Lazy Luddite Log

31.7.08

Summer Calling

As I sit at the monitor visions come to me of other times and places. It is as if the combination of winter and routinised work (which I am now starting to get the hang of hence it becoming routine) serves to summon snatches of memory of more sunny experiences. And it is different from the following experience...

From 9-to-5 I have to spend my time at work
My job is very boring I'm an office clerk
The only thing that helps me pass the time away
Is knowing I'll be back in Echo Beach some day



In the Martha And The Muffins song I think the singer is describing a deliberate practice. In my case the images just come to me at random. It may be some classic Summer memory of spending days in a beach house with friends. It may be nothing more exciting than walking along some suburban street in better conditions. But it seems to happen particularly at this time of year. Is it a lack of sensory stimulation that my brain is seeking to compensate for I wonder.

We have had some nice days lately. But I am still pining for warmer conditions and more sunshine. Bring on Spring and then Summer I say.

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26.7.08

Burlesque At Butterfly

Last week I attended a burlesque show at the Butterfly Club in South Melbourne. I had seen the performer – Lola The Vamp – on another occasion and commented on that gig here. This time was a much better experience and just shows how the right setting and audience can contribute to a show. It also demonstrated how the artist had developed over the last two years.

The Butterfly Club itself deliberately cultivates an old-world vibe with its rabbit warren of pokey halls and rooms over two floors which are filled with the flotsam and jetsam of past decades. This was much better than the nightclub setting in which I last saw Lola The Vamp.

Then there was the audience. In the small performance space we were crammed into was a ‘full house’ of appreciative fans who went expressly to see the show. I went with a half-a-dozen friends which helped my enjoyment of the night. The audience was an interesting mix of ages and genders – there were more women than men which says something for the acceptance of contemporary burlesque as a non-sexist (if rather sexy) form of expression.

Then there were the performers themselves. Lola The Vamp was supported by Buella Blue – a singer and pianist with a distinctly melodramatic style. She would sing a few numbers and then introduce Lola. This interplay and alternation between two different yet complimentary forms of entertainment worked very well and I am sure helped Lola to do her job. It allowed the time necessary for the dancer to prepare between dances while still giving the audience something to take in.

And then there was Lola herself. She is pretty but that is only the start of it. This performer is herself a fan of burlesque – a burlesque nerd even who has made the art-form the subject of her postgraduate studies back in Brisbane. As such there is authenticity and precision to her act. The major prop for this show was a curtained sedan chair which served both as a changing room and a kind of – um – exercise frame. Other items that facilitated a playful old world flavour included two twirling parasols (utilised much as one would utilize fans in a fan-dance), a Venetian mask and matching velvet cloak, ribbons, a tutu, ballet shoes, a cute bonnet, and finally bejeweled pasties and a g-string (these last two items being the least dressed the performer ever becomes).

The focus was on a rather slow form of tantalisation. The first appearance of Lola was nothing but gesturing arms and legs from behind the curtains. Most of the dances were more playful than provocative. And often it was more the gestures and expressions that defined a dance rather than the lack of clothing. Sometimes it seemed like Lola was sharing some private joke with one or another audience member. Sometimes it even seemed like she was a bit surprised to find herself dancing almost naked in front of a bunch of strangers. I think a big part of her act is making the audience themselves feel safe and comfortable in what they are seeing. By the end however we were left feeling rather hot-under-the-collar by the final dance which was suggestive of a sex-act – but the kind of intimacy found only in a private bedroom rather than on the set of a porn movie.

All in all it was a fun night out and left one feeling that watching someone take off clothes for entertainment purposes is a perfectly normal thing to do for a change. Lola The Vamp deserves to be showered with flowers as well as cheers.

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16.7.08

Blogging Frequency

I am finding it more difficult to stick to my moreorless weekly blogging intention. What with a new job and a long-distance relationship I find I may still have the inspiration of topics but am short on the spare time and energy. Writing takes effort! I am contemplating how to address this.

One notion is to reduce to a monthly frequency. I also have to keep in mind that I have other on-line projects on the backburner. I also have an LJ (currently a monthly commitment) and the old Political Objectives Test site to complete.

I suppose I could always do the normal thing of only blogging as the oportunity arises. But how messy is that? I am anal in some things after all. On the other hand what matters more - (a) an internet presence or (b) a life? I think I will prioritise the latter. We shall see how we go.

Still I may have more interesting things to discuss next week...

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3.7.08

And Then There Were None

"Would you rather live in the ascendancy of a civilization, or during its decline?" - Arnold Poindexter in Revenge Of The Nerds (1984)

I feel I can now comment - in a smallscale way - on that immortal movie quotation. Except what I have experienced is more the ascendency and likely fall of a movement. I am referring to the Australian Democrats that I have discussed on many other ocassions here.

