Aboriginal music in context

31 August, 2006

I was looking for something else this afternoon and found an excellent review of an album by the band Rivertribe, where the reviewer gave some insight into the context of the didgeridoo and how it is often abused in world music. I thought I’d share it, as it got me thinking.

I cannot take on the task of reviewing this piece of music, before I lend you some background information about two specific things; the genre of “world music”, and secondly the didgeridoo and the Aboriginal culture. They are both two of the most heavily raped and watered-out things I know of, and being a person who holds both in great respect, I feel that I must put forth knowledge. There is a big problem within the genre of “world music”; respect for the sounds made. It is easy to slap music from one country on to something from another, assuming they hold a given pitch and conformity. Got some rumba for this drone-singing? Wanna have a little Mexican guitarro with that rap music? Do you prefer your digde with ambient drum loops or African clay-pot drums? The variations are endless, and often you can split the whole genre into two chunks; good music, and disrespectful music. And let me tell you; the difference between the two is very, very thin.

One can treat the sounds with respect. You can listen to its sounds, tracing their meaning through rhythm and natural counter-instruments. You can read about it, learn from a master, or ask so many questions you feel you know something about it. Read the rest of this entry »


An interesting take on NSW politics

29 August, 2006

From today’s Crikey – classic!

“Meanwhile, investigations are continuing into a dubious front-organisation for the Labor Party that could be responsible for the biggest branch-stacking scandal yet in Australian politics. Calling itself the Liberal Party, the Sussex Street stooges apparently have stacked numerous political branches to ram through their preferred candidates and policies to ensure the re-election of the Dilemma government against all odds.”

RIP Don Chipp (1925-2006) and an analysis of the Democrats’ future

29 August, 2006

RIP Don Chipp
Don Chipp, founder of the Australian Democrats, died yesterday in Melbourne aged 81. His legacy is the creation of a space for minor parties in the Australian political system unprecedented until the rise of the Australian Democrats as the “third force” in Australian politics. I agree with Kim Beazley’s assessment that the country is poorer for his passing – he was relentless to the very end in promoting the values of democracy in this country. He brought into the Australian idiom the phrase “keeping the bastards honest”, one which resonates clearly today. The need for this is no more clearly demonstrated than in the Howard Government’s moves to undermine democracy through Senate committee processes now that it has gained control of the Senate.

The Democrats – What on earth happened?
It is beyond doubt among even the most optimistic observers that the Australian Democrats are no longer a political force in Australia. Nobody is quite sure why and everybody has something to point the finger at, but all we do know is that at the 2004 election, in every state and territory, support for the Democrats plunged to between 1 and 3% from a variety of levels, and this has been repeated in every State election held since that election in which the Democrats have taken part. My own thoughts are that after the departure of Don Chipp and Janine Haines (another person for whom I have tremendous respect, who sadly passed away last year) from the parliamentary party, the party struggled to find an identity for itself, and collapsed in a factional mire that had been a ticking timebomb for many years.

The two explanations heard most often from the commentariat, depending on political affiliation, are either:

  • that Lees’ support of the GST – seen as a compromise taken too far by left-wing commentators – or;
  • the party’s perceived drift to the left under Stott-Despoja and others – an odd criticism given that the party has always been socially liberal and environmentally conscious.

While it’s difficult to read the minds of 600,000 voters, and the fact that when the AD vote dissipated, it didn’t go anywhere in particular, my own reading of it is that the party had shifted all over the place up until Kernot’s leadership, that Kernot’s defection to the ALP had a deep psychological impact upon the remaining Democrat members and the right wing gained ascendancy and took the party places that its voting public never wanted it to go, but the ascendancy of Stott-Despoja halted the vote slide as she presented well, was intelligent and coherent, and people regained confidence in a return to the party’s old values (particularly given Chipp’s strong support of her). However Stott-Despoja was in a minority within the parliamentary party and the public slanging made them look like the very parties they were supposed to be keeping honest. The voters Stott-Despoja had convinced to vote Democrat in 2001 after the GST shock were then lost, as were an additional large number of less ideologically committed voters who were tired of the public spectacle and thought the Democrats had lost their vision and their right to represent them. My conclusions in this paragraph come from talking to about 50 ex-Democrat voters from four states, as well as extensively studying AEC and state electoral statistics from all states and territories except Victoria (no reason why the exclusion – just haven’t got to it yet)

Where to from here?
Now the interesting bit follows – Stott-Despoja was not up for election in 2004. In fact, in SA, her former colleague Meg Lees had quit the party and ran on the “Australian Progressive Alliance” ticket, receiving about 2% of the vote in the Adelaide Hills and negligible everywhere else, while a non-incumbent tried to win the Democrat vote. Next time will not be a split ticket and voters may well cast a personal vote for Stott-Despoja. I’ll be very interested to see if this happens – especially after the shock Xenophon result in the 2006 State election which demonstrates that SA voters are happy to reward independently minded candidates with a perceived genuine focus on issues over politics. My prediction is that she will be the last Democrats MP in Australia and could even do a Harradine, carving out a niche vote every 6 years. However, this depends on whether people see the name or the party. Should she not win it, the chances of Family First getting the seat in the only state where they have a serious chance in 2007 (Victoria was a freak result) are quite real.
I think it’s inevitable that Bartlett and Murray will lose their seats in 2007 in a vote largely consistent with 2004 when their colleagues met the same fate. It’s been my observation that in states with a significant Green vote, the Democrat has been replaced with a Green, while in others they’ve been replaced by a major party representative (usually a Liberal). SA and NSW both elected three of each, while Queensland elected three Liberals and a National in what I see as a one off – the Hanson and One Nation votes were still reasonably high in Queensland (~4% each) and directed towards the Coalition, while the Democrat vote collapsed, creating a vacuum. Queensland is the hardest to predict in 2007 – all the others are all but certain based on past voting history unless a massive swing occurs to the ALP or one of the larger minor parties besides the Greens preferences Labor (however, there are very few of these left).


