Saturday salon 21/10

1. Child art from those who became great

A few months back Artsy posted a piece What Do the Childhood Works of Famous Artists Look Like? It had works by Dürer, Klee, Dalí and Picasso, but my favourite was the painting by Edward Hopper, Little Boy Looking at the Sea:

The image was drawn on the back of Edward Hopper’s third grade report card dated October 23, 1891, when Hopper was nine years old.

2. The dystopic future with Blade Runner 2049

That scene from Blade Runner 2049 should definitely be seen in theatre on the widest screen you can find, where the rest of the visual field is blotted out, and with a sound system where the sounds waves vibrate your body. This man is right, see it now, while it’s still in the theatres. It won’t last long, because while the critics rave, the audiences have been slow, as they were for the Ridley Scott 1982 original.

The official site has a trailer, The Guardian has a special page of stuff, including a review, and here’s one about filming in Budapest. The acting is superb, and the special effects are, well, out of this world.

I didn’t see it as a big, serious investigation of what it is to be human, or about our possible technology-enhanced future. Just an extraordinary filmic experience. It works on several levels, as an action movie, sci-fi, a love story, a personal quest, with visuals of a planet that has evidently experienced something like a nuclear holocaust.

3. The world is changing

There is an election or two going around, and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian put her foot in it when she offered Kiwis refuge in NSW, but I wanted to highlight one coming up in the Czech Republic.

It seems the result is a foregone conclusion, and the place will be run by billionaire businessman Andrej Babis if he stays out of jail. There is an anti-refugee theme, but the bigger problem is that he will run the country like a firm – his firm.

Democracy is at stake.

Richard Fidler’s latest conversation was with Masha Gessen, who has commented copiously on Russia and the Trump phenomenon in the United States. She sees both Putin and Trump with very different inpersonality and style, but both mafia-like figures, who establish a family-like elite, decide who is in and who is out, are quite ruthless in evicting people, and govern the country in the interests of the elite. The mafia analogy is the most appropriate in understanding a wider trend to authoritarian rule in other states where democracy is in retreat. Hungary and Poland are notable European examples.

Lies are a way of demonstrating power – I can do and say anything I like and there is nothing you can do about it.

Important institutions of state are being dismantled or radically changed in the US in plain sight. She mentioned the State Department, which is being disabled from the ability to counter China on the ground in the east, and the judiciary at home, where a raft of younger judges with severe ideological bent will transform ‘justice’.

She says Hillary Clinton’s book is quite thorough in its self-analysis, but Gissen’s big disappointment was that Clinton’s staff persuaded her to drop a Universal Basic Income proposal she had. She had heaps of good policy on her website, but tactically ran a negative campaign pointing out that Trump was unfit for office. Unfortunately it involved saying that we didn’t need to make America great again, because it already was, meaning the pain many were feeling was as good as it gets.

This mafia authoritarianism is not just an episode, easily cured by electing a more suitable candidate next time. The country is changing fundamentally. Civil society has been stirred into action, which is good and will help.

4. Final rites to the car industry

Four years ago Abbott and Hockey succeeded in the relatively easy job of hectoring the car industry out of town.

The best commentary I’ve heard was from Professor Roy Green, outgoing Dean of UTS Business School and board member of the Innovative Manufacturing Co-operative Research Centre. He said assembling the final product here was not the most important part, rather the R&D, the design and the components industry. Some (much?) of this will be preserved, but it is obviously harder without the keystone process of final assembly.

He said a government with a brain (not his words) could have preserved the industry, but there was a genuine question of opportunity cost. Could the government support have been better directed elsewhere?

He said that other smallish economies do scoping studies to see where the best industry opportunities lie, and then have strategies to support development. We don’t, preferring to drive into the future with our hands off the wheel.

He says that there are several thousand companies in Australia which are best-in-world at what they do, mostly small with fewer than 100 employees, and that’s where our future lies. If we had the gumption to recognise this and develop models of action, of which there are plenty examples in other countries, we could do very well indeed.

5. Physician assisted dying

Physician-assisted dying laws have passed the lower house in Victoria, supported by Premier Daniel Andrews and fiercely opposed by Deputy Premier James Merlino. The action now moves to the upper house, where the ‘yes’ vote is favoured, but numbers are tight.

A feature has been the late intervention by Paul Keating who has put forward a cogent argument saying this a threshold moment for Australia, and one we should not cross.

Andrews says that if Keating had read all the coroners reports that he had read, Keating may have a different view. Many of the bill’s supporters say that physician-assisted dying is happening every day in diverse ways, under the radar. Better to clean it up and do it properly.

Please note, I’m not expressing a view one way or the other.

