothing about the woman hiding in the boot of Adam’s car.

Sealed Lips deals with the predicament of German communist women who had gone to the USSSR in the 1930s, where they had become embroiled in various purges and ultimately consigned to the gulag.  On their return to the DDR in about 1952 (that’s to say, the return of the lucky survivors), they must keep their USSR sufferings secret.  They foolishly imagine that the death of Stalin might make a difference but find not.  I wish this could have been better.  Part of the problem was to attempt to deal with too much. We had to include a gulag atrocity AND a 1989 flashback which linked to a stymied romance with an idealistic young doctor who had returned to the West a mere 36 years ago – AND they were still talking to each other on the phone?  puhleeze!

Meanwhile, as to the fourth, it’s back to the SBS[the Hitler channel]-syndrome, cos after all we all know that Germans are either communists or Nazis, right?

Hence The Captain.  It’s a film treatment (not the first) of Willi Herold, a German soldier who in the last weeks WWII by means of an adventitiously found uniform impersonated an airforce captain. Proclaiming himself to be on a special mission authorised by the Fuhrer, Herold embarked on a spree of summary execution and mass murder of deserters, “traitors” and, as it happens, 5 Dutch “spies”.  The incident concerning the Dutch “spies” doesn’t make it into the film, though I suspect it was the original reason Herold was being looked for when he was apprehended by the Allies not long after the end of hostilities.

It’s a story which defies belief.  Herold wasn’t even twenty years old at the time.  How can anyone ever have believed his impersonation?  The film posits that it suited people to do so or at least pretend to.   In such dark times (and this applies to Herold himself) it may well be easier to join in committing atrocities than to risk being a victim of such atrocities oneself.  In a variant of the stock figure I have referred to above, just one man, urged by Herold at gunpoint to join in the slaughter, instead shoots himself.

It’s a visually striking film, mostly in black and white which carries its own reminiscence of WWII German newsreel.  At one grim point I had to go out for a cigarette.   Of the four films I saw in the “festival” this seems the most likely to have an (art house) general release.

Language fail

May 22, 2019

The German Film Festival, now more closely tethered to Palace Cinemas than to the Goethe Institut (which is a shame – I miss all those German taxpayer dollars staffing the foyers) started this week.

Meanwhile, this is (roughly) the script for Flight Centre’s current TV advertisement

Nein, Nee, Non, No

No matter how you say it

There are NO  online booking fees at Flight Centre..[usw]

That’s all very well, or maybe just as well, because the German “No’ in the adjectival sense as in “No booking fees” is (depending on gender of the noun)


as in (I got this off the internet so it must be right))

Keine Buchungsgebühr

Was there not one person at Flight Centre (a travel agent which you would think should profess some expertise in foreign lands and maybe their lingo) who could have put this right?


Twinks and Tipstaves

May 10, 2019

Bernard Gaynor is a conservative Catholic activist and blogger.  His conduct as such was too conservative (or more accurately, just too much) for the chief of Australian Defence Force.  He’s particularly down on GLBTIQ types.

Garry Burns is a self-appointed gay activist whose specialty is making complaints about people who vilify gay people.  If you like (and others might say in his dreams) he could be described as a mixed avatar of Peter Tatchell and Quentin Crisp with a touch of John Inmans thrown in.  He likes to make jokes about his pussy – though of course that is really Mrs Slocum, isn’t it?

Garry has been going after public homophobia and anti-gay vilifiers for a while.  From memory, going back, it started with him confronting vilification from his neighbour in public housing, but after that and particularly with the arrival of the internet he widened his field of vigilance.  The public housing is not irrelevant.  As a pensioner in public housing Burns is the perfect complainer and plaintiff as he is practically speaking immune from fear of any adverse costs orders.

Burns makes complaints to the appropriate anti-discrimination bodies and as he is in NSW eventually hauls those he has complained about up before the relevant NSW tribunal – NCAT.  (Other states don’t all have such favourable laws for bringing this sort of complaint.  Under NSW law, apologies and compensation can be ordered.)

Or at least he did.  Eventually Gaynor and another of Burns’ targets scored a victory on a constitutional point.  The point was not that NSW law could not apply to Mr Gaynor in Queensland (for one thing, that would probably come up against the Gutnick case about publication on the internet occurring at the point of receipt), but rather that state governments could not establish Tribunals (which are administrative bodies rather than courts) and confer on them jurisdiction to deal with disputes between residents of different states.

