Gilly for PM (That’s Adam Gilchrist)

Okay, I’ve finished my exams. I have no job. Therefore, I see it as apt that I take a little time out of my packed schedule to write about the latest happenings in politics, sport, and whatever else I feel like mentioning. Firstly: As I hope and pray all of you know, Julia Gillard has been installed as our new Prime Minister, defeating Kevin Rudd in an election decided by Labour’s caucus (or something like that- I’m horribly informed on the nuances of politics, which I don’t necessarily see as a bad thing). I was watching the TV last night, waiting for Margaret and David to pop on screen, when I first heard about Gillard’s decision to challenge. The ABC then unbelievably chose to cut to K-Rudd (this is quite possibly the only instance where a white guy can pull off a black athlete-style nickname) giving a press conference, where he quite rightly reminded us that he had been selected by the public to serve the public. This is one of the parts that I can’t really comprehend about this whole situation: the government is selected to serve the entire population, but once they’re elected, they become insufferably self-serving. I have no way to tangibly prove this, but I can tell you that Gillard wasn’t elected by the party members purely because they believed she is a more capable leader than Rudd. Preferential deals would have been cut, especially with the now-Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan.

I will be honest here. I did not know that Julia Gillard had the power to just challenge Rudd’s leadership like that. I know that the same thing happened with Turnbull/Abbott a few months ago, but in that situation, the Liberals aren’t in power, so a leadership change will have no measurable effect on anyone in the general population. But for Gillard to use this ability- well, this makes what happened today the second most randomly awesome act of power-wielding in Australian political history. Of course, the number one is undeniably Gough Whitlam’s dismissal, which I still remain flabbergasted by, not because of the dismissal in and of itself, but because it was the Governor General who did the deed. The Governor General! This is the highest of all figurehead appointments, a role that essentially requires you to attend government functions and the likes, but yet you inexplicably have the capacity to dismiss the most powerful (wo)man in the nation? The mind is baffled.

There is also a couple of other unusual things, in my opinion, about Gillard’s ascendance. One of these is that she has an absolutely horrible voice. It is a thing that elicits bogan pride, a lazy drawl which gets inside your head and doesn’t ever lead. I know that the PM position is a bit more hands on than, say, the American Presidency, but I think that, first and foremost, you want a person who can communicate ideas clearly and effectively. When the person in charge of doing that has a voice that makes Dave Hughes seem like a viable alternative, I think there’s cause for concern.

Another thing: she has red hair. There, I said it. Kerry O’Brien is overjoyed.

Also, wasn’t K-Rudd a genuinely popular PM? I know that he had his haters, but there was definitely no general sense of antipathy surrounding him, unlike a certain bald-headed fellow who managed to stay in office for the previous ten years or so. And when can Tony Abbott call an early election? Tomorrow? If I were him, I’d look to do it as soon as possible.

One last thing: on News.com.au, the six most widely read stories today all concern Gillard becoming PM. In seventh place is “Monster croc wins battle with shark”. People, I don’t ask much, but please, do whatever needs to be done to move this up to first place. A crocodile fought a shark? Holy crap!

All in all, it was easily the most exciting day of politics I have ever been privy to, and it’s good to see a female PM, even if *we* didn’t elect her. I think I’ll leave this as a single post, and write some more about sports in a separate one which should be up later tonight.

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World Cup y’all

Alright, I’m bored with studying, so I thought I’d update this baby. And since it’s World Cup time, I thought I’d do a special sports-themed entry. It’s nothing to do with the fact that writing about sport is as easy as putting your shoes on. Nothing to with it at all.

Firstly- Andrew Johns. Woah. In case you hadn’t heard, Timana Tahu opted out of NSW’s State of Origin camp after Joey, the assistant coach of the team, described Greg Inglis, a Queensland player, as a “black c—“. Tahu took offence to this as his mother is Aboriginal, and took the unusual step of declaring himself unable to play. Now, I can totally understand Tahu’s stance on this; it’s one thing for a player to say a racial epithet on the field, in the midst of the battle, but for your own coach to say it- well, that’s just wrong. But the part that I fail to comprehend is that the media seems shocked that Johns even uttered such a term. I would like to take this opportunity to remind the media that, though Johns may be the greatest footballer of all time, he has shown a remarkable aptitude at being an absolute bloody idiot. He participated in illegal drug-taking throughout his career, and when first starting out as a commentator, seemed unable to string two words together without the help of an autocue; even with one, he’d have trouble reading it. In all likelihood, his mental development was stunted as a result of being so precociously talented at rugby league, and only now is it starting to becom eknown. So media, please stop harboring a belief that Johns’ greatness on the field extends to his personal life. After all, he’s the reason someone like Matty Johns can be considered the smart brother.

