xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: October 2016

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Putting a song in our hearts.

Bob Dylan is the 2016 Nobel Laureate for Literature.

When I first heard that news I was not shocked, but I was surprised. The Nobel Prize for Literature usually goes to well known authors like John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Harold Pinter, Doris Lessing, Alexander Sholzenitsyn and a lot of other famous authors whom I have not read and whose names I cannot pronounce.

When I thought a little more about it I rejoiced at such an appropriate choice. “Why not Bob Dylan?,” I thought. He wrote the songs that inspired a generation in the 1960s when the times certainly were a changing. He has continued to write song lyrics that are great poetry in anybody’s language.

I was in Toronto, Canada in 1962-64 and the times certainly were a changing. Every night on television we watched Martin Luther King Junior marching peacefully for civil rights against aggressive and brutal opposition. We watched President John Kennedy, against a background of riots and vicious slayings, tell the American people that unless all citizens enjoyed liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then no American was really  free. We watched as Robert Kennedy called out the National Guard to an enable African-American, James Meredith, to be the first negro to enrol at the Mississippi’s state university, even though Governor, George Wallace, was standing in the doorway to block his entry.

We watched Martin Luther King Junior tell over 100 000 people at the Washington Monument one very hot afternoon in August, 1963, about his dream to one day live in a country where a man was judged by the strength of his character and not by the colour of his skin.

He did not live to see that day. He was shot dead in 1968. So was Bobby Kennedy. Just like his brother, JFK, five year earlier. Oh, the times they were a changing alright. The answer was blowing in the wind. And Bob Dylan wrote words that inspired and challenged us all to try and make it happen.

Come writers and critics who prophesy with your pen
And keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again.
And don’t speak to soon for the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win,
For the times they are a changin’.

Dylan’s Nobel award started me thinking of other songwriters who would also have been worthy Nobel winners for a lifetime of creating notable poetic expressions with their song lyrics.
Leonard Cohen came to mind. I have seen Leonard Cohen twice in live concerts about twenty years apart. At that first concert after he said hello to the audience he expressed surprise that there were so many people there who so obviously “liked listening to music to slit your wrists by.”

I was first attracted to Leonard’s work when I heard him sing
“Like a bird on a wire
Like a drunk in an old midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free

His words and music touched me. Then I heard him sing Dance Me to the End of Love.
“Dance me to your beauty like a burning violin.
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in.
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove.
Dance me to the end of love”

The music, the biblical references and the word pictures he painted made me a Leonard Cohen fan for life. Like Dylan, Cohen has produced a huge body of work that compares favourably with any writers of any century. He’s my man!

Bob Dylan received his Nobel Literature Award "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition" It reminded me of the words spoken by legendary TV newsman, Walter Cronkite, way back in 1997, on the occasion celebrating the 100th birthday of America’s greatest songwriter, Irving Berlin. At that time, Cronkite remarked that ”Irving Berlin helped write the songs of this country, capturing the best of who we are and the dreams that shape our lives.”

I have enjoyed Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen’s music and poetry for many years, however, I am more a Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennet sort of music lover. I love tuneful melodies that also have great lyrics. So, it will surprise no one who knows me that I would have no trouble nominating Cole Porter and Irving Berlin as two gentlemen who combined wonderful melodies with lyrics that were often witty, enchanting or terribly sad.

After all, when we were very much younger, falling in and out of love, it was Cole Porter who gave us the words that woo.
You’d be so easy to love
Easy to idolize all others above
So worth the yearning for.
 So swell to keep the home fires burning for.
We’d be so grand at the game,
So carefree together that it does seem a shame
That you can’t see your future with me,
‘Çause you’d be. Oh, so easy to love.

Cole Porter reminded us how harrowing the gut tearing, yearning anxiety that separated love could be. Mimicking the endless tick, tick, ticking of the clock that makes time and separation the enemy of lovers everywhere he wrote
Night and day, you are the one.
Only you, beneath the moon and the sun.
Whether near to me or far
It’s no matter darling, where you are
I think of you
Night and day. Night and day.”

Of course, Cole was a rather cheeky chappy. He loved  the double entendre and giving quite risqué interpretation to his lyrics.
That’s why birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it.
Let’s do it. Let’s fall in love.

Cole Porter was married to Linda Porter and they stayed married despite Cole’s predeliction for male Spanish dancers and similar macho types. However, he remained devoted to Linda throughout his life.

