Monday, December 22, 2008

Mickey Rourke wrestles his past

Thanks to the Melbourne Film festival and Hopscotch Films we attended a preview screening of The Wrestler in Melbourne. It opens nationally in Australia on 15 January 2009.

‘Bout The Wrestler

Darren Aronofsky’s latest film takes us into a world where suspending disbelief is the chrome://foxytunes-public/content/signatures/signature-button.pngcore element. Wrestling culture, though superficially like boxing, is more like the circus. A strange mixture of comedy, farce and sometimes tragedy. The Wrestler is all of these and more. Portrayed as a macho world, it has always had plenty of female fans. Just as Mickey Rourke had in his younger days and will doubtless have again with the release of this touching story.

The director has made this Rourke’s film. He is in virtually every scene. The camera explores his body in intimate detail. If his scars and breaks seem too real, perhaps many of them are a legacy of Mickey’s pro boxing career in the early 1990s during a movie hiatus. It isn’t quite type-casting but becomes clear why Aronofsky was so keen to get him for this part.

He isn’t the early sex symbol of 9½ Weeks or the brutal Marv of Sin City. For ageing Randy "The Ram" Robinson is more gentleman than stud despite the expectations of some of his female admirers. There is no doubt that Rouke’s reputation as a bad boy and loose cannon on the set adds a special dimension to his performance. We sense from the beginning that there will be explosions.

If you’re expecting a wrestling version of Rocky, forget it. This is not about underdogs or champions. Randy is fighting his own demons more than his opponents in the ring. Too old and too sick to continue his chosen career, he is just trying to maintain some sense of personal and social identity. As an unskilled worker, he struggles to find other employment.

Through his relationship with Pam, a bar dancer aka Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), he makes one more attempt to re-establish contact with his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). Somehow we know that he promises her too much and that his self-destructive side will see him crashing his own skull into a turnbuckle or two.

The fight scenes are spectacular but gruesome. Knowing that the wrestling is scripted and that we are watching actors doesn’t minimise their impact. Shades of the real thing! For all the pretence, the crowd and the movie audience must have blood and there is plenty of it.

It’s a world of good guys and bad guys. The plot centres on a rematch with his nemesis from the eighties, The Ayotollah, who waves an Iraqi flag as he enters the ring. Young Cassius Clay taunting Sonny Liston and Ali rumbling in the jungle with George Foreman would have loved the showmanship and histrionics.

Robert D. Siegel’s screenplay milks the visual elements. Two scenes stand out:

Washed up and retired heroes of times passed sit at tables in an American Legion hall. They are selling memorabilia, signing autographs and posing for photographs with fans and their children. With their wounds barely hidden, they look more like civil war veterans.

The Ram walks through corridors and down the stairs of a supermarket on his way to serve at the deli counter. His bleached shoulder length locks are covered by a hairnet. His shame badge sports his real name ‘Robin’. Aronofsky lays the stadium imagery on thick. We laugh or cry or do both.

The director clearly established strong rapport with his female leads. Marisa Tomei doesn’t miss a beat as her character’s attempts to build a solid life for herself and her son are complicated by Randy’s attentions. Evan Rachel Wood’s brooding performance as his estranged daughter symbolises the Ram’s wasted years and wasted opportunities.

Their dysfunctional relationship is juxtaposed with his affection for and genuine interactions with the children of his trailer park. They clearly admire and respect this old warrior.

The Wrestler will appeal across generations. This is a movie for baby boomers who grew up on a weekly diet of world championship wrestling as their virtual reality television. It is also tailor-made for Gen X who loved Fight Club and Gen Y who love disgraced celebrities on the comeback trail. The advertising poster proclaims, “Witness the Resurrection of Mickey Rourke”. A clever marketing ploy but the film stands up without this inevitable, forced metaphor. Mickey was neither washed up or dead as his filmography clearly shows. Not Lazarus, just a naughty boy!

