Monday, 31 December 2012

Military Budget Cuts - a Modest Proposal

Spent Hogmanay watching the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the ABC, and enjoying the precision drill and good bagpipes. I especially liked the Top Secret Drum Corps from Switzerland, all of whom looked like my friend Harry. It quite took me back to the days when they used get the US Marines over to throw entire rifles with fixed bayonets at each other - and catch them.

Thankfully the Top Secret Drum Corps came on after the Australian Defence Force band, whose performance was humiliating to a degree for which even I was not prepared. If it turns up on YouTube in a decent clip, I'll add it, because it has to be seen/heard to be believed.

In 2011 Australia's regimental military bands faced the chop in what was supposed to save the forces $20 billion in 10 years. However, if you watch the Australian Defence Force band's performance, you - like me - will find yourself wondering why the entire military band budget can't be cut, preferably immediately, so that you never have to watch this kind of thing again. (Man, the Norwegians absolutely rolled all over us.)

Why not re-train some of them to catch rifles with fixed bayonets? Especially that grinning dude who tried to sing 'Highway to Hell' ...

Update: The ghastly performance certainly puts this recent announcement in perspective.

Further Update: And we can't say we weren't warned, as far back as August.

Double Update: See QED for more post-plum-pudding surliness.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The First Cuckoo

This just in: Woolworths supermarket on the corner of Stock Road and Leach Highway, Melville, Western Australia, has in its bakery section the first hot cross buns for Easter 2013.

I saw them with my own eyes, and I didn't believe it so, I went back and had another look, and there they were.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Quadrant Funding Cut - Again

The Literature Board of the Australia Council has halved quality conservative magazine Quadrant's funding for 2013, from $40,000 in 2012 down to $20,000. This adds to earlier cuts under the Rudd government which reduced Quadrant's funding from $50,000.

Let's compare this with Meanjin, an obediently left-wing publication, which receives nearly three times that of Quadrant's current funding, while producing only four issues a year, and selling less than 1,000 copies per edition. An Australian subscription costs $80 per year.

Quadrant, on the other hand, is produced ten times a year with two double issues, and sells around 5,500 copies per issue. An Australian subscription costs $79 per year.

I would happily write for them for free, and I would also happily see Quadrant become fully independent of the Australia Council, but that takes generous donors.

***Donations to the Quadrant Foundation are tax-deductible.***

Cheques/money orders to: Quadrant Foundation, Locked Bag 1235, North Melbourne, Vic 3051

Direct debit to: Quadrant Foundation, BSB 012 227, 2031 35458

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Political Employees, Take Note

Thanks to the decision in the Federal Court today by Justice Steve Rares, an interesting legal precedent now exists. Sexual harrassment - and if you're not sure what that is, have a look at the Australian Human Rights Commission website - is now permitted in Commonwealth workplaces associated with major political parties. If you're harrassed, you can complain, but your employer can now successfully use 'political motivation' as a defence against your complaint, even when the employer's employer has already paid you off.

Someone needs to alert WA Liberal MLA Troy Buswell about this, pronto. Buswell has been a source of constant media interest here for his frank and open way of *expressing bonhomie towards people of both sexes.* If you want to know more, just visit his Wikipedia entry, although it's also worth remembering that Buswell's interest in political bras seems to have been shared by Alan Carpenter, then Labor Premier of WA.

More at Quadrant Online.

*I have recently been congratulated on this nice turn of phrase. However, it's simply here so that I can avoid the depressing recital of bra-strap-snapping, chair-sniffing, squirrel-gripping, dry-humping, and other Buswell-related gerunds. O tempora o mores.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Just to ensure that I'm totally unpopular this week - the December issue of Quadrant is now out, with yours truly holding forth on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and its marked parallels with Church officials' pathetic response to complaints about doctrinal and liturgical abuses in the same era.

Taken for Granted

Some of you will be aware I wrote recently on ARC funding for arts and humanities projects, and on the wider malaise in the university system in general.

The Australian's Bernard Lane has followed this up today, both in the print and the online versions.

It breaks my heart to do this, because I still feel like I should wade in and defend ars gratia artis, but I just can't. And no one else so far has managed to produce even a slightly convincing argument, either (I am really looking forward to the carefully-conducted and scientifically-valid published study proving that studying the history of medieval emotions has had an actual impact on the Western Australian suicide rate).

Back in the days before post-modernist relativism, we used to be able to argue that the study of the arts and humanities:
  • supported a Judeo-Christian social and ethical framework;
  • helped to make us a better society as a whole because of this;
  • also made us better people by teaching us to appreciate good art and literature, listen to good music, and read accurate and critical histories;
  • gave us as individuals and as a society a means of expressing eternal truths about life, beauty, goodness and love.
I still argue in this way, because I still believe in all those things, because I'm not a post-modernist or a relativist. But there are very few of us left in academia, or indeed at all.

So here's the thing: without the driving force of the Judeo-Christian framework, I have struggled to find any other ars gratia artis argument for the study of the arts and humanities at all. When you take arts and humanities out of their Christian framework, you are left with 'learning stuff you need to get a job', like, say, Asian languages so that you can save a planeload of people from disgruntled fellow passengers.

In this context, the study of early Jesuit emotions really does become very hard to justify. It may help you get a job as a Jesuit, but I have always understood that those positions were not advertised in the normal way.

And THIS is my point: that the grants thing is not the central problem here. It's a wider malaise, and it stems in part from the corrosive influence of relativism and secularism, and also from the bureaucratisation of the university.