Sunday, May 31

Shadows bursts out of the gloom in Armidale

Warren Ryan (pictured, the writer and director of the film Shadows of the Past), sent me this email today:


Actors Cassandra Ryan and Justin Colquhoun were kept busy signing
autographs for an hour after last night's sold-out
screening of Shadows of the Past.

Crowd reaction was again fantastic, with patrons vowing to return to
the Belgrave Cinema Armidale before Shadows finishes it's 2-week run.

The Armidale independent gave the film a four-star rating. See
attached pdf [note from Grumpy Old Journo, I'm not confident about loading PDF files to my blog. I'll read up on the manual, and may try again].

I am excited to get the film into our core audience locations. Some
families drove for an hour and a half to make the screening. One
family quoted that "it's the first time they'd been to the cinemas as
a family for 12 years, and that there was no way they were going to
miss this Australian rodeo film".

I'm chuffed, as you'll understand if you go back a couple of posts to "An excellent film stuck in the bush" on May 25. In that post I predicted word-of-mouth audience reactions would lead to acclaim for Shadows, despite luke-warm ratings from film critics.

Armidale is not only a major inland regional town in NSW, it's a university town. Where better to get that word of mouth going?

Saturday, May 30

Newspaper editors with beams in their eye

A cold morning. Your Grumpy Old Journalist remained in bed, reading the morning papers, when he cames across this – the second editorial in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

An hour later, at 6am, I heard the wonderfully warm voice of Angela Catterns on ABC radio 702, reading out the headlines from the Herald, and then those from the Telegraph and the Weekend Australian. Naming them all.

The Herald calls this “filching”?

You cannot buy advertising on ABC radio. Why would you want to, when the ABC gives it away free? And yet the Herald is indignant?

It's true that many newsbreaking Herald stories – and other newspapers' exclusives, too – saturate the airwaves and the blogosphere for days. As the story develops, journalists and commentators tend not to acknowledge the original source of the story.

Before the Herald editors become too wound up, they could reach down the office Bible and turn to Matthew 7:3:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

[That's the King James version. Modern Bible translations use “speck” or “piece of sawdust” instead of “mote”, as this details.]

The editors could then turn back to a story they published on May 7 about Mick Keelty's resignation, and then read my post of the same day, “Keelty – getting the facts right”. In that post, I noted phrases in the newspaper report were the same as those in an earlier post of mine ( “This time, Mick Keelty must do the honourable thing and resign” on August 30, 2008). The Herald even repeated an error I'd failed to correct.

Most bloggers give idealistic support to the free exchange of ideas, and let others pick up, discuss, and disseminate their views. Under my profile over on the side, I assert copyright over material in this blog, but also say anyone is welcome to use the material, although I'd appreciate acknowledgement and a link.

The big non-profits on the internet do need a formal legal arrangement, and provide their content to other users under a GNU or a Creative Commons licence. (Wikipedia switched last week, and this article explains the different licences.)

Commercial publishers, like Fairfax, the owner of the Herald, do need copyright to protect what is, after all, their property. They owe it to their shareholders. But when an ethical blogger – such as, ahem, this old journo – picks up their material, acknowledges its source, and provides a link back to the Herald's online story, everyone's a winner.

The Herald seems to be becoming tougher, and more selfish on the internet.

On April 13, the well-regarded media blog Mumbrella accused Fairfax Digital Media of being a bad internet citizen by “ failing to contribute to the ecosystem of the blogosphere.”

That sounds a bit precious, but the blogger says Fairfax online stories provide clickable links only to its own sites – if a story does mention an external site, it won't provide the link. You have to key it in yourself. The Mumbrella blogger wrote:

Fairfax seems to prefer to treat its [online] readers a bit like a jealous man who tries to stop his girlfriend from meeting other men in the hope that this will protect the relationship. One Fairfax journo told me that the management “aren’t keen on linking outside”.