It won the Golden Lion at the 2008 Venice Film Festival. The Wrestler is a certainty for academy award nominations. It’s straight out of Million Dollar Baby territory; the kind of stuff Planet Hollywood loves. It’s very sentimental and very good. Like Bruce Springsteen’s song “The Wrestler” which closes the film.

cinematakes1 More film reviews at Cinema Takes

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tweet Minister

Lindsay Tanner has been blogging about enhancing government accountability through use of the Web. He also blogs regularly on the BusinessDay Blogs of The Age. It might be time to get an Australian version of Britain's Tweetminster to push this process along a bit:

TweetMinster is a public service that makes it easier to connect the public with Members of Parliament using Twitter. We want constituents to find their MPs (or invite them to use Twitter if they're not already doing so) and through encouraging participation and open conversations, promote better and more transparent communication between voters and elected representatives.
or Germany's abgeordnetenwatch:
With voters, citizens, anybody can talk to their MP's on line at any time. All they have to do is give their name and their e-mail address. You log on. You give your zip code. The voting precinct is found by the computer. You see a profile of your MP and fire away your question.
There are OZ sites with some of their features but we have a long way to go to establish real communication. GetUp has Project Democracy where we can watch our Senators but it's one way.

Apparently Malcolm Turnbull was one of the first of the tall timber to start twittering. His latest: "Just visited Bondi Public to see their new garden plans. On 380 into city now."

Kevin Rudd twitters as part of his new website:" Penny Wong and Jenny Macklin have just recorded a new vpod about the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme at" Of course none of this is interactive. At least you can ask questions of the British and German pollies.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

The Future of World Indigenous Education

Shaping the Future of World Indigenous Education is an update on the World Indigenous Peoples' Conference: Education, held in Melbourne last week.

Cross posted from Global Voices, "a leading participatory media news room for voices from the developing world. Global Voices is an international, volunteer-led project that collects, summarizes, and gives context to some of the best self-published content found on blogs, podcasts, photo sharing sites, and videoblogs from around the world, with a particular emphasis on countries outside of Europe and North America."

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

International Migrants Day

18 December is International Migrants Day. Australia has a lot to celebrate today.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sock and Awe: Only a game?

If you haven't played Sock and Awe yet, now's the chance. Hours, well perhaps seconds, of holiday fun. It's not nearly as clever or elaborate as Sarah Palin as President in the oval office. But in these tough times it's free.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Australia's National Priority: About Ben Cousins

Our National priorities were clear on the 6 pm Channel Nine News in Melbourne last night. As Robert Merkel posted at Larvatus Prodeo about the drafting Ben Cousins It’s more important than the CPRS…

Nine had Cousins as the lead story, followed by Chopper Read, with the 5% CPRS a lame third. In fact the climate change report had a graphic of a $6 rise for household costs, timeframe unspecified, plus the National Press Club protest, but little of substance about the targets. Have to get your priorities right.

It is little wonder that the Rudd government is prepared to squib the global warming challenge with yesterday's lame effort, when it receives such shallow media treatment.

Footnote: When we lived in Western Australia, Ben Cousins was one of the three lead stories almost every night on the ABC News. We were convinced that it stood for 'About Ben Cousins'. It seems this has followed us to Melbourne.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Special Places: Honeycomb Gorge

Honeycomb Gorge is located in the Kennedy Range National Park in the Midwest of Western Australia. It is 150 km east of Carnarvon on the way to Burringurrah (Mount Augustus).

Music on this video is from 'West Nile Papyrus' by the Dejunair Project.


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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Indigenous Education Conference Concludes

The World Indigenous Peoples Conference: Education 2008 has finished with a spectacular ceremony.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

World Indigenous Peoples Conference: Education continues

The second video from Black Tracks of the World Indigenous Peoples' Conference: Education 2008 being held in Melbourne this week is now online. Please click here for other posts about the conference.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Indigenous Education - Respecting Tradition, Shaping the Future

3000 delegates from around the world continue to share their experiences at The World Indigenous Peoples' Conference: Education at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. There has been little coverage from the mainstream media. If you see any please let me know through comments. Carbon Media are producing video for National Indigenous TV (NITV) that is screening at Black Tracks.