George Galloway 1, Sky News 0

27 August, 2006

(Thanks to Jimmy’s Corner for the heads-up)

This is an interview conducted on 6th August on Sky News by its Jerusalem bureau reporter, Anna Botting, with controversial left-wing UK MP George Galloway, most notable for his strong stance from the very beginning against the war in Iraq.

The interview is most notable for the lengthy and biased questions by the reporter, and Galloway’s eloquent and informed rebuttal of all of them in his own unique style. I have been a critic of Galloway in the past for courting unnecessary conflict, but on this occasion, I can’t fault him in any way. There is only one way to handle such a bizarre interview. Not that he hasn’t got experience, either – “you are conducting one of the most absurd interviews I have ever participated in” pretty much sums that one up.

Technology rant

27 August, 2006

The last three days of hard work have brought home to me that in August 2006, using the most modern of bits that East Asian technology has to offer, I find it odd that one still has to build a machine using components by plugging a bewildering array of cables together in a particular fashion, screwing things together with real screwdrivers, competing for space in a case that almost seems not to have been designed for the purpose despite its $90 price tag, and then once one manages to get it to boot, trying to get it working using software that almost seems not to have been designed for the purpose (namely, Windows XP) despite its $200 price tag.

With bits going out of vogue at different speeds, and needing to keep up to date in order to handle increasingly poorly written and clunky software (remember the days when Windows came on 3 floppy disks and Office on 4?), one has two choices – go to the computer shop and pay them labour and parts to get the new bits installed – risking substituted components or incorrectly installed operating systems – or do it oneself – which is not an option for the faint-hearted and can result in the loss of an expensive machine without due care or knowledge.

The information available in either case is woefully incomprehensible to the average person, or even to someone like myself with an IT degree and a history in Internet and applications support – it is almost impossible to compare two products (eg motherboards) and “try before you buy” simply does not exist. Even the vendors themselves often don’t know much about the products they sell and recommend, and sometimes you feel like you’re getting a sales pitch and they don’t see any financial incentive in providing you with reliable information. Information on the Internet is often highly subjective and technical in nature, written with needs in mind very different to the average consumer.

Read the rest of this entry »

Surprises do happen.

23 August, 2006

Thanks to Stewart Wotton for flagging this one for my attention – Dennis Jensen, Liberal MP for the safe southern suburban seat of Tangney, has failed to win preselection for the seat.

In my previous comments I had suggested that it was unlikely that sitting members in safe seats would be rolled at preselection as it may present a picture of disunity. An interesting point – what would make a branch feel safe enough to overthrow an existing member? It would be fair to say the default action is to preserve sitting members, so this is almost like a firing.

Jensen has had a few contributions to the public debate, most notably nuclear policy in which he has particular expertise, calling for reform of the Defence Department (he’s a former defence analyst) and a measured stand on citizenship and terrorism issues (while being opposed to Moylan/Georgiou et al). From what I am reading, I’m not seeing a lot of local input into his statements, although I could be wrong – if anyone who knows more wishes to add more information, feel free to add a comment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Centrelink privacy breaches ‘disturbing’ (ABC)

23 August, 2006

From ABC this evening, highlighting a problem I hadn’t really considered when I wrote about my thoughts on the change management and other implications of the smart card system.

The man heading up a privacy task force for the Federal Government’s smart card system says he is deeply disturbed by Centrelink’s privacy breaches.

Centrelink has sacked 19 of its workers and another 92 have resigned after it was discovered staff were looking at and changing the records of family and friends.

Former Australian Competition and Consumer Condition (ACCC) chairman Professor Allan Fels is watching over the implementation of the new smart card system, which will be needed to access health and welfare services by 2010.

He says the Centrelink scandal highlights why data on the card should be kept to a minimum.

“The Centrelink revelations are deeply disturbing,” he said.

“I take some comfort from the fact that the Government has caught them and punished them.

“But there’s still a huge weight on the Government to provide full, proper, legal and technical protection of privacy with the access card.”

More from news.com.au:

Labor has called for the privacy commissioner to investigate the breaches, in which 600 Centrelink staff browsed the welfare records of friends, family, neighbours and ex-lovers without authorisation.

Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley’s take on it in a press conference this evening:

BEAZLEY: It’s always good when you find out that there is a problem. It’s very bad that the problem has developed. This is so much of a piece with this Government. You find bits and pieces of problems emerging in the Immigration system. Then you find other problems emerging in the Department of Defence. Then you find further problems now emerging in Centrelink. Yes, it’s good that Centrelink detects it but it’s bad that it actually developed. We have had a government which has been great on spin for the 10 years it’s been in office, hopeless on delivery. And part of delivery is competent administration.