A Grain of Salt 2021


Unenforced isolation. Sunday 17th January, 2021. A Seinfeld week, a show about nothing, this week's key word, normality. Almost that is, after wading through the COVID news, the disgruntled overseas and interstate travellers and some tennis tournament. And the flim flam men, Trump and Morrison. A need for something interesting to allow my mind to tick back into neutral/active, normality. I was so desperate I read a piece on John Waters in The Age, a pre-publicity job on an upcoming Foxtel show. It never ceases to amaze me how it is assumed people into a form of celebrity status are into an equal status of intelligence? For mine - not necessarily! I recall his line back in 1983 (at age 34 All the rivers Run) telling me "Anyone who can't ride a horse shouldn't be an actor". "I've given up bread, sugars and alcohol" said John. As Steve Bisley said a number of times in that great early series Frontline currently replaying on the ABC - Hot cock! Goodness gracious me. A measure surely of our desperation for content. The Channel 9 news is all about real estate, electricity prices and the usual January drownings. I know, it's January. Be patient. Dream of normality, what ever that means. As for the biggest joke of the month, no secret, acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack. A day at a time, but oh so slow days. zzz.


Donald Trump from Tim Soutphommasane, edited: "If the problem is decadence, it may not be an exclusively American malaise. A moral complacency, a tendency for instant gratification, an inability to achieve systemic progress, a loss of common purpose: these are arguably all present in Australian public life. Granted, there are differences between Australia and the US. Our largely commendable national response to COVID-19 points to some structural resilience. But we, too, show signs of social decay amid abundance and strength. We see it in our stalled response to climate change. We see it in the lack of political accountability for lies, misconduct and maladministration. We see it in the constant calls for a return to Hawke-Keating style reforms, a sign of imaginative exhaustion. And we see it in the repetitive rituals of performative outrage that punctuate our culture wars." [Well said young Tim, on the other hand, from the high office of our acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack "It is unfortunate that we have seen the events at Capitol Hill, that we’ve seen in recent days – similar to those race riots that we saw around the country last year,” McCormack told ABC Radio National on Monday. “These are unfortunate events and of course many people don’t remember how you rode the horse; they remember how you dismount the horse. And it is unfortunate that this has occurred." That's telling them Mikey, man of steel? In drawing a comparison as in ability on the job, Michael is on a par with the Victorian opposition leader Michael O'brien? Add in a reasonable question (ABC journalist) to a representative of the Indian cricket side, "Is Australia racist?" Premier Gladys Berejiklian chipping in (dreaming?) "It's so un-Australian". Assuming we ignore Aboriginal people, Chinese, Muslims, Africans, Bosnians  and arabs generally, no, we're not racist.] 


The Chaser, edited "after a long and tense editorial board meeting last night, we have decided to cast aside our policy of impartiality and call upon parliament to retain acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack in his current position indefinitely. Michael McCormack has only been in the top job for less than a week, but in that time he has embodied Donald Horne's thesis that Australia is lucky because we muddle along despite having absolutely shithouse leaders. Michael McCormack has over the course of the past week managed to discredit almost every cause he's sought to support. By weighing into debates about Trump, Black Lives Matters, racial slurs at the cricket, Cheese Brands and fruit picking, he has done more for progressive causes in this country than any other leader ever, including Gough Whitlam. Every opinion he expresses is immediately discredited simply by sheer weight of his moronicness. Such skills are rare. We must seize this opportunity as a nation and make him Prime Minister for life. Because if Australia can continue to exist as a country with Michael McCormack as its leader then it truly is one hell of a lucky country. [Sadly, our PM and Treasurer are creating new avenues leading to the widening between them and us, superannuation, work choices, etc etc.] 


Like the Australian cricket captain, kindly excuse me, January in Rye (Victoria) can be hell on earth. Our Mornington Peninsula man, Health Minister Greg Hunt (sniper?) "Australia is the third most generous country in the world in regard to "humanitarian intake." highly doubtful according to my sources. Add in the contentious "providing medical care for refugees." Add in his comment last week, "Victoria has a duty to find a way to get its residents home"? Our Greg, the epitome of normality? 