Dropped in yesterday and watched Dr. Chris Sarra, of Indigenous Education Leadership Institute of Australia and former principal of Cherbourg School in Queensland talking about how we can have both stronger and smarter education that values both strong culture and smarter schools.

The Conference finishes on Thursday with a Closing Ceremony Concert hosted by comedian Sean Choolbura. It's open to the public with tickets through Ticketek. As I understand it the Key Note Speeches are also open to the public. The conference theme is "Indigenous Education in the 21 st Century - Respecting Tradition, Shaping the Future'.

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Our Special Places: Burringurrah

Burringurrah in North Western Australia, aka Mount Augustus, is the world's largest rock or monolith. It is twice the size of its better known cousin Uluru, aka Ayers Rock, in Central Australia. The drive around the rock is nearly 50 kilometres. The walk to the summit is 12 kms return from its base.

The North West of Australia has some of the most unspoiled areas of the country, if not the world, as well as some of the largest mineral and energy deposits. We need to know our special places before we lose them. Burringurrah is one of the little known gems.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Howard's End: Join the Tallyroom Spectators

The National Tallyroom in Canberra on election night 2007 was a rowdy, raucous place. The crowd were after scalps, none more so than the Prime Minister John Howard's. Every time one of the TV monitors showed the latest counting in the PM's electorate of Bennelong or the ALP candidate Maxine McKew, there was loud cheering and screaming.

The Tallyroom was divided into three sections. The media were roped off at the front near the traditional wall of tally boards for each House of Representative seat. At the other end were most of the national TV panels, perched high above the crowd. The poor cousin SBS were on the side with the other media.

The guest politicians were barely visible from the public area but when shots of Julia Gillard, deputy leader of the opposition, appeared on the screens the revellers erupted. Added to these catalysts were the shenanigans of The Chaser who taunted the likes of Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan, Howard's close friend and head-kicker. In fact ABC anchor Kerry O'Brien blamed them for the crowd noise that disturbed his coverage. The irony was that his own TV monitors were a much greater cause of the jubilation.

The noise level did not abate until John Howard came on to the screens to give his concession speech, having lost government and his own seat. Calm and quiet fell as the crowd watched this seemingly impossible event unfold. 'Tallyroom Spectators' records this silent celebration.

This is final reprise from 'The Poll that Counts' video series to mark the last episode of The Howard Years - Walking On Water

For those who can't bring themselves to watch the ABC program, try this instead. Should bring a smile to your face if you've read this far.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

World Indigenous Peoples' Conference: Education

Off to the opening of The World Indigenous Peoples' Conference: Education today. It starts in Melbourne with a Traditional Welcome to Country Ceremony, Sunday December 7 2008 at the Aborigines Advancement League 2 Watt Street, Thornbury. 10am – 7.30pm.

Come along. It's an open event today. Visit the ICV (Indigenous Community Volunteers) stall if you can.

3000 delegates from around the world will be attending the 5 days event. For details click the link above.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Suburbamania: Choking Australia

The Victorian Sustainability Commisioner was stating the bleeding obvious:

A DAMNING report on Victoria's environmental health has called for a halt to urban sprawl and dramatic changes to the "unsustainable" materialism and consumption of the state's citizens.

Just two days after the Brumby Government announced an extension of Melbourne's urban boundaries, the state-appointed Sustainability Commissioner has warned of serious environmental damage on the city fringes and called for the boundaries to be fixed.
Brumby told to halt the sprawl (The Age 5 December 2008)
We have travelled extensively throughout Australia during the last 20 years, mostly by car. Two clear messages stand out about how we are choking our continent. Our obsession with living in suburbia is strangling our cities and regional towns and destroying the surrounding environment. Flowing out of these is an endless traffic grid-lock.