You'll find the Mumbrella blog here. It's worth reading, especially for Fairfax editors (although first, they may have to remove the beams from their eyes).


Thursday, May 28

An excellent film stuck in the bush

New to filmgoers, Marcus Pointon plays a nuanced role as Steve Kelly

Days of steady rain. Merry has already polished all the silverware, and we're both going stir crazy. Time to go to the movies. We click on our local cinema's program guide.

What a depressing line-up. An animation film – I thought the school holidays were over! A Dan Brown story like The Da Vinci Code – don't insult our intelligence! Teenage Vampires – really!

We crossed them off until we had only one left. Shadows of the Past. Never heard of it. Unexciting title. And after Baz Luhrmann's Australia, we'd decided to take a break from Australian movies.

But we didn't feel like driving to another suburb, and in any case the Avoca Theatre seemed to be running yet another of its highbrow, intellectually improving programs. The Ettalong Paradiso it has to be.

We buy tickets for Cinema 5, and set off to find it. The Paradiso is part of the Ettalong Resort, and shares its Mediterranean architectural styles. Looking for Cinema 5, we work our way through a succession of lobbies with increasingly overblown baroque interiors, until we find ourselves in what seems an empty room. Somebody points to the corner. We pull a red curtain aside, and step into what must be Australia's smallest commercial cinema.

But as we walked out, I said to Merry: “That was one of the best movies I've seen for years.

“The critics are going to damn it with supercilious praise, but normal Aussies are going to love it. It's going to be a sleeper – if it can stay on screens out there long enough, word of mouth is going to make it a hit. Something like Lantana.”

So far, I've been right about the critics – of the two who have bothered to review it so far, SBS's Simon Foster was just luke-warm in his assessment (I'll provide links at the end of this post to let you read the words for yourself). Strangely, when he adds an online comment to correct an error, he also says:

And, rest assured, I feel very warmly about the film - it's a lovely piece of Aussie filmmaking.

Why didn't he say that in his review?

In online magazine FilmInk, Annette Basile said:

There are likeable characters in Shadows Of The Past, and a reasonable dose of drama and relationship inter-dynamics, but the largely stiff performances give it a low budget telemovie aura – it's like something you may catch on Saturday afternoon TV during the non-ratings period. Like a lot of Saturday arvo fare, it's watchable.

The review concludes:

Visually unspectacular and suffocating in a low quality country music soundtrack, Shadows Of The Past is loaded with poor performances and cliches. Yet there's still something pleasantly warm and fuzzy about these people - you'll care just enough about them to sit through to the predictable end.

Do you see what I mean about damning with supercilious praise?

Why do I believe the critics are wrong, and that if Shadows can hold on long enough out in the boondocks, it will become an acclaimed film?

Sad movies make me cry, all the way through a packet of tissues. Comedies see me chuckling in the stalls. Dramas see me on the edge of my seat, biting my nails.

When I go to the movies, I sit back and open my mind to an emotional experience. Yes, I've wasted my time with many bad films, but now and then a movie makes it all worthwhile. Shadows of the Past is such a movie.

How miserable it must be to be a film critic, compelled to sustain a detached objectivity while noting down every little flaw in the film. To be unable to give yourself over to the emotional experience, and let the film work its magic on you.

And because you know it's a low-budget movie, you note all the shortcomings to be expected in a low-budget movie.

Director Baz Luhrmann spent $150 million making Australia. It was worth seeing – some of the wide-country landscapes were breathtaking – but most people left the cinema disappointed.

In reply to my email, Shadows of the Past writer and director Warren Ryan told me he brought his film in for just under a million dollars. It was entirely self-funded – nobody else would help, apart from a few companies which supplied equipment – and Warren says he now has a mortgage which would choke a mule.

For me, Shadows provided a more satisfying cinema experience than Australia.

In the tiny Cinema No 5, we settled in our seats just as the opening credits exploded. Exploded is a good word – the background to the credits shows bulls expoding from rodeo gates, with riders trying to stay on for eight seconds, then scrambling clear of hooves and horns.