From one form of football to another- this time, the real version. The World Cup has once again graced us with its presence, and for this I am grateful. Along with the Olympics, this is the only sporting event that truly transcends everyday life, and to see how much these games mean to the players and the fans is indescribable (is that a word?). But enough about the premise re. football > life. I want to talk about World Cup Fever.

There is a reason I capitalised the F in fever as well. This is because World Cup Fever is a television show, aired nightly on SBS at 8:30. I have only seen two episodes of this show (coincidentally, there have only been two made thus far), but I already feel the need to tell everyone to watch this show. Last night was its debut, and in the spirit of Murphy’s Law, everyone that could go wrong, did go wrong. Pre-taped segments went unaired, leaving the hosts red-faced. An interview with Mark Viduka was rendered obsolete as his microphone was dead, and no one could hear his responses. An “interview” with Kim Jong-Il was conducted without the background present on the green screen it was being taped in front of; bizarrely, as we watched Kim answer questions, not only could we see the studio panelists in the background, we could see Kim as well, perched on the original Kim’s shoulder in a manner not unlike Angel/Devil Homer in the Simpsons. The production quality was a solid D minus, and for this reason alone, you should tune in tomorrow (and every day after that). Oh, and the hosts were kind of funny.

Misc.

– Please, everyone, watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG3MYQHTnWk&feature=related. It is of Paul “Fatty” Vautin’s television debut, and is comedy gold. In fact, do yourself a favour, and trawl through YouTube’s endless collection of Australian tv bloopers. It will be an hour well spent.

– I have $25 effectively put on Spain to win the World Cup. They are clearly the best team in the tournament, won their warm up match against Poland 6-0, and possess probably the world’s best finisher in Fernando Torres. So why am I so nervous about them?

– Uruguay’s starting team against France had 4 Diegos in it. 4!

I am the MasterChef

Tonight, I pulled off what could be considered one of the greatest culinary achievements of all time. Usually, if I’m at home and hungry, I’ll happily put on a tin of baked beans, toast eight slices of bread, and proclaim that to be my lunch or dinner. The food I cook, for lack of a better term, generally only requires the ability to press “Start” on the microwave. The most complex dish I could conjure up was simply ravioli and tomato paste, made from the vestiges of a food tech practical. But then I cooked dinner tonight.

Because she’s Irish, my mum suggested I should make a stew. Because I’m ignorant, I really had no idea how to make a stew, and so approximated one as best I could. This meant making a spicy Asian curry. (INTERPOLATION: Do people who watch cooking shows like reading about cooking as well? I would hope not.) Despite my total lack of experience, I somehow managed to pull off the massaman- in my biased opinion, it was up there with the top 300 Thai restaurants on the coast. More importantly, though, was the fact that I was insanely pleased with myself, as if I had executed a guitar solo perfectly, or eaten a jam doughnut without having the jam squeeze out the other side.

This innate happiness is probably why these people get into cooking and go on MasterChef, I believe, and I am stunned that I didn’t realise it would exist before experiencing it first hand. Inexplicably, I’d assumed making a meal was not seen as a challenging activity, but rather a laborious example of… labouring. Now I see why cooking has emerged as an evolutionary pseudo-art form, albeit one somewhat limited in its scope. I also grasp why MasterChef’s ratings are otherwordly, and still don’t get why they haven’t created some kind of decathlon of reality television. Tell me you wouldn’t watch this show:

DAY ONE- The contestants, living in an enclosed compound, compete to see who is the best singer. The winner gets immunity from malaria for the week.