The suburbs:

Western Australia is state of the artless. Perth, plus most regional cities and larger towns, is now surrounded by the new suburbs. They are expensive spec developments. The pillared entrances display the obligatory double-barrel names on either side: Dolphin Waters, Floodplain Flats, Pacific Palms, Platypus Park, Pirates Cove, Redgum Ramble. They cluster around mega shopping centres. Strolling through the Karratha, Port Hedland, Mandurah, Esperance or Albany plazas, I often wondered which town I was in as the same franchises canyoned before us. You needed an advanced driving course just to negotiate the car park.

At South Australia's lower lakes, Hindmarsh Island sports the inevitable suburban style marina. Ironically the boat launches behind the houses have quite a drop to water because of the sad state of the Murray mouth. Exmouth has the latest marina residential development, the envy of the old Gold Coast white-shoe brigade. Both noble attempts to tackle the nationwide marina shortage.

The traffic:

Regional cities like Geraldton can now boast peak hour traffic, bumper to bumper. Civilisation has arrived. The mania forbids straight lines in the new suburbs as the Crescent and the Courts mimic Canberra's curves and roundabouts. A rule of thumb: move on when they put in the second set of traffic lights. I challenge you to drive into Pelican Waters near Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast without getting lost. Broome now has a multi-lane road to the Port that splits Cable Beach from the other new suburbs and the old town.

Between Geraldton and the iconic Shark Bay is Kalbarri, which has its own Kalbarri National Park. It also has suburbia. Eco Flora estate is an example:

We have lost our way since the intense debate about alternatives that took place in the 1970s. The sprawl is supreme.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

America Limited: Conservatives Consorting

Americans for Limited Government is a U.S. organisation that believes "that the bigger you get, the better it is for all of us who value individual liberty, constitutional rights, and the free enterprise system."

They're not talking about the size of government, but rather the blogging community they're putting together.

I received this email earlier in the week and their Net Right Daily email yesterday. At first I thought it was a practical joke but it's probably conservative spam. Perhaps they are more than a bit confused about the nature of my blog.

For Immediate Release Contact: Adam Bitely
November 24th, 2008 Phone: (202) 689-9266

Dear Fellow Blogger,

It is my distinct pleasure, as the president of Americans for Limited Government, to invite you today to become a key member of the exciting new conservative “bloggers central,”

At ALG, we recognize the critical role you as a blogger play in gathering, assimilating, and disseminating news and commentary. And I, personally, am deeply grateful to you for taking the lead in fighting some of the most important battles our country has faced over the past decade, and more.

That's why I am so pleased to announce that is providing bloggers like you, the mainstream media, politicians, and other opinion leaders free, instant access to nearly 60,000 conservative blogs nationwide. And counting.

As a complete service bureau, NRN provides you a wide new array of blogger opportunities. As a featured blogger on NRN, you will be able to post your own blogs and interface with other like-minded bloggers nationwide. You will soon be able to “claim” your blog and customize your blog profile.

Information on NRN – blogs, as well as Twitter feeds -- will be divided by state, as well as by issue, to make it easy for you and others to access. NRN will also include a sophisticated search engine function and will soon have the capability for you to subscribe to customized email blog feeds on your topics of choice. Stay tuned, for these features will soon be online!

And all of that is just the beginning. In fact, I have asked ALG's Director of New Media, Adam Bitely, to follow up on this note with a letter of his own providing you the exciting details on how NRN can help you grow your own blog.

Above all, we want to make sure NRN is all that you, an important member of the conservative blogosphere, want it to be. So, as you visit, I urge you to please give us your input on how to make it the valuable asset we are committed to providing, at absolutely no charge.

Thank you for all that you are doing. I look forward to hearing from you.


