Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Musical Diversion

In the wake of unspeakable tragedies and news that shocks the world to its core I think it is time to divert ones attention to something that makes you happy to be on this earth.

When I need such guidance I retreat into the world of the musical. So if you need a positive diversion, as I do, here's some of my favourite Movie and TV musical moments since 2000.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The True Veronicas.

Am I meant to sit here
And just take this, when you promise me that I would be the one that you would never leave?
I can't believe I fell for what you said
Does it make you feel good to make me feel less of who I am?
Does it make you feel strong? Like you're a bigger man?
What did I do to deserve this? To shut me out.
Did I love too much is that what this is about?
I thanked god every morning for having you in my life, now I'm praying to forget and you know why...

And if you were gonna lie, at least be a man and lie to my face. So you can watch my tears fall to the ground as I tear myself apart 
Wondering why, why I ever cried.
I put myself through hell for you. Fuck you! I hate you! I love you! I need you!
Wanna run, wanna run.
I wanna run, but I don't wanna run if you're not gonna find me.
So we should just pretend to be friends, right? And fake our way to the bitter end.

These are the lyrics of the soliloquy that comprises the heart of the track Cold, off the new self titled album from The Veronicas. This album is their first in 6 years, and by far their best. Unfortunately, due to the fact that both members of The Veronicas, Lisa and Jess Origliasso, are stunningly attractive identical twins, their looks detract from their artistry. The qualities that separates The Veronicas from the other sibling based bands that I love, (including Tegan and Sara, Meg and Dia, Lily and Madeleine and First Aid Kit) is the dichotomy that lies at the heart of their music.

Out of all the artists mentioned above The Veronicas are the band that is the most unashamedly mainstream. They compose songs that always aim for the top of the charts, even when they don't seem to mean it. Despite their previous predilections for chart success, and their tendency to exploit their apparent superficality for greater public attention their lyrics were always overtly caustic, bitter, morbid and emotional, even by the standard of today's confessional songwriting.

And now they can say this...

Fuck you! I hate you! I love you! I need you!

This speaks to all of us, because those four short sentences encapsulate the nature of any romantic relationship.The rest of the album follows this lead. 

I think this is why The Veronicas chose a ballad for the first single of this album. Gone are the days of wide eyed optimism and the needless sexualisation of the pair (No doubt thought up by a horny marketing executive, in an attempt for them to break into the US) of their previous two first singles, and instead they have turned up the heartbreak and melodrama, which have always been the strength of The Veronicas. Like Cold, You Ruin Me exploits this heartbreak to its maximum effect with amazing results. This is not an overt attempt for air time, radio play, or chart success. Yet they got all three anyway, and that is because The Veronicas have truly found their collective voice.

Perhaps no one was ready for 'The True Veronicas' up until now? Perhaps they knew what their former record company did not? Perhaps no one expected the combination of pure pop and power balladry to be successful? The signs were always there though. The Veronicas may wish they were born Bob Dylan, but with this record they have found their own voices, and at just the right time.  

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


At the end of the week I turn 31.

When I thought of the number 31 as a child I always saw Ron Barassi, playing AFL for either Carlton or Melbourne, wearing that number on his back. All of his highlights would be in black and white. He would invariably be crashing through a pack, or trying to demolish an opposing player. Barassi was (and still is) the personification of the traditional Australian male. A man who leads authoritatively, aggressively, and as a man who you would hate to disappoint. A man of words and deeds.
31 always seemed to be so far away to me. My first memories of growing up were when my father was that age. At that time, he had struck me as just like Barassi, a looming towering figure who would always lead the way, and someone who you would never want to disappoint, because that meant you were disappointing yourself. The difference between Barassi and Dad was that the footballer would grab his disciples by the throat, figuratively or literally and berate them, whereas Dad might initially bark at me like a football captain, but at the end of the day he'd always give me a hug, teach me a lesson, and tell me how much he loved me.

Now I'm almost 31. I cannot make foolish mistakes hiding behind the shield of young adulthood. Life's plans are in place. Responsibilities must be fulfilled. Obligations met. I'm a fully fledged grown up. A third of my life is done... and yet it isn't.

I still don't know what it is like to have a proper intimate relationship. Previous attempts have been painful and diabolical. I've spent the past decade and half begging for necessities that seem to come so naturally to other people. Friends are getting married, having babies, becoming domesticated... and I feel like I'm in an ironic game of Musical Chairs. The table is filled with people sitting in seats. The chair is empty at the head of the table. But I can't use a chair. Instead I have to pull out the chair and fit my wheelchair under the table so I can join in the fun, only the chair is too heavy to move.

