Brain graze



As his host country hoes into the Thanksgiving turkey, Andrew Sullivan has republished a splendid essay on what America means to an Englishman.
Second, I'm thankful for the American talent for contradiction. The country that sustained slavery for longer than any other civilised country is also the country that has perhaps struggled more honestly for the notion of racial equality than any other. The country that has a genuine public ethic of classlessness also has the most extreme economic inequality in the developed world. The country that is most obsessed with pressing the edge of modernity also has the oldest intact constitution in the world. The country that still contains a powerful religious right has also pushed the equality of homosexuals further than ever before in history. A country that cannot officially celebrate Christmas (it would erase the boundary between church and state) is also one of the most deeply religious nations on the planet. Americans have learnt how to reconcile the necessary contradictions not simply because their country is physically big enough to contain them, but because it is spiritually big enough to contain them. Americans have learnt how to reconcile the necessary contradictions of modern life with a verve and a serenity few others can muster. It is a deeply reassuring achievement.



So predictable, so conformist, so boring. That's Victoria's cultural gatekeepers.
The Age today (can't find a link) lists its top 10 exhibits at the new National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. Yes, the name is illogical but what isn't in these exciting po-mo times?
The Standard Gauge lists the obligatory Arthur Streeton to genuflect to readers who appreciate traditional regional art.
But apart from a 1901 Hugh Ramsey, the remainder of the list consists of obvious tokens that might appeal to The Age's politically correct staff, but I suspect to fewer and fewer of its dwindling readership.
There's Brook Andrews Sexy and Dangerous ''a comment on the treatment of Australia's indigenous people, confrontingly displayed alongside romanticised views of the new colony by 19th Century painters''. Oh, the stunning originality of it all. Our forebears, the invaders, were brutal racists and if not for them the indigenous people would still be at uncorrupted peace in their heavenly arcadia.
Oh, and we must pay homage to another marginalised minority. (Jeez, I'm getting a grasp of the jargon). A must-view, according to our cultural commisars, is an ''outrageous outfit'' by Lucian Freud's favourite nude model Leigh Bowery ''a huge figure in Sydney's gay scene.'' What the feck a Sydney poof's frock has to do with Victorian art I'll leave to greater minds at The Age to decide.
But the recommendation to rile this Victorian is Juan Davilia's Election 2001 ''a scathing commentary on the Howard Government's treatment of refugees.'' The Howard Government's treatment of refugees has been repeatedly endorsed by more than 70 per cent of the Victorian population. But of course they are not the artistic elite who decide what's right and wrong -- oops, that should be appropriate and inappropriate -- in this state. No, that great uncultured mass just provide the moolah so that boneheads like Davilia can continue their exclusive ''art''.
Yes, what really irritates is the ho-hum predictability of it all. White racism, oppressed gays, cruel Liberals -- these hobby horses have been galloped around for 20 years. Isn't it time the "progressives'' in society progressed a little?


Oops, I mistakenly categorised SCOTT WICKSTEIN among the under 30 residents of the Bloggosphere. Scott assures all that he is well and truly on the track to Old Fartsville. Sorry Scotty, and welcome to decrepitude.



Bloggsville thankfully reassures me that there are people under 30 with a broad knowledge of the world and often with a stunning ability to discuss it and their place in it. Gareth Parker, Scott Wickstein, Robert Corr and the Hot Buttery One spring to mind.
Too often, as a sub-editor, I find the emerging adult generation in media to be utterly ignorant of anything other than the trite and trivial. That's okay with their bosses because these dumbkins reflect the never-stop-consuming market they're chasing.
This shits me no end, considering the ease of access to knowledge and those who best disseminate it, compared with what was available just 20 years ago.
Depressing cases in point:
Friday night at the coalface, several of us over 40s were chuckling over the funniest cartoon of the week in The Australian: Two Burkah-clad Muslim women -- one says to the other, "Does my bomb look too big in this?''
30-something night editor, specially brought in for his wizardry at tabloid layout: "I don't get it, over my head.'' He's married, too. Must be to Elle McPherson.
Saturday night, Channel 9 news bulletin refers to lifesaving promotions on surf beaches. They then show footage that day from Williamstown beach. Willie beach is at the top of almost-landlocked Port Phillip Bay and the only surf there is in Joan Kirner's washing machine.
Half an hour later on ABC news intro to story refers to the vast Outback. The yarn then unfolds to be about salt harvesting at Hattah in the Victorian mallee. It's dry there, particularly with the drought, but in average years they get 10 bags to the acre. It has as much in common with the Outback as Sydney Harbour has with the Murray River.
It's my experience that increasingly weekend news gathering is left to the bright young ambitious things of the newsroom. Not a bad idea if the clever littlies have the cerebral substance to justify their massive egos. Frequently, that is not the case.
As the father of a 20s graduate and a teen senior secondary student I suspect that on average kids know roughly half as much about the real world -- ie geography, history, culture, politics, technology, literature -- as their parents' generation did at the same age.
Are these young adults victims of lazy, lefty educators or do they have such a wide variety of media competing for their attention that they are attracted to the lurid and vacuous where all the effort is in promotion and presentation rather than substance. In the absence of quality pedagoguery, competition and testing, are they simply being McEducated?