Picking and choosing? Freedom of speech my backside. Yassmin Abdel-Magied spoke up and was duly crucified? Twitter is not removing Trump’s right to free speech, it is simply choosing not to publish it. This same power resides in The Age and The Herald-Sun, certainly in the 'feelgood' Nine News, indeed, in our government's deliberate handling (mishandling?) of our FOI laws? You may choose (like me) the silly idea of asking why, but if you expect an honest answer, yet again, you're dreaming. Or maybe ask another sniper;  expert on freedom - Josh Frydenberg? 


Enough said? The lost art/Leunig, Saturday Age/Spectrum: Finger strokes on a screen of glass, on your device, a thousand strokes a day...flick flick flick tap tap flick tap tap flick...swipe tap tap tap swipe swipe tap swipe...you could have done a wonderful painting with that agile finger, those sure and simple movements. You could have made a lovely wild and coloured thing...a happy mystery to hang on your wall, something to smile at... 


Old age, thankfully, luckily, good memories: Melbourne cup day 1949, a 13 year old in a gambling frenzy. Foxami had recorded a great time trial, faster than the favourite (Shannon from memory but don't bet on my memory) so logic reared it's head. I declared (to Auntie Millie) Foxami was past the post. Auntie advanced me 2 shillings (a shilling each way, my first bet ever) at 16/1. Duly greeted the judge and 22 shilling collected from the hairdresser/barber. Never a thought of returning Auntie's 2 shillings? Free to roam, the one rule, home for tea. To Luna Park with Graham Campbell (later a Fitzroy and Victorian VFL champion) and the big dipper, 4 rides until the front seats were vacant, the other 12 in the front seats. Across the road to Candy Corner. Chocolate malted milk shakes. Sometimes watching the prostitutes. I liked the skinny one with purple hair. The shady customers appeared to prefer the fat one? Enough left to catch the two trains home. [Money not a problem 1949. A morning station spot (Westgarth station) a built in type of cubby house, selling The Sun newspaper and various lollies, an afternoon Herald paper round and a lolly boy at night, the Merri theatre, North Fitzroy. Note: On Saturdays after a Collingwood victory a fortune to be made at the Northcote bowling club. The Herald and the Sporting Globe (pink) at tuppence a piece. Given sixpence and told to "keep the change." Nothing forthcoming with a Collingwood loss. Not to worry. Saturday's we're pay nights at the Merri theatre. 10pm. Hamburger shop. A slap up feast, baked beans on toast at 2 shillings and sixpence.]   


Jon Faine, local and overseas; edited: The Premier enormously enjoys his arm wrestle with the baying Murdoch hunting pack and it will continue. Strategic briefings against Andrews to pet journalists have left unreliable sources with red faces and zero credibility. Trump, the casualty list from his theatrically inspired single failed term in the White House is staggering. Now those voters who stormed the seat of constitutional power at his urging are left abandoned. Their anger over a ‘‘stolen’’ election is compounded by now being betrayed by their figurehead. It turns out it was all for nothing. They too were taken in by the greatest conman of our generation. The damage to their self-regard, to say nothing of the international reputation of the US, will take years to repair. [I'll go along with Jon.]


Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire cabinet have resigned over a scandal involving the payment of childcare allowances and the government’s attempt to recoup the costs from the recipients. Scott Morrison and his government refused to do anything until robodebt was shown to be the travesty that it was?...The past 10 months I've washed my hands (thoroughly) some 2000 times. Can't help wondering how many COVID monsters went down my bathroom sink?..."Who by kindness and smooth attention can insinuate a hearty welcome to an unwelcome guest, is a hypocrite superior to a thousand plain-dealers" [Lavater - or, Morrison to Joe Biden?]...Keep yourselves nice...www.ello8.com







Unenforced isolation. Sunday, 10th January, 2021. Have they gone yet?  Who, you may well ask, unless like me you're a resident of Rye Victoria and presently tripping over multicultural adult hordes, darling little ankle biters almost all eating ice cream, many with a puppy on a leash, sometimes? The hot weather improves the need/opportunity to shop, to some degree; they all retire to the beach and the love of the humming jet skis, with the ambulance sirens occasionally for balance. Am I cranky, bitter? No. There's a type of masochistic pleasure in knowing come the day after Australia Day (we call it Scott Morrison Day) they disappear. They're not all bad. I saw one group putting their pizza rubbish in the bin, albeit an overflowing bin. I should have taped it but the females were already giving me dirty looks for (seemingly?) looking at them. The colder days earlier helped, in that my Woolworths visits at 7am were free of bikini wearing shoppers. I'm thinking of getting a badge - "I survived the invasion" centre, below it, Gloria Gaynor. 


History? Various new words have been thrust at us on a daily basis the past 10 months. I keep looking (without clarification) for a Scotty Morrison word, other than slogans, so I've decided to submit my contribution - anomaly. Something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected. “I don’t hold a hose, mate.” was a classic phrase following his Hawaii visit going pear-shaped. The national cabinet has turned out to be a front for abolishing parliament. Credit where it's due, he (and firefighter Geoff Hunt) created the $5 million dollar app, responsible for the successful tracing of some dozen or more COVID cases. Already, at this early stage, Mister Anomoly (aka Schomo) was attracting a massive approval rate, for reasons best left to Mary's little lambs. Not satisfied, he wanted more, hubris (excessive pride or self-confidence). JobKeeper was announced, a union idea watered down so artists, migrant workers, universities and recently employed casuals couldn’t apply, but the Catholic Church could? Better still, the sheep and the crooks dived in, still swimming. Jobkeeper was doubled, until now, and aged care with 685 out of our 907 COVID deaths ignored, kindly balanced out by renovation grants. Danny Andrews was our captain, day after day, despite balanced attacks from firefighter number 2 Josh Frydenberg. So no parliament, firefighters at the ready, and Mister Anomaly taking on the China syndrome and the original cause of COVID. Silly me; I asked why and was told it would allow us to prepare for future COVID type attacks? And then, another brilliant idea, for good measure - an empathy coach @ $190k. Keeping his head clear of these fascinations is Sir Peter Dutton, patiently waiting, hoping, for opportunity number 2.    


NOBEL peace laureate Mairead Corrigan: "Chelsea Manning, as an American soldier based in Iraq, could not go along with the murder of Iraqi civilians. Julian Assange, as a publisher, had to do his duty and disclose facts of the Iraqi and Afghan wars to the public. Edward Snowden, working in US intelligence, could not remain silent knowing that his government was carrying out illegal surveillance of US citizens and world governments." [No bail for Julian, no surprise. English justice? No such thing. A death sentence.]


The FOI system, a crucial limb of government accountability, relies heavily on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, an independent umpire that reviews government decisions and hears complaints. From The Guardian, independent senator Rex Patrick: The senator said the overloading of the regulator was part of a broader trend toward secrecy in Australia. “We’ve got a government that has expanded cabinet to broaden secrecy claims over all significant decisions, ignored the funding needs of the auditor general, reducing his performance audit capacity from 48 per annum to under 40, feigned interest in a real Icac (Independent Commission Against Corruption) and used the AFP to intimidate the media in its oversight role.” [We all know who runs the AFP. Peter Dutton, Medevac: From the Mantra Hotel in Preston to the Park Hotel in Carlton. They cannot leave the hotel for exercise, and the windows have been tinted so we cannot see them. Again silly me, asking why the secrets, particularly hiding/secrecy - from whom?]