Is there a point, an age, or a time where you have to change your modus operandi if one part of your life doesn't work the way you want it to?

If so, how do you change a part of your life, but keep the other elements that you like intact?

Or do you just accept that it is broken and it cannot be repaired?

I thought these questions would be solved sooner. This frustrates the completist in me. The guy who has a detailed road map of where he wants to be, when he wants to get there, and how he wants to do it.

This fragile part of my life, the truly broken part, doesn't have 'a how to booklet' that goes with it.

31. Welcome to true adulthood. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Goss The Boss: Father of Modern Queensland.

Wayne Goss, former Premier Queensland from 1989-1995, died today aged 63. He will forever be remembered as the man who lead the Queensland ALP back to government after 32 years in opposition. His history making 1989 election victory alone is worth a comprehensive eulogy. However to comment on this achievement alone is to do him, and his government, a severe injustice. 

Though I did not live in Queensland during the Goss era, I have never forgotten the legacy of his government. Without the Goss Government, Queensland would still be a backward looking provincial colony. Most importantly of all, Queensland would still be a corrupt, vengeful, autocracy subjected to the whims of self serving leaders. He changed political culture in this state for the better.

Given that the deaths of Whitlam and Goss have occurred in close proximity to one another, comparisons between the two leaders are perhaps inevitable. Both men returned the ALP back to government after a generation in Opposition. However, the Queensland ALP stayed in the wilderness for more than a decade longer than their Federal counterpart. Goss  doubled Whitlam's term as the leader of a Government. Perhaps Goss and his government learned from Whitlam's mistakes, but Goss's job as a Premier who led an enormous transformational period in Queensland history should not be, and is often, overlooked.

The legacy of the Goss Government as whole also continues to be underestimated. You may argue whether he is the 'best' according to partisan preferences. However, Wayne Goss was the most important Premier of any state in the past 50 years, that to me is undisputed.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow: Whitlam and I

This morning, two points of history will intersect.

I was 14 in my year nine history class at Unley High School when the teacher told me that I could write an 800 word essay on any topic in Australian history. I chose The Dismissal because I had just become immersed in everything Gough Whitlam. When I finished the essay it was 2500 words long. The teacher, Mr Godden, wrote as his final comment.

I have no choice but to give you full marks, even though you ignored the word count. Quite simply you have proven that you know far more about this subject than I.

Though I have tempered my Whitlamite zealotry in the sixteen years since, that essay was the beginning of my career in political academia.

As Whitlam is memorialised, I will be at Matthew Flinders Anglican College (MFAC) receiving a cheque on behalf of Youngcare Australia. While many of the tributes to Gough have used hyperbole as a form of understatement, it is important to recognise that without Edward Gough Whitlam:

  1. My father would have not gone to university for free. This in turn means that he would have had trouble getting a job as a primary school teacher, and struggled to be my family's primary provider as my parents came to terms with my disability.
  2. I would have had limited opportunities to be integrated into the mainstream community, and I would have continued to be segregated on the basis of my disability alone.
  3. I would have not have gone to the Regency Park Centre School (RPC) in Adelaide that Whitlam and South Australian Premier Don Dunston helped establish for children with disabilities. Without the RPC I wouldn't have learned how to talk, feed myself or advocate for my own needs.
  4. I would have been unable to complete any form of education at all, much less two (almost three) university degrees. I wouldn't have learnt how to use a computer, drive a wheelchair or read a book. In other words I would have been completely helpless.
Read those points again and think about a life of a person with Cerebral Palsy who is 50, instead of 30, as I am. They might be just as smart as I am, just as tenuous, and just as willing to absorb knowledge. But you might not know it, because a person with a disability born in 1963 did not have access to the opportunities I mentioned above. I was extremely fortunate to be born on the right side of history.

The timing of today's historical intersection is therefore fitting. As Australia says one last goodbye to a bygone political era, the students of MFAC and I will be honouring the Whitlamite legacy in our own way. For without Whitlam there is no Youngcare. There is no concept of people with disabilities living independently. Importantly without Whitlam, there is no political or ideological basis to treat people with disabilities as part of the general community.

While one may argue successfully that any politician could have implemented these reforms eventually, the truth is that despite the Whitlam Government's many, many failings I would not be anywhere near the man I am today without that government.

May Edward Gough Whitlam rest in peace. He has certainly deserved it.