Even before this finally went to the High Court, the NSW parliament enacted a workaround so that discrimination cases which could not be brought in NCAT could instead be “kicked upstairs” to the Local Court or the District Court, which undoubtedly were courts.

(In the meantime (unless it has now been resolved) there is still an incredible inconvenience that NCAT is no longer available as a low-cost forum for consumer disputes between interstate parties or even for landlord-tenant cases where the landlord is resident interstate.)

But back to my story.

Last Thursday, trumpeted in The Australian but nowhere else, Mr Gaynor had fresh proceedings before the NSW Supreme Court to stop Mr Burns from bringing cases against him in the Local Court pursuant to this “workaround.”  The matter was due to be heard before Justice Harrison.

But before the hearing could get under way, Gaynor’s barrister, Peter King, former member for Wentworth, son-in-law of Ian Sinclair and counsel of choice for out-there right-wing clients, had an oral application to make.

It was that Justice Harrison disqualify himself from hearing the matter on account of apprehended bias.

Apprehended bias is not a claim that a judge is actually biased, but a claim that a fair-minded observer would consider that there was a possibility (real, not remote) that the judge might be unable to consider the matter in an unbiased way.  It follows from the principle that justice must not only be done but be seen to be done, and also, in a practical sense, because of the almost-impossibility of proving actual bias.

It has to be raised with the judge.  Judges almost never disqualify themselves and indeed they are under a duty not to be wimps and disqualify themselves just to avoid the aggravation.  Then (provided you have raised it with the judge) if the judge finds against you you can raise apprehended bias as an appeal point.

First you need some background.  Supreme Court judges have two personal assistants.  One is the associate; the other the tipstaff. Tipstaves used to be retired military men wearing a long frock coat who knocked on the court door to announce the judicial entry and carried the judicial staff, though doubtless  they had other duties. Nowadays they are more likely to be recent law graduates – the positions are generally not advertised and appointments are made by the judge personally.

The starting point of the application was that, a few days before the hearing, Justice Harrison’s tipstaff had sent a series of emails to the parties inquiring about the status of the parties’ submissions – that is, were there to be any other submissions, are these the submissions, please provide them where there were none on the file, and the like.

It is generally assumed such messages are  sent with the authority of the judge, even if it is only a standing authority to attend to housekeeping matters in relation to impending cases.  Messages to and from the court are routinely copied to all parties to dispel any suspicion of private communications on the side.  Parties (especially litigants in person) sometimes fail to observe this but the courts are scrupulous.

Gaynor took exception to the emails on two counts.  First, the tipstaff emailed Burns and asked about his submissions, even though Burns was not taking an active part in the case and had filed a submitting appearance – (there’s probably a more complicated story behind this because it is hard to think  of Burns being such a shrinking violet).  So why was Burns being asked if he had any submissions?  Secondly, Peter King had already provided his submissions.  Wasn’t the tipstaff (and hence the judge) saying, in effect “Is this all you’ve got?””

This doesn’t seem like much to base an apprehended bias application on.  Justice Harrison said that, at the time the message was sent, neither he nor anyone in his chambers  knew that Burns had filed a submitting appearance as this had not caught up with the court file which they had just received.  Even where parties have already filed submissions, it is unexceptional to check that those are the final submissions and that there are not any more submissions or revised submissions or further submissions in reply in the pipeline.  It’s basically a kind of housekeeping.

But that was not all. Justice Harrison’s tipstaff has a very distinctive and hence readily googleable surname.  Gaynor is after all a man of the internet, so naturally he embarked on some sleuthing of his own.

And he found out that the tipstaff was gay.  Not only was he gay, but he had written a letter to Honi Soit  (the Sydney University student newspaper) in 2013 defending the Mardi Gras, volunteered for ACON, published a few more articles including a scholarly article about whether transmitting/contracting AIDS should still be considered grievous bodily harm in the criminal law, been an extra in a film “Wear it Purple” and participated in a group including a Mardi Gras float of that name, and on his Facebook profile timeline had posted a copy of a flyer for the Sydney University 2013 Queer Revue “Peter Pansexual.”