The storming of congress; serious, highlighting double standards, American interference in other countries politics, likely Australia included? Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and the hoax of COVID-19, without a word against his almost maniacal rule? Scotty (Legion of Merit) Morrison, the non carrying fire hose man: ‘‘He’s a strong leader, who says what he’s going to do and then goes and does it". Later "It is not for me to offer commentary on world leaders’’ - apart from Vladimir Putin and/or Xi Jinping? Can we be thankful Donald didn't start a war with China or whoever? The possibility our PM would have been there boots and all, our troops that is. [From 18 months ago: ."Scott Morrison has backed Donald Trump’s harder line against Iran in an escalating dispute over its nuclear program, and he did not rule out military assistance from Australia"].Perhaps not, perhaps too busy with climate change, respect for Indigenous people, improving social inequality and (again) those refugees? [I may not consider myself a sheep, but truthfully, I can't rule out - goat?]


If they say it enough times it becomes truth in the eyes of many, obviously. The smokers alongside in cafes, pushed outside to street level, still the danger, pushed out again in favour of pure air, ignoring the roar of passing traffic and the dangers of (their words) passive smoking. Unborn babies and so on. Here's another: Reserve bank governor Phillip Lowe. Interest rates cut to 0.1% for 3 years "to restore the Australian economy and create jobs". No mention of bank depositors? Another form of the ridiculous trickle down effect. Never forgetting Josh Frydenburg telling us to work later in life. Work where? And from Bob Carr - the powerful truths of fascist thinking: the power of the big lie energetically repeated – in this case, that the election was stolen. [Don't blame me, it's the hot weather].  


Some oldies the luxury of sleeping nightly as babies, others the odd bad night. A thought sets in and refuses to depart, maybe 2, 3 hours. Awake, dark, sneak a look at the time hoping (say) 6am? Blast, 2.30am. During my 40 years in theatre I had twin jobs, equally as enjoyable, working for totalisator companies (later known as the TAB of Victoria) at country, provincial and metropolitan racetracks, the staff similarly divergent, all types, the same problem, too many for not enough jobs. Here's last night's musings, often forgotten after nodding off around 5am, occasionally indelible. I'm not big on auditions, an exercise in 'nonsense' from my perspective, be that as it may. La Mama half a century ago. I was there observing, to watch a friend strut his stuff along with half a dozen others. They all did well, but what would I know? The director asked if I could read the part. I was amused, read the lines, offered the part, a lottery. Another time I told the director I'd do it provided he did not direct me and if I was concerned in any way I'd talk to him privately, offered the role. Recommended by Ross Williams to audition, an unknown director of Sydney fame who, apparently, was looking for my reaction to a particular scene, which I completely stuffed up. I'd done a play in St Kilda the night before, plus a few frothies afterwards, so a 10am audition was a pain in the bum, do the right thing by Ross? I got it, likely Ross put in a good word. I did two half hearted others for Theatreworks, both clearly against my casting, causing (yet again) to read in 'high bland' (say the lines, adrenaline excluded), got them anyway? Others cast me without the necessity for the audition, which was nice because I'd have also stuffed them up. My attitude to film, commercials and television auditions was even worse. Matching heads was not something I took kindly to, turning up at best, bored, slightly aggressive, knowing these often incompetent know-alls were fantasising as to their importance and anyway, one had to do the right thing by the good intentions of one's agent. I had a rule, attending every second time. The agent wouldn't check up, no problem. Thinking back, perhaps I was the know-all? [And, to quote Vonnegut, 'so it goes'. I'll have a nap later, catch up on shuteye].


