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Thursday, 20 September 2012 - 9:09pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Thu, 20/09/2012 - 9:09pm

I've learned that I should be pleased that I'm not a Rhodes scholar, but I also have to take issue with this claim by Pilger:

Liberal hysteria that the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is more extreme than Obama is no more than a familiar promotion of "lesser evilism" and changes nothing.  Ironically, the election of Romney to the White House is likely to reawaken mass dissent in the US, whose demise is Obama's singular achievement.

I'm of an age where pretty much everything seems to have occurred relatively recently (9/11, the fall of the Berlin wall, George Formby, the French revolution, etc.), but I'm reasonably confident that a little stir called Occupy happened during Obama's presidency, and was a generally splendid affair whose ripples are - as ripples are wont to do - spreading outwards at this very moment.

Despite the fact that I think calling Obama a spineless weasel is an unforgivable calumny upon weasel invertebrates of every stripe, the suggestion that "worse evilism" would awaken the masses to finally recognise the brilliance of our natural vanguard intellectual leaders is utterly monstrous. To support my position, I'll go for a trite cite: the extraordinary social/political progress in the second half of the 20th century which took place in the affluent post-war west, where a generation looked at their inheritance of shallow materialism courtesy of institutionalised injustice and said, to quote Abbie Hoffman, "Yuck!" Compare this to the results of the mass dissent in Russia and Germany in the first half of the 20th century awakened by the dubious blessings of the Tsar and the Treaty of Versailles.

Lest you think I am being flippant, I am second to nobody in awareness of the terrible harm that prog rock (arguably a consequense of the counter-culture) has done to our civilisation, but I prefer it to the KGB or the SS. It's much easier to do good if you're contending with a lesser evil.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 12/09/2012 - 12:59pm in

My ethnically windmillphilic friend Paul van Campenhout didn't ask me what I thought of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, but I told him all the same. Here's what I said:

Ruben said he loved it, but he admits it may be because he was watching it vicariously through his ten year old who was bouncing around on the sofa with delight the whole way through.

Without the same advantage I was mostly disappointed at the waste of a couple of good actors in Rupert what-his-name and that bloke what used to be in Red Dwarf and the Fast Show ("This week I 'ave been mostly eatin'..." "You ain't seen me, roight?") oh and some films about a teenage wizard or something.

Also the "Neffi" thing struck me as a bit Bill and Ted, especially after re-reading the novelisation of the Crusaders over the christmas hols (the local book liquidators had the new 2011 BBC Books editions of Target novelisations for $5 each!). If in 1964 you can manage, with wobbly sets, to depict well-known historical figures as fully-rounded human beings - with the Arabs no more or less barbaric than their English invaders, mind you (again: 1964!) - Nefertiti as a sexy ass-kicker with attitude is pretty poor.

And of course if you know your large plodding herbivores, based on Douglas Adams' marvelous description of what it's like to be a rhinoceros in Last Chance to See, you can't buy the idea of a triceratops even noticing - much less being excited by - a bouncing golf ball. Herbivores don't need to chase things; plants don't move that much, at least not on Earth. Except for the occasional Krynoid.

Writer Chris Chibnall (Hungry Earth, and previously nominally head writer for Torchwood, at least while RTD was still working on Who) appears to be for Steven Moffat what Helen Raynor (Daleks in Manhattan, Sontaran Strategem) was for RTD. Give him a list of characters and set pieces, and he'll turn out a workmanlike but forgettable script.

But what do I know? I'm a grumpy old man, not a ten year old boy bouncing around on the sofa waving his sonic screwdriver. This episode was for the ten year olds, and that's fine.

Asylum of the Daleks

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 08/09/2012 - 3:32pm in

My old school chum (our parents were poor and couldn't afford to send us to a new school) Paul van Campenhout asked me what I thought of Asylum of the Daleks, and this is what I said:

My first reaction was wow, this is a really blatant two fingers up to George Lucas, with a few clear stylistic nods to Star Wars that seemed to say "This is how you do it, George. Remember when you used to not suck?"

I tend not to like Dalek stories. Daleks are not sparkling conversationalists, which makes them rather dreary antagonists. Failing to get dullards to listen to reason is my day job*, not my entertainment of choice.

However there is no such thing as a bad Steven Moffat script, and he's wisely left the Daleks with little dialogue and lots of being very scary, as well keeping the horror over the idea of what it is to be a Dalek on the simmer.

Speaking of which, I didn't see the twist coming and was honestly befuddled for quite a while right up to the reveal. A twist which is obvious in retrospect, and makes perfect sense in terms of all the little details that have been clearly laid out for you, but startles you all the same, is a bloody good twist.