Their relationship could perhaps be summed up in his song
But, I’m always true to you darling in my fashion.
I’m always true to you, darling, in my way.

Yes, Cole Porter would be a very worthy Nobel Laureate, but if you only get one pick, then it is Irving Berlin for me.

Irving Berlin wrote over 1550 songs. They are all good. Many of them are great and sold multi millions of copies. Some of them are incomparable. Berlin was born in Russia in 1897 and came to America with his parents when he was five.

In 1911 he wrote Alexander’s Rag Time Band. This rag time tune instantly became famous around the world. The next year he married Dorothy Goetz. Six months later she died from typhoid fever which she contracted on their honeymoon in Havana.

Irving Berlin was devastated by the death of his young bride. He wrote a beautiful song to express his heartfelt grief. Simple words that portray loss on a grand and sorrowful scale. It quickly sold over a million copies.
I lost the sunshine and roses.
I lost the heavens of blue.
I lost the beautiful rainbow, I lost the morning dew.
I lost the angel who gave me summer, the whole winter too.
Oh, I lost the gladness, that turned into sadness when I lost you.

He continued to express his melancholy in song. What’ll I Do encompassed the grief experienced when separated from a loved one either by death or distance.
What’ll I do with just a photograph
To tell my troubles to.
When I’m alone
With only dreams of you
That won’t come true,
What’ll I do?

However, despite this great sadness, Berlin’s life had a happy ending. In 1925 he married Elin Mackay, an heiress. They remained devoted to each other for 63 years before Elin died in July, 1998. Irving died two months later, in September, 1998.

Elin’s family was a catholic. Before the marriage, the family were not too keen on her interest in a young Jewish songwriter, so they sent her off to Europe to forget about him. However, Irving wooed his lover over the airways with songs such as Remember and Always.
Remember the night
The night you said “I love you?”
Remember, you vowed by all the stars above you?
Remember, we found a lonely spot,
And after I learned to care a lot
You promised that you’d  forget me not?
But you forgot to remember.

Of course, Always became a popular song at weddings.
I’ll be loving you, always.
With a love that’s true, always.
Not for just a year, not for just a day,
Not for just an hour, But always.

Like the rest of America, and the world, Elin could not resist such tender expressions of love. She came back to America and they eloped. Elin’s father was not impressed. Thinking Irving was after his daughter's huge financial inheritance he promptly disinherited her. Irving immediately assigned her the royalties from several of his songs, including Always, which is still played at weddings and anniversary celebrations. She immediately became very wealthy in her own right.

Mr Mackay refused to speak to Irving for several years. However his attitude mellowed during the great depression, in the 1930s, when he suffered severe financial hardship and his very affluent songwriting son-in-law bailed him out.

Berlin wrote a substantial part of the Great American Songbook. One of his most famous songs, of course, is White Christmas, which Bing Crosby first sang in a 1941 for a film called Holiday Inn. 
That  Crosby version alone has sold more records than any other song in history.

Irving Berlin loved America. And America loved him. It made him a very, very rich man. It is reported that on one occasion his accountant told him of certain steps he could take to minimize his income tax. Berlin exclaimed, “ But, I don’t want to minimize my tax. I like paying taxe. I love this country.” (Donald Trump, please take note)

Irving Berlin even wrote a love song to America. One of the most poignant moments in the aftermath of the Twin Towers tragedy of September 11, 2001, was the televised gathering of stunned and shocked US congressmen and women standing on the steps of the Capitol building and singing
God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

We must be forever grateful to Irving Berlin. Indeed, we must be grateful for the world of music. In this troubled world of ours, the times still are a  changing. Often, not in the way we would like. Let us be thankful then, that people like Irving Berlin, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Cole Porter together with Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and all the other lyrical poets have given us words and music to lift our spirits and leave us with a song in our hearts.

As Walter Cronkite so eloquently said of Irving Berlin, they have indeed captured the best of who we are and the dreams that shape our lives.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Jobs and Growth for failed LNP politicians.

During the 2016 election campaign Malcolm Turnbull’s mantra was Jobs and Growth.  He repeated it often. He did not go into a lot of detail. Most voters thought he meant he would somehow achieve Jobs and Growth by means of his other policy: 96 Billion Dollar Tax Breaks for Big Business. This practice has never worked in the past, but obviously the Prime Minister thought it would work for him, at least during the election campaign.