This is a story about bull-riding, and specifically about Steve Kelly, a former champion bull-rider who spent time in a wheelchair after the fearsome Black Friday tossed and trampled him. Spinal surgery and his devoted partner, Krystal, have restored his health.

But he still has his demons, and three years after Black Friday almost killed him, he has to face them again when a ruthless rodeo promoter pressures him to return for one last ride on Black Friday before the bull goes to stud.

So far Steve is living in a happy domestic scene with Krystal and his daughter Katie, although money is tight. But that happy scene changes, too, at Katie's 15th birthday party when Dannii comes back into the lives of the husband and daughter she left 12 years ago.

Why has she come back? What does she want?

I haven't given the actors' names, because you won't know any (you can look them up on the website, link below). Warren confirmed to me that all but one are up-and-coming unknowns. The exception is Mark Lee of Gallipoli fame, and I thought his depiction of Steve's father was less than convincing.

The romantic themes have a touch of the TV soap opera, but the film is lifted by good acting in all the major roles. And Shadows may have benefited from Warren's inability to afford name actors. Stars are good for the box office, but as with Geoffrey Rush in Lantana, they tend to overshadow the roles they play.

The film's settings are authentic, set in and around Warwick in Queensland – in real life, a town with a strong rodeo tradition.

SBS's Simon Foster said Shadows Of The Past bears an uncanny resemblance to Steve Miner’s 1991 dusty family drama Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, or the several incarnations of My Friend Flicka.

That may be so, but for me, the growing tension as Steve struggles to decide whether he will ride Black Friday took me back to the mood I felt when I watched High Noon. Worse, I couldn't get High Noon's “Do not forsake me, oh my darling” to stop running through my mind like an endless tape.

These days, should we talk of films? Soon film will be as obsolete in film-making as linotype machines in newspaper production. The industry is swinging to digital technology.

But unless the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission acts, independent producers like Warren Ryan may find themselves with bigger problems than just having to persuade exhibitors to give them a run – the studios and the big exhibitors may use encryption technology to lock them out of the powerful digital projectors now being installed.

David Tiley, who runs the Barista blog and also edits a subscription website and email service, Screen Hub, for the film and TV industry, has sent me a generously long email outlining the issues. I'll give them some more thought, and return with a new post (perhaps not the next post or two).

---oooOOOooo ---

Warren Ryan sent me this Shadows from the Past screening schedule for the next month:
NAROOMA: Currently playing
ARMIDALE: May 28 onwards
RICHMOND (returned by popular demand): May 28 onwards
NELSON BAY: June 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 in conjunction with the Blue Water Country Music Festival
TOOWOOMBA ( Rick's ICON Theatre): June 19 (evening) and Sunday 21 (2pm matinee) Tickets available to these special screenings from the ICON ticket box only. Two screenings only.
TAMWORTH: July 2 onwards
WAGGA: July 2 onwards
ORANGE: July 2 onwards

You may check out the details of Shadows and view a trailer at

The SBS review can be read at

FilmInk's review is at

And for some interesting reading on High Noon


Sunday, May 24

Who needs sub-editors, anyway?

Squeezed by the recession and the internet, newspaper managements are desperate to slash costs. For many of them, the first fat to be trimmed came from editorial production departments.

What do all those sub-editors* do, anyway? The paper will still come out, and still look good, with half the subbing staff.

Well yes, but you may have to put up with this now and again:

– from the first paragraph of the Sydney Sun-Herald's
front-page lead this morning (in my edition, at least).

* Copy editors in America.


Saturday, May 23

Should imprisonment be a death sentence?

When does a jail sentence become a death sentence? The answer, it seems, is when you become geriatric or seriously ill in the New South Wales prison system.

