Thursday, November 28, 2002

Tasmania is the national home of ageing fast-food workers, as today’s Australian (“The Great Dividing Range” by George Megalogenis) reports. At 28, the median age of Tasmanian fast-food workers is almost a decade older than any other state/territory. Scarier still, these Tasmanian burger-flippers earn an average of $148 per week (for a full-time job, I’m assuming).

Megalogenis extrapolates the Tasmanian fast-food workers stats to suggest that the state is an economic basket case. Perhaps true, but more problematically, he subscribes to the fallacy (albeit a common one) that high rates of tertiary education directly lead to higher salaries, and so lower rates of burger flipping. Apart from the ACT, the percentage of residents with tertiary education only marginally varies, between 30% (you guessed it – Tasmania) and 36% (NSW). A more interesting set of statistics would be the percentages of uni graduate burger-flippers in each state/territory – thus neatly showing the mismatch behind the fallacy.

A bit of my own research-on-the-fly here found such statistics elusive, with a 1998 DEETYA report:
being the most comprehensive source of (although obviously far from recent) data.

In summary, DEETYA found that that, over the previous decade, the graduate unemployment rate, in the range of 3.5-4%, was less than half that of the non-graduate rate. Whatever the relativities against non-graduates, I think that this figure is disturbingly high, particularly as the separate figure for younger graduates (without the age-skewing of older graduate, whose unemployment rate would be close to zero) would be considerably higher.

Also of interest in the DEETYA report is the noting of a clear trend, over the decade between 1989-1998, towards graduates – those who can find employment of some description – working in part-time and/or non­professional jobs.

As the report says, of the proverbial uni graduate burger-flippers:

The experience of the last decade of recent graduates indicates that the link between education and earnings is somewhat tenuous for some graduates … While some graduates will be disappointed with their occupational destinations, others will find relevance and challenges in their non­professional jobs while others will be active in re-shaping their jobs to better draw on their professional skills.

Maybe things have changed, but I would have thought that a burger-flipper asking their boss to “re-shape my job” would soon see them catapulted, with or without re-shaped coccyxes, into that other statistical category.

In trying to put another positive spin on this trend, the DEETYA authors then ask a question that they obviously assume is rhetorical:

It is important to note, however, that the issue is not whether graduates were earning relatively lower starting salaries than they were a decade ago but whether they were earning higher salaries than they would have had they not acquired a degree qualification.
[my emphasis]

Quite a cheering thought, then, for our 28 y.o. uni graduate flipping burgers in Tasmania for $148 per week – the job, and pay, may not be all he/she would have liked, but if he/she had never gone to uni, things would have been much, much worse. Or so the statistics say, at least when they’re spun right round like a beef patty.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Recently been reading an Aust-lit classic from that benighted decade, the eighties. I’d actually bought and read Alan Wearne’s verse-novel, The Nightmarkets when it was first published in the mid-eighties, but it failed to make an impression on me – probably because I was then an undergrad on an overly-specific quest for literary enlightenment; in search of a decent Proustian reverie with an ocker twist. In other words, The Nightmarkets served its purposes so well, and was so good, that I must have reverentially lent my copy on to a friend. And so not really thought about it for a whole decade and a half, until a copy caught my eye at the op-shop. [Extract online at: ]

This time round, there’s nothing Proustian, or otherwise fleetingly exquisite, about Wearne’s book. I’m only a few pages into The Nightmarkets when the reason for the verse-novel thing strikes me – Wearne is making a record. Not as in an authentic, historico-factual transcription, nor less as a self-consciously selected and sealed time capsule, but simply as something representative of an era – in the nude, as it were. Thus, the eight years The Nightmarkets took to write (1977-1985), do not make the book an “epic” (an awful word, which usually connotes the force-feeding of bad poetry to adolescents) – it’s eight years of real-time, more or less.

At a glance, this chrono-verite element is not immediately obvious. The book ranges in time from the mid-sixties through to the summer of 1979-1980, with most of the action and detail being in, or concerned with the latter, single summer. This apparently- compressed period – which was yet to happen when the book was begun, and took five years to write up after it did happen – nonetheless is startlingly plausible, all the more in 2002, as an eternal present. A la Baudrillard, the eighties (and nineties too, for that matter) did not really happen – they only just made it over the line and into 1980, before then being trapped in their own unending repetition. Like a locked, loaded spring, The Nightmarkets slowly winds up – through years of Vietnam protests, dope-hazes, and the sacking of Gough – and then – slam! – refuses to let go, so maintaining an insistent, pressurised expose of political traducery and corporatised feminism; in summary, a very specific era that has (paradoxically) not dated at all.

Of course, all this is my interpretation; my hindsight grafted on the a combination of Wearne’s imputed hindsight and foresight. Today, in 2002, the years 1979-1980 ring some bells – the three revolutions of Thatcher, Reagan and Khomeini, most obviously – but do not generally stand for a larger social watershed, in contrast to, say the sixties. Which is precisely the point – my point anyway, if not also Wearne’s – things that apparently do/did not have an end (and few would be willing to call the end of the sixties social revolution, even today), most emphatically did have an end; it just that you probably missed it, in that “blink of an eye” sense.

A hundred tropes and clichés about baby boomers’ coming-of-age could be extracted from The Nightmarkets – phrases such as “selling out” and “yuppie”, already familiar yet hardened by repetitious half-ironic use in the mid-eighties, my undergrad heyday.

Personally, I think that all the more obvious phrases and connotations miss what was the greatest sea change of all about 1979-1980 – the emergence of a First-World generation-without-war, for the first time in a century. Whatever may be said and thought about the “Vietnam generation”, the key, crucial fact is that, without a subsequent war to close-off their experience – to add a new tail to the parade, whether it be of veterans or protesters – something just stopped. It was long a semi-funny joke that the Peace Movement is obsolete, a victim of its own success. In fact, Peace never was (and cannot be) a Movement, and so in the continuing absence of a war(or peace)-to-trump-their-war(or peace), the baby boomers, about 1980, just threw in everything – movements, causes, ideologies, you name it.

And there (kind of) was a war about this time, to formalise this close-off. Appropriately enough, it was an old war, a looking-back war, not to mention a gesture towards parental rapprochement. Either born again, or perennially stuck, in 1980 (depending on how you want to see it) baby boomers soldiered on under a compromise conceit, one either laughable or culpable (again depending on how you want to see it) for its self-righteous indignation. The baby boomers were henceforth to be children of World War II survivors. And with that much going backwards, nothing could escape.

The “Baby boomer/Vietnam/WWII Oedipal throwback” theory is invented by me alone (as far as I know). If you want proof, here’s two items. First, a self-described “child of the WWII generation” in an angry letter to The Australian (“Bellicose baby boomers off to war”, 25 November 2002), criticising an Australian editorial (“Dealing with the new reality of terrorism”, 21 November 2002) for shining a harsh light on the relics of sixties peaceniks. According to the letter-writer (who I take it to be born between 1945 and 1962), it is not his generation who are being unduly pacifist, but the “baby boomers and their offspring” who are being unduly bellicose. Confused? Me too.

Finally, the other small item of proof I would like to adduce comes from a Pink Floyd album. In their creative output between 1967 and 1975 (prematurely climaxing with 1973’s “Dark Side Of The Moon”, Pink Floyd can fairly accurately – and reasonably. I think – be seen as a sort of baby boomers’ barometer. By 1979’s “The Wall”, the barometer must logically then be reading “all-over-the-shop” – and oh it was, and how.

No one seems to have questioned or doubted lead singer Roger Waters’ (b. 1944) apparent regression into WWII memories-from-the-cradle, in the Vera Lynn parts of “The Wall”. Although this may seem harsh (Roger Waters’ father died in WWII), and leaving aside the fact that Waters is not, therefore a baby boomer, his long delay in artistically claiming that war underscores my The Nightmarkets-inspired point. About 1980, the “Vietnam generation” simply flicked the switch – into reverse.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

P.S. I was dead right on the Mino Pecorelli story. See:

The funniest news story of the week (and perhaps even the year), and the Melbourne Age misses it completely.

The story grew from a hysterical (in both senses of the word) declaration by Sydney’s Reverend Fred Nile that Muslim women in Australia should be banned from wearing the chador. Given Nile’s penchant for cheap demagoguery, it was no surprise that The Australian ran it as only a little story on 21 November. Nor was it to the discredit of either The Age or the Sydney Morning Herald that they either missed it or chose not to run it.

However, by the next day, 22 November, things were quite different. Prime Minister John Howard had appeared on shock jock John Laws’ radio program, saying it ‘would "obviously" be better if Muslim women were less conspicuous, but not say[ing] whether he supported or opposed a call by the Rev Fred Nile to ban the Islamic headdress, the chador, for national security reasons’ (Sydney Morning Herald 22/11/02). Later, the PM’s press office issued a statement – predictably – denying he supported a chador ban in any way. Otherwise, the SMH’s article mostly dwelled on the PM’s half-about face:

The Age, as I’ve said, inexplicably just ignored the story. Perhaps The Age was just troubled by the déjà vu of it all – the PM issues weaselly words yet again … (yawn). I think that, for its part, the SMH wasn’t really on the ball either, and focused on the wrong angle.

Only The Australian came close to getting it right on 22/11, when it quoted, as the article’s last line, an Islamic spokesperson: “Are you going to ban briefcases?”

It was a good line to end on – a good line, full stop – incisive, rational, and – goddammit – even a little bit humorous. Where the story really came into its own in The Australian that day, however, was on the letters page. Several letters on the topic were both funny and cutting, and it was all topped off by an on-topic cartoon de jour (the first time in years that I’ve found one of these to be actually funny. The SMH’s letters on 22/11 has a reasonable smattering of funny letters too, although – as seems to be the Sydney style - they were nearly all one-liners.

As for the creaking Age, it was yet another laughter bypass operation – if it has too many more of these, there won’t be anything to even sick the knife into ….

P.S. I was dead right on the Mino Pecorelli story. See:

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Spam is something that most people, including myself, have strong, "anti" feelings about. It is quite interesting, therefore, to read a profile of two real spammers - and in particular, how such a person justifies conduct which offends one of the basic tenets of communal living: shitting in the co-owned nest.

As it turns out, sending spam is quite lucrative (one spammer/small businesswoman quoted earns about $A400k annually), and is self-righteously churned out from the heart of middle America. Ethical issues, like recipient permission and falsifying "From" headers, are addressed by the spammers, but in the most hollow, internally contradictory way.

Such arrogant vapidity! No prizes, then, for guessing the merry spammers' demographic - baby boomers. The first generation to actually risk drowning themselves (along with everyone else, of course) in their own shit.

But judge their guilt for yourself, I say. Here's the link:

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

I was going to mentally file away today’s Mino Pecorelli murder story into the “Those Wacky Italians – NFA” category until I saw a brief blurb on it in today’s MX (Melbourne) newspaper.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, here are three links to fill you in:,5744,5515216%255E2703,00.html

Normally, of course, the murder conviction of the (former) prime minister of a major western democracy would be big, BIG news. Clearly – and reasonably – counting against it being big-N news are (i) it happened a long time ago (1979), and (ii) the high likelihood that the 83 y.o. Senator Giulio Andreotti will yet be (a) duly acquitted, or (b) die during the slow processes thereof.

On the other hand – piquing my own interest, if not exactly making an objective case for the big-N news “side” – is the coming together of both right and left in Italy to deplore the verdict:

"Andreotti is a victim of a crazy justice system that is in need of reform," Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said. He accused the judges of "trying to change the course of democratic politics and rewrite Italian history".

The head of the Margherita coalition of left-wing parties in the lower house, Pierluigi Castagnetti, deplored the "incredible sentence".

- Former Italian PM guilty of murder
By Natasha Bita, Florence
Aust’n, November 19, 2002

These are big claims by politician and media magnate Berlusconi, with a conversely gutless, irrelevant observation by the supposedly left-wing Castagnetti [Hint: it’s about the verdict, not the sentence, dummy.]

Adding to the piquancy is this further gem, again in defence of the Senator:

Churchmen likewise leapt to the defence of the devout Andreotti. Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini compared him to Jesus Christ. "Without a doubt, at the end there will be a resurrection."

- Andreotti jail term stuns Italy
By Shasta Darlington and Crispian Balmer in Rome
SMH November 19 2002

Piquancy does not always a stench maketh, however, so that’s where I was about to leave things, until – as I mentioned – I saw the short Mino Pecorelli story in today’s MX (Melbourne) newspaper. The article first quoted Andreotti’s lawyer in airborne high dudgeon, vowing an appeal, and paraphrasing Berlusconi’s remarks (above) about the verdict rewriting Italian history. So far, so good. Then in its wrap-up sentence, MX casually lets out that Pecorelli was a “scandal-sheet reporter”.

None of the three (two of them only a matter of hours) earlier references alluded to the “scandal-sheet” aspect. Clearly, these two words add more than just colour – a “scandal-sheet reporter” can be presumed to have many enemies, including among the amorphous and miscallaneous low-life; while an “investigative reporter’s” enemies, on the other hand, tend to stick out like the proverbial.

In summary, MX’s adjectival sleight (which I’m sure will be duly picked up in/by tomorrow’s quality press) has brought an unmistakable odour to the Mino Pecorelli story. In answer to Berlusconi and his parrots, I say that there exists a far worse thing than rewriting history – to wilfully bury a murder story and investigation in an unmarked grave.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Rove Wasn't Built in a Day

In the live comedy scene, bitterness is a "given"; for a comedian, it is usually a fuel, a tonic, a springboard.

But what happens backstage, especially in terms of comedian-to-comedian rivalry and hostility? For the most part, outright front-, or backstabbing is rare - surprisingly so. But when comedians make the transition onto TV or radio, the knives unfortunately tend to come out. In saying this, the last thing in the world I want to be considered is a "suck", one who fends-off deserved criticism of truly-lame comedians. Rather, I just can't stand seeing good bitterness wasted - on off-stage sledging, as opposed to onstage inspiration.

Thus, to anyone who thinks Rove et al suck, what’s stopping you from nipping at his/their heels? He’s on commercial TV, for fucks sake; those guys don’t go all clingy and sentimental when they’ve got a better product waiting in the wings. And don’t try and argue Rove just got a one-in-a-million lucky break, a comedian’s proverbial silver spoon. He started on Channel 31, which is pretty much open to anyone, only with one effective condition – you’re in/on there as part of a team.

Which in a nutshell, explains why Rove et al are such comedy rarities – step one, they worked together, in a non-cannibalistic manner, and step two, they made the decision to go corporate, and so inevitably, to forfeit some artistic freedom.

For what it's worth, I don't personally find “Rove” – the show – particularly funny. But this is purely and simply because it is not *meant* to be, a comedy show, that is. As a tonight/variety show, its primary function is to provide advertorial space for the show’s celebrity guests, and the associated products they are hawking. The main innovation that Rove – and/or the show’s powers-that-be – has achieved is to dispense with the traditional role of sidekick/hack (which, if all else fails, will involve co-opting some of the floor crew, eg Bert, Letterman). Instead, Hellier and Grant have been allocated stand-alone roles.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Religion and politics do not mix.

By insisting that they are inseparable, too many Muslims commit their own disenfranchisement.

Most western liberal countries, and especially Australia, extend an incredible tolerance to religion, as practised in the private, or ethno-communal domains. Conversely, politics is almost universally held in contempt, as well as – and NOT coincidentally – being the archetype of the public domain.

“Philosopher Kings” can sound like a good idea – until the practicalities are dealt with, in that a wise leader must primarily be one or the other. This is not a facetious dig; rather, it is just common sense that a person cannot excel in both public and private domains – he or she must simply make a choice, and then live by it.

In addition, in countries where religion and politics have been mixed (which usually has happened only through some kind of force), both have re-emerged, mutated into something else completely. In the nominally theocratic dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, “religion” and “politics” are no more than two opposing rabbles of baby boomers, whose respective excesses, stupidity and general illegitimacy perfectly balance each other out. The result is theological and political paralysis – with the victims being mostly the young.

Mind you, Australia is not a total cleanskin when it comes to (mis)rule by baby boomer rabbles. Economic rationalism, or, as I would prefer, “economic fundamentalism” is also all ill-advised conjunction of religion and politics. The shame is that it has, so far, mostly been spared swingeing rebuttal, due to its “private” boundaries being respected - viz the globalisation conferences and the think-tanks, with their express and implied no-go zones.

Any creed or political movement that arrogates itself to being both simultaneously, deserves in my opinion, united open contempt and unyielding opposition.

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