Post-election, we now realise that Jobs and Growth really meant highly paid jobs for those LNP candidates who lost their seats in the election. Well, of course, both sides of politics do that, but the LNP are so much better at it. Downer, Hockey, Reith et al, all finished up with very plumb and hugely paid overseas sinecures.

At the same time, the LNP made sure that former Labor politicians like Steve Bracks and latterly, Kevin Rudd, would never be allowed anywhere near that Post Politics Jobs for the Boys Club. In 2013, ex Victorian Labor Premier, Steve Bracks had actually been appointed as Australian Ambassador to some European country when newly appointed Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, withdrew his commission. So there!

Recently, four Liberal members of parliament, who were defeated in the 2016 election, have all been given very highly paid jobs by serving Liberal politicians. Then came the  corker. The Leader of the Senate, finds himself so busy in Canberra attending the opening of one envelope after another, that he cannot get back to his electorate in Hobart. So what did he do? Just like the Queen, God bless her, he decided to appoint somebody to represent him in his own electorate. This person, who also lost his seat in the last election will be the party political equivalent of the Queen’s very own Governor General, who represents her in Australia because she can’t be here as she is actually very busy being the Queen of England. Jobs and Growth

This newly appointed official substitute will attend various electorate meetings, flag raisings and bun fights on behalf of that busy, busy LNP Leader of the Senate.This job was specially created. It was not advertised. There were no interviews.By the way, you and I and roughly 16 million other Aussie taxpayers are paying $165 000 for this surrogate party attender to swan around Hobart watching flags go up, sandwiches being served and drinks being sloshed around a lot.

What ever happened to the budget blow out? I guess it comes right after the birthday party candles blow out. Anyhow, we all know it is those lazy, good for nothing bludgers on welfare who are dragging this country down. How lucky are we that the LNP are paying top dollar to these failed politicians, because as Malcolm keeps telling us, all that wealth with trickle down until, eventually, even those welfare spendthrifts with their pockets now filled with trickled down dough, will be gainfully employed once again.

But, that is not all. There is more. Even in these tight financial times, where everyone, except very rich corporations, must all tighten their belts and do the heavy lifting, Attorney General, George Brandis, that marble jawed monument to honesty and integrity, has excelled himself, again! Honest George just appointed a lawyer to some panel. Again, there were no job advertisements. There was no short list. There were no job interviews. George just happened to remember that this fellow was a very good lawyer for some reason or another. Maybe his son reminded him?

It turns out that this lawyer was the one who, a few months ago, got Brandis’ son off a property damages charge that was then before the courts. Brandis, when asked in the Senate Estimates Committee, said he could not remember if he had arranged for this lawyer to provide his services at a discounted rate for his son. After all, it was waaaay back in May of this year. Who can be expected to remember that far back?

Let’s face it, even Simon Gleeson, the Solicitor General, according to George, cannot remember way back in May, just before the last parliament went into caretaker mode, that George had lengthy, deep and meaningful discussions with him. These consultations were allegedly about how George was going to cut the Solicitor General right out of the equation and make it against the law for anybody, even the Governor General or the Prime Minister, from speaking with the Solicitor General, unless they first asked George for permission to do so.

For some reason, the Solicitor-General says these discussions, that were going to affect his traditional role and very reason for being, never took place and he that would never have agreed to such a law

George says they did take place. He says they must certainly have taken place because he has said that they took place and he even told the Senate that they had taken place. George says that the Solicitor General must have a bad memory because George would never tell a lie to the parliament about such an important matter.

Anyhow, George Brandis did happen to remember this lawyer who helped his son out of a spot of bother and he gave him the job on the panel. He told the Estimates Committee that, of course, there was no conflict of interest.

Oh, just as a matter of interest and with no conflict of interest whatsoever, this lawyer is being paid $375 000 dollars per year to sit on this panel. Guess who is paying him? You, me and 16 million other Australian taxpayers. Generous aren’t we. Generous to a fault, you may say. Perhaps, George is the fault? Anyhow, it is obviously all part of the Jobs and Growth policy.

The Libs continue to go around proudly proclaiming that they are the only ones who know how to handle money. After all, they keep reminding us how those terrible Labor people left them with such a financial mess to clean up after they came to the treasury benches in 2013. Well, somebody certainly is cleaning up. Those highly paid ex politicians and that terribly good lawyer for starters.

Meanwhile the deficit hasmore than trebled in just over three years of this expert LNP  “good finacial management”.

How lucky are we? Soon we will all be rich. Trickle, trickle, trickle.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, had dinner at The Lodge the other night with a couple of Rupert Murdoch’s most senior editors. No doubt we will soon see some far reaching new media laws trickle down. These new trickled down media laws will be very advantageous to somebody rich and famous. I doubt it will be the ABC.

It is really just a case of Tickle, tickle, tickle.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

The truth shall set us free. But who will tell us the truth?

Lately the media has quite rightly been focusing on the boorish behaviour of Donald Trump.
On Friday we saw an Australian version of Donald Trump on national television. Unlike Trump, he is not really being castigated by the Australian media for his ignorant and bullying behaviour. He deserves to be.

I refer to Queensland Liberal Senator McDonald. This loudmouthed, outspoken bully is a member of the Senate Committee investigating whether Attorney General, George Brandis, mislead the parliament when he said that he had previously discussed with the Solicitor General of the Commonwealth his decision to make it law that everyone, including the Governor General and the Prime Minister, must first refer to him before they consulted the Solicitor General for legal opinions.
The Solicitor General, Simon Gleeson, says he does not support such a law and there was no  consultation.

Senator McDonald was not interested in finding out the truth of this important matter. He spoke over the top of witnesses and even over the top of Senator Louise Pratt, who was Chairperson of the Committee of Inquiry. Clearly, some LNP politicians have a very hard job trying to deal with females who are placed in positions of authority. In this case, Senator McDonald's boorish behaviour indicated that did not  recognize Senator Pratt as having any authority over him. He was overbearing and rude throughout.  He spent most of his time denigrating the Solicitor General, attempting to make his behaviour the focus if the inquiry.

The media should be highlighting (or would that be lowlighting) this abysmal performance from one of our elected representatives. McDonald has form as an acknowledged bully, especially where women are concerned. You may recall that Senator McDonald was the Chairman of the Senate Committee that hauled Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs, before it to grill her on her report about the Forgotten Generation.

Again, McDonald was not interested in the facts. He spent his time as Chairman bullying and attacking Ms Triggs, who remained remarkably calm and composed throughout his verbal assaults.
McDonald roundly criticised her report as biased. When Ms Triggs asked him if he had even read the report he proudly replied that he had not wasted his time reading such a biased, political document.
In doing so, he clearly demonstrated that he, as Chairman of the inquiry, had come to the hearing having already pre-judged the report, without ever bothering to read it.

One can only wonder what was the thinking of the people who appointed McDonald to be chairman of this committee of inquiry. Clearly, he was appointed for one reason only. He was an attack dog who would savage any witness seen as an enemy of the LNP.

Obviously, it was again with that thought in mind that Senator McDonald was placed on the current inquiry into whether the Attorney General, Senator Brandis lied to the Senate.

Unfortunately, Senator McDonald's arrogant and aggressive behaviour has not been highlighted in the mainstream media. Instead, the media has followed McDonald's red herring about Simon Gleeson having a telephone conversation with Shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus during the election campaign.  Mr Brandis says he should have been notified of this conversation.

This telephone call took place during the caretaker, pre election phase, of government, which meant Attorney General Brandis had no role or real authority over the Solicitor General at that time. In any case, Dreyfus rang Gleeson to ask if Brandis had discussed the controversial new law with him before presenting it to the Senate. Gleeson told him that there had been no consultation and that was the end of the conversation.

It was not a call about a matter of law. It was not the case of the Solicitor General being asked to give a legal opinion. There can be no reasonable expectation that Gleeson would notify Senator Brandis, or indeed anybody else of such a conversaton.

But this telephone call was the main topic of the news coverage that night about the inquiry into whether Brandis lied to the Senate or not. The media were either sucked in by McDonald's Trump like tactics of distraction, or they are complicit in keeping the public uninformed of the really important issues. A frightening thought.

Just as frightening is the thought that later that  day, Senator McDonald probably enjoyed a few celebratory drinks in the Members' Bar, with his like minded colleagues congratulating him on how easily he had thrown the question about Senator Brandis' honesty completely off track. The media focus was now fixed, not on  Brandis, but on an respected and hard working public servant whose honesty has never been brought in to question.

A democracy requires more than just freedom of the press. It requires the press to print the facts, all of the facts. It requires the press to highlight shysters like Senator McDonald, who use bullying tactics and bluster to destroy the search for truth.

At present the Australian press does not appear to be serving democracy very well at all.