Take these cases:
  • Mary Anne Roberts, a 73-year-old woman suffering cancer, dementia and other problems. Despite a report from the director of geriatric services at the highly regarded St Vincent's Hosptial that she was not fit to serve a jail term, a District Court judge sentenced her to a minimum three years' jail for serious welfare fraud. She died less than five months later after a horrifying ordeal in a cruel system.
  • Charlotte Lindstrom, sentenced to three years for having tried to hire a hitman to kill witnesses against her drug-dealer boyfriend, is now so seriously wasted by anorexia her organs may be breaking down and she risks death. The prison system's medical treatment clearly is indadequate, but the NSW State Labor government has refused an offer from Sweden to let her serve her term back home in humane conditions.
  • Albert James Paddock – one wonders what the future holds for an 80-year-old man with paranoid delusions and early dementia, sentenced this week to at least six years after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of his wife.

Our prison policies should worry humane Australians. We should worry about overcrowding, the handling of prisoners with mental illness, high rates of recidivism, plans to build new prisons in distant towns where families cannot visit . . . the list goes on. But on all these issues, it may be possible to argue some justification.

But who could justify our prison system's failure to provide adequate care to the seriously ill, including those with mental illness, or those in serious geriatric decline who need nursing home care? People such as Mary Roberts and Charlotte Lindstrom.

Grumpy Old Journo has already noted the appalling treatment of Mary Anne Roberts. You may read the post (May 9, “Australia doesn't impose the death sentence, does it?”) here, athough it might be better to read the report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Herald ran the story on P8, suggesting its editors thought the public wouldn't be all that interested. As far as I can ascertain, the only media references have been my blog post, and a post by a contributing blogger on Larvatus Prodeo.

But the story – reporting the assisting counsel's outline of evidence to be given at a Glebe [Sydney] Coroner's Court inquest – may have caused consternation in some parties to be examined.

The hearing, set for May 11 to 15, did not go ahead. The court told me it had been adjourned to November 16.

It's my conjecture that the SMH story, describing the evidence to be given, alerted various parties that they faced public exposure in a scandal similar to that of the OOO operators who sneered at a schoolboy dying of thirst in the Blue Mountains. It's likely these parties sought the adjournment to obtain legal representation.

One can imagine the Justice Health employees' union, and that of the prison officers, urgently briefing silk – counsel assisting said the old woman had been left unwashed for days because of a demarcation dispute, and no-one would push her wheelchair.

I wonder whether a coroner can invite a District Court judge to explain his sentencing?

Charlotte Lindstrom, then a classic Swedish beauty besotted with her drug-dealer fiance, agreed to his request to hire a hitman to kill two witnesses who were to testify against him. The hitman turned out to be an undercover cop. After her arrest, and after overcoming her infatuation, she showed complete remorse and co-operated fully with police and prosecutors.

Because of her contrition and co-operation, she received a lenient sentence of two years – which would have seen her walk free on Monday – but the Crown appealed and it was increased to three years.

This SMH story (which I find credible), suggests she now suffers acute anorexia. She is at risk of having her organs melt down, of heart failure, of brain impairment, and possibly of death.

She needs specialist care, hospitalisation and careful feeding. Her parents say she has been seen by only the prison doctor and the prison pyschologist, and a cooking teacher comes once a week. She has never been admitted to a prison hospital. She is in solitary confinement because other prisoners have threatened her with death for having co-operated with police.

Displaying a humane approach not to be found in NSW, the Swedish Government has offered to pay for her transfer to finish her sentence in her own country, where she can receive proper treatment. The NSW Labor Government rejected the offer because it needs her to give evidence in a criminal trial in July.

Sweden offered to pay for a video link. The NSW Attorney-General said video-link evidence might be inadequate. She could apply for transfer after the July trial.

Perhaps the NSW Labor Government does have good cause to keep Ms Lindstrom in Australia until the trial is over. But if so, it also has a duty to ensure she receives adequate medical care – by a specialist in anorexia, and in hospital if necessary.

What lies ahead for Albert Paddock? Will the 80-year-old, suffering from paranoid delusions and early dementia, survive his six years in jail? Will poor medical treatment accelerate his geriatric decline? Time will tell.

