Annabel Crabb Tsks At Students For Protesting, Recommends They Use The Internets

UPDATE: While ranting sure is fun, I've written a more substantive follow-up piece in defence of student protest that's probably more worth your time. Find it here, for Junkee.com.

Good news, fellow members of The Youth! All those tantrums you’ve been throwing about the looming cuts to tertiary education have finally caught the attention of someone important! In her recent column for Fairfax, Annabel Crabb took student protesters to task for the recent protest actions you might have read about, and finally raised the question the nation was burning for someone to ask: “How can it be, as even our phones get smarter, that protestors are somehow getting dumber?

Oh, you silly kids! Trying to preserve the remnants of your future from being ripped away by rich old white men who got their education for free! Don’t worry, Aunty Annabel is here to hold your hand and tell you exactly where you’re going wrong. Since you’re too immature to unpick the finer nuances of Crabb’s argument, allow me to guide you through the special blend of loving condescension which we will for the moment call “Crabbsplaining”.

First, some background. Displaying a knowledge of the post-Cold War era that borders on the shamanistic, Crabb writes: “The advent of the internet has deluged us with a mighty, confusing, exhilarating torrent of information, bringing with it previously unimaginable ways for human beings to come together, to talk, argue, share knitting tips and to deliver to vast audiences a tiny but resonant truth about something happening in their own backyards”. This is a very important point to make, as it establishes for the reader that the internet is a thing that exists, that the internet has changed some aspects of society, and other insights originally made in a Powerpoint presentation to Fairfax executives in 1998.

"As we can see on these magic screen portals, the Internet is definitive proof that all science is the work of witches."

"As we can see on these magic screen portals, the Internet is definitive proof that all science is the work of witches."

She then rightly points out the methods used by student protesters in recent weeks, such as the National Day of Action and snap protests in response to the presence of government ministers on campus, are useless and positively counter-productive. That protest you had on Q&A? Boy, did you screw the pooch on that one. Crabb has some choice words for you about that:

“Are poster paint and your parents' third-best manchester really the best tools the modern environment offers? And has any strategic thought gone into this stuff?”

See how phrases like “poster paint” and references to your parents imply that you’re children who can’t be trusted to make your own decisions? That’s Crabb’s Big-Person Writing Skills at work, it’s alright if you don’t understand. The same way you’re too young to understand that when it comes to drawing attention to an issue, hijacking a live TV program with a huge social media footprint is a very un-strategic way to go about it. That’s why one of Australia’s most widely-read columnists went out of her way to tell you so, and why footage of the protest has a measly 190,000 views on YouTube.

Speaking of that Q&A protest, remember what host and Wise Old Man of Australian politics Tony Jones said at the time? “That is not what democracy is all about and those students should understand that,” Jones grumbled good-naturedly, ruffling your greasy mop of hair as you upset his Democracy Sanctum with your yelling. That’s absolutely right, kids; democracy isn’t about disrupting the status quo to bring about change! It’s about sitting quietly and waiting your turn while Christopher Pyne spins carefully-crafted lines of bullshit to distract from the fact he’s a clown in a suit cleverly disguised as an Education Minister.

Between them, Crabb and Jones prove that a couple of wealthy middle-aged men mocking a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl on the front page of a major newspaper aren’t the only ones looking out for you and your tiny, tiny minds. It’s something all the serious professionals in the mainstream media, no matter what their political leaning, keep in mind as they sadly shake their heads at the uniformly terrible decisions you make when trying to shape your own future.

That’s why they’ve spent the last few years calling you “slacktivists” for signing online petitions and sharing articles on Facebook instead of getting off your lasy arses and going protesting. And that’s why, now that you’ve gotten off your lazy arses and gone protesting, they’re telling you that you’re doing it wrong. It seems very confusing, I know, but once you’re over 40 and earning a certain amount it’ll all make perfect sense.

Instead of marching, Crabb suggests that we use our mad internet skillz to “paint a picture of what universities would look like if these changes get by the Senate. To explain what goes on in a young person's mind when deciding whether to go to university, and illustrate how the prospect of a commercial-grade debt might have a different effect on a poor student than on a wealthy one”.

What a wonderful idea! How did we forget about that big friendly roundtable where government and policymakers are just waiting to sit down with students and listen to their concerns with the attention and respect they deserve? Like former Education Minister Amanda Vanstone calling students “bullies and thugs” in the Herald today? I’m sure journalists at the country’s biggest newspapers and television stations will report on the findings, the same way I’m sure they’re beavering away to present well-researched and balanced articles on the reasons students are acting to safeguard their futures.

Or maybe a flashmob? We love flashmobs, am I right fellow 18-to-29 year-olds? Eh? Eh?

Honestly, I’m glad a grown-up finally came along and put us in our place. For a moment I was worried we were going to take the fight for an affordable education into our own hands and assume responsibility for continuing the defence of Australia’s social democratic