Freestyling for Peace

Monday, September 21st marked the International Day of Peace for 2009 – this year Brisbane saw a number of events large and small to commemorate the day of global non-violence and ceasefire.

Two that I was involved in running through the International Day of Peace Alliance, were the International Day of Peace Fair out at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens and the Youth Peace Parliament.
The Peace Fair was on Sunday to reach out to a larger crowd and featured stallholders from charities and community groups, as well as performers from a number of different cultures and the nine Rotary Peace Fellows who have been selected from across the world to study at the University of Queensland.

The IDPA’s convenor, Richard Cowley organised a live linkup via Skype with the UN Mission in Afghanistan to talk about the effects of the ceasefire on last year’s Peace Day (a 70% reduction in violence in the country) as well as preparations for another ceasefire for this year – more details on that here.

Between the preparations for the Peace Fair and the Youth Peace Parliament, I hadn’t got much sleep for the past several weeks, and only about 3 hours the night before the Fair, so when I got out to the Gardens at 7am, I wouldn’t let myself sit down for more than a couple of minutes at a time, or else I’d start to drift off.

And the fourteen hour day on Sunday led straight into the Youth Peace Parliament on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  This year as well as the parliamentary side of things, we’d added streams in Arts, Media and Research to give students (drawn from high schools across Queensland) with different skills and interests, more opportunities to participate.

The Media Team produced a daily broadsheet detailing the events of the Peace Parliament as well as running a Twitter feed and a live blog (here) and the Researchers helped out with in-depth analysis of the issues before the parliament, and held meetings with lobby groups to carry their concerns back to the parties for further action.

One of the absolute highlights of the YPP though, came about in the lunchtime of the last day – which we’d had to move inside because of the apocalyptic dust storm that helpfully travelled up from Sydney.   One of our two Arts facilitators, Luke Haralampou started some activities which led to a freestyle battle between him and our Deputy Youth Premier.  I was locked away in a meeting at the time, to help decide who was going to receive the various awards for their participation, but everyone was buzzing from it and when we came out, we could still hear the cheering.

Luckily, I’d heard Luke, Lesson MC, perform at the Peace Fair, so I had some idea of how great his performances could be.

And it inspired me to write this –

My bearded brother from Greece
Free-form poet, warrior for peace
Luke, my brother, does it lower your opinion
When I confuse the Greek with the Carthaginian?
Do you think I’m just an ignorant boy
‘Cause I think of our Youth Speaker when people speak about Troy?
How could you not grow up thinking war was a farce
When your country’s greatest weapon was a wooden horse’s arse?

Luke’s going to be performing at the Blackstar Street Party on October 2nd – everyone who’s got the time, should get along if they can.  Details below the fold – Continue reading ‘Freestyling for Peace’


Camembert and Synergy: an outsider’s impression of the QAG’s Up Late gig

Queensland Art Gallery

Friday July 31st

The Art Gallery’s idea for joining the visual arts with live music has lots of potential for drawing in new crowds and cross-fertilising others, but the mechanics still need work.

The exhibition is mostly drawn from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection with some Australian artists rounding out the display, and the performers on the night were the magnificent Dave Graney and Kim Salmon.

As I understand it* Impressionism ekes from an actual image the essence of the movement, vibrancy and moment.  By manipulating colour, light, perspective and motion of a still life, the artists take away the life and leave the stillness behind.




= Impressionism

In the landscapes and cityscapes, this style reached straight into my internal thermostat, tweaking it down with the European frosts, while the heat from the Australian bush beat out from the canvasses despite the chilly night outside.

Images from Australia’s past, usually glimpsed in funereal sepia, came to life in rioting colours and motion – the unfinished arc of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the lost street cars of Brisbane and beach scenes from 1940s Coogee became real in a way that realism fails to convey. Continue reading ‘Camembert and Synergy: an outsider’s impression of the QAG’s Up Late gig’

The Emotiku, or “I’m a grouchy old man”

Inspired to greater things by this article in the Guardian, I put aside my metaphorical cloth curmudgeon’s cap, and donned my inventor’s chapeau (with built-in lightbulb, Red Bull cans and straw).

No longer would I impotently rage against punktuation, I would fashion a solution. Albeit to only a small part of the problem. The fate of the apost’ates will wait another day.

I loathe emoticons. They’re both trite and a tacit admission that I’m unable to communicate properly through the text itself.

