Saturday, September 10, 2011

Criticizing the Critical Critic

He struggles with ratings both on the radio (where MTR's failed talk format will more than likely change back to music in the near future) and on the television (really, why does Channel 10 even bother?). And whilst he is believed to be widely read, both online and in print format through the Murdoch distributions, I think Bolt's power as a commentator is on the way down. Here's why:

1. He is repetitive
Bolt has his hobby horses, being
In the same way we turn off politicians who keep spouting the same message, again and again and again, Andrew Bolt is starting to sound like a broken record. And with each additional repitition of his messages more and more people will start turning off.

And whilst politicians use repetition as a way to sell their message one must remember Bolt is essentially there for entertainment purposes, and a means of selling advertising space. Repitition will not make for entertainment in the long term, and as readers drop off so will the advertising. Media organisations are there to make money and it doesn't matter who you are, if you have declining readers you will be dropped, quicker than a hot potato.

2. He is Lazy
In the recently create website The Power Index, Bolt is decribed as the number one "Megaphone". In describing his output:
Bolt blogs like a man possessed. It's not unusual for him to start posting entries before 6am and continue until midnight.
But being a man possessed, posting entries 18 hours a day, does not necessarily mean that most of this output is orginal. If you want to, take a good hard look at his blog over a 7 day period. You will find that the majority are simply lifted from other sources - be they readers providing contributors, or media types - with maybe a couple of lines at the end penned by Bolt himself.

There will only be a couple of entries per day that is diatribe from his own thoughts. This does not appear to be a hardworking commentator at work.

This laziness reduces his effectiveness as a commentator. In time this will reduce his power to influence.

3. He Lacks Detail.
It is easy to write crtically of others. Believe me I know. I do it all the time. However gathering evidence and testing that evidence takes time. Time that could be otherwise spent creating half a dozen poorly checked blogs.

Don't just take my word for it. Read about it here, here and here.

This lacking in detail trips him up from time to time, and eventually this culmination of errors will reduce his credibility as a commentator.

4. Ego
The writing was on the wall when he was lured to Channel 10 with his own TV show, The Bolt Report. When the focus moves from the issues of the day to the size of the head of the commentator the credibility gap is further enhanced.

This ego will be undergoing a check with the demise of radio segement and likely demise of his television show.

5. The Guy Is A Dick
In my opinion.

6. Change of Government
If you believe the polls and the commentary at the next federal election there will be a change in government. And if there are no surprises within the Liberal Party the next Prime Minister will be Tony Abbott.

So we will be in a position in Victoria where both the State and Federal Governments will be conservative in outlook.

So, what outrages will Bolt write about then?

No Gillard and no carbon tax. Nothing to get all steamed up about. So no confected outrage. And then nobody to take an interest in what he is writing.

Ultimately his greatest wishes will be his downfall.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Baying for Blood or Too Much Red Cordial?

My two sons had a couple of their friends for a sleep over last night. The total energy that these four kids have, with their late to bed and way too early to rise stamina, is matched only by their inability to put that energy to good use (And yes, this is a grumpy old man chastising the young 'uns of today). These four boys do remind me of the print and online media this morning, especially in the speculation, insistence and baying blood with the resignation of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.

I was going to just attack Bolt's diatribe under the heading of Queen's Reign Is At An End, But Who Wil Be King?, but that's a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. What would you expect from someone like Bolt, especially after his boss had a run-in with Gillard earlier in the week?

And someone with Bolt's mentality was always going to go in hard for calls of her resignation, even if his reasoning is half-arsed, at best. What you are less likely to expect are the calls coming from those who really should know better.

I'll start at the Fairfax publication in Melbourne, The Age.

Michael Gordin tries hard in A Matter of Judgement, but if you are going to use a John Howard quote about Gillard, or a quote from Milne quoting Bolt in The Australian, you've lost any respect that you were trying to build earlier in your column.

Lenore Taylor's column Panic Leads to Speculation That Stirs the Winds of Change is ultimately a bit of a nothing piece, as it seems to state that a) Gillard wont resign, b) no-one's going to push her to resign and c) Labor has a lot of work ahead of it. OK. Thanks very much for stating the obvious. If you however add the words panic and speculation hopefully it turn a nothing piece into a, well, another nothing piece.

Most of the rest of The Age, including the Editorial, appear to be more balanced, indicating that whilst there are major issues for the Government to deal with, they will be dealing with them with Gillard at the helm.

So let's move to the mighty Murdoch Empire, and its national flagship, The unAustralian.

Sid Maher - Labor Leadership Ructions Loom Large
Dennis Shanahan - In This Stench Who Would Want To Take On Leadership
Peter Van Onselen - Respected Cleanskin Might Save The Furniture
Tom Dusevic - Malaysia Solution Fiasco Leaves Gillard's Government All At Sea
Jennifer Hewitt - MPs Getting Ready To Think Unthinkable
Paul Kelly - Multiple Disasters for Julia Gillard

And if you read all of these articles there is more hope than anything else that Julia Gillard is replaced as Prime Minister.

Now for those of you living under a rock these last few months, you may wonder why our national broadsheet seems to have it in for Gillard. Certainly one could say that there is no love lost between the Gillard Government and The unAustralian. You have this dummy spit back in June by The unAustralian after they were denied a "scoop" due the Defence Minister deciding to publicly release information needed for this "scoop" (See my Blog entry about this.) There have been ongoing tensions between the two groups as the editorial bent of The unAustralian appears to be firmly against the Gillard Government, and most notably in respect of the issue of Carbon Tax.

Things stepped up a notch with the Milne article early this week, the "series of phone calls" and the apology issued by The unAustralian, combined with the pulling of articles by the Bolt bloke (See my blog entry about this earlier this week).  It's not too often that Murdoch press has to back down on an issue, and even less often when a grovelling apolgy is issued. This was one of those times. It is within this context that one should view the mild hysteria being displayed in today's The unAustralian. It also explains why this piece of crap was written today by Ewin Hannan - 8am Call That Put Julia Gillard's Old News On The Front Page.

Now there are problems for the Gillard Government. They unfortunately created the mess that was called The Malaysian Solution and they will need to clean this up now that the High Court has effectively blocked this as an avenue to deal with assylum seekers. And whilst Gillard's comments about the judgement have sought to inflame the anti-Julia brigade, I actually think that Paul Kelly is sort of correct in his article Argument May be Unwise But It Is Sound (though I suspect that this has been edited from what originally appeared online last night).  I actually have no problem with public commentary by a Prime Minister in respect of a court decision, and think that the confected outrage is just more of the same from those wanting to compose the obituary of the Gillard Government.

And whilst pokies reform and carbon tax are to other policy areas that the Government will need to concentrate on, their biggest issue is dealing with their problem of effective communication. Their media strategy needs to be rewritten and those advising the Prime Minister and the government on communications need to be replaced. The Government has achieved a lot and will more than likely achieve a lot before the next election, however the manner in which the effectively communicate these messages is poor.