Sunday, May 17

I hope I'm right, but . . .

Sometimes I read back a post and worry that I've got it wrong. Re-reading my previous post, “Damned whores and football wives”, I do feel I should modify and clarify some of my thoughts.

At the same time, perhaps, I can add a few insights which have come into my mind since that post.

First,I may have been too optimistic when I wrote that despite the sordidness of the footballers' gang-bang scandal, one could see positive outcomes. I wrote:

The public response to the scandal suggests most Australians have at last moved away from the misogyny underlying a “saints and sluts” view of women (although emerging doubts about "Clare's” veracity may be a problem).
Hopefully, in her next edition of Damned Whores and God's Police, Anne Summers will be able to pronounce that apart from a few troglodyte remnants, her dichotomy is no longer part of Australian

Perhaps I'm right. I'd like to think I am. But really, I haven't got the ability to say with any certainty. I certainly can be wrong.

Just over a decade ago, I was confident our country was tolerant, rich in its cultural diversity, secular and free of the hatreds of the old world. The land of the fair go.

If you had told me an inarticulate woman preaching xenophobia, racism and dingbat economics was winning the hearts and minds of middle Australia, I would have jeered at you. But not long after, her political party won almost a quarter of the votes in a Queensland state election.


After I put up the last post, I realised I had failed to say just what the footballers' group sex scandal was. So if you'd just arrived from another planet and wondered what I was talking about, I apologise.

Seriously, though, a number of overseas sites now offer a link to Grumpy Old Journo, and their readers may be puzzled by references well-understood by Australians. I promise to keep them in mind.

Also, I wonder whether I should explain why putting women into boxes labelled “saint” or “slut” is misogyny. But really, if you don't get it now, you never will.


Understandably, discussion has widened to arguments about permissiveness. Others are discussing the place of "recreational sex", in which love and friendship play little part. It's no bad thing to debate our differing views, but that debate may cloud our analysis of some of the issues exposed by the footballers' gang-bang.

The libertarian position must be that any sexual activity is acceptable if nobody gets hurt, all parties understand what they're getting into, there's no coercion, and consent is clearly given to every separate person and every activity involved. That's informed consent. It should be clear a drunken person cannot give informed consent, and nor can a child.

Informed consent is one clear issue in the footballers' gang-bang debate.

But this blog post and the next are also concerned about whether these gang-bangs reveal misogynistic attitudes to women.

Would footballers who have group sex with women then decide they are sluts who could never be considered as wives or mothers of their children?


For its last point, Grumpy Old Journo is indebted to a group of guys eating their lunch beside the railway tracks in the Hunter Valley. One of my sons, now working on a civil engineering contract, tells me the Matthew Johns affair dominated discussion for days.

The guys agreed the footballers' group activity had homosexual overtones.

That's perceptive, although it's not new to claim that Australia's mateship tradition embodies homo-erotic bonding resulting from the lack of women in early colonial days.

When the footballers lined up to have sex with the woman, the only emotional bonding taking place was between the men. The woman wasn't included.


Friday, May 15

Damned whores and football wives

It's hard to believe it's been 34 years since Anne Summers published her Damned Whores and God's Police. The years have rushed by, but how far have we progressed ?

The social and economic conditions of the first fifty years of white settlement in Australia fostered whores rather than wives. The traditional Judeo-Christian notion that all women could be categorised as being exclusively either good or evil – with the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene being the prototypes of each kind – was brought to Australia with the First Fleet.

That's where Anne Summers began her argument. In the book – a feminist classic which has been published continuously since its debut, in a number of revised editions – she went on to say the two stereotypes of women remain deep in Australian culture.

Today, she might argue little has changed – but now the sainted women might be footballers' wives and the damned whores are football groupies.

Many bloggers and Twitter tweeters are saying as much. To them, the 19-year-old kitchen hand got what she asked for when she accompanied Matthew Johns and a Cronulla Sharks mate to a bedroom in a Christchurch hotel.