Which is sometimes true, as email inhabits a strange twilight realm between spoken conversation and the written word. But it irks me, nonetheless.

Sometimes roadsigns are needed to help others navigate through my frequently rambling conversations and to convey things that tone or expression would in speech.

Unwilling to debase myself or sully my prose with the odd ; > or ): ( I was left with little choice but to forge a better, more elegant signifier, built from the ground up, solely for use on the internet.

To whit – the emotiku

{Winking icon hides

Undying hatred for you

“Just kidding, ROFL”}

* * * *

{To profess love scares
Yet comedy masks intent
“Go together? LOL”}

* * * *

{Scholarly debate
Quickly degenerated
“U R like Hitler”}

* * * *

{Scatter now e-friends!
Deadlines approach, sleek, deadly
(I can haz more posts?)}

* * * *

{Frustration vexes
Pester me not with unjokes
Begone e-dullards}

* * * *

{Winking face online

May signify many things,

Clarifies nothing}

* * * *

{Your ideas bore me

Stop this incessant prattling

No really. Stop it}

The Veracity of Hope

Yesterday I threatened a friend of mine that if he called the election, even saying out loud what all the polls were telling us, I was going to blame him for any subsequent Obama defeat.

Regardless of the other factors that may have fed the result –

  • an excoriating scree of unconscionable slanders against the candidate, a concerted effort to purge the electoral rolls
  • a mainstream media spectrum that spanned the overly cowed and cautious to sickening and sycophantic propanganda
  • and an outdated electoral system that almost demands hypocrisy between the primaries and the general election and which mandates corruption in the form of political lobbying
  • a political paradigm that had shifted to the point where pundits could openly and unashamedly question the faith and loyalty of a man who’d spent most of his life educating or serving the public

– still, Jeff was going to wear the blame for a defeat.

I shut him up. I refused to let him say the words aloud, and I think the results speak for themselves.

I won this election.

Since the tragedy of September Eleventh 2001 but accelerating with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, America has been acting as a dark beacon for the rest of the world, providing a blueprint for an increase in governmental powers at the expense of individual freedom, for a choking off of accountability and democracy itself, and wrote the script for a new political debate that more than ever before did away with facts and reason. Talking points that were almost a physical assault on logic, that could stun an opponent for the vital moments it took to make them look indecisive or shifty rolled out of the White House, as did political strategies designed to divide and conquer progressive politicians near and far.

The Howard Government lapped up the excuses to slash and burn civil liberties in the name of security, jumped the train to the Iraq invasion, happily marched to the drumbeat of climate change denial, purged the rolls of minorities who didn’t like them, and hamstrung same-sex couples in order to out outmaneuver their opponents.

The Education Minister even spoke up for Intelligent Design.

Almost a year ago, the pendulum swing finally threw Howard out, but I still wasn’t sure the same would be true of the Republicans today.

But partly because there’s only so long you can keep such disparate groups yoked together, partly because of the disastrous results of their policies, and partly because of the inevitable return of the pendulum, the neocons’ seemingly unassailable place at the top of the heap foundered. But I still couldn’t bring myself to fully believe that it was going to come to an end today. There were too many factors still lined up against Obama.

Apart from the unknowable effect that race could make between polling and polling day, the true effects of the concerted efforts to literally disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of people across the USA couldn’t really be estimated.

Three and a half years ago, after having seen Obama speak just the once, at the Democrat Convention, former Saturday Night Live comic Al Franken wrote an extraordinary epilogue to one of his books that predicted this win.

It took the form of a letter written in 2016 to his grandchildren (Barack, Hilary and Joe III) recounting the time when history turned and the darkness of the Bush years gave way to a rebirth of hope and of faith in democracy. The election where America refused to be driven by the politics of fear and hatred and elected the first African American president, and a former Saturday Night Live comic who had no previous political aspirations.

Al Franken is now dead even with the Republican Senator he challenged for the seat in Minnesota.

Maybe it’s time to give in to optimism.

Caribou Barbie may destroy the Earth – VP debates

If I could paraphrase the Governor’s talking points from today’s debate

“Maverick, reformer, God Bless ’em, Energy Independence, get Government out of our way, too much pointing backwards, massive government oversight needed, Washington outsider, partisanship, reaching out also, lots of straight talk needed, Heartland of America, change also, folks, Dog gone it, ordinary people, kitchen table, soccer also.