Don't care about where this all fits into Dalek lore, nor the misgivings others have had about the plausibility of the Pond's matrimonial problems. Doctor Who is neither serious science fiction nor serious drama, which is why it's so good.

I'm hoping the forgetting of "the Predator" or "the Oncoming Storm", as well as various statements Moffat has made recently, means the Doctor is no longer a Colossus bestriding the universe, and returning to being a wanderer intrigued and delighted by the universe. Mind you, I thought that was what RTD was doing by destroying Gallifrey and the Daleks with his Time War, and we all know how tiresome that turned out.

* A joke. Not entirely true.

Saturday, 1 September 2012 - 3:25pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 01/09/2012 - 3:25pm

"Make no mistake, council is one of the biggest businesses in the region and the community is the stakeholder."


"The honey pot of funding for local government is simply not flowing as freely as it once was and the new council needs to stimulate economic development, in order to raise funds to improve and offer more services and facilities," she added.

Oh, for f**'s sake. Where does one go to learn to talk such bollocks? You can't even begin to satirise that; by itself it's a perpetual motion self-piss-taking machine. There is a name for people who talk like that. To be more polite, you could call them honey pot self-stimulators.

Friday, 31 August 2012 - 1:03pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 31/08/2012 - 1:03pm

Google ranking the switched-on-edness of regions by counting subscriptions to Google services is about as meaningful as British American Tobacco running a Healthy Towns Award by counting sales of low tar cigarettes.

If anything, the use of Google services should be considered inversely related to technical literacy. It's the 21st-century equivalent of selecting software based on whether it comes in a shrink-wrapped box with a Microsoft logo on the front; you haven't a clue what you're doing but feel safe with the herd.

Yes, the population of Coffs Harbour is generally scandalously ill-informed when it comes to technology, but the fact that relatively few have been suckered into buying classified ads from Google should be seen as the silver lining.

Monday, 27 August 2012 - 1:17pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 27/08/2012 - 1:17pm

No byline to this story. Am I right in concluding then that this is a verbatim publication of a press release? How does the Coffs Coast Advertorial decide who's eligible to use the paper like this? Can I have a go?

Propaganda 101 for Ex-Journalists

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 19/08/2012 - 3:59pm

Yet another open letter to the Coffs Coast Advocate:

Dear Sir,

I confess to feeling a little overwhelmed. I've never considered myself particularly influential, so when I suggested last week that you assemble an astroturf group of random cretins to inject a much-needed element of opacity into your campaign to improve the market value of ocean-view properties in the Jetty area, I had little expectation you'd take my advice; still less that you'd do so in under a week!

And what a group! Unless I'm mistaken they appear to be predominately Coffs old-money born and in-bred; scarcely a chin between the lot of them, and not unduly burdened by an excess of grey matter. Just the people to recite from a deck of prepared talking points without a stray original thought taking them off-message.

I know you've made a few false steps so far in the campaign, but nobody can say it's really your fault. Back in your day universities quixotically emphasised the teaching of journalism, to the great detriment of the mercenary propaganda skills of a generation of local newspaper editors, leaving them grossly unprepared for the media industry of the 21st century. However today's cover story is more than enough to demonstrate to your advertisers that you're a quick and willing learner.

Because you've had the grace and humility to accept my advice in the past, I feel obliged to highlight the next most prominent weakness in your campaign so far (I'm happy to give counsel for as long as you find it useful - consider it "Propaganda 101 for Ex-Journalists"). You have a serious problem with framing the issue.

At the moment, the debate is whether to go ahead with the plan devised by the Think Tank (nudge nudge, wink wink!), or to leave well enough alone. This is a debate you don't want to have. It makes your desired outcome appear like the extreme end of a possible spectrum of opinions, and invites speculation about whether it's a good idea or not, phrases like Integrated Coastal Zone Mangement, and the sort of tedious wallowing about in facts that journalists like to do, but has no place in the Advocate. What you need is a position even more outlandish than your own that will make doing nothing seem a woefully inadequate response to a dire crisis rather than sensible caution, and will make your advertisers' plan (whoops, I mean the Think Tank's plan of course!) the reasonable, indeed inevitable, compromise. You won't even need to be seen to be pushing one point of view at all, merely giving Fair and Balanced™ coverage to both sides of the argument.

