Friday, January 21, 2022

Time for reflection

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee conference, the infamous meeting at which a group of high ranking Nazi officials planned the Final Solution, the systematic destruction of Europe's Jewish people.

Monday, January 03, 2022

It belongs in a museum

This is a contentious issue. An auction house in Queensland, Australia, is selling Nazi memorabilia, including a signed photograph of German dictator, Adolf Hitler, a propaganda children's book, and SS artifacts. A company representative sought to justify the auction as a legitimate business activity, but there is the very real danger that these items may fall into the hands of neo-Nazis, as is the opinion of a Jewish community group spokesperson quoted in the article. 

Rather than sell them to make money, arguably these items should be donated to Holocaust museum. This will allow them to be displayed to inform and educate society about recent history, and not be used as a conversation piece for a private collector, or for more nefarious purposes.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Tis the season to be nitpicky

Some random thoughts about Carols by Candlelight, a Christmas Eve tradition in Melbourne, Australia, that dates from 1938. It was originally the brainchild of radio broadcaster, Norman Banks, who was walking home on Christmas Eve, 1937, and saw an elderly woman sitting in her window, holding a candle, and singing Christmas carols alone. What began as a community carols singalong has grown into a nationally televised event, with a viewing audience of millions. 

The performers donate their services in support of the event, which is an important fundraiser for Vision Australia, a charity that assists vision impaired children. One would have to be cold hearted to object to that. Its being on television definitely has a downside. It bears little resemblance to a community carols event that towns all over Australia hold near Christmas, usually organised by churches and other community groups. Some of these artists are musical theatre actors, and use the event to promote their upcoming stage productions. This means singing show tunes that have nothing to do with Christmas. Surely there is scope to cut these back slightly. 

At least one artist needs to be taken aside by the producers, and politely reminded that he is performing in an ensemble production, rein himself in slightly, and choose a more conservative wardrobe. It detracts from the occassion. A cursory search of some performing arts websites makes it clear that in ensemble productions, it is rude to upstage other artists, or to be perceived to be doing so. It's not all about you. 

Another problem is that the children's segment, usually scheduled early in the night so that parents can put the littlies to bed at a convenient time, was at least 10 minutes too long. It was also cringeworthy and pantomimical. Before the pandemic, Christmas pantomimes were a cherished tradition in the UK. They have never caught on in Australia.

The production needs a refresh. Get in a new musical director, and encourage the performers to sing different songs, with new arrangements. Two singers do the same song every year, without fail, and always with the same arrangement. For me, the event seemed flat and uninspiring, and definitely an anticlimax after a challenging year. 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Well deserved pile on

Irresponsible Twitter comments to high school graduates in the state of Victoria from Adam Bandt, MP, leader of the Australian Greens, and member for Melbourne in the Australian Parliament. They might play well to his inner city, partially Bohemian constituency, or to young voters who typically vote for his party. He should know better than to offer such advice to young people. Peer reviewed research, such as a 2020 article by Robin Williams, published in the Journal of Law and Medical Ethics, shows that among adolescents, cannabis can lead to misuse of other drugs, such as opioids. Furthermore, according to American Addiction Centers, the still maturing adolescent brain is particularly susceptible to the effects of marijuana, with its use adversely affecting cognitive function and development. 

What a waste of potential. A senior politician, let alone a party leader, should know better than to say such things. 


Monday, November 22, 2021

Reads page quizzically

Obscene photograph
I read with interest this article by Tim Costello, former CEO of World Vision Australia, and now a fellow with the Centre for Public Christianity at Macquarie University, Australia.

I have heard Costello speak in person a couple of times, and have read one of his books, Tips from a Travelling Soul Searcher, published in 1999. I also knew about his work with the poor and homeless in Melbourne, as a Baptist minister and former mayor of an inner city council. Having said that, I am confused about his opposition to the Australian coal industry.

Back in the mid 1990s, Victoria was governed by the Kennett government, which held office from 1992 to 1999. Part of its agenda was to privatize public utilities. The State Electricity Commission was a government owned electricity supply company. The Kennett government split the commission up into smaller companies, which were then sold to private enterprise. 

Costello, who then, as now, was a highly sought after social and political commentator, giving regular media interviews, opposed its privatization because he believed that electricity, and the coal used to produce it, presumably,  that should be available to anybody, regardless of their capacity to pay for them, and not controlled by private companies beholden to shareholders. I don't remember him saying anything about renewable energy and climate change back then. 

If I remember correctly, he was also very concerned about the adverse impact that electricity privatization would have on the La Trobe Valley economy. This is precisely what happened. It resulted in thousands of job losses, business closures, a drop in home prices, and an exodus of people, as those with transferrable skills were forced to relocate to find new employment opportunities. The economic impact of this rationalisation is still felt to to the present day. As recently as 2019, these were the findings of analysis of demographic data carried out by the Victorian Department of Education, the census, and demographer, Bernald Salt. 

If Costello had compassion for the La Trobe Valley back then, why does not express it in this article now? He has worked directly with impoverished people both in Australia and overseas, so this is what I can't get my head around. What are the thousands of coal industry workers supposed to do for a crust if Australia's coal industry is shut down, as he argues for here? Where are the alternative jobs they are supposed to transition to? How will welfare services, health, and education be funded without taxation revenue from the coal industry? In short, the impact of closing the coal industry will be more severe than that of privatization, not just in the La Trobe Valley, but in many similar communities all over Australia.

Monday, November 08, 2021

So pedantic one feels like wearing a red t-shirt

In the fair state of Victoria, the highly ethical conduct of the political class is being revealed for all to see, with the Labor Party branch stacking inquiry. The practice has been rife for many years, going back to at least the 1990s. As political nerds would remember, in the 1996 Australian federal election, Senator Gareth Evans moved to the House of Representatives, winning the safe Labor seat of Holt. After the 1998 election, not wanting to spend another term in opposition, he decided to resign from Parliament to pursue other opportunities. He was not involved in a factional preselection battle with his replacement, Anthony Byrne, as this article erroneously states.

Monday, November 01, 2021