I say a 'movement' rather than a political party because in its own unique way the party has been the Australian entity wholly and solely dedicated to social-liberalism. Possibly that is an exaggeration - as long as there are persons involved in whatever political parties and pressure groups that are informed by the philosophy of social-liberalism (even unknowingly as many are) then there will always be some form of that movement. But still a distinct and significant change has come upon us in the form of the Australian Democrats loosing - for the first time in just over 30 years - any Federal parliamentary representation.

The party was founded in 1977 from a blend of members of micro-parties (e.g. The Australia Party) that merged to form the new party along with persons who had past involvement in major parties (e.g. Don Chipp) and with those interested citizens who till then lacked any party political experience. I remember as a child in the 80s my mother commenting that she voted for the Labor Party in the House of Representatives but for the ADs in the Senate because of "liking the things Mr Chipp says" (in contrast my Dad who had been born in authoritarian East Germany simply declared that his vote was secret). A lot of voters at that time and since from both the Labor and Liberal Party sides of the fence did likewise.

My own involvement in the party came much further into its history however. From 1990 I was a semi-active supporter or member. During that time I was more busy with finding some kind of a life at uni and also (ocassionally) engaged in uni work. As part of that work I did my Honour thesis on the role of minor parties in the Senate during the 1970s and 1980s. At that time the party had suffered a loss of support resulting in a reduction of senators from eight to seven. It was during that time that I penned the following:

Internal differences are a fact of life for any political organization but such contention can have a detrimental effect on the state of that organization and its public image. Public perceptions of internal tensions in the Democrats may have been a factor in their recent loss of electoral support. A reduction in electoral support can keep a major party out of office, but it can destroy a minor party...
- At The Crossbenches: A Comparative Study Of The Role Of Minor Parties In the Australian Senate (1994)

It seems like I was well aware even then of the precarious nature of politics for my chosen party. Those words may well have been written in much more recent times. And yet following the time of my thesis things got a lot better. We went from seven to nine senators and a return to the sole balance of power. We had a growing freshness and energy among the members and it was in that environment that I became very active sometime between 1996-1998 and stayed that way till (say) 2005 at which time I decided that my life needed a bit more sanity and I started to reduce my involvement from the crazy levels of holding three convenor positions at any one time.

Still what this tells you is that I had perceived a party in decline that then had a resurgence. It is hardly any wonder then that I put my all into it even once things started getting difficult and would sometimes comment that "stranger things have happened" than that the ADs would survive.

And the party still exists now. But with the exception of its formative few months back in 77 it has never experienced life as an extra-parliamentary party. We have lots of those. Lots and lots. Life in such a party must be difficult and frustrating and demoralising. Particularly if you have experienced better things. If you are small and lack parliamentary representation then why be a political party at all - better to be a pressure group or think tank or some such thing. That is my inclination anyway. But then "stranger things have happened" than the revival of the ADs. It will take more than a revival however (which to some extent I experienced in the mid-90s). Now it will take something more akin to ressurection with a new composition and identity. Or we may just melt back into the electorate from whence we came.

How does this make me feel? I am saddened. The party did a lot for me. It helped me along with many other very low income Australians simply by mimimising the effects of the cost-of-living on us (whether by removing taxes from necessary items or pushing for better welfare payments and concessions). It gave me something worthwhile to do at a time in which I was at a bit of a loss (and then gave me far too much to do which may have detracted from me developing in other ways). It helped develop skills of logistics and assertiveness (somewhat). It gave me some wonderful friends. And it allowed me to observe political history from the inside - giving more of an athropological than a sociological perspective on the lives of party hacks.

I am also philosophical however. I think that our polity is - in a sense - an organic thing that changes and adapts and it has experienced just one more such change. Some ADs warn that the new Senate of shared crossbenches will be way too volatile. But then if it is that is simply because aspects of the electorate are also volatile. If compromises cannot be made and policy stalls then so be it. That is the end result of our electoral process. And ultimately I say that if we as humans are flawed then our politics too must also be flawed. Live with it.

A few concluding remarks. As much as I seem to be letting go now I still feel a very strong bond to the heritage of the party. So I will make this assertion: No currently existing minor party will acheive the levels of representation - nine senators in total - that the Australian Democrats have. It was a fantasic feeling while it lasted.

And finally - would I rather live during the ascendency or the decline? Well the ascendency was a lot more fun. But the decline may just allow for new and future changes that may ultimately be for the better. Besides - in the movie the response to that question was this...

"Poindexter, do you want to fuck or not?"

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