Now bear with me; I have a soundbite for you: "The precise aerial delivery of chemical defoliants, which have come a long way since the Vietnam era, along the entire length of the Coffs Coast, is the most cost-effective way to open up currently under-utilised community assets to - literally in some cases - pave the way for our own tourism resources boom." Picture a grey-haired duffer in an old suit with - this may be gilding the lily, but I think we could pull it off - a bow tie. You could probably source someone suitable in a quick fishing trip on the CHEC campus. It's not a real university of course, but that just means any academic who's hit rock bottom there will desperately seize on any opportunity to get his name in print in the hope of getting out.

If all this sounds a bit extreme, please remember that you're not just engaged in the task of expunging any lingering vestiges of journalism from the Advocate, but your clients are also depending on the Advocate to take the politics and the democracy out of government. The business of the press is business. In Coffs Harbour, which produces nothing of note but suburban sprawl, this means the business of the press is real estate, and ensuring any and all other civil institutions are subordinate to the demands of property holders.

This is no small task, but I have faith in you, and look forward to next Saturday's front page.

Matthew Davidson.


Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 18/08/2012 - 8:03pm

Something about this article doesn't make sense to me. I've never heard the word "stoush" used by anybody other than news reporters. Am I wrong in thinking it has something to do with facial hair? Based on the sound of the word I think I can picture what a stoush might look like, but neither of the two gentlemen photographed appear to be wearing one.

Thumb Funds

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 18/08/2012 - 7:45pm

If on a scale of one to ten it's a fifteen, we can be sure that George is going to give 110% - if not more. Because he and Team Team are playing to win. They're going to get results, and those results will be outcomes, right down to the wire, and they are going to take ownership of those outcomes, and drive them forward to deliver results. Not just any results, but key, deliverable, achievable results with the momentum to produce outcomes, the sort of outcomes that will put thumbs up, right up everybody across the industry. Then we're going to harness those thumbs to produce funds. Yes, thumb funds! Try saying that ten times quickly! And what do you get from thumb funds? I think we all know the answer to that. A boost! A massive boost to get the job done. And that is why we need to cut down some trees and lay some concrete over sand dunes. I can't put it any more plainly and simply than that.

Strange Visions

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 11/08/2012 - 11:26am

Another open letter to the Coffs Coast Advocate:

Dear Sir,

As visions go, the notion that Coffs Harbour residents and visitors would not only choose to spend time sitting on a narrow strip of sand bordering a car park but also - curiously - enjoy the experience, is quite a doozie. One can only speculate at the provenance of this vision. It's too bizarre even to blame on a bedtime slice of cold pizza, and the apparent assertion that it is the result of a log of claims presented by Advocate "journos, clickies, subs, sales staff and admin folk" to management is, to put it mildly, somewhat implausible.

The only actual human being I can find that you've yet cited as supporting the "opening up" of the Jetty foreshores to transform it from mere beach into "a major economic driver" is "trustee of The Observatory holiday units, Neil Manson" who, as you point out, "has a unique vantage point"; also, it must be said, a comparatively rare if not actually unique economic interest not shared by the majority of Coffs Harbour residents. I confess to being mildly curious as to who else constitutes the enormous grassroots demand for your proposed Bogan Boulevarde.

Well to be honest, like anybody who's lived here for more than a few years, I am under no illusions as to how such harrowingly concrete-centric visions have been planned and executed in the past, who has benefited, and the Advocate's role in this process as cheerleader for the development of vital and cherished civic assets like multi-story carparks. Pun intended; I mean, what carpark isn't important enough for it's mere existence to warrant multiple stories in a newspaper?

What rankles is that the absence of even a token effort to pull together a mildly credible astroturf lobby group that we can all pretend is the source of your latest vision feels like an insult to the intelligence of all concerned. Our community certainly does not lack coachable but otherwise inarticulate and intellectually inert drongos, and the claim that vegetation causes drug abuse and illicit sexual behaviour shows that you have the necessary wellspring of idiocy to fuel such a campaign. I've heard a lot of excuses from people caught in the act of socially transgressive behaviour, but "the trees made me do it!" is breathtakingly inventive. Bravo!

Anyway, to prove I'm not merely a negative Nelly, I have a positive alternative vision for you to take up and run with should you wish. It seems to me that if there's anything in the Jetty precinct that would benefit from "opening up" through the judicious application of a wrecking ball, it's the hideous mini-mall on the corner of Harbour Drive and Orlando Street. Rehousing the tenants of this complex in a new row of street level shops to match the existing and very attractive ones on the opposite side of the road could hardly be a less contentious plan; after all, you would just be replacing some shops with some shops. Nobody loses, and Coffs has one eyesore less!

I confess that I am not a wealthy landlord or property developer, nor do I represent any in my day to day business, or on Thursday evenings in Council, but I am at least willing to go on the record as the genuine author of this vision. How about it?

Matthew Davidson.