A review of “Peter Pansexual” had described it as follows:

“Directors Tom Murphy and Bro Reveleigh brought together a loud, proud, fabulous and unashamedly crude hour and a half worth of consistently laugh-out-loud funny skits. Highlights included the ongoing storyline starring Captain Cock and her dildo hands, the beautiful Fran Gianpanni’s rendition of ‘I’d Gaffa Tape My Balls’ (sung to ABBA’s ‘The Winner Takes It All’), and a Julius Caesar/Romeo and Juliet/Mean Girls mashup sketch.

Head Writer, Blythe Worthy, stole the show with her consistently excellent performances and lovely voice. One of the show’s real strengths was its diverse, nuanced portrayal of the many shades of sexuality. While there were, of course, the requisite gags starring dildos and twinks, the show roamed far beyond stereotypes and sequin jokes and even came perilously close to salient social commentary in parts.”

And there was more.  In October 2018, during the storm over the joint letter from the heads of Sydney Anglican Diocese schools claiming that they needed to be exempted from anti-discrination laws, somebody, now Justice Fagan’s tipstaff, had posted somewhere a comment to the effect “Thankfully my school didn’t sign this ridiculous, backward letter. But many did. [plus a bit more].  And Justice Fagan’s tipsfaff was now Justice Harrison’s tipstaff’s Facebook Friend!

So I suppose the application boiled down to:

  1. The judge’s tipstaff had sent the emails;
  2. The judge had chosen a tipstaff with pro-gay and therefore anti-Gaynor views;
  3. The tipstaff had a Facebook friend who in 2018 expressed other “anti-Gaynor” views.

(1) can hardly have amounted to much on its own; (3) was almost nothing; did (2) take things to some kind of tipping point?

As to 2, Harrison J said:

The personal views of my tipstaves are largely unknown to me, except to the extent that they are revealed in the context of the relationship I have with them as my assistant in chambers. My current tipstaff’s employment was neither influenced by nor dependent upon his social or political views. It was, in contrast, significantly informed by his outstanding academic and employment credentials.

So the answer is no.  The application was dismissed.  (Gaynor v Local Court of NSW & Ors [2019] NSWSC 516)

One publicaton by the tipstaff that Gaynor did not choose to complain about was a rather good submission to the NSW parliamentary inquiry into historical gay hate crimes in Sydney – which I guess was based on a research project for his law degree.  (Correction: google tells me probably his honours thesis for his BA.)

Postscript: others have commented here.

Be “informed”

April 22, 2019

This is not the first time I have seen this.

On the Guardian/Australia website, an ad for News Limited, specifically, for subscriptions to The Australian:

“Be informed this election.  $5 a week for 8 weeks.”

I expect News Limited is wasting its money, but I’m a bit shocked that The Guardian is taking it all the same.


April 18, 2019

A nun once caused quite a commotion
When she played, weeping tears of emotion,
The “Moonlight” Sonata
Whilst suffering stigmata
At the Good Friday three hours’ devotion.



March 30, 2019

A bare record:

16 3 Australia Ensemble

I missed the beginning of this concert as I had to attend a surprise 70th birthday party.  I got there half way through the Dvořák violin Sonatina – a piece which I realised I must have played in my past life as a school pianist.  I was let in between movements upstairs at the back.  I normally sit right up close in the front row, but sitting way back does have its charms.  There’s something peaceful about sitting all on your own without neighbours and acoustically distance, though it reduces the volume, clarifies the perspective.

Inexplicably, almost all of the core members of the ensemble weren’t playing in this concert: only clarinetist David Griffiths and pianist Ian Munro were there.  The next concert will also be without the same members, and the flautist Geoffrey Collins doesn’t appear before September. What’s going on? Is this a question of long-service leave? I think an upfront explanation should have been proffered rather than leaving things to the fine print of guest artists for each concert. We have the unedifying example of the Australian String Quartet before us when management presume to think that the identity of an “ensemble” is their own brand rather than the players which make it up.

The other items I heard were:

Steampunk by David Bruce and Saint-Saens’ piano quartet No 2 (No 1 is a posthumously published juvenile effort).  As ever with S-S, the piano part had lots of notes.  I thought I would be familiar with it, but found that I wasn’t.  It’s a strangely Bachian number – in that respect a bit like the first movement of the second piano concerto – with Mendelssohnian aspects.