Not that it helps when half the media are jumping around as though they have drunk too much red cordial.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Barrie and Bolt - Different yet Similar

I am no fan of Andrew Bolt. His regular rantings, be they on radio, print or television show you what happens when poor journalism meets inflated ego. Whether it's his ponderings on the climate change (warmists!), the Gillard Government (disgraceful), the stolen generation (treading carefully around current legal issues) or whatever else he decides to deride on any particular day, you can be sure that his comments are couched in a way to gain maximum bang for buck. And I guess that is why he is employed by his various employers, as controversy almost guarantees increased reader/listener/viewer-ship, which is hoped makes the advertisers happy. But you still can't get away from poor journalism.

I am also no fan of Barrie Cassidy, he of the ABC, for pretty much the same reason - poor journalism. He may be a veteran journalist, but in my view longevity does not necessarily equal quality. Just look at Piers Akerman. Or Terry McCrann. And his current roles of the host of Insiders on Sunday mornings, combined with regular offerings on The Drum, online, are showing increasing signs of tiredness, resulting in poor journalism.

It may not be all Barrie's fault. Maybe the budget cuts at the ABC mean that the news and current affairs staff are all stretched much too thinly. Why on earth is Barrie doing both Insiders and Offsiders? I don't care who you are, being seen to cover both Politics and Sport competently on a Sunday morning is a very hard ask. And maybe the articles on The Drum are seen as simply contractual obligations that need to be fulfilled. I don't know. And quite frankly I don't care why. Whether it is of the ABC's making or whether it's Barrie himself, the end result is poor journalism.

My last two media rants have been directed at these two journalists. Andrew's dummy spit earlier this week caused a flurry of activity in the Twittersphere and resulted in many inches of blog writing, including my blog entry. And I had blogged about Barrie's recent posting on The Drum, here.

Barrie's latest offering on The Drum can be read in full here. It seeks to try to create the story of who the next leader will be for the Federal Labor Party once Abbott apparently becomes Prime Minister.

Respected journalists do not  produce articles of this poor standard. The only actual facts in this article are from the quoting of polling results for Victoria (relating to state politics, not Federal). The rest is a combination of rehash, speculation, wishful thinking and fantasy.

Now the Craig Thomson "affair" was titillating and allowed the Opposition to become very animated during Question Time last week. But looking at the big picture this was nothing other than a sideshow. This in itself will not bring the Government down. And I have previously discussed the concept of a person being seen as innocent until proven guilty. Barrie had a go at this issue in his last article, and I think he may want this to have a little bit more traction before he ultimately lets go of it.

The High Court decision is a blow to the Government. There is no question of this. A lot of political energy had been expended on the "Malaysian Solution", and the High Court's rejection of it is not only embarrassing for the Government, but also seeks to highlight the issues of offshore processing. I was interested in reading Andrew Elder's blog entry about this at Politically Homeless as he is/was a fan of the "Malaysian Solution". He brings up a couple of thought provoking points concerning the development of a regional solution to deter what is in essence people smuggling. However one wonders whether the time, money and political capital being expended on this issue is really necessary. Or actually achieving anything.

Whilst it is embarrassing for the Government, they are hardly the first Government to be knocked back by the High Court. Nor is it the first time that the High Court has turned perceived established principles on their head (Read the Mabo Case or any number of decisions that have gone against the Australian Taxation Office). The test of any Government, and especially this one, is how they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start right over again. It will be interesting to see what their Plan B is, or even if they have one (or actually need one).

Getting back to the article being disected, Barrie then writes this sentence:
It goes to competence and leaves the public wondering whether they can ever get anything right.
Easy on there, Barrie. One swallow does not make a summer. Or are you referring to the Building Education Revolution (97% success) or their continued ability to successfully negotiate their way through Parliament as a minority Government, or their earlier success in sidestepping of the GFC? Yes they can't get a bloody thing right.

Then Barrie goes off with the fairies and brings up polling of the Victorian political landscape and somehow manages to show because the public apparently think Ted Bailleau's doing an OK job this translates federally to Abbott getting in as Prime Minister.

Obviously there is a huge amount of evidence that Barrie has in order to state that:
Undoubtedly, much of Labor's sudden demise in Victoria is a branding issue. The state parties are being dragged down under the weight of an unpopular Federal Government.
I am sorry. This is nothing other than BS. You are adding one and one together and coming up with thirty three. With apologies to Rod Tidwell, "Show me the evidence!"

What then follows is an analysis of what apparently are the top two candidates for the position of Federal Labor Leader once Gillard "goes". Bill Shorten (yes, of course) and Mark Butler (WTF!?).

The piece then finishes, rather curiously, with this:
It will come as no comfort to the current leadership team that key people spend their private moments in such musings. But given the events of this week, they can be thankful those musings are essentially private.
This final paragraph reminds me of the keynote address by Jay Rosen recently at the Melbourne Writers' Festival.  You can read the transcript here, on The Drum. I won't spell out why Barrie's conclusion to this article is symptomatic of what is wrong with his journalism. Jay spells that out more clearly than I could ever hope to.

Barrie and Bolt. Different style of journalism. Same outcome.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bolter: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

It may not be common knowledge but a piece written in The Australian on Monday by Glenn Milne with allegations concerning the Prime Minister (but nothing more than a nasty muck-raking excercise) was pulled from the online edition of The Australian (it can be found here if you want to read it in full).

It was replaced by the following apology:
THE AUSTRALIAN published today an opinion piece by Glenn Milne which includes assertions about the conduct of the Prime Minister.

The Australian acknowledges these assertions are untrue. The Australian also acknowledges no attempt was made by anyone employed by, or associated with, The Australian to contact the Prime Minister in relation to this matter.

The Australian unreservedly apologises to the Prime Minister and to its readers for the publication of these claims.
Not some sort of half-arsed apology. A pretty full, all encompassing, "boy did we screw that one up", apology.

In addition to this retraction and apology, News Corporation also censored a couple of blogs posted by Andrew Bolt, he of the local tabloid, Herald-Sun.

This was all done allegedly as a a result of some harsh words between the Prime Minister and the CEO/Chair of News Limited, John Hartigan.

Good old Bolt has then had a good ol' dummy spit today.

Appararently he went on strike. For a couple of hours. I'm not sure if too many people noticed.

A bit of a whine on the radio.

And now this article which I am guessing will be in Wednesday's Herald Sun. Read it in full here:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Hand Overplayed.

Sometimes these blogs just write themselves, with the help of Andrew Bolt, the gift that keeps on giving.

Where to start?

For an columnist who continually oversteps the lines of decency, I find the opening line a case of the pot calling the kettle black:

THE Prime Minister overstepped the line when she called the chairman and CEO of News Limited, John Hartigan.
Then a line that seeks to suggest without actually stating:
Calls that look like an attempt at censorship have many sinister overtones, with threats of inquiries and forced sales left hanging in the air.
Then the line that promised so much. But unfortunately failed to deliver:
I was considering resigning as a News Limited columnist.
There were shouts of joy, and parties being hastily arranged. Unfortunately it appears the streamers may have been hung up a little to early, as it the resignation was only considered, and not acted carried out. More on that in a moment.