Duplicity and self-interest, America, Australia, the world...Memories; Donald (trousers) Trump: He reduced taxes for the wealthy, he appointed conservatives to the Supreme Court, he boosted military spending, he pulled out of the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear treaty, and he moved the United States embassy to Jerusalem. Remember when Trump campaigned on law and order?...I seem to recall Health Minister, Martin Foley asking we Victorians not to travel to New South Wales, 3 weeks ago?..."We're Victorians. We know fire" - a VicGov commercial, good, but please, cut the first two words...Greg Hunt the handballer? "Victoria has a duty to find a way to get its residents home"?...Big Bash commentator Lisa Sthalekar, top shelf, at long last...Robert Burton, 17th century: "Self-love and vain-glory in an era of shameless self-promotion with an obsession with sex and its artificial allurement."...The lack of an audience should never be a deterrent to the artist, ditto the bullshit-artist?...Be kind to waitresses...www.ello8.com





Monday 4th January, 2021. Yet another New Years Day passes. Our newly discovered songwriter (nationalistic populist?) Prime Minister's meet the press was at his adman best. Cleverly letting the ball go through to the keeper, aka the state Premiers. Liked the way he compared our COVID results with other countries, the inference 'How good is Australia' (despite his constant references to snapback). Public universities were excluded from JobKeeper. Many artists were excluded. Many migrants, those on temporary visas, stuck in Australia because of logistics and money, were not eligible for help at all. Casuals who had not been with their employer for 12 months were not eligible: Academics, artists, recent migrants, young people, women.  [Frydenberg, asked why artists and actors had been left out, said, “We had to draw the line somewhere.” Asked about the exclusion of skilled foreign workers, he said, “We had to draw the line somewhere.” Asked why, if he was willing to spend $130 billion on JobKeeper, he couldn’t have spent more to cover casuals and foreign workers, again he said, “We had to draw the line somewhere.”] Fascinating difference between how the press handle Lady Gladys announcements as against our Danny Boy. 


And so begins my 14th year of Salt, hard to believe. Still searching for a change of direction. From my past 'big' decisions any change is highly unlikely. Dad marched me into town 1953, a 20 year public service stint. Accountancy was never on. A mate pleaded with me to come, so after working out a system (couple of beers, buy a meal, attend classes 7pm twice a week) it all began, primarily as a joke. Chris, another workmate, wanted me to come along to acting classes. What? Only ever seen the one stage show, a musical with Toni Lamond, The Pajama Game 1957. I had seen the Northcote High School play, recalling falling in love with the beautiful lead actress, who turned out to be a male? In for a penny, toddled along to William Bates Acting Academy? Nonsense. Chris got a part in their current play. Amateur crap. Melodrama, personified by dainty super chummy males? Abandoned Chris to his doubtful newfound fame. Months later, despite Chris's (now) modified fame in amateur ranks he asked I again accompany him to another crowd in South Yarra, professional, Claremont Theatre; Chris obviously smitten by ambition? I watched some improvisations, bit of fun; it all began, again, again a joke. Currently bereft of living advisers, keep writing? Not to worry. Happy New Year. Happy? 


Cassandra Goldie, The Guardian, edited: "From 1 January 2021 the maximum rate of jobseeker with the coronavirus supplement will be cut from $58 a day to just $51 a day. Originally increased earlier this year to $80 a day at the beginning of Covid, jobseeker will plunge back down to $40 a day at the end of March 2021 unless the federal government acts. The gap between the base rate of jobseeker and the minimum wage or the aged pension will be eye-watering. The age pension, not generous by any means, is $67. The minimum wage is $107 a day. Also, more than 1 million people are on temporary visas and are denied income support altogether. We need this federal government – this prime minister and minister for social services – to act, and fast. We need a permanent, adequate increase to jobseeker urgently, to be extended to everyone hit by unemployment now." [You can be certain the jobseeker welfare cuts will not dribble down to shops, growers, farmers, industry or charities.]


I recall a 3 week holiday on the Gold Coast, early 1980's. Strangely I've always thought I haven't got an artistic bone in my body. Still do. While there I read the Courier Mail daily and on weekends The Australian. The Age came in later in the day so I skipped it. I swam daily, walked along the beach and spotted all those rich houses. I'd had enough by the end of the second week but stuck it out for the family. There was the obligatory dream of living up there. Not from me. I had this feeling of loss. Glad  to come home. Whether or not I have an artistic bone is open for discussion, but therein lies one conclusion; most Queenslanders living on the Gold Coast do not.  