Bill Wilson
President, Americans for Limited Government


Americans for Limited Government is a non- partisan, nationwide network committed to advancing free market reforms,private property rights and core American liberties. For more information on ALG please call us at 703-383-0880 or visit our website at

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The claim to 60,000 bloggers may be a bit exaggerated. Adam Bitely's twitter is currently following 2000 people and has 777 followers. Not quite bigger than Texas.

This "Conservative Bloggers Consortium" should be a source of endless nonsense for Andrew Bolt, Thoughts on Freedom, A Western Heart and similar Australian conduits of conservative and libertarian ideas. Anyway they've just had 8 years of very limited government in America. A real success story. Oops, shouldn't use irony - they'd never understand.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Vale Frank Crean

Frank Crean died today aged 92. He was a common-sense Treasurer in a ministry of big-spending, charismatic adventurers. He was a loyal, honest Deputy Prime Minister in the dying days of Gough Whitlam’s government. He was a humble man who put party before personal ambition at a time when immense egos dominated the political arena.

Frank was the Federal member for Melbourne Ports when I joined the Prahran branch of the Australian Labor Party in 1972. The electorate stretched from Port Melbourne south to St.Kilda, east to parts of South Yarra, and south to Windsor. It was still predominantly a working class area. The local ALP campaign committee were mostly trade unionists, especially waterside workers, with a sprinkling of university educated Whitlamites.

Mary and Frank Crean and their family lived in middle class Middle Park, befitting the accountant Frank had been before entering parliament. Their home was open house on election nights just as Frank’s office door was always open. His quiet manner and sense of humour are still reflected in the unassuming smile of his son Simon, the Trade Minister.

Born in the midst of the Great War, he grew up in the depression and Second World War. Frank Crean was an old-fashioned Labor man who will be remembered affectionately by those who were lucky enough to know him.

Vale Frank Crean.

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Howard on top: Luck, Lies and Latham

Watched Part 3 The Howard Years: Commander-in-Chief last night. Decided that my post yesterday should have been called: Luck, Lies and Latham.

Tony Blair and George W. Bush were his political referees for the Iraq war. Funny how the three of them are still sure that they were right about WMDs and Saddam Hussein's support for Al Qaeda. Howard is still not prepared to accept any responsibility for the debacle.

The children overboard spin tested the government ministers' memories again. Peter Reith, the Defence Minster in 2001, must have old timer's disease. The blatant political misuse of the military was obvious. The removal of captions on the photos of refugees in the water was disgraceful. This attempt to make them appear to be throwing children into the sea speaks for itself.

Looking forward to Howard's self-destruction next week. As Peter Costello might have suggested, the Prime Minister should have walked before he ran himself out.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

John Howard's Commanding Performance

Tonight is Episode 3 of The Howard Years: Commander-in-Chief

So here's another installment in 'The Poll that Counts' video series: Tallyroom Tension. It has a small contribution from Fran Kelly the narrator of the ABC program.

The lead up to the 2001 election was a hard time for John Howard. We saw the ultimate pragmatist who avoided a post GST recession by spending his way out, after a quarter of negative growth. Yes, Johnny could be a Keynesian when survival counted.

In John Winston Howard : the definitive biography by Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen, Peter Costello criticised Howard's budgetary adventures in 2001 and 2004 as unsustainable. But they were effective.

That was Howard cunning working overtime. In 2001 we saw Lucky John emerge. In August the Tampa arrived with its ship load of Muslim refugees. He was in the States for September 11 and didn't go into hiding like George W. Bush. What a double! All it needed was a large dash of jingoism mixed with a twist of lies for Labor's chances to go overboard.

His good fortune with ALP leaders also helped to build his reputation as the consummate politician. First, Kim Beazley adopted a small target strategy during 2001. His me-too approach to terrorism and asylum seekers made him appear irrelevant during the election.

2004 saw the Mark Latham experiment which Howard exploited cleverly. He seemed unbeatable after the comfortable Coalition win that year.

But many Australians had other ideas. And Howard's luck was about to change. But that's next week's story.

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