All this because of his articles were pulled from his online blog.

Interestestingly he states that on Saturday he was instructed not to comment on the alleged matters until further legal advice had been received. No mention is made of the outcome of that legal advice. But, no matter, Bolt went ahead anyway. As a result ...

Posts from my blog were pulled on Monday, although I believe they were fair, accurate and in the public interest.
Because his beliefs are apparently stronger than legal advice.

A few paragraphs down Bolt makes the implication that the Prime Minister's judgement is questionable as a result of being involved with someone who later turned out to be a con. That's pretty much it. The manner in which this involvement (which occurred many years ago) somehow means that she is not a fit person to hold the office of Prime Minister is what one might consider to be "drawing  a very-very-very long bow".

Still throw enough mud and some of it is bound to stick. Which is what Bolt hopes with blogs like this.

The fact that the Prime Minister actually has enough clout to speak directly to the News Limited CEO to get the original articles pulled and for an apology to issue is what really riles Bolt. Someone with more "power" than him has actually used it, and has stopped him from writing something.

What then follows are a couple of "join the dots" paragraphs where it is implied that News Limited could be nervous about potential political action being taken by Government to somehow affect the way News Limited operates in this country. I find this very funny indeed as the implication normally is the exact opposite, that politicians need to keep chummy with the media so that they keep the negative reporting to a minimum. I guess the current attitude by Gillard and the Government is "Bugger that. What is the media going to do that is worse than what they are doing now?" Sometimes the best form of defence is attack and Gillard is using this strategy. The bully boy media organisation doesn't like this and steps back, shaken.

Well here comes Bolt to rescue the poor media empire. But first the suggested resignation:
Not being able to report on what I consider improper pressure by a desperate Prime Minister to kill a story meant I could not report fairly on the political scene as I saw it.

I could not do my job, and I consulted friends about resigning. I am now told that News Limited was just being cautious while it checked its legal position. Hartigan told me: "At no stage is my job to stop stories getting into papers."
That's a curious, but slightly meaningless thing for Hartigan to say. And what exactly does that mean? And how is that supposed to placate Bolt? Well it seems to have. For he hasn't resigned. Yet.

So then back to attacking the Prime Minister by Bolt.  But not before a suck up to his employer:

I thank News Limited for defying the Prime Minister and letting me write as I have above.

I apologise for doubting its commitment to free speech.
And then the final insinnuation about the Prime Minister:

But be aware how endangered is our freedom to speak as we find, especially of this Prime Minister.
Something tells me this is not over. Not by a long shot. But I think Bolt needs to be careful as the Prime Minister has her back up, and quite frankly so she should. The constant smearing of her name and reputation by the likes of Bolt would slowly but inevitably lead to a reaction by the Prime Minister.I just don't think he is fully prepared for the sort of repurcussions that this will lead to.

The article is a dummy spit and reminds me of the saying "If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen".

I think Bolt got his fingers burnt yesterday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Space Filling on The Drum

Barrie Cassidy seems to have quickly typed up an article regarding Craig Thomson on ABC's The Drum this morning.

You can read the full article here.

What is interesting is how the title of the piece, "Never mind the substance, feel the hyprocrisy" doesn't accurately reflect the contents of the article. Well, not in the way that it was hoped by Barrie and the ABC.

The piece tries to tie together a number of current issues involving the government and politics at the moment, including low opinion poll numbers for Labor, the Carbon Tax, pokies reform and Craig Thomson. It also includes a trip back to the early Howard years in a bizzare attempt to connect code of conduct breaches made in parliament to Carig current "alleged" issues.

Now Barrie may or may not be writing with a political bias. It is really not for me to say. Sometimes his writing is so haphazard that it is difficult to see this clearly.

Anyway, here is my response which has been forwarded to The Drum for posting.

Barrie, I have a number of issues in respect of another poor article that you have written.

Let me say from the outset that it's not a good look for Labor at the moment.

However I am glad that our judicial system does not work on whether something is a good look or not.

A police investigation is underway in relation to this matter. It is too soon to say whether charges will be laid. And then the man has a chance to defend himself in court.

We live in a society where in a court of law a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.

It's a real shame this doesn't seem to apply in the media, and the court of public opinion.

I also consider that your attempt at comparing the Liberal ministerial resignations in the late nineties due to breaches in a "code of conduct" to Mr. Thomson's alleged activities to be a bit of a red herring. It is interesting that you didn't refer to a more recent and more relevant comparison with current charges against a member of the Liberal Party. You may have strengthened your case had you done so.

Barrie, you may not like the coalition currently in Government and think that it is unworkable. I guess I would look at the volume of legislation that has passed through parliament as evidence of the fact that it is workable.

You may point to the current opinion polls as evidence of the dislike of the current arrangements but dislike does not mean unworkable. The electorate, as a collective, has provided the mix of politicians ad parties in the current parliament, meaning that this is the new political reality. Deals need to be done in order for a major party to form government. Liberal would have done the same. It is indeed fortunate for the Labor Party that the current opposition leader has managed to alienate himself from the independents to such an extent that a future Liberal/Independents coalition is unthinkable whilst Abbott is in that role.

In respect of your comments that "the jurors have been announcing their verdicts one by one" I can only believe that you think that you and your ilk, as political commentators, are the "jurors". If that is the case then that is extreme arrogance. If the next election sees a change in government it will not be because a bunch of journalists and commentators think that this should happen.

The Carbon Tax is certainly a brave step for a government to take, as is the pokies reform. Reform is always scary. Fear plus loud opposition does not necessarily mean bad reform. It just means that the communication from the government needs to be clearer about the benefits of the reform. If the current government is guilty of anything it is that they can't sell a policy to save themselves.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fruit Loop

For the first time in a while I have had the opportunity to sit down to watch "Q and A" on the ABC. Normally this is a fairly benign program with a bunch of mildly important and sometimes amusing people answering questions from both the audience and online.

Tonight's Q and A was no different with a couple of pollies on both sides of the spectrum (Doug Cameron and Nick Minchin), activisits, authors and the like. And then there was Daniel Pipes.

Wikipedia describes Pipes as an American writer and political commentator.  Most of his commentary is based on the Middle East political affairs, including commentary on Islamism and its dangers to the greater world. Ho Hum, you are probably thinking. Another American commentator sticking his nose into Middle Eastern affairs. So what?

Whilst I watch Q and A I also read the twitter feed of commentary of the show, using the hashtag #qanda. Most times the twitterati are more entertaining and more informative than the panellists on the the show.

Anyway, one of the twitterers provided a link to an article written by Pipes on his website, titled Bushfire Jihad? If you really want to you can read the full article here. By why would you waste your time? I did, and am struggling to appreciate the manner in which a number of loose facts, speculation and suggestion can be strung together to produce an article suggesting that the Black Saturday bushfires were the work of Islamic terrorists.

