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ISSUE #171

Camille Claudel in her studio putting big pins in a sculpture of her brother Paul
Mike's Pith & Wind - On Demand
I find this hard to believe myself now, but not so long ago I was a card-carrying pay-for-TV Foxtel customer. I was living on my own in rented accommodation in Camberwell many years ago when I was visited by a Foxtel salesman - I was on my own and I was easy meat. I signed up as soon as he confirmed I could get multiple sports channels and watch Rugby Union till the Blue Bulls came home and was soon happily watching as much Super Rugby as they could throw at me.
Inevitably though I started to check out what was available on other channels and dipping into some of the more exotic ones like World Movies, for which privilege of course I was charged a few more dollars per month. (One thing you soon find out about Foxtel is that you can never get the package you want and you’re paying for a raft of channels you never watch, but the Foxtel model is suffering on multiple fronts, not the least being that the preponderance of Aussie TV viewers are not prepared to pay for TV and continue to watch the free-to-air networks, mostly for the sport and cooking programs I imagine).
Now that I’ve relinquished my Foxtel membership, that’s exactly what I’m now compelled to do as well. No more minority sports like rugby union for me. Rugby simply doesn’t exist on free-to-air. That leaves teasing out the occasionally watchable stuff more or less exclusively from the ABC and SBS, as I can’t stomach any of the pap on the commercial channels. Even if they had something worth watching, the volume (in all senses) of advertising has me grabbing for the remote. (I did catch a minute or two of Andrew Denton on Channel 7 the other day however. What on earth is he thinking? Probably of his bank balance I suppose, but what of his eternal soul?)
Anyway, there is some relief from the tedium of even these worthy institutions’ programming in the shape of ABC iView and SBS On Demand respectively. I’m informed, (as honorary holder-upper of the iPad I don’t really know a lot about it myself) that iView isn’t much chop as it doesn’t have any movies, whereas On Demand has lots of movies as well as a swag of series. (Like The Good Fight for instance, which series is rollicking entertainment, stunningly current and rabidly anti-Trump for good measure).
My princess-guide does invite me to help choose a show from the On Demand, but we usually watch the one she first thought of and that’s quite OK by me. Happily she recently discovered an unmined selection of movies in the Biography section and we haven’t looked back since. In fact, we’ve had a heady-run of biographical titles that have been informative and educational as well as uniformly well put together, various degrees of entertaining and quite often moving and unexpected in a way that only true stories can be, even if you mostly know how they’re going.. read more
STOP PRESS...................All the latest news, gossip and pics
ARCHIVES.............................All the back-issues of everything
BOOK THE BAND.......................Book Spectrum - and more!
SPECTRUM'S FRIENDS............Links to Spectrum's people
CLASSIFIEDS................................Buy Mike's guitar - please!
CORRESPONDENCE..............................Letters to the editor
Dick's Toolbox - Tom Wolfe
So how long ago was it that I read Tom Wolfe’s ‘Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test'? I suspect about fifty years ago, around 1968 when it was first published. Or did I read ‘The Kandy –Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby’ first? More likely, as it was published earlier and I am sure that either Esquire or the New Yorker ran one or two of the short stories from it as exemplars of the new journalism which persuaded me to buy the Penguin copy as soon as it was released. And if my memory is correct the ‘The Kandy –Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby’ was about the Californian hot rod scene whereas the ‘Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’, a full-sized real book, was about Ken Kesey, the author of ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, and a degenerating drug fuelled hippie bus trip across America and into fear, fantasy and loathing. Complete with Hell’s Angels.
Another of his earlier books that I recollect owning, reading, and enjoying for its skewering of the New York social scene was ‘Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers’ may be buried there also. The Black Panthers, who were the focus of the Leonard Bernstein gathering of New York radical socialites and ‘arm-chair’ agitators, later described Tom Wolfe as “…….. that dirty, blatant, lying, racist dog who wrote that fascist disgusting thing in New York magazine?".
This doesn’t compare with Hunter S Thompson, who wrote to Wolfe, “You thieving pile of albino warts…. I’ll have your goddamn femurs ground into bone splinters if you ever mention my name again in connexion [sic] with that horrible ‘new journalism’ shuck you’re promoting.”
Neither book seems to be on our bookshelves now, but could be in one of the innumerable boxes scattered around the place containing books that we are uncertain whether to keep or give to the op-shop. Or they could be amongst the books that you lend to people and which never seem to come back unless you see them on their bookshelves and repossess them.
Now that Tom Wolfe is dead, at the respectable age of 88, there are a number of questions that have occurred to me, two of which focused on his mannered, foppish dress style, always wearing a white suit, shirts with detachable collars and strange hats. The perfect Southern gentleman twice removed, Oscar Wilde for the post Beat Generation. The first question is; did they place him in his coffin dressed as he always was to meet his maker, ready to take notes and look for a suitable publisher? The second was, how did he manage to write articles and books in which he seems to be either an invisible observer or somebody that blends in perfectly into any environment dressed in a white suit? Which, apparently he was. You would think that a Hell’s Angel in some drug crazed sex orgy might have thought that a glowing white dandy standing in the corner with a notebook might have reason for some comment. Or mutilation or.. read more
Wazza's Trans-Tasman Tales - About Prizing Portraits
I still have The Age and ABC News apps on my devices – although I don’t know how long the ABC one will remain under Australia’s current political regime that seems intent on abolishing anything that gets in its dictatorial way. Anyway, when I saw the first story about this year’s Archibald Portrait Prize and the Packing Room prize going to a rendering of your beloved Jimmy, I checked out the other contenders and my attention was caught by the significant number of self-portraits. Where, I wondered had the public subjects gone? Were you losing interest in public figures; were celebs so exhausted by paps’ smears that being painted wasn’t on anymore; or, maybe artists just found themselves more interesting. But, back to my subject for this tale – our Jacinda’s Trans-Tasman connections: I suppose your interest in our woman PM is understandable given your brief flirtation with Julia who, with a strange symmetry, has faded into the obscurity Jacinda has risen from, although, to be dispassionate, Julia wasn’t youthful, pregnant and had a hairdresser rather than a TV fisherman as first bloke. You’ve also had a quite a bit of Jacinda coverage including an in-depth TV interrogation, MSM and Women’s mag profile pieces and a recent visit to Canberra, so you’ve got enough of a measure of her to let her settle deservedly into the background over your side of the ditch.
Imagine the surprise then when the 2018 Archibald Prize winner was announced – “Self-portrait after George Lambert” – and the rhetorical spin of the artist’s statement has Jacinda showing up as a sort of avatar in Yvette Coppersmith’s self-portrait. The artist elaborated: “I would like to start by saying I want to channel the original inspiration for this portrait, which was the Right Honourable New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. I think she would have worn this colour”. And, as the artist further put it in a 3-way appearance on Sky News that included Jacinda (on phone), “When you weren't available, I thought I'll just do one as you…In a way the process has been that you inspired me to make a picture of me so in my own life, through the medium that I work in, and that's what I wanted to bring to the picture for other people.” Ardern responded: “I was bitterly disappointed because I would have considered it an honour to have been painted by you”, but also observed that if she had been available the winning painting would not have been made, “So maybe it's all worked out,”. As I noted, it’s ‘rhetorical’. read more
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