25 3 Alessio Bax recital

I was too late to the party to get to AB’s Mozart concerto performance the previous week which had the added attraction of Beethoven 8 at Angel Place.  I went to the recital after a torrid day in court but managed to stave off drowsiness.   The program  was mostly in d or D. I was disappointed with the second section of the Dante Sonata (roughly speaking, pages 3 and 4) which didn’t feel despairing/dolorous  enough, but AB was saving more for later.

After the concert, the mother of one of those long-ago youthful violinists (he is now a violist in a UK orchestra) by pre-arrangement gave me some discs of video recordings of some performances from that era which she has recently transferred from videotape.  I haven’t been able to find a means of playing the discs yet.

26 3  Salome

My fourth time.  I swapped a row D seat for a marked-down front row one.  Lisa Rindstrom terrific still in the title role.  My neighbour, who had engaged in a little discreet lap-conducting throughout, was astounded to hear it was my fourth time – he said he was exhausted after just once.

29 3 SSO Barry Douglas, Laurence Renes, SSO – Sibelius 7, Brahms piano concerto No 2 

Also an opening number  by Richard Mills, who was present.  A babe in arms and/or a toddler also made their presence known.  Why are infants admitted?

On Saturday afternoon I caught most of the live broadcast of a repeat of this program.  The Brahms is much more splendid when the engineers can give the piano a hand; ditto for the assistance offered to the woodwind (always hard to hear in the SOH stalls)  in the Sibelius.

Decision restricted

March 21, 2019

The unsatisfactory thing about the internet is that nothing is permanent.

If you really want to keep something you should copy or download it while it is up.

History is constantly being rewritten.  (Let’s not get started on links, which on many of my own older posts on this blog no longer work, even for things such as judgments which you might think should keep a permanent place.)

Yesterday I noticed that a decision of Magistrate David Heilpern from September 2017, [2017] NSWLC 19, had been amended.  Specifically, the text of the decision, including the name of the parties, is “restricted.”

What could possibly be so explosive or sensitive about an almost year-and-a-half old Local Court judgment that we should not be permitted to read it?

Wonderment increased when I discovered that the original decision, Commonwealth DPP v Adam James Easton, had been overturned on appeal by the DPP before Justice N Adams in Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions v Easton [2018] NSWSC 1516 .  Actually you can read quite a lot of the original judgment there.

Magistrate Heilpern’s (overturned) decision had dismissed charges against Mr Easton for failing to vote at the July 2016 Federal election.  Mr Easton had claimed he did not vote for conscientious grounds which would have excused him.  On appeal Justice Adams held that Mr Easton’s claims did not cut the mustard, or, rather, that Magistrate Heilpern’s consideration of them did not.  The matter was sent back to the Local Court for rehearing.

According to quite a good summary here at Buzzfeed, it was probably the publication by Magistrate Heilpern which provoked the appeal.  The Commonwealth couldn’t stand the publicity.

So why has the judgment been suppressed now?



March 9, 2019

This is a belated post.

Opera Australia has just mounted Alban Berg’s c 1920 opera, Wozzeck.  The big selling point has been the direction and characteristic projected animated visuals by superstar artist William Kentridge.  (Actually there is a whole design team involved  but their names can’t really squeeze into the headline.)

I went three times.


First night.  I sat upstairs on the left.  I could see the surtitles and all but the back left and left top corner of the stage.

I was distracted throughout by the noise from the projector mounted not so far from me on the front of the circle which was the source of most of the projections.  From where I sat it was almost as loud as quieter orchestral details which were consequently lost to me.

I struggled to take in action, words, the orchestral commentary in the music and Kentridge’s constantly changing visual commentary.

Kentridge’s visuals are based on an apocalyptic vision of the Western Front in WWI, with dirigibles, aircraft, maps of Bullecourt and frequent invocations of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s up-pointed moustache.

Various reviewers who ought to know better nod seriously and draw a link to Alban Berg’s experience of war horrors in the trenches.

As far as I can tell, Berg’s only military service was training in Hungary in 1915 before he was invalided out.  He was then consigned to a desk job in Vienna.  It was the humiliations of military life in the ranks rather than the horrors of war that he complained about and found a resonance of in Wozzeck.

And what’s all this about the Western Front and the Kaiser?  That’s a bit like reaching for the Hitler toothbrush or the swastika for WWII.  What about Franz Joseph?


On the second night I sat upstairs at the right front corner.  This gave relief from the projector fan and a good sound from the pit at the price of missing out on the surtitles and an overall view of the stage.

