Powering down

Damn – can’t believe Christmas and the end of another year is upon us already! As you may have already guessed, my already fairly itinerant blogging pipeline has been clogged by numerous other life-type things for the past few weeks. This situation will indeed continue into about mid-January, after which point I will return from a jaunt around New Zealand’s South Island and (presumably) much holiday season merry-making.

2010 promises to be a very interesting and challenging year for the broader left. The Obama Administration, if it hasn’t already, is about to hit the big, hard, cold brick wall of reality in a nation dominated by conservative politics. The Rudd Government has a challenge on its hands convincing the electorate that it has lived up to people’s expectations in an election year, and actually delivered on a reasonable proportion of its promises. It is a nice change for a government to be so supremely consultative, but people want more than a chance to have their say; they want to see runs on the board. Federal Labor also has an interesting and potentially dangerous new adversary to deal with in the form of Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, and their brand of backwards-brained populism.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what happens. Best wishes to all – read you next year!

Not invincible, but indelible

And so, as every media outlet across the globe has been blanket reporting for the last hundred hours straight, the King of Pop is dead. I suppose rationally speaking we shouldn’t be that surprised, given all he has been through and his legion of rumored health and drug issues, but the news still came as a shock last Friday morning. Even in spite of his last, horribly wasted decade, the bright lights of his prodigious talent managed to touch arguably more people during his lifetime than just about anyone else in modern entertainment history. He certainly has a rightful claim to be one of the three most significant acts in popular music in the twentieth century, alongside Elvis Presley and The Beatles. The word ‘iconic’ is thrown about loosely in this modern hyperbolic world, but Michael Jackson was, regardless of all his faults and absurdities, an iconic figure.

Jackson’s body of work and the sheer ubiquity of his contribution to pop music have ensured that he will be remembered for his talent first, and his history of scandal second. This is exemplified by the similarities in affect of the media’s treatment of Jackson’s death to that of Princess Diana’s. Strangely enough, both figures, in death, seem to enjoy similar levels of reverence in the public eye. There will no doubt be a lot of people all over the world who will always remember where they were when they heard the bad news. I was just about to start eating breakfast at home on Friday when the story started breaking across morning television. I don’t own a single Michael Jackson record right now, but Friday still felt like a bit of a bad dream.

I am a “rock” person, but there was still never any avoiding Michael Jackson.

There was a copy of Thriller in my household growing up, and of course as a card-carrying member of the music television generation, I was exposed to the title track’s magic at a young age. Weird Al Yankovic’s “Fat” and “Eat It” served as humorous lead-ins, growing up, to Jackson’s Bad album. I can recall playing as Michael Jackson in the Moonwalker game on the Sega Megadrive at some stage as a young adolescent, and indeed, generating a lot of static electricity but very little result whilst attempting to moonwalk on the carpet of the family home. I bought a copy of Dangerous on cassette tape, and was astounded at the cutting edge video clip cuts from that album, and intrigued that someone like Slash would collaborate with Michael Jackson (or maybe that someone like MJ would work with Slash). Jackson’s 1995 collaboration with his sister Janet, Scream, was as cool a tune and music video as anything he has ever done. Indeed, even the HIStory misfire included some worthwhile cuts, including quite a cool reading of The Beatles’ Come Together.

So, yes, he was a cartoon character; a garishly distorted caricature of his former glory by the end. But maybe that’s just what makes his passing so ultimately affecting… cartoon characters shouldn’t be able to die, just like that. Especially not characters with the whiz-bang genius of Michael Jackson.

If only tardiness were next to godliness

Ardent apologies for the lack of anything interesting being here for the past two weeks. Since Easter things have been slightly mad, with numerous relatives visiting, a trip or two back to Sydney and the odd “unexpected” event.

On the upside, I have had the opportunity to see a bit more of my local stomping grounds.

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Bloody hell its getting cold down here though. Tell me Winter doesn’t get much colder than this in Melbourne. Someone?   

Hell’s inferno, thirty minutes away?

Like just about everyone I suspect, I am shocked and disturbed by the bushfires that have wreaked havoc across Victoria over the last few days. The truly apocalyptic pictures that are coming out the worst hit areas beggar belief, as do the heartwrenching stories of those who have survived the tragedy, but lost so much. I also can not help but be dumbstruck by the incongruity of it all, as Armagnac observes:

Melbourne squirms, wringing its wrists, not knowing what to do or how to help, as all around us firestorms are razing houses, removing historical towns from the map and burning people to death.

Sitting in my apartment in Melbourne as the sun slowly sets on a rather crisp, pleasant day in the city, it is hard to believe that all that chaos and destruction is just thirty minutes away. It does not seem fair that this metropolised little world, geographically so close to the chaos, has been spared the terrors or our regional friends and neighbours. Most of us, no doubt, toddled off to our places of work and study today just as any other day, our thoughts drifting, but our immediate concerns still squarely focused on the humdrum of everyday life. If only we could all somehow share out the misery and pain amongst us and lift the burden from those who have completely unfairly borne the brunt.

All we can do is ponder how we can all do our little bit to help. For this camper, that means looking into donating both money and blood.

