A summer fling

Most people associate frisbees with lazy afternoons at the park, but some – namely, competitors of a formalised sport called Ultimate Frisbee – treat them very seriously indeed. This fast-paced team sport (which is quite entertaining to watch) has been around for four decades and is slowly edging towards the sporting mainstream.

I wrote about Ultimate Frisbee and some of its Melbourne aficionados in a story published in The Age. Click here to read it.



Labor's plan to censor the internet is in shreds. Well, good.

I was pleased to read this article this morning: Labor plan to censor internet in shreds.

The Government's plan to censor the internet is in tatters, with Australia's largest ISP saying it will not take part in live trials of the system and the second largest committing only to a scaled-back trial.

My first thought was "well, good." Let's assume for a moment that the internet filter falls flat on its stoopid pixellated face. Pushing aside the shame of dealing with a poorly thought out and implemented policy, it isn't all bad for Labor or the Australian people.

It's now just over a year in on K-Rudd's watch and his lot seems to be listening to community concerns a lot than the last one. K Rudd and co. set themselves up - for real or for show - as a 'listening' government early on with the 20/20 Summit. When issues like this internet filter jazz arise, they adopt at least partially a the-people-have-a-point philosophy, ala their concessions for pensioners and careers. Having recently watched the final instalment of The Howard Years, one of the points the show hammers home is that Little Johnny, a true-blue my-way-or-da-highway recaltitrant, was more than happy to do the hard push on unpopular ideas (WorkChoices and the GST) as well as refusing to concede on popular ones (the sorry debacle, the Kyoto Protocol).

Labor's internet filter was a lousy idea from the start, a dirty dog of a policy, and I'm pretty sure they - especially Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy (pictured above) - know it. Conroy is laughing in that photo but he must be unhappy with the controversy, which has cast him in a negative light so early on in the government's tenure. His job flogging the filter is a bum gig; better than Joe Hockey's past mantle as the salesman/architect of WorkChoices; but still a real downer. Conroy must be gazing at other portfolios with envy and reassuring himself, again and again, that ‘the grass is greener…’

If memory serves, the internet filter was promised in one way or another during the heat of an election, in the context of doing something to provide extra security on the internet, so mums and dads could watch the tube without fearing that young Billy, on the computer in the backroom, would be clicking his way into the cyber under belly, unearthing fascinating new uses for ping pong balls.

Politicians cop flack for breaking their promises, but when their promises sucked to begin with – perhaps in the heat of an election campaign they were under pressure to pull a rabbit out of a hat and instead yanked out a badly injured hare - a good old fashioned renege can be the best thing to do. With this internet filter, nobody, or at least very few people, out there in cyber land are going to hold it against them.

On the subject of stoopid promises pledged during election campaigns, there is also the recent example of new Melbourne Major Robert Doyle's crazy idea to reopen all of Swanston Street to traffic. That’ll most likely get shut down, which will inevitably mean Doyle broke a promise. Yes indeed, the timeless art of the renege has its place, morally and logically. Alcoholics around Australia would no doubt like to remind K-Rudd that it’d be fine, just fine, to renege on the mixed drinks tax too.



My interview with Michael Joy and John L Simpson

Last week I interviewed Men's Group director Michael Joy (pictured above) and producer John L Simpson. The film is compelling, emotionally explorative and one of the best acted Aussie flicks I've seen in yonks.

The full Q & A is available at In Film. Here's a taste:

LB: Men’s Group is essentially about a bunch of blokes talking, and the title of the film exemplifies the simplistic premise on which it is based. Where did the idea come from to make Men’s Group and how did the project originate?

MJ: John and I were working on another project and we were really looking at the men in that story. We found that much of the ‘trouble’ stemmed from their difficulties in communicating in a healthy way. At the same time, I was feeling pretty depressed and went along to a men’s group one night on the advice of a telephone counsellor and found the entire evening fascinating. Here was a bunch of about five blokes sitting around a cramped lounge room and each one was grappling with a completely different situation. Some of these guys had been going to this group for several years and were still looking at their lives from the outside. I was struck by the immense pain and conflict that was alive in the room, in the thick air of that room, as well as the sense of caring and safety in which that could be expressed. The experience sort of shook me, and it inspired me. The following morning John and I were talking and we realized that here was a story that not only we felt we needed to tell, but that it was also feasible for us to do so with very little money. We began making the film pretty much that day.


Review: Australia

My review of Australia is up at In Film Australia.

Here's a snippet:

There is only one rational explanation capable of explaining the existence of Baz Luhrmann’s obese outback epic Australia: it’s an elaborate joke. A ruse. A jape. A gag. A sick $150 million dollar punch line made at the expense of every Australian. In case you weren’t aware, some drunken nut challenged Luhrmann to break box office records by making the most astonishingly bad Australian film of all time. Some deranged gambler sought to test the intelligence of cinemagoers the country wide by juxtaposing, alongside a solid year of thoughtful, intelligent and cheaply produced local features, a bumbling big budget behemoth just to see which one we were dumb enough to pick. There are no other level-headed explanations. Struth! Bugger me! Stone the crows! This movie stinks.

As you may have guessed, I wasn't a big fan of this film, and I sincerely hope it doesn't set a trend...


Looks like this film's version of Australia will be a little different to Baz Lurhmann's. Check out the website. Kudos to them for getting the site online early


Nothing up my sleeve

A story of mine has been published in The Age today and is available online here.

The story focuses on the history of magic in Melbourne and a new exhibition covering that subject at City Museum, which runs through December and January. One of the people I interviewed was magic historian Gerald Taylor (pictured above), a sweet elderly man and a fountain of knowledge on all things abracadabra. After our interview Gerald showed me a scrapbook of news clippings that have been written about him over the years - amongst other roles he worked as a high profile magician/illusionist for decades - but the book ended at about 1990, so it's nice to think that he now has a new clipping to paste in there.


Watch your waste - Joost Bakker and the Greenhouse

I wrote a story for this morning's The Age about installation artist Joost Bakker and his intruiging project, The Greenhouse.

The Greenhouse is a self-sustaining exhibition venue that for two months will reside in the heart of Melbourne CBD, at Federation Square.

Here's the intro:
JOOST Bakker is fascinated by waste. The 35-year-old Melbourne florist has made a lifelong hobby out of finding unique ways to reuse second-hand materials. "My mum and dad and my brothers have always been sick of me collecting crap and bringing it home," he says. "They were like, 'Here he comes with more bloody rubbish'."