Leaving the second performance I overheard a North-American –accented woman saying:

“The one thing I remember about the production I saw which was realistic is the boy at the end.”

In this production, there is no actual child on stage.  Instead, a gas-masked puppet.  Kentridge has justified this with  something not unlike the usual complaints about appearing on stage with animals and children.  But surely Berg put the kiddie in for a reason?  Kentridge doesn’t trust this and wants to run his own concept.  OK, that’s his prerogative but something has been thrown away with the bathwater.


I wanted to give the whole thing another chance where I could be exposed roughly equally to all the elements of the production.  A seat in the middle of the front row for the third night was marked down from B to C reserve.  D has gone to China which meant I could snap it up by exchanging his ticket for Werther.

I couldn’t see the surtitles but I knew the libretto reasonably well, falling back on the gist for some of the more wordy parts such as the Doctor’s lists of medical symptoms or the drunken speechifying/sermons in the tavern scene.  After listening to a recording numerous times and following bits of it in the score, I can’t say I had unravelled all of the mysteries of the various musical forms employed or worked out all the things the commentators find exquisite, but I’d assimilated enough of the musical language and material to be able to respond to more of the threads than when I started.

Ironically, sitting up the front meant that I could focus much more on the singers.  The relative impact of the projections was much less and no longer overweening.  For me they worked much better that way.

The whole thing was utterly compelling.

My favourite scene is the Tavern/Inn/Wirtshaus scene.  Berg writes for the main orchestra, a chamber orchestra (within the main orchestra) and an onstage band  (banda) of  clarinet, fiddles, accordion, guitar and bombardon –which is basically a marching-band version of the tuba. Berg says a tuba may be used provided it can be muted. Part-way through the scene the player is directed to insert the mute.

We had a tuba.  I loved the moment when, instead of an ordinary mute, a pillow was tossed into the bell of the tuba by a fellow inngoer from his would-be-sleeping spot just above.  Turn that music down!

Internet resources:

There is a great little selfie-video of the tuba part here.  (If a mute went in it must be out of shot.)

At the Berlin 1925 premiere, the part of Marie’s son was performed by Ruth-Iris Witting.  Her father, Gerhard Witting, was Andres, Wozzeck’s fellow soldier.  You can hear Ruth-Iris, I’d guess about 8-10  years older and in quite different repertoire, here .


Werther 2019

March 5, 2019

Last night for the third time to Opera Australia’s revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s production of Massenet’s Werther.

There was a time when French opera was more prevalent – I guess because of the cultural prestige of Belle Epoque Paris at the height of opera’s boom years.  My grandfathers’ generation went off to WWI singing funny words to the soldier’s chorus from Faust,  then the most-performed opera at the Met.

Tastes have changed, in the Anglosphere at least.  Apart from Carmen and Australia’s idiosyncratic obsession with The Pearl Fishers, Opra Straya has difficulty enticing audiences to the French repertoire.  So it was that I was able to secure at D reserve prices a spot in the middle of the front row for my third performance.

I’ve seen this production in at least two previous stagings – in 1999 and 2009.  I have a memory of feeling in 1999 that it was familiar, which would mean I also saw it in 1989 or 1990.

At the beginning there is one of the longest-fuse setups ever as for no other apparent reason there is a kind of Christmas-in-July as Charlotte’s father teaches her younger siblings a Christmas carol.  We will hear this again offstage for ironic pathos at the end when Werther returns at Christmas and kills himself.  Act I also sets up the domestic idyll which on the one hand so attracts Werther to Charlotte and the conformity to which by Act II he is a doomed outsider.

At the second interval on the first night I found myself between 2 older (than I) women. Each fumed – B, to my left, at the choice of work and the other worthier works therefore overlooked, but also at the production (“wasting my time”); the other at the “stilted acting.”

I tried not to let it dampen my own enjoyment.  Massenet’s music is so agreeable.  I think of him as being a later equivalent of Schubert or Rossini (and lesser lights of that period) composers who have at their disposal a kind of settled musical language which is immediately accessible.  It’s kind of middle-brow but it is very fluent narrative music.

Act III opens with Charlotte rereading letters from Werther.   She reads three, and each has its own orchestral sound world – my favourite is the wintry first – set off against her impassioned outbursts after reading each.  Even B was mollified by this, proclaiming of Elena Maximovaat the end “she’s the star.”