And in summation, I’d just like to say “Up there in Alaska, team of mavericks, peace out y’all.”

Although her abysmal performance in recent one-on-one interviews has lowered expectations dramatically (and in the debate she blamed the mainstream media for filtering her – presumably they had a few hours of blank stares and rambling nonsense from her that was spliced into the interview to sex it up) she performed pretty well today, if the standard for debate was merely show.

The debate format allowed for talking point, counter talking point and soundbytes and grabs much better than an interview. The time limit also meant that several topics had to be squeezed in, and without the luxury of poking past the facade, none of the terrifying glimpses into what lurked beneath were really in evidence. There was no time to push for a proper answer when the issue had been skipped, although the moderator did note when that had happened.

Palin was trained (at a slew of 5 different colleges for a threfour year degree) in media, so it wasn’t surprising that her performance was pretty slick. She made up for McCain’s noticeable lack of eye contact with his opponent by addressing Biden square on. And when Biden was talking, the Governor had a variety of smirks prepared to let the audience know he was being ridiculous.

Her recent trip to the UN provided a lot of anecdotes to call on in the debate to fill out her foreign policy experience beyond her cross-border voyeurism of being able to see Russia from (parts of) her home state.

But in the end she still talked rubbish – not the alarming word salad of her interview with Katie Couric, but polished nuggets of sound and fury. The supposed political outsider still cited her executive knowledge and partisan experience in politics as qualifying experience; flaunted her knowledge of energy policy which seems to stem from being governor of a state what makes energy; used a handful of synonyms for maverick enough times to stun a moose and blatantly cherrypicked John McCain’s record to paint a picture startlingly at odds with the truth.

McCain’s maverick history includes:

– lobbying for campaign reform. After being caught up in the Keating Five scandal in the 80s but before running for President, at which time he ditched those efforts because he needed money. And lobbyists. And industry support

– opposing offshore drilling. Until running for President when he needed to beef up his energy policy.

– speaking out against divisive ultra-rightwing Christians who preach hate. Until running for President when he needed to beef up his support among the evangelicals

The most egregious lie being about a team of mavericks, and John McCain’s record being that of an inveterate outsider. Although as Biden pointed out, not on the most important items of the day – the war and the economy.

Being a maverick between crises is like being a vegetarian between meals.

It was only in the closing minutes that I realised where I’d first seen Joe Biden – which was a Senate hearing into the use of torture where he was saying the reason the US didn’t do use it was because then US soldiers, like his son, would face it in return. I thought Biden did well, despite being saddled with gratuitous advice from all sides about not being mean to Palin, and lowered expectations.

Although at one point, he did talk about “Serbs, Croats and Bosniacs” – and I’m pretty sure the latter were a nigh-omnipotent race of energy beings from Star Trek.

The Vegan Challenge

I think it was around 2000 when I picked up an anthology of horror stories at my local library (there was one by Isabel Allende, too – get off my case). The only one that’s really stuck with me, other than the Allende (which seemed to contain a few of the seeds for Daughter of Fortune, and was arguably, not really horror anyway) was a story set in an piggery.

The protagonist (henceforth known as “Bob”) for reasons I can’t remember, throws a colleague into a gigantic steel grinding machine. As the victim is torn apart from the feet up, he screams in orgasmic pleasure. Which puzzles Bob afterwards, but the death is ruled accidental and life, for everyone else, goes on.

Months later, Bob is gored by a bore in one of the pens, and as he drags himself out of harms way, the pig chews off his genitals as well.

As Bob, bleeding and mutilated, contemplates his future, he remembers the ecstatic shrieks of his victim as he was devoured by the grinder.

Dragging himself to the machine, he jumps in. And as the blades slowly shred his body, he realises that his victim had tricked him into the most horrible and painfully bloody death imaginable.

Which brings me to the Vegan Challenge. Continue reading ‘The Vegan Challenge’

The big BB guns – Bills Bailey and Bragg

Just after my last post (Activist Underpants) which covered Bill Bailey and others protesting about Guantanamo Bay, I discovered this video of Bill Bailey and Billy Bragg collaborating on Bailey’s Bragg spoof “Unisex Chip Shop” at the Glastonbury Festival.

Straight after that I found this video of Billy Bragg talking on the need for a British bill of rights…

Continue reading ‘The big BB guns – Bills Bailey and Bragg’