DAY TWO- Then they proceed to beat the crap out of each other in a series of boxing matches a la “The Contender”. The females can use what we call “The Stinger” on their gloves.

DAY THREE- Sporting black eyes, swollen lips, and generally looking hideous, the contestants have all day to create a delicacy-and-fashion-garment combo, allowing them to hide behind models and great amounts of steam.

DAY FOUR- Another singing contest.

DAY FIVE- Contestants are dropped into Karma nightclub on Jersey Shore, where they immediately proceed to ‘pound out’ each and every guy and girl there (thought the definition of ‘pound out’ varies in accordance with the subjective gender).

DAY SIX- Abandoned on a deserted island, the contestants have nothing to do except deconstruct the series finale of Lost.

DAY SEVEN- Freedom! Interviewees are conducted with contestants; some choose to respond, others let their “FREE TH REFUGEES” signs do the talking for them.

Awesome show, right?

The problem with Entourage

I am a very happy guy. Why? Because I just worked out the reason why Entourage doesn’t work.

To be unreasonably succinct: Adrian Grenier is a bad actor.

To be a little bit more elaborative: we are meant to believe that Vincent Chase, Grenier’s character, is a movie star, not only because of his looks but because of his great ability to act. There are various scenes where Chase’s “acting” is used to persuade other characters, and is then described almost reverentially by whoever is witness to it. But the problem with this is that Grenier, in real life, is not a good actor. So now you have a bad actor playing a good actor, which is an unsolvable problem. If it were the other way round, it would be much easier (for example, Johnny Drama is a terrible actor, who is interpreted excellently by Kevin Dillon). But the problem remains.

Now, the confirmation of this theory lies here: if Grenier had performed as a big-time movie star as intended, it would be plausible to expect that his real life would follow suit; life imitating art, if you will. But Grenier sucks as Chase, has sucked in movies, and is probably a B-grade celebrity at best.

Has anyone seen The Devil Wears Prada? Yeah…

Damn you, James Cameron

I don’t understand this 3D television thing. Granted, I understand the significance of its development, how it will give previously unknown depth to sporting events yada yada yada; I just can’t comprehend why Channel Nine continues to insist on telling us that next week’s State of Origin rugby league match will be shown in 3D. The campaign that they have been running is rivaled by only Avatar in its omnipotence- for example, today’s Sun-Herald had a promotional cover detailing the positives gained from watching the match in 3D. Doing so would have cost Channel Nine an incredible amount of money; it’s not like it was the Daily Telegraph.

But here’s the weird part. Supposedly there has only been something like 750 3D televisions sold so far. 750! Assuming the average purchaser will watch the State of Origin (a generous assumption) and that they will have three friends viewing with them (also a bit of a stretch), this means there are only 3000 people with the potential to view this game as Nine have intended. Obviously it would be stupid of Channel Nine to splurge so much on advertising if they were only considering the viewing figures, so what other reasons could they use to rationalise this, economically speaking?

(Five minutes later)

I’ve thought about it, and there seems to be only one real answer: that it’s funded more so by electronic retailers such as Harvey Norman than Channel Nine. This makes sense only because a full funding by Channel Nine does not. Nine would only be concerned with viewing figures, as this equates to advertising revenue, and not with something trivial like generating awareness of 3D televisions.

So there.

I have a twitter, and I’m not afraid to use it

ACHTUNG!

Actually, I don’t mean that. But funny story about it- until about two years ago, I had always thought achtung translated as “Attention”, and not “Danger”. So whenever I used it to get my dad’s attention, he’d jump up in fright.

Enough hilarity. I’d just like to mention that I have recently started my own Twitter account (twitter.com/b_e_day). Now, I haven’t started this just to update people on my personal life. The truth is, I was already using Twitter semi-regularly to see what my favourite writers, musicians, and assorted others were up to, and I thought it would just be easier for me to get an account. But for some reason, non-users of Twitter seem to think that it is just an amalgam of Facebook status updates, that its primary use is for people with no appeal whatsoever to melancholically update others on every aspect of their mediocre lives.

Whilst there may be a significant portion of the Twitter crowd who do engage in this, I think the more media-savvy, intellectual part utilises it for its greatest obvious benefit- the rapid sharing of information. Twitter, with its 140 character limit, allows, nay demands news to be told in a concise manner, and in this era of information overload, is not part of the problem, but rather part of the solution.