That’s a bit rough on Michael Fabiano.  The problem is that in the opera (as opposed to the novel where you get to know him through his letters) Werther is a hard character to warm to because he comes across as a bit of a gloomy creepy stalker. He has such a lot of big singing to do (which MF was absolutely well up to) that his vulnerability is overshadowed by his desperation.

My a golden rule about revivals is things always get a bit coarser.  Luke Gabbedy’s Albert was a bit in this territory.  I don’t recall Albert being quite so boorish in earlier iterations and I don’t see why he should be.

Charlotte’s younger sister, Sophie, has to carry the most of the burden for light relief with some fairly cliched coloratura-soubrettish stuff..  That, and their father’s drinking chums, are the low point (for me) of Massenet’s musical invention.

There are some other oddities in this production.  Why does Charlotte’s father, Le Bailli, so fall out with those chums between Act I (when he goes off to join them at the Golden Grape) and Act II, when with a disapproving look he hurries his children past them on the way to the service to celebrate the pastor’s 50th wedding anniversary?  Could it possibly be because they are Catholics?  One of them makes a mock sign of the cross, which seems odd for a little village near Frankfurt where the pastor is married.

Then there’s the newspapers:  in Act I Le Bailli was reading Pravda.  In Act II one of the drinkers took La Stampa, from which he looked up, seemingly surprised but also informed, to announce “C’est Dimanche.” – I suppose the director thought that was the best that could be done with some pretty clunkily expository libretto.

It’s a great night for a big orchestra.  There were lots of exchanged smiles: they obviously enjoy playing this stuff.  Principal cello Teije Hylkema had many eloquent moments. A quartet of French horns did more than invoke lusty drinkingness.  At the third performance I realised Robert Johnson was in the pit.

Between first night and second night,  Michael Fabiano’s acting improved (I’d say he just relaxed a bit into it) and Stacey Alleaume toned down the perkiness, which was a relief.

I enjoyed the second night the most.  I’m glad I went for a third time but I’ll probably stop at that.


Bloody old Barry O’Sullivan

February 19, 2019

In Senate Estimates today, Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan was inveighing against the proposed/impending levy on stevedores, which has been justified as helping to fund Australia’s biosecurity efforts.

His claim is that biosecurity is more threatened by people entering Australia than by imported goods, and that if a levy is to be raised it should be raised from them.

That’s an arguable point. I’ve no idea of the respective risks.  Let’s leave to one side for a moment the legerdemain of “levies” as taxes dressed up as some kind of user-pays impost.

But I  was taken aback at how the senator chose to make his point.  The transcript isn’t up yet, but according to AAP, and reproduced without comment in the regional and national press:

“There’s a bigger chance of us having a biosecurity breach from some bloody old Chinaman that brings in his favourite sausage down the front of his undies,” Senator O’Sullivan said at Tuesday’s hearing.

And later:

“I’m not opposed to a tax to raise money for biosecurity, but from those that pose a risk. So start with the Chinaman,” he said.

Why pick on the “Chinaman”?

It is a word which which all  Chinese-background people I know find offensive because of its historically derogatory usage.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Senator O’B apparently doesn’t know this.

Update here.

And here.

I have been surprised at the slow reaction to this (only SBS and Junkee took up the story at first), because the Chinese-background (and not only Chinese – Japanese Americans have also complained about this) reaction to the term is pretty unequivocal.  The slow media  reaction goes to show how deeply ingrained casual racism is.

Meanwhile, I like to think “Bang goes Bennelong.” John Alexander will have to hit the streets at Eastwood to dissociate himself pdq.


Belatedly (in my opinion) Bill Shorten seized the day to denounce O’Sullivan on Wechat (= the overseas version of the Chinese quasi-Facebook, Weixin – I had an account linked to my Chinese mobile number but have failed to maintain it since that number lapsed).  The leader of the Nationals distanced himself from O’Sullivan (who lost preselection for the Qld No 1 senate spot and will be “retiring” when his term expires this June/July), describing him as “off the reservation.”  It turns out that this too is a phrase with unwelcome associations to Native Americans, as Labor MP Brendan O’Connor was quick to point out.  That may have been a bit of an own goal given that Andrew Leigh, Penny Wong and another Labor parliamentarian have all used the phrase relatively recently, though the (Labor) Northern Territory chief minister has recently disclaimed future use of the term after its connotations were pointed out to him.