Apparently you need to consider these facts (according to Pipes):

  • Humans cause fires
  • Terrorists are known to play with fire
  • Other people have written in the past fearing that Islamists might use fire as part of attacks in Australia
  • Some non-Muslim groups have used arson as part of terror attacks in the last 40 years
  • Bin-Laden's group apparently celebrated the Black Saturday bushfires
  • Islamists have caused fires in Israel

After these important facts are articulated (sort of) the next sentence provides the connection. And I quote directly from the article here (so you can understand I am not making this up):

Despite this evidence, Bendle notes, the Victoria Police hyperbolically dismissed the possibility of an Islamist attack even as the blaze was in full force and well before it had any knowledge of the fires' cause.
And then:
Were the fires part of a jihad effort, it would fit an established Islamist goal.
The rest of the article provides apparent examples of other possible arson related terrorist attacks (I probably should use the word "alleged" here, a couple of times) in other countries around the world, most notably in Israel.

OK, it might be that I am a resident of Kinglake and have experienced these fires first hand, but I am reading this guy's article and just shaking my head. This is a person that seems to enjoy conjuring up conspiracy theories to validate his opinons in regards to the Middle East. And uses a devastating natural disaster here in Australia to do that? And then the ABC invite him onto Q and A??

I am sorry, but What the Fuck??

Daniel Pipes, leave the country now. And never come back.

ABC, what were you thinking?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Night Tomfoolery (12)

The melody's origins are from Ukraine and now played throughout the world, the song Hava Nagila is sung in Hebrew and the title literally means Let's Rejoice. According to "the site that knows all", Wiki indicates that the text to the song was probably composed in 1918 to celebrate the British victory in Palestine, during World War 1.

Legandary singer, Harry Belafonte, was well known for singing Hava Nagila as a standard during his performances. Hear is an early video of Harry and Danny Kaye performing the song as a duet..

Sunday Night Tomfoolery, however, seeks out the strange and the unusual.

The first cab off the rank is Dick Dale (descibed as the Jimi Hendrix of surf music) and his Del-tones from his 1963 album "King of the Surf Guitar".

Chubby Checker released this version in 1963, combining it with his Number 1 hit, The Twist.

I could subject you to Hava Nagila being played on the accordian, but I wont (there are just too many versions of this on accordian to be found on YouTube. Just don't go there.)

I'll also spare you Andre Rieu's version. He has too much exposure already. And the audience has way too much difficulty in clapping in time to the music.

This next clip can only be seen once, if only to work out how The Four Squeezins play Hava Nagila.

Anyone who is familiar with the Monty Python hit movie, Life of Brian, will possibly understand the humour in this next version, played on bagpipes.

I don't think I have previously featured any banjo playing on this blog. This will only happen on rare occasions, such as this Clawhammer Cello Banjo player playing, um, you know:

1963 must have been the year of Hava Nagila. Here is another 1963 release, this time by Swedush group The Spotnicks:

This one just wrong on so many levels. Apologies for the poor video quality. Here is a Bollywood interpretation of this song:

Yes, I have a brass ensemble arrangement, or to be more precise a low brass arrangement, performed by Ithaca College Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble, complete with poorly timed clapping:

This one is truly annoying. Hava Nagila is sung from about the one minute mark. Before that time, prepare to be entertained by cats singing What Child Is This:

And yes, I have painted myself into a corner this week. Unfortunately that means that animals singing songs will be next week's Tomfoolery, unless I can come up with a better topic.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Night Tomfoolery (11)

George, John, Ringo and Paul. Together they were known as The Beatles, and were a musical phenomenon. I wont go through their list of achievements; you can read about that here. They would have to be the most recognised band in the world, and their songs have been copied and rereleased by numerous artists over the years. Indeed, Yesterday has over 1,600 covers recorded, at one time making it the most covered song in the world.

Well tonight's Tomfoolery has sought out parodies of The Beatles and their songs online for you entertainment.

Eric Idle and Neil Innes created The Rutles in 1975, orginally for UK television. They are probably the best known of The Beatles parody bands, appearing throughout the mid to late seventies. They released a couple of albums during that time, including The Rutland Weekend Songbook (1976) and The Rutles (1978) together with a documentary titled All You Need is Cash (1978).

Here is Ouch! Can you guess which Beatles song this is a parody of?

And here is Cheese and Onions, probably one of their best efforts, complete with a brilliant video ripping off Yellow Submarine.

The final Rutles clip I have here is the first part of the mockumentary, All You Need Is Cash. This is an all star cast and includes Michael Palin, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon and George Harrison (as an interviewer). You can definitely feel the Pythonesque influences of this piece, courtesy of Eric Idle.

I really don't know how to introduce this next clip, except to say it is Hey Jude, as you have never heard it before.

The next two clips feature when I'm 64, and work on roughly the same theme. The first is When I'm 94 by Bruce Kerr/harley5521. The second is by one of my favourite Australian comedians, Tony Martin, as sung on his radio show, Get This, back in 2006.

This next one is actually the first clip that comes up when you type "Beatles parodies" into Youtubes. It's from the Peter Serafinowicz Show:

Now a clip from Sesame Street, with a song sounding remarkably like Twist and Shout:

Back in the 1989/1990 on ABC television Andrew Denton hosted a show called The Money or the Gun. Each show ended with the well known song Stairway to Heaven sung in a different style by different artists. Here is The Beatnix with their version:

The final clip (and yes the topic of next week's Tomfoolery) here is the tribute band, The Mop Tops, singing Hava Nagilah.

Fear and the Perception of the Diving Economy

This is a recording made back on 4th March 1933, of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's (FDR, the USA's longest serving and arguably best president) first Inaugural Address as President of the United States. As a bit of a backdrop this speech was made during the Great Depression, when unemployment was around the 20% mark, and in the middle of a "bank panic" (sort of like the current GFC). The reference to the often quoted "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" was specifically in respect of this bank panic. (As an aside, if you have some spare time read the entire Address made. Can you picture any current day leader making a similar speech? How times change.)

And so we come to the present day, where we the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Now, I know that hyperbole is apparently what make papers sell, but haven't they all gone just a bit over the top in recent days. Let's take a look at some of the stories in our papers over the last couple of days. First The Age:

This Time It's Serious
Share Market Set For A "Wild Ride"
Europe's Leaders Escalate Crisis Talks as Panic Threatens

And now the Murdoch press - The Australian:
Another Brick In Wall Of Worry
Reserve Slashes Growth Forecast

And our local tabloid - The Herald Sun (home of The Bolt):
$40 Billion Wiped From Aussi Superannaution Funds
Brace Yourself For Chaos. Welcome To Official Crisis 2.0
and with a headline to insult those impacted by the February 2009 bushfires
Black Friday: How Does It Affect You?

I wont even start with the ABC with it's wall to wall doomsday coverage.

Now I am not saying that the media should ignore the economic events. There are news stories hear and they should be reported. My beef is in the manner in which they are reported. What you currently have is an upside down cynical version of The Lion King's Circle of Life:

The fear being reported will lead to uncertainty being felt by the average investor (and even those that should know better). They will try to sell their investments in a soft market, leading to lower prices. This will then be reported on resulting in increase uncertainly and fear and thus the circle is complete.