The Australian Online reported today that 25,000 people have joined a Matthew Johns support group on Facebook.

All along, Matthew Johns has said the group sex was consensual. The New Zealand police support his claim.

Yesterday, AAP reported that Detective Inspector David Long, from Christchurch police, said the original investigation involved up to 80 interviews, and was thorough and conclusive.
“I'm completely satisfied that we got full and truthful accounts at the time and that no crime was committed,” he was quoted as saying.

For many of us, it's hard to believe a teenaged woman would consent to everything that happened that night. Everyone is calling it group sex, but group sex is a pleasant soiree compared with what transpired – a sordid gang-bang, as brutal as that term implies.

Football groupies exist, and footballers accept their invitations. Four Corners interviewed one, a woman who publicises her activities in the media. And some groupies collect entire football teams in a single session.

The Four Corners interview with a heavily disguised “Clare” left us believing she was a woman without much worldly experience, caught up in something she didn't understand.

That may be true, but some of “Clare's” story is unravelling.

Last night, Australia's Nine Network interviewed a former workmate, Tania Boyd, who said “Clare” had boasted to her workmates about bedding several players and did not contact police until five days after the incident.

"She was absolutely excited about the fact. She was bragging about it to the staff and quite willingly, openly, saying how she had sex with several players," Ms Boyd said. "We were quite disgusted about it. There was no trauma whatsoever.

"I'm disgusted that a woman can all of a sudden change her story from having a great time to then turning it into a terrible crime. We all just thought it was hilarious until five days later the police came to work, and we were horrified she had changed her story to say she was now a victim of crime." [We should note that Nine is not disinterested – it's the long-time employer of Matthew Johns, and the future of its Footy Show is at stake.]


A few years ago, blokey sports commentators would have brushed aside Matthew Johns's misadventure as just that – unfortunate but understandable.

Indeed, didn't we see that on The Boofhead Show last week? The ABC's Four Corners had told Johns about the program coming up on Monday night.

John Fordham, one of Australia's most experienced celebrity agents and PR experts, manages Johns's career. They drew up a response straight out of Crisis Management 101. A pre-emptive statement.

As The Boofhead Show began, Johns – open-faced and honest, Mr Nice Guy himself – read out an admission of sorts, and an apology to his wife and family. Fellow boofhead “Fatty” leaned over, patted him on the back, and said something like, “Well said, mate, let's get on with the show.”

Crisis Management error No 1 – they failed to express remorse to the woman who had become mentally disordered after the gang-bang. Viewers picked it up immediately.

Crisis Management error No 2 – Fordham and Johns hadn't viewed the coming Four Corners program, and they underestimated its devastating impact. The images of “Clare”, weeping, traumatised and vengeful, disturbed us all, and most of us bought her story.

Johns would regain public esteem – and revive his career – if he made a full and generous apology, and possibly reparations, to “Clare”. But he would be unwise to do so.

“Clare” probably is suffering pyschological trauma, and it probably is a result of the gang-bang. She may also be dreaming of the lifestyle she could enjoy if she won damages from Johns, his team mates and their club. And of how much pain she would inflict on them if she succeeded. With that in mind, Johns and the others are right to be wary.


Such a sordid affair, but it's possible to see positive outcomes. The public response to the scandal suggests most Australians have at last moved away from the misogyny underlying a “saints and sluts” view of women (although emerging doubts about “Clare's”veracity may be a problem).

Hopefully, in her next edition of Damned Whores and God's Police, Anne Summers will be able to pronounce that apart from a few troglodyte remnants, her dichotomy is no longer part of Australian culture.

She should also be proud that the crop she and other feminist writers and intellectuals planted and nurtured all those years ago has now proved so fruitful. A notable feature of the Johns affair was the power and perceptiveness of the commentary from women in public life – journalists, academics, TV presenters, even politicians – especially when they debated the issues of informed consent.