It’s also, as previously mentioned, a great way to keep up to date with your favourite celebrities, for want of a better word. For instance, the other day I found out that Chuck Klosterman’s newest piece of work, a series of cards called “HyperTheticals”, will be released in July. He announced this exclusively (I think) over Twitter, a small reward for his 20000 odd followers. This kind of thing is now becoming commonplace, with the celebrity allowing the snowball effect of Twitter to come into play.

Okay, I’ll admit that there are some bad aspects of Twitter. It gives Ashton Kutcher a crazily high opinion of himself. It has the potential to ruin the lexical abilities of current generations (and generations to come). It allows Graham in Cairns to think that knowing what he had for breakfast is of actual value to anyone and everyone. But when used correctly, Twitter can also be kind of cool.

Congratulations MGMT

I think I speak for nearly everyone when I say that MGMT’s first album is soooooooo 2008. Whilst we all danced along to Electric Feel, Kids and Time to Pretend for the entire summer, we knew that it was only a fad- that these intensely catchy songs would soon fade to oblivion, their impact diminishing over time and MGMT becoming less and less a part of our zeitgeist. Messrs Van Wyngarden and Goldwasser realised their cultural significance was waning, and choose to do something about it. It would be reasonable to expect this something to subsist of another bunch of disposable dance songs, with perhaps a few interweaved tracks demonstrating their broad-mindedness and musical nous. To be honest, I don’t think anyone would have really been disappointed with this; MGMT had obviously built a solid foundation on which a lucrative music career could be built on, and besides, no one expected anything more from them.

But now Congratulations has come out and changed all my preconceptions about them. Since I live in the 21st century, I have an amazingly short attention span. Since I live in the 21st century, I only listened to the hits from Oracular Spectacular, and failed to really see what they were doing with the other not so popular tracks. Since I live in the 21st century, I think “The Office” is the greatest sitcom in television history.

(Oh wait. That’s not related at all. But my point still stands.)

When I heard that MGMT announced there would be no singles off their new album, I was intrigued. Why would a band eliminate the very thing that brought the acme of their musical stardom about? The only logical reason appeared to be that they had simply gone insane. When I listened to the album, I was proved right.

Congratulations is plain weird. From Andrew Van Wyngarden’s sometime faux British affectation, to the occasional screams heard on certain tracks, it seems there is nothing remotely normal about any facet of this album. And this is why it is so good. The duo have taken umbridge at the fact that they are popular in the traditionalist sense of the word, and seek to destroy this and rise, much like a phoenix, from the ashes of their demise. For there is rarely a predictable, good ol’ MGMT moment on Congratulations. From the first track, the delightfully zany “It’s Working”, the listener is made to work to appreciate the music and lyrcis presented. It’s almost as if they feel a role reversal is necessary; they earned our love on the first album, now we have to earn their’s. It’s a band who have no thought for musical self-preservation, and is analogous to the sportspeople who behave in much the same way- whilst you may not be a fan, you do have to respect them for it.

It’s easy to say that this is the year’s most daring album by an ultra-popular musical act. (Oops! I just did!) But this is underselling the album as just being deliberately confluential. The truth is, it’s merely what the guys probably wanted to do in the first place. By creating a safer, more commercially viable debut, they set themselves up with maximum artistic license for their follow-up. In a way, this is a vanity project for them. Though rather than wallowing in self-indulgence, MGMT feel the need to highlight their inspirations, whether it be The Television Personalities, Brian Eno, or even Lady Gaga.

The actual music, I suppose, is rather important to the import of the album itself. But I only have one thing to say about it: it’s wholly unpredictable. Even the 12 minute epic “Siberian Breaks” is constantly changing.

The lyrics? “If you’re conscious you must be depressed/ Or at least cynical”. This sums up MGMT fairly well, I think. They’ve toured the world, lived out the most fantastical elements of “Time to Pretend”, and have had enough of it. These are just two guys who want nothing more than to write music that challenges you, music that provokes an emotional response. And I’m fine with that.

Once