Friday, 6 April 2012

Watch Out Campbell

Merryl Miller, Opinions and Ideas columist in our local rag, the Toowoomba Chronicle, has well and truly got stuck into our new premier -

Roads and tunnels are all well and good, but you can’t curl up in bed with them.
Nor do they inspire you to become a better person, move you to tears, or take pride
of place on the shelf among your household treasures.

But we had better grow to love our concrete infrastructure, because if Campbell
Newman’s actions this week are any indication, books might soon be a thing of the

Our hew leader has defended his decision to scrap the Queensland Premier’s Literary
Awards by saying the saving of nearly $245,000 will be used to lower the cost of

(Actually, it was his obedient minions who were forced to defend the decision.
Campbell himself refused.)

But let the buck stop where it should.

Here’s the thing, Mr Premier – a community without the arts is not one in which want
to live no matter how ‘cheap it might be.

Because a community that’s all show and no soul is no community at all.
Campbell Newman is feeling pretty confident right about now;
ready to make some big decisions and start forging a legacy.

His enormous mandate means he Can-Do whatever he damn well pleases.
And the arts have never really pleased Mr Newman.

He slashed plenty of funding , from the arts during his tenure as Brisbane’s Lord
Mayor – including $500,000 from the Brisbane Festival, $750,000 from the Emerging
Artists grants, $60,000 from the Creative Sparks program; and a terrifying $928,000
from the library book budget.

At the time; leaders of musical, literary and artistic circles (smart, discerning people, by
and large) feared what might happen should his kingdom become larger. -
Those fears might just have been realised.

The writing certainly appears to be on the wall - although given this blatant slap in the
face to literacy, it might not be so much “writing” as traffic signs in ‘keeping with the
big man’s preferences.

We will no longer respond to words, but to androgynous symbols providing necessary
Directions through life such as those seen on the tunnels so beloved by Mr Newman.
It won’t be the sentences or language of War and Peace that stimulate our intellectual
And emotional senses, but one-dimensional images of asexual characters holding a
glass of vodka in deference to their Russian culture, and-a gun to indicate a
revolution. White spots could portray snow. Be a bad Russian, and you might
find yourself on a newly constructed super-highway to Siberia.

Tolstoy, you have been trumped.

Making the decision to scrap the funding for the Queensland Premier’s Literary
Awards even more incongruous is the fact it has taken place during National Year of

Yes, that’s right.

Talk up the importance of books then unceremoniously dump on one of the few
available opportunities for burgeoning authors to be recognised.

We sprout a lot about the importance of literacy - ask anyone over the age of 40 about
it, and they’ll trumpet a line about reading, writing and ‘rithmetic” (along with
something about “in myday”) - but it’s pretty hard to take the PR seriously when our
leaders then set such a blatant example of disregard.

“Do as I say, not what I can-do” appears to be the message about literacy from our

We- can only be grateful that authors including Tim Winton, Richard Flanagan, Helen
Garner and Peter Carey won their awards before this new artistic Dark Age.
And we can only wonder about the many more authors whose works - works which
Could possibly inspire and nurture minds both young and old - will now never
see the light of day.

The sad fact about funding for the arts is that once it has been cut, it rarely comes
back. We are set to enter an era of growth and expansion under Campbell Newman;
an era of building without music, of skyscrapers without art, of creation, without

It’s an era which the majority of Queenslanders wanted.

What a pity there will be no-one left able to write a book about it.

Newman needs to be careful. It's taken him about a week to get the Chronicle offside.

About the only bit she wrote that I'd disagree with is her statement about "the majority of Queenslanders". Despite the perception, the majority of Queenslanders didn't vote for the LNP.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Riders on the Storm

Today I've been looking at some of the music that was around in 1971.

In 1971 I was teaching at what was called back then the "State School for Spastic Children" in New Farm, Brisbane. This was in marked contrast to what I had been doing in 1970.

I was coming to terms with civvy street and a reality where I could be pretty sure that I'd survive the next 24 hours, something not guaranteed during the previous twelve months.

The music that was around at the time instantly takes me back. This number "Riders on the Storm" probably didn't hit the charts in Brisbane until one year later, in 1972. I've always been fond of the Doors.

Thinking about it, I can remember the song lingering in my head when I was working in J C Cookes, making nails, as a fill-in job during uni breaks. I was on a rehab scholarship, but picked up labouring jobs during the long uni vacations, which kept my HR Holden on the road, amongst other things. This was in 1972, so my recollection is probably accurate.

You needed a song in your heart or your head at J C Cookes. The work was mind numbingly boring, and dangerous if you switched off - a bit like Vietnam.

Anyway, the music takes me back. The song was performed live only once, on The L.A. Woman tour at The Warehouse in New Orleans, Louisiana, on December 12, 1970, two days after my RTA.

This was The Doors' last public performance with Jim Morrison. The tour was cancelled after this concert.

Apologies, dear reader, if it doesn't have the same resonance for you as it does for me.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...