You can donate money online here at the Red Cross website. I have had some issues getting my payment through today for some reason, but you may have better luck.

Reportedly urgent demand for blood in Victoria has been met following a wonderfully massive public response in the aftermath of the tragedy, but you might also want to consider donating blood.

Channel Nine are also reportedly hosting a fundraising telethon on Thursday night.

Escaping January syndrome?

Australia, and of course the political scene therein, certainly falls into a heady state of idleness over the festive season. Kickstarted by the end of the school year in early to mid December, the holiday season coma only deepens as a year trudges towards the explosion of colour, family and money that is Christmas. Those with school-age children, of course, are usually well and truly on annual leave by this point, and no doubt for many the scant few days between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve fly away leaving no trace. After the anticlimax of another orgy of orchestrated celebrations, soaked in champagne and assorted other fluids, one’s normal life slowly resumes. Some people stay on leave for a while longer, leaving often vital cogs out of the machinery of industry, pieces missing from the puzzle. It is not until February that the working world really threatens to return to business as usual. It is often not until then that the fizz of the festive season becomes a distant memory, rather than a particularly persistent hangover.

At the moment, there is something of a void in the place where “normal political debate” would be. The most dominant political figure in the country is on leave, along with several other fairly important ones. I get the impression from talking to various people that little could be further from their minds than politics right now. The cricket is omnipresent, and outdoors, sunshine lingers. One almost wishes that Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard would announce something really daft and out of character, just so that we could actually see how many people noticed or cared. Unfortunately this appears quite unlikely, with the Federal Government on auto-pilot along with the Opposition (who also have to overcome their irrelevancy besides).

It’s all a bit of a shame, because the start of a New Year offers our country’s leaders the opportunity to recalibrate and present their vision for the year ahead. Wouldn’t it be great if, on Australia Day, the leader of each of the nation’s major political parties gave a speech at the National Press Club outlining their immediate plans for the future? I am sure that most of us would like to think of Australia as a nation of innovators; a nation always seeking to advance the proverbial nation fair. What better opportunity for the nation to reach forward towards the future than its national day? What better way could there be to remind us all that our democracy is one of our most precious assets, and that we should be seeking to not only protect its virtues but to work to make sure that it is even better tomorrow than it is today?

In Melbourne, in apologia…

I hope all and sundry had a happy new year!

I am now settling down in Melbourne in a new role and in a new apartment. Just yesterday the home internet connection chestnut was cracked at last, so that means that service here will resume shortly. Despite being shocked by the chilly winds that blow around the Yarra in the late afternoon – even in Summer – I am excited about being in Melbourne and having a whole new city to explore. Melbourne readers feel free to drop me a line (guy -AT- guyberes.com) if you’d like to catch up for a chat and/or a beverage over the months ahead.

2009 promises to be a fascinating year in Australian politics, and of course global politics, what with the ongoing fallout from the financial crisis and the enormous expectations placed on the incoming Obama Administration in the United States. Nobody ever said that being a political tragic was easy.

Season’s Greetings

 

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Well, it is that time of year once again. It’s been a fairly momentous year on my side of the fence, what with a whole bunch of travel, some rewarding work in London, followed by a return to Sydney and in the final days of 2008, a move down to Melbourne. On the political scene, we have witnessed the historic victory of Barack Obama in the United States, the first fairly competent year of the Rudd Labor Government, and governments across the world grapple with the realisation that they really are at the mercy of financial markets for the economic health of the nations they administer. 

I’d like to take the opportunity to thanks those who have dropped in over the course of the last year, and to wish everyone reading a peaceful and relaxing festive season. The next fortnight is going to be on the busy side for me so I am not sure if there is going to be anything new here before the New Year, but to be frank, if you’re reading this, you probably should be spending time with friends and family anyway. 😉

Must be funny, in the rich man’s world

This afternoon I visited the local Westfield shopping uber-complex to finish up (okay, inch closer towards finishing up) the Christmas shopping. Even considering the season, and that there are now only sixteen shopping days until Christmas, it really did seem as though the place was just a little bit more nuts than usual.

Interestingly, the handouts started dropping into the accounts of punters today. While I am a little sceptical about the format and actual worth of the government’s stimulus package, its effects are in some respect already plain to be seen. Judging by some of the most popular Google terms that found their way to even this little blog over the last twenty-four hours, it does seem that there are a few excited people out there:

which people receive rudd gov. stimulus
three groups not getting rudd handout
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words to describe the current economic turmoil
cash injection lump payment
who gets the rudd government stimulus payment
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rudd hopes stimulus package encourages consumer spending
how gets the rudd stimulus package
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labor party stimulate consumer spending
why don’t low income earners get the rudd handouts

I only hope that if there is a second round of stimulus measures next year, it is delivered by the Prime Minister rolling through towns in the back of an open-top car, throwing handfuls of banknotes out of bulging hessian sacks. For the moment at least, that is the image that sticks in mind for me in relation to the government’s response to the financial crisis.

Let’s just hope for the sake of the national economy and those who are really struggling that it goes someway towards delivering the goods. Of course, if the December 2008 consumer spending figures suggest otherwise (even allowing for the usual Xmas boost), the government might just have a bit to answer for in the new year.