Anthony Albanese: ‘‘When it comes to Scott Morrison, I think Australians have started to work him out anyway. They see him as fake. As someone who is always political and always looking to shift blame to others’’. "Labor must do more than highlight deficiencies if it wants to win government" says Anthony. ‘‘In 2021 we face a critical battle. The battle ahead will be one of values – whether people are held back and left behind.’’ [A bit like the sailor pissing into the wind, the port side or the starboard side? Perhaps check out the wind, hoping (desperately) he has the wherewithal? There's an implied criticism of difference, as in no dividend imputations. Other than that Shorten's focus was for a fairer distribution of the wealth. Yes, dividend imputations too much too soon, but what of capital gains and negative gearing? Details Anthony? On the credit side, good to know he's kicking.]


When the relaxation of lending rules was announced last September, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg – and the Reserve Bank of Australia – pitched it as a measure to “cut red tape”. “As Australia continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that there are no unnecessary barriers to the flow of credit to households and small businesses,” Frydenberg said. “Maintaining the free flow of credit through the economy is critical to Australia’s economic recovery plan.” Under the government’s proposal, the National Consumer Credit Protection Act would be changed to allow lenders to give out money without thoroughly checking whether the borrower could afford to repay the loan. The proposal directl 


I ventured across the road (some 500 steps) to the Rye RSL last Saturday. Not an ideal time to visit, albeit the taste of Carlton Draught from the tap. Awash with visitors from afar (Melbourne), many with a misinterpreted sense of entitlement, on holiday, nationalism intact, beware. Trapped, inevitable, discussion (?) point the wearing of masks, as you enter, not when drinking. Amidst his bullshit he uttered the magic words - "I'm Australian. I'm not racist." I anticipated a "but" to follow so I chipped in to stem the flow. If nothing else I'm practiced at maintaining an agreeable attitude while withholding my private truth, which saw myself as staring, face to face, with our beloved Prime Minister. I escaped, well and good, but not without a nasty taste for the following hour or two. [Adding in the unsolvable problem of "What motivates them to think I might want a discussion?"]   


And so it goes: Digital producer Michelle Feuerlicht, a pioneer of online journalism at the ABC and at 23 won a Walkley Award for her work with Four Corners, believes innovation isn’t supported enough. “I fought so hard to push digital boundaries, and even after the recognition it continued to be a battle,” she says. Frustrated, she moved to the UK and now works on an Innovate UK-funded project that explores how live performances can use immersive technologies. “What I am working on now really exposes the gap between the UK and Australia. This sort of future thinking within the arts doesn’t seem to be happening in Australia. It feels like people are more satisfied with the status quo. I’m not sure there’s any need for my skills, because they haven’t got the sort of industry I work in now.” [Sad but true].    


The patience of the ‘not happy Jan’s’ waiting in line; 2, 4, 6 hours. How dare they have to wait? What caused them to go in the first place? The safety of no third wave or their rights? Victoria should have been better prepared, surge capacity! Yeah? So should they, as in you lot in those queues. No border restrictions would almost certainly have led to increased numbers of outbreaks and the possibility (certainty?) of disastrous  consequences. This is not going away. Or am I being too simplistic? Take your heads out of the sand. It's a globalisation problem. Unless we all pull together, expect the same or worse come 2022.


Priya and Nades, presently enjoying 1000 days holidaying on Christmas Island, were born in Australia. One and free?...Nomophobia, nah?...Watched Channel 9's pathetic political bias, Sunday News. Thank goodness for the weather lady, albeit I wasn't listening to her forecast...Let's ban jet skis in Port Phillip Bay?..."I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's." [Mark Twain]...Patiently waiting for the multicultural/crowds to disperse (evacuations beginning Sunday 10th January to the big one, Tuesday 26th January)...Deep breathing, from the  diaphragm...www.ello8.com