Of course, there was also the Catholic conservative commentator Miranda Devine. She used her column in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald to explain that young women who dress and behave immodestly were like cat's meat – cats cannot be blamed if they eat uncovered meat.

Hang on. I seem to have mixed up my notes. That wasn't Miranda, that was the Mufti of Lakemba. Still, there's not much difference in their views.

Monday, May 11

Kanyini – a culture lost in dispossession

Photo of Aboriginal elder Bob Randall

You threw me a line called Welfare, but
it’s not as good as what I had … the
chaos and sadness we are feeling now
is a result of our history … Open truth
will set us free, not hidden truth.

Just over a year ago Grumpy Old Journo introduced a post (April 8: "Kanyini – understanding Aboriginal culture") with the image and the lines above. The post went on to say:

Bob Randall (pictured top), a respected elder . . . explains how dispossession has brought so much misery to his people:

Now we’re stuck between two cultures, two worlds; we can’t go back to the old ways because the natural environment has been destroyed. Nothing is there in its natural state anymore. We can’t get into your system because many of us don’t understand it. Hardly anyone has the skills to operate in your culture; they don’t have the education and reading skills to understand your ways and culture … so much money has been spent on an education system that isn’t working … it’s a failure. We need to consider new ways of teaching to incorporate old and new … so my mob can feel pride.

The best way to listen to Uncle Bob is to view the film Kanyini, and to hear him explain the meaning of the word. In the Pitjantjatjara language of central Australia, it means connectedness – to a belief system, to spirituality, to land and to family.

It's a remarkable documentary. For its 53 minutes, it hit my emotional buttons so strongly I worried whether I could write a proper assessment.

I've re-read that post a number of times, and I believe my comments were sound. Perhaps you'd care to read my critique, then make up your own mind by viewing the film.

Lane Cove Residents for Reconciliation has arranged a Sydney screening of Kanyini on Tuesday, June 2, in the Cove Room, Lane Cove Civic Centre, 48 Longueville Rd (cnr Epping Rd), Lane Cove.

The film's director, Melanie Hogan, will speak, along with Masada High School (St Ives) student participants in the Kanyini Schools Program.

The invite says 7.00 for 7.30pm-9.30pm. All Welcome - Refreshments - No Bookings Necessary - Admission Free.


Saturday, May 9

Australia doesn't impose the death penalty, does it?

The most horrifying story I've read this week wasn't the rugby league players' gang-banging a gullible 19-year-old in New Zealand seven years ago. It wasn't even the details of OOO call centre operators' sarcastic and unfeeling responses to a calls from a boy who was perishing in the Blue Mountains.

It was this story, the P8 lead in today's Sydney Morning Herald -- "Woman in jail should have been in a care home".

To give you a taste of it, here are the first two pars:

A 73-YEAR-OLD woman convicted of Social Security fraud, who was suffering cancer, dementia and other problems and should have been sent to a nursing home, died less than five months into a three-year prison sentence imposed by the District Court, Glebe Coroner's Court has heard.
Judge David Freeman sentenced Mary Anne Roberts in September 2004 despite a report by Nicholas Brennan, director of geriatric services at St Vincent's Hospital, that she was not fit to serve a jail sentence.

Read the report. It made me so angry I risk making a comment which would see me hauled up before the majesty of the law, asked to grovel -- and for my refusal, sent to the NSW prison system for contempt. A prison system which just sneers at any concept that it owes a duty of care to treat the health problems of inmates.


Friday, May 8

At last, The Australian shows how education should be reported

Have my prayers been answered? The front page of today's Australian runs a long, detailed report by education writer Justine Ferrari about the national introduction of a grammar curriculum.

It's balanced, fair and comprehensive. It explains the different types of grammar.

Did you know that in addition to Traditional, there are other grammars: Transformational or Generative; and Systemic Functional. Like most people, I'm all for traditional grammar, but the others have their place in academic theory and understanding the way we use English.

If you go back a couple of posts to April 30 ("Time to say adieu to The Australian"), you will see criticism of the Oz's reporting of education issues. Some might call it bias, but as I said:

. . . when the Oz reports only one side of an argument, it's not because the editors are biased. The editors know children should learn to read by phonics alone – they know every other approach is
discredited. Me? I'd like to make up my own mind by evaluating the differing arguments. I'd like the news reports to lay out those arguments, even briefly.

Ms Ferrari's report today suggests my comment is out of date.

Note added Saturday, May 9:

Several letters in The Weekend Australian support the introduction of tradional grammar, but correct some points. Read them here.

This summary from yesterday's Australian wasn't published online, but is invaluable in explaining the various grammars. I hope the Oz will forgive my scanning it to assist understanding.

WHICH IS BEST? -- The different types of grammar
TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR: Classifies words based on the eight parts of speech: verb, noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, interjection. This grammar also describes the function of words in a sentence, with the typical construction of subject verb object, as in: "The boy hit the ball".
TRANSFORMATIONAL OR GENERATIVE GRAMMAR: An analytical grammar used to look at the possibilities of a language within the constraints of its deep structure. No matter how complex the sentence, it can be reduced to subject verb object -"the boy hit the ball". It's not possible to say: "hit the ball the boy".
SYSTEMIC FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR: An analytical grammar that examines language on three levels: what is being represented (ideational); who is being affected by what is being said (interpersonal); and what is the intent of the sentence (textual)
An example of systemic functional grammar analysis:"Who's seen my screwdriver?"
Textual meaning: Who (theme or what it's about) 's seen my screwdriver (theme or the outcome)
Interpersonal meaning: Who (subject)'s (finite) seen (predicator) my screwdriver(complement)
Ideational meaning: Who (sensers)'s seen (mental process) my screwdriver(phenomenon).

Thursday, May 7

Keelty – getting the facts right

I'm flattered the P8 lead [1] in today's Sydney Morning Herald drew on material from my Grumpy Old Journo blog. Alas, it also repeated an error. A later GOJ post did make the correction , but I had failed to go back and fix the mistake in the earlier post. My apologies to the Herald and its readers.

On August 30 last year, in a post titled, “This time Mick Keelty must do the honorable thing and resign,” [2] GOJ described the Jana Wendt interview in which Keelty said the words which angered Prime Minister John Howard, and went on to say:

Prime Minister John Howard saw the interview and went ballistic. He immediately rang his loyal chief of staff, Arthur Sinodinos. Less than eight minutes after the interview ended, Sinodinos phoned Keelty in Nine's green room – the VIP lounge for interview guests – to communicate Howard's extreme displeasure.

The comment was based on the most reliable information at the time. But on October 27, Sinodinos was interviewed by Sally Neighbour on an ABC Four Corners program, Good cop, bad cop. [3]

After reading the transcript, I put up another post on October 28, “Is the Federal Police Comissioner a servant of the government in power?” [4]

In it, I described as “chilling” Sinodinos's comments which showed John Howard believed the AFP was required to do whatever he demanded, provided it did not involve breaking laws. I went on to comment:

Is it taking it too far to say John Howard and his chief of staff believed it was acceptable to sool the Federal Police on to targets which suited their political agenda? Providing, of course, it did not demand something which would be illegal. Did Mick Keelty fail to dispute that view, especially after having submitted to the brutal public humiliation imposed by Howard and Sinodinos?

And that post concluded :

A correction: In my earlier post I said John Howard saw Keelty's TV interview and went ballistic. In last night's Four Corners program, Mr Sinodinos said he saw the program and phoned Howard to say there could be a problem. Howard's response was: "Ring Mick and let him know that I'm very concerned about this because of the way it could be interpreted."

Grumpy Old Journo deserves a pat on the back. Its Keelty analysis and comments have held up well as more of the story unfolded. (This post was offered to the Herald as a letter, but we haven't heard back.)