Not all in the media are intent on feeding this fear frenzy. Take for example this article by Fairfax economics editor Ross Gittins - Are We Talking Ourselves Into A Recession?. Whilst I don't necessarily agree with his deflection of media failings, I think this paragraph, in the middle of the article, is a nice summary:

So if the underlying reality of the economy is enviably good, why are we so dissatisfied and anxious? Why are we so ready to think the worst about the prospects in America and Europe and to conclude - contrary to all the evidence - that tough times for them spell tough times for us? Well, not because the media are revelling in the bad news and forgetting to mention the good. They always do that. It's just that, when we're in an optimistic frame of mind we ignore the gloom mongering, whereas when we're in a pessimistic mood we lap it up.
Annabel Crabb, from the ABC, does have a point when she identifies how our federal political landscape is helping to feed this level of fear that we have in Confidently Going Where No Confidence Has Gone Before. In particular, about Tony Abbott:
 On the other side of politics, we have a chap undertaking a horror-theatre tour of the nation, donning garish costumes to frighten householders back into their homes. “Coal is doomed! Steel is doomed! People who make those little widgets that help shower doors roll properly are doomed! DOOMED, I tell you! You there! You with the sandwich! Enjoy that sandwich! Because sandwiches are DOOMED!”
And don't get me started on the lunacy that is politics in the USA. For any local readers of my blog, if you are wanting to get a handle of the US political situation, but in a slightly humurous way, you could do worse than watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report (with 2 silent Ts). As an aside, Australia desperately needs a similar program, with the demise of The Chaser only John Clarke and Bryan Dawe provide any form of satirical observation of our politicians on television (I miss the days of The Gillies Report and Back Berner).

Sorry, back to the topic at hand. So we are currently in a position where the perception of poor political leadership, by both sides, coupled with actual poor leadership being shown overseas (both in the USA and in Europe) has lead to a reduction in spending, combined with an increase in saving.

The problem of drawing back on spending is that there are a lot of businesses out there that rely on you to spend, spend spend. Whether it's the manufacturer, importer or retailer of that thing you used to spend money on, or the operator of that entertainment venue, food place, holiday destination you're now not going to. And they are now feeling the pinch.

So, they start shedding staff. They delay payments to their suppliers. Or they close their doors.

This is how a recession starts. All this because you believe what you read in the newspapers and hear on the radio and television and are too afraid to spend your money.

We do not have the financial issues that other countries are facing at the moment. Not even close to it. But we may get that way if you listen to the doomsday merchants out there, both in the media and in politics.

The answer is simple. Ignore the media and the opposition and go out and spend. Your economy will thank you for it.

What are you afraid of?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Night Tomfoolery (10)

One of the many benefits of having kids is that it provide you with a legitimate excuse to view, or review, kids' shows (with the kids, of course!). Whilst there are a number of good kids' shows being made now (and a whole lot more that can only be described as absolute crap) I have also had the pleasure of introducing some old shows to this, newer, audience. Sometimes when I show these to my sons they laugh at me not with me, as some of the cartoons I used to watch as a kid have not aged well.

Sesame Street has run continuously for 42 years, so is one of the few shows (Play School is probably the other one that readily springs to mind) that hasn't seemed to date between views, and still seems fresh (and funny)to both me and my kids.

This final Tomfoolery on Sesame Street looks at some of my favourite segments from the Sesame Street I grew up with, as well as some funny parts of more recent episodes, found whilst researching these last few blog entries.

Now my top six favourite characters in Sesame Street are (in no particular order):

Kermit, Grover, Oscar the Grouch, Guy Smiley, The Count (explaining why I am now an accountant) and Cookie Monster (explaining my love for food!). These characters will feature in the videos that follow.

The first two videos both feature Kermit the Frog as a reporter on Sesame Street News with "another fast breaking news story". These news reports are all based on well known nursery rhymes and fairy tales with the story going off on an unexpected tangent. Most of them have buried in them some educational content such as explaining words or concepts. The humour in these reports works on a multitude of levels, for both kids and adults.

Here is my all time favourite - Rapunzel.

And Old Macdonald had a farm (and the yep-yep-yep aliens)

Other Newsflashes include the 3 Little Pigs, Humpty Dumpty, Pinocchio and Jack and the Bean Stalk.

Grover and Fred Johnson provided some of the funniest moments on Sesame Street. The Grover and Fred sketches involved Grover as a waiter (usually at Charlie's Restaurant) and serving Fred, with something usually going wrong. Once again there is an educational component in there somewhere. Here are three of my favourites.

The first one teaches the alphabet, and involves the serving of (surprise, surprise!)alphabet soup. I love Grover's orders to the cook. Listen carefully.

The second one (my all time favourite) involves the ordering of a hamburger.

This last one sees a change in scene from a restaurant to Fred's home and Grover as a pizza delivery man. This one should be shown as a customer service video for businesses.

Oscar the Grouch brings a dose of reality to Sesame Street. All shows need a trouble maker and Oscar is it (any guesses as to who Kinglake's Oscar is?). No further introduction required for these next two clips:

Now Guy Smiley isn't one of your main Sesame Street characters. He is "Everybody's favourite game show host". I just seem to remember him quite clearly from my early viewing of Sesame Street. Here's why:

His official name is Count von Count but we all know him as The Count. A generation or so before the Twilight series, and True Blood, The Count was my introduction to vampires. And my introduction to counting.

How cool is it to cause thunder and lightning inside an elevator?

This next 'Tube has both The Count and Cookie Monster learning to ... cooperate. I love the screens exits at the end.

The final one is a parody of The Beatles, with Cookie Monster singing Hey Food.

And yes, this leads us to next week's topic which is Beatles' songs parodies.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Night Tomfoolery (9)

Originally composed by Joe Raposo, Can You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street has been the theme song for Sesame Street since this start. The lyrics of the song were composed by Raposo along with John Stone and Bruce Hart. Stone felt that the song was a "a musical masterpiece and a lyrical embarrassment".

The above version was used from 1969 to 1991 - and this is the one I grew up with (being a Sesame Street viewer in the early to mid seventies).  After that the melody has been rerecorded, using different beats with slightly different feels. Here is the opening theme used from 2003 - 2006.

Music has been a very important part of Sesame Street. A lot of the educational "lessons" were taught through song. The following clip teaches us about All, Some and None. It was composed again by Raposo and sung by Bip Bippadotta (who will feature later on, in one of my all time favorite Sesame Street songs).

In 1972 The Pointer Sisters recorder the following song to teach kids how to count to 12, with it debuting on Sesame Street in 1977.

And another classic counting to 10 song

Now to a slightly more recent piece (well something beyond the mid seventies). In doing some research for tonight's blog< I found this piece, called Put Down the Duckie, first aired in 1989 and featuring Ernie and Hoots the Owl, but with a cameo list a mile long, including Paul Simon, Madeline Kahn, John Candy, Danny De Vito and about 2 dozen other well known actors and musicians. Beware, as though you will be humming Put Down the Duckie for the next week or so!