36 thoughts on “Saturday salon 21/10”

  1. Lies are a way of demonstrating power – I can say or do anything I like and there is nothing you can do about it

    An old book, “1984” by G. Orwell:

    O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.

    ‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’


    ‘And if the party says that it is not four but five — then how many?’


    The word ended in a gasp of pain.

  2. Keating still has an ability to express himself with force & clarity in a way that is sadly rare in Australian politics – you are left with no doubt what he is saying.

  3. Thank you for that lovely sketch from Edward Hopper! Ad vocem Trump and Putin: See the many tiered statements of Putin on Trump:

    There are layers and layers of meaning and innuendoes and interpretation possibilities here!

    And for the superb humour Trump is fertilizing:


  4. Douglas, Keating’s clarity begins with the clarity of his thinking, IMHO, but on that he builds his skill at communicating.

    Other pollies often use lines supplied by their staff, or even workshopped in focus groups. They lack the authenticity of PJK.

  5. One of the ironies of the euthanasia debate is that, for most of our adult lives, we are able to self euthanize if we want to. It is too often only when we have reached the point where euthanasia may make sense that we are unable to take our own lives.
    One of the advantages of euthanasia is that there should be checks and balances that, among other things, make sure the person seeking to die has got the facts straight and has considered the alternatives. My guess is that these checks and balances would stop some suicides.
    I am speculating but I suspect that some of the increased suicide rate amongst men in their eighties involves men who can see that they are approaching a stage where they will no longer be able to decide when they will die and decide to get in before they lose this power.

  6. A little snippet from “The Australian” online

    Hugo Rifkind opines:
    However much you currently love your own vehicle, you will not be sorry when no-one owns one.

  7. Ambi: I grew up at a time when very few people owned cars. Not sure I really want to go all the way back there. We should be looking for ways of providing independent, safe weatherproof transport that doesn’t assume that cars have to be big enough to carry a family.

  8. Good points John

    It just chimed with a brief talk I heard recently, that with driverless, electric vehicles coming, folk will “dial up” a vehicle when needed. Sounds feasible for cities.

    Not sure about tradies, long holidays in rural or remote areas.
    Many vehicles sit idle for 22 hours a day. Is that an emissions problem? (Embodied energy of manufacture). Or will it simply be re-charging time for their batteries?

  9. NZ has a Minister for Child Poverty Reduction.
    Position is to be held by Jacinda Ardern, whoever she is.


  10. Mr A, let me help.
    She just the latest socialist anti capitalist to promise what anti capitalists can’t do.

    Winston will decide what she will or will not try.

  11. Mr J

    What is your opinion of a govt having a Child Poverty Reduction Minister?

    Answers may include reference to PM Hawke’s pledge that “no Australuan child should to live in poverty….”

    Do you have a view about childhood poverty?


  12. Mr A,
    Child poverty in Australia can only be the the result of parental decisions.

    How to fix that I don’t know, but a Minister for Parental Decisions could only educate,

    That said it’s a tough ask to teach parental responsibility when for decades Governments have been encouraging less.

  13. Ambi: Autonomous car sharing (think autonomous taxis) as a replacement for the privately owned car may make sense under some circumstances. However, if they are widely used and people are still making the same trips:
    1. Total car travel distance will actually increase substantially because vehicles travelling empty between customers add to the total.
    2. Most of these cars will be parked for most of the day if they are going to be used for peak hour travel. The reduction in car fleet size may be much lower than expected.
    3. Then there is the question of what happens if your ride arrives after the previous traveler has chucked all over the car or otherwise made a mess.
    4. If you are including vehicles that pick up and put down extra passengers along the route there could be security issues unless passengers are kept securely separate from each other.
    Concerns have also been expressed that autonomous taxis may add to congestion if they become popular enough to increase the number of people using transport in general or taking business away from public transport.
    On the other hand:
    1. Auto taxis may become popular in high density population areas where people cant afford the price of garaging and/or only really need cars occasionally.
    2. They may also become popular in outer areas as a practical method of connecting to and from high frequency public transport.
    3. They may actually reduce congestion if they allow customers to use very compact vehicles that are designed for one passenger only and narrow enough to travel at least two abreast in a normal traffic lane. (On the other hand taxi owners may decide that it makes more sense to buy medium car size taxis because they will be adequate for a wider range of customers.
    Me, I think that this low cost, carbon fibre E- blade scooter

    “The journey from your home to your office or around your neighborhood can be very stressful most times, likewise the walk from the bus station to wherever you wish to go. The new Black Carbon Fiber 8.8Ah Portable Foldable Australia Electric Scooter Motorized Smart Bike was produced just for you. This scooter is very easy to use and understand, it can actually be setup in just 1 SECOND, and it weighs approximately 6.6 kg. It is important to note that the Portable Electric Scooter runs on 8.8AH / 10.4AH Lithium battery and it can go to a distance of up to 20km(8.8AH) when fully charged. Please note that the maximum speed is up to 25km/h.
    The link gives more details but it sounds like something that could be used for the full commute to the CBD or as a link to and from public transport. Big attraction is that it is small enough to carry on public transport.
    There are plenty of alternatives. Some of them offer seats for people who don’t want to stand up for too long.