I mentioned to my wife that I was blogging about Sesame Street songs and she mentioned the next one, In My Room. I must admit I don't recall this one myself. Maybe she remembered this from when our kids were watching Sesame Street:

I do remember this one. Ernie seems to feature in a lot of songs on Sesame Street. Here is probably his most famous one, Rubber Duckie:

Back to the seventies again, and here is a semi regular segment where Bob McGrath sings about People in Your Neighbourhood. The following features a life guard and carpenter:

Now Cookie Monster assists in singing one of the "One of These Things Doesn't Belong" educational songs:

At the end of each episode of Sesame Street there were closing credits music. Often they were quite short

But every now and then you would get the long credits, going for a couple of minutes. Here are the long credits for your enjoyment:

This final one is my all time favourite, orginally composed by Piero Umiliani for an Italian film, Sweden: Heaven and Hell, Mah Na Mah Na was recorded by Bip Bippadotta and used regularly on both Sesame Street and The Mupper Show. This will lead on to next week's final topic on Sesame Street, my favorite segments.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cutting Through The Crap

The Prime Minister addressed the nation's heavyweight political journalists at the National Press Club in Canberra today, mainly as part of her selling tour of the carbon tax. In response to one of the questions at the end of her speech, Julia had some, one would think, commonsense advice to her audience - "Don't write crap".

It is a relief to note that in the past couple of days we have started to get a glimmer of thoughtful media analysis cutting through the crap, ignoring the side shows, and providing a proper review of carbon tax proposal.

That means less discussion about Tony Abbott's daily photo ops, visiting "hardworking" business owners to scare the bejesus out of them about how the carbon tax will destroy their business. This hasn't stopped him from continuing his trips, although he has now stepped it up notch to include his family as seen at the fish market yesterday.

One starts to wonder whether the ongoing Chicken Little approach by Abbott and Co is starting to wear just a little bit thin. Not yet with the public (though there may be cracks appearing - see this report on tonight's Abbott Forum), and certainly not by the loony fringes of the media - hello Andrew.  However, there are a number of articles by serious commentators in the mainstream press that are starting to call out Tony Abbott for his "sky is falling" hysterics, and realising that the Emperor's New Clothes are illusory. (Try to keep up with my analogous metaphorical references).

It's useful to have the weight of the numbers on your side and in this instance the numbers refer to the large percentage of Australian economists that believe that the Government's carbon policy trumps the opposition's "direct action" policy. Michael Stuchbury (Economics Editor for The Australian) has picked up on this with these two recent articles:

Economists Mostly Agree on Things, Survey Finds
PM Trounces Abbott in Economists' Survey

Peter Martin is a respected economics and business journalist currently writing for Fairfax. Here is his take on Economists v Tony Abbott:

Abbott. Economists Vote.

On The Drum (ABC website) Queensland academic John Quiggin also looks at why economists don't like the Abbott plan.

Lenore Taylor, writing for Fairfax (Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) as National Affairs Correspondent wrote this piece yesterday (and yes, the Chicken Little reference above was copied from her - imitation is the sincerest form of flattery):

Facts Assail Chicken Little Act

In other, related news, the recently announced takeover proposal of Macarthur Coal has seen an interesting development where the Chairman of the company, Keith de Lacy has indicated that the proposed carbon tax will be able to be easily absorbed by the mining companies, seemingly at odds with the pronouncements of the mining industry's own peak body.

The kicker to this news is the revelation that Joe Hockey is adamant that Mr. De Lacy is wrong. It is amazing to see the number of groups and individuals that Abbott and Co think are wrong in supporting the carbon tax.  (And  Newsflash to Joe Hockey - whilst economists aren't elected to run the country neither are politicians. You don't "run" a country.  Politicians are not directors of Australia Ltd, as there is no Australia Ltd.)

Trouble could also be brewing within the Liberal Party as Malcolm Turnbull is having difficulty in clearly articulating his support for Tony's direct action plan. His performance on ABC radio yesterday should have warned his party that the direct action plan may not be the policy that the Opposition will be presenting at the next election. Listen to the interview, or read the transcript here.

The Government have got a long way to go before they are out of the woods politically, but this is not a sprint, it's more like a long distance race. And I think Abbott is carelessly expending all his energy in the first hundred metres. It's good that some in the media are starting to see, and more importantly report, this.


I liked this article by Lenore Taylor in Fairfax this morning:

Price Fantasies of Veg Growers and Barrow Pushers

It's not just the Opposition spouting crap about the proposed carbon tax. Various industry groups are out there overstating the price implications of the carbon tax, or some media's interpretation of their overstatements. I applaud Lenore for highlighting this.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Night Tomfoolery (8)

Conceived in 1966 and premiered on PBS in the USA in 1969, Sesame Street is a little kids show that seeks to use humour, puppets, music and the occasional famous person to teach kids about all of the basics, such as letters, numbers, language, shapes, etc. Now in its 42nd year, it is watched in over 140 countries arounnd the world. In America it has won 8 Grammies and 118 Emmies, more than any other children's television show.

I remember watching a fair bit of Sesame Street in my early years. The characters of Bert and Ernie, Grover, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Elmo, The Count (my favorite), Big Bird and of course Kermit, were a staple part of my television diet.

Sesame Street wasn't just about puppets, as there were many humans interacting with these characters. People such as Mr Hooper, Bob, Maria, Luis and Gordon taught me about life as well as any teacher did.

One of the great things about Sesame Street is that it attracted a number of well known actors, entertainers and musicians to perform and play for the kids. Tonight's Tomfoolery will explore some of these performances (well, those that I can find on YouTube, anyway).

Last week ended with Natalie Portman's performance with Elmo. Tonight will be another performance with Elmo, this time with Jack Black (in 2008) teaching us about what an octagon is.

Now for Annette Bening and Cookie Monster, teaching us about Here and There.

And Cookie Monster sharing his cookie with Susan Sarandon.

Now we have Liam Neeson, doing the second best counting to 20 I have seen, with The Count.

American talkshow host, Larry King, interviews the letter W:

As well as actors, there have been a number of musicians on Sesame Street. This first one sees Victor Borge talking about practising on the piano.

Andrea Bocelli sings a lullabye to Elmo.

The videos shown above are all very slickly directed and most of them are pretty recent. The next two are from 1973; firstly Stevie Wonder and band with Superstition.

And then teaching Grover to sing.

The final two videos for tonight shows legendary trumpet player, Winton Marsalis teaching music. The first was shown in 1985 and discusses playing notes.

This final one was shown in 1998 and was again about playing notes.

We're going to stay with this theme for next week, as we explore music on Sesame Street.

Have a good week.

Environmental Savior or Nothing More Than Tax Restructure?

At midday today the Prime Minister, flanked by the Treasurer and Climate Change Minister, conducted a press conference where details of the introduction of the Carbon Tax were announced. The main talking points at the press conference, and by the media on their websites, concentrated more on the income tax changes and how much taxpayers are going to get, rather than on how the carbon tax will actually allow Australia to reach its goal of carbon emissions reduction by 2020.

As far as small businesses and individuals are concerned, the key taxation points are:

An effective increase in the tax free threshhold to just over $20,000 from 1st July 2012. The change in the effective tax free threshhold since 2000/2001 has been created as a graph here, by Twitterer @MattCowgill.

Small businesses will be able to immediately write off plant and equipment purchases of up to $6,500. This has the potential impact of reducing income tax payable by many thousands of dollars.

Centrelink and Family Assistance Office recipients will get more.
  • Up to $338 extra per year for single pensioners and self-funded retirees, and up to $510 per year for pensioner couples combined.
  • Up to $110 per child for a family that receives Family Tax Benefit Part A.
  • Up to $69 extra for families that receive Family Tax Benefit Part B.
  • Up to $218 extra per year for single income support recipients and $390 per year for couples combined for people on allowances.
  • Up to $234 per year for single parents in addition to the increased family payments they receive.
(information courtesy of ABCOnline)

There will be an eventual and gradual reduction in Fuel Tax Credits claimed by eligible businesses over the next couple of years.  It will be interesting to see what the exemptions will be here as currently these credits are claimable by primary producers, owners of trucks with carrying capacity of greater that 4.5 tonnes and mining companies.

If you are interested in finding out how much money you will be entitled to under these announcements there has been a handy calculator on a newly created website,

Now this money is being provided to the Australian public because the 500 largest polluters in the Australia will be paying a carbon tax of $23 per tonne, from 1st July 2012. This tax will be replaced by an emissions trading scheme in a few years time.

The economic modelling of the carbon tax is actually quite complex. From a simplistic point of vew here is what will happen:
  •  The carbon tax will mean that prices will go up in a number of key areas, such as food, electricity, consumer goods and transport (though petrol itself is not subject to carbon tax). The expected increase in prices is shown in the following ABS graph (The key thing to note here is that the anticipated CPI increase is expected to be much lower than the increase in prices caused by the introduction of the GST):
Taken from Peter Martin's blog -
  • The tax cuts and Centrelink payments have been announced to compensate the majority of people from the effects of this increase in prices. This will be paid for by the introduction of a carbon tax.

  • For the 500 companies paying the carbon tax they will have an economic incentive to become more efficient emitters of carbon so that their carbon tax payable will reduce over time. And it is this point that is the key to the expected reduction of the carbon emissions.

Now the details of the economic modelling from Treasury can be found here. There is lots of detail which will no doubt will be analysed and pulled apart by economic analysts and expert commentators over the weeks and months ahead.

Now I have sat through and watched the press conferences of the Government, the Greens, the Independents (well two of them, anyway), and finally the Opposition.  Here are my views:

There has to be some discussion as to how much of the government's announcement today is about income tax reform, as opposed to the reduction of carbon emissions. In particular a point was made by Greg Hunt (opposition environment spokesman) that Australia is seeking to reduce carbon emissions by 160 million tonnes and only 60 million tonnes will be reduced through the measures announced today. That other 100 million tonnes will come from ...?

90% of Australians will not be worse off, and to be frank the remaining 10% will only be worse off by a little bit. How does this provide an incentive to make the average Australian change their energy use to assist in overall carbon emissions? It doesn't. The announcements today are designed to only change the attitudes of the country's top polluters. If the government is serious about carbon emission reduction there will need to be more announcement in the future that will either provide additional incentives for energy efficiency or disincentives for maintaining the status quo. Especially when you consider that the three tiers of government in Australia would have to, collectively, be one of the top carbon emitters in the country.

It sounds as though this is a done deal as the Government has the support that is required to get these measures through both houses of parliament. That means that the Abbott and Co's bellyaching and additional photo opportunities that will be reported on by the media will ultimately be a waste of everyone's time. By refusing to take part in the multiparty taskforce on climate change, the opposition have effectively been sidelined from the policy discussions. In the end, it would have been better for Tony Abbott's position for him to have been involved from the inside at the start, rather than the petulant displays we have seen  (and unfortunately we will continue to see).  A colleague of mine earlier this week had stated that the Opposition's main job is to oppose. I disagree with that statement and am sure that I am not the only one in this country that is sick to death of the combatative nature of politics here. I think a better outcome would have been achieved for Australia if the LibNats were actively involved in these negotiations.

The Opposition may need to go back to the drawing board to rework their Climate Change policy. There doesn't appear to be any support for their direct action model, as it will be costly and lacks economic credibility. It's easy to oppose. It's harder to come up with a good alternative plan.

The announcements today weren't budget neutral. What I mean there is that the carbon tax will not fully cover all the spending measures and tax cuts announced this morning. This has to mean that there will added difficulties in the Government attempting to balance the budget by 2013 (which, by the way, is becoming a pointless exercise. Why keep saying that the budget will be in the black by 2013. Any credibility that the Government still has will be destroyed when a budget backflip is announced in May next year).

Ultimately this is a modest attempt at tackling the climate change issues intertwined with some income tax reform. Whilst the policies have now been articulated it is up to Gillard and Co to successfully promote these policies to the general public. Judging on their performances today they will do OK. Whether this will be enough to combat the negativitiy of the Opposition and some of the more poorly informed media commentators will be another matter.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday Night Tomfoolery (7)

Well good evening one and all. Tonight's Tomfoolery is about elephas maximus or loxodonta (cyclotis or africana). Yes, it is elephants, or more specifically elephants on YouTube.

Now YouTube has many differnt videos about elephants. A lot of them relate to either circus tricks (and how elephants are "taught" to perform) or documentary extracts about the normal lives of elephants. Now both topics, whilst interesting in themselves, are not what Tomfooleries are about. I am looking for the weird and wonderful.

So, to start off with, here are some baby elephants playing soccer (or football, for those outside Australia). This is as a part of a BBC documentary about orphaned elephants in Africa.

Next is a short Youtube about a baby African elephant sneezing. Short, but funny.

This next YouTube is quite special. It shows an elephant painting a picture of an elephant. These are Indian elephants (in Thailand) that have either been taught, or naturally have, a special ability to paint pictures. See more at The Elephant Art Gallery. I would not have believed it before seeing the video. By the way, this, and other elephant paintings, can be purchased here.

From here on in it is all fantasy. The next YouTube is a short movie CGI about a particularly acrobatic elephant:

The next two YouTubes are connected to one of the earliest, and one of my favourite, Disney movies, Dumbo the Elephant. This movie is about a baby elephant, in a travelling circus, that was able to fly using his large ears as wings. There are many great scenes and songs in this movie, from Dumbo flying, the three crows and Casey Junior the circus train. But one of the most striking scenes in this movie is when Dumbo gets drunk (weird, I know, for a kid's movie) and starts seeing "pink elephants". This is that scene, with the catchy Pink Elephants on Parade as the accompanying song:

This is now the same scene, with a current variation on the original song.

The next two YouTubes are variations on the song Baby Elephant's Walk. This piece was composed by Henry Mancini (see my previous Pink Panther Blog) for the movie Hatari (starring legendary actor John Wayne). The first version, a funky little number, is performed by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.

This next version is performed by USA marching band, Shieks of Morocco. I could say a lot about marching bands, but for the moment choose not to:

The final video connects my past with my present. As a young 'un, I watched a lot of Sesame Street. A lot of well known actors and musicians have performed on Sesame Street, and this will be the topic of our next Tomfoolery. This particular video features Natalie Portman (very high up on my list of current favorite actresses) with Elmo in a performance of The Princess and the Elephant (no, I don't know it either).

Have a good week.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kinglake Ranges Wilderness Camp

Today I would like to congratulate and pay tribute to Colin and Michelle French, owners and operators of Kinglake Ranges Wilderness Camp (KRWC) and Kinglake Sustainability Leadership Centre (KSLC). I'll refer to the camp/centre throughout this article under its old acronym of KWAC (or its old name of Kinglake West Adventure Camp), as that is the name that I associate it with (Old habits die hard - sorry Colin).

KWAC is, or had been, primarily a facility hosting camps for schools, youth and other groups. It is located on the Whittlesea-Yea Road, on the left hand side, a kilometre or so past the turn off on to Kinglake, if you are heading towards Yea.

KWAC, has been operating for over 15 years and is one of the largest employers in the region. Colin and Michelle have been involved with the camp for over 5 years. The business has a strong reputation for the high quality of the activities provided to all participants, with a very experienced crew managing the whole process (and the food was pretty good too). As their accountant, I have been privileged to have been involved with the business since 2007.

On Black Saturday, in February 2009, the camp facilities were completely and utterly destroyed.

We are now 29 months from that horrific day and, whilst the going has not been easy, the camp is now up and running again, with new, and better, facilities and activities conducted by a committed team, all under the expert management of Colin and Michelle.

Those of you who have not been intimately involved with the recovery process in Kinglake, and other bushfire affected regions, may have some difficulty in fully appreciating the enormity of the task that lay ahead for Colin and Michelle after the fires. As a business person also affected by the fires I am but in awe of the way they have gone about the process of rebuilding. Patience, determination, persistence, flexibility. These are the attributes that have been needed to get the camp rebuilt.

Government has helped. DSE's financial contribution and the collaboration with GOTAFE have meant a facility that is now able to be utilised throughout the year (even in the cold months!). The facilities that have been built bear no relation to those detroyed by the fires, and that's probably a good thing. A fully equipped, and spacious kitchen, cosy teachers' retreat and training rooms are just some of the added extras to the old camp. Outside, and a new and challenging ropes course has been created, as well as the Leap of Faith. A new permaculture garden will provide fruit and vegetables for the camp all year-round.

There has been royal interest in the rebuild. Back in early 2010, when Prince William visited Victoria's bushfire affected regions he stopped in to visit the KWAC site. Here are some photos of the prince, and his entourage with the French family (courtesy of The Australian, and Kinglake Ranges News).

The new Leadership Centre and Training Centre were constructed by another local company, KLMS Australia, a company specialising in modular building construction. Local tradesmen have been used, as much as possible, making this a distinctly Kinglake project.

The reopening of the camp is good news for the Kinglake community. As one of the largest employers in the area, a number of locals will be able to work close to home. The goods and services that the camp sources locally will benefit local businesses, allowing them to employ more staff. Aside from the economic benefits, it provides a boost in local morale to have one of the local iconic businesses back up and running again.

With the facilities fully operational, a number of schools (and other groups) have already experienced the new Kinglake Ranges Wilderness Camp, with other groups booked in up to a year in advance! If you are connected with a school looking for a new camp experience (or maybe a band looking for a weekend band camp) you should contact the camp. Colin, Michelle and the team will be able to look after you.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Night Tomfoolery (6)

Richard Henry Sellers (known as Peter to all and sundry) was born in 1925 and died in 1980. During those 55 years he became one of the Western world's best known comedians. In 2005 he was voted as the 14th top comedian but fellow comedians.

My previous Tomfoolery referred to his work as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies, however his comedic work extended to radio, live performances and a variety of movie and television roles. I'll be looking at only a few of his works. This is a random selection and you'll note that I have not kept to any chronological (or any other) order. I hope this doesn't serve to confuse.

In the sixties, Peter Sellers produced a number of Beatles songs, covered using various accents, mostly in spoken word. Included in these are Can't Buy Me Love, She Loves You - both Irish and German, but my favourite, and probably the best known is Hard Day's Night, in the style of Laurence Olivier's interpretation of Richard III:

From the Beatles I am jumping forward to one of last works, on The Muppet Show (future Tomfoolery gold in them thar Muppet Shows!). Peter Sellers appeared on the Episode 43 in 1978, as various characters, including Inspector Clouseau, a viking, a gypsy violinist and a hillbilly.

Parts 1 and 3 can be found here and here. Here is the middle section of that show.

In 1969 he teamed up with Ringo Starr in The Magic Christian, a satirical story about how money can indeed buy everything. The movie is noted for the large supporting cast of household names (John Cleese, Spike Milligan, Richard Attenborough, Christopher Lee, Yul Brynner, Raquel Welch, Roman Polanski and Graham Chapman, just to name a few). Here is a scene found on Youtube with John, Peter and Ringo:

In 1958 The Best of Sellers came out as an LP (for all my younger readers please refer to your parents as to what an LP is, or was). Included on this album are the following two tracks: The Trumpet Volunteer - an interview with rock star Tommy Iron, and Party Political Speech - showing that political speeches haven't changed a great deal since 1958.

FUN FACT NO. 1: Peter Sellers was the first male (and one of only 3) to appear on the front cover of Playboy magazine. This was back in April 1964.

Between 1951 and 1960 Peter Sellers, together with Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan and Michael Bentine created and appeared on The Goon Show originally heard on the BBC. A mixture of brilliant nonsensical humour, astonishing accents and bizarre sound effects were the hallmarks of this show. The Goon Show inspired later comedic artists and groups including Peter Cook, Monty Python and, surprisingly, The Beatles.

Here are just a couple of items from the Goon Show. The first is - What's the Time Eccles? - with Sellers as Bluebottle (?) and Milligan as Eccles.

And here is The Yeti - Part 1. Part 2 can be heard here.

Other stories from the Goon Show that can be found on YouTube include King Solomon's Mines, The Siege of Fort Knight, The String Robberies, and Ned's Atomic Dustbin.

There are so many other works that can be included here, including his Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangeglove, the much acclaimed Being There, his last movie The Fiendish Plot of Dr Fu Manchu, or his serious role in Lolita. I will finish tonight with some scenes from one of my favourite Peter Sellers' movies, The Party. There is a very "late sixties" feel to this movie, it involves an elephant and a massive pool party, music by Henry Mancini and Sellers in the role of Hrundi V. Bakshi, "a bungling Indian actor accidentally gets invited to a lavish Hollyood Dinner party and "makes terrible mistakes based upon ignorance of Western ways (from a quote in Wikipedia). The first scene I have is essentially the opening of the movie as Bakshi ruins a large set piece being filmed in the style of Gunga Din:

The second and third are the famous Birdy Num Num scenes (there are a couple):

And the final is the baby elephant in the pool scene. This leads us to next week's Tomfoolery on elephants on Youtube.

Have a good week.