    Would make more sense for inner city transport and connecting with and carrying on public transport.

  14. Xenophon, Canavan eligible for election to Parlt.

    The other five ineligible: Joyce, Nash, Ludlum, Roberts, Waters.


  15. John Davidson,

    I think the low cost, carbon fibre E- blade scooter would be offset by expensive medical bills from falling off it and breaking bones whenever the tiny wheels hit potholes and more than small bumps in the road/pavement. The wheels would need to be much bigger before you’d catch me riding one, IMHO.

  16. GM: My experience with blade scooters is that someone riding a blade scooter needs to watch where they are going because, as you say, they don’t handle holes and gutters as well as bikes with their much larger wheels do. (However, I have seen one of my sons riding his scooter and jumping up over the edge of a city gutter with his cup of coffee in his hand without spilling a drop. Experience obviously helps.) On the other hand, blade scooters are easy to get off in a crisis and much much better at weaving through pedestrians and clutter than bikes. They are also much easier to carry on to public transport, fit into the back of a small car or, as my son does, carry into important meetings. (Says it adds to his prestige – Then again, his research specialties are illegal drugs and prostitution so that may make a difference.)

  17. Bi-election in New England!

    Crossing to our Man on the ground, Paul Burns, for a concise analysis and likely outcome………

  18. Only one election, so it will be a by-election.

    Not a ‘bi-election’.

    Now don’t “double down” on that.

    Mr A
    Pedants Anon

  19. In the lower House it could be called a bye-election.
    In the upper House it’s more a buy-election.

  20. 🙂

    Bye bye Barnaby.

    Cash for Nash.
    Muddy Waters.
    Ludlum, m’Lud?
    Malcolm in a muddle.
    The Canavan moves on.
    Adelaide was never Xenophobic.

    Thank you, High Court.

  21. Good one, Ambi.

    I have to work today and am not quite there with new Salon, which I can’t promise before about midnight.

  22. CNN reports that Robert Mueller has filed the first charges arising from the so-called “Russia investigation” which is, as I said all along fake news folks, and CNN is the fakest of fhe fakers, you know? It’s all great, we are doing so very well folks, and I really appreciate your support. We’ll drain that swamp!! Like I say you can do anything if you’re a celebrity.

  23. CNN reports that Robert Mueller has filed the first charges arising from the so-called “Russia investigation” which is, as I said all along fake news folks, and CNN is the fakest of the fakers, you know? It’s all great, we are doing so very well folks, and I really appreciate your support. We’ll drain that swamp!! Like I say you can do anything if you’re a celebrity.

  24. Yes indeed, Ambi, Fake News,…the only kind of news you can have about a Fake President.

    But, Ambi, you looked deeper to see the Furiously Accumulating Kakistocratic Evidence News with Putin paw prints all over it (Trump could not possibly make that up).

  25. I hope the next SS delves into the Clinton Foundation Inc/Uranium One/Russian ugliness.

    In the old adage ” be careful what you wish for ” the collusion thang may turn up more about the Dems than Trump.
    Interesting all the same.

    Hey BilB, how’s that ” phile ” on me championing Abbott and Trump going.
    It should be big enough to reveal by now surely!!

  26. Prey tell, what defending have you imagined occurred?
    In any event, still waiting for e..vid..ence of past championing allegations or was that just an admission they were false allegations ?

  27. Ah, Jumpy,…no the evidence is all there, years of it. I’m in no particular hurry as there is very little reward for the effort, I’ll get to it saving each comment link to a dossier in due course.

  28. So it’s the vibe of a feeling, gotcha.
    That’s probably enough for some.

    Up until the expose I’ll consider my integrity on the matter as unblemished.
    Others can judge as they see fit.

    G’night, hunting fish early in the morn.

  29. If they held an election in Qld, how would the Govt go?

    Will ON become the Queenmaker (as in Winston Peters, stilled termed “Kingmaker”, as if no-one has noticed that Jacinda was almost certainly not a Prince; across the Dutch)?

    How many anti-Labor parties are there in Qld?
    I count ON, LNP, Liberal (rump), National (rump), Bernardi, Family First, The Katter Dynasty, Hunters, Shooters, Fishers, Rip out the Trees with Chains, Fix the Bruce Hwy, Where is our NBN, …..
    but being a southerner, I await correction, clarification, and prognostications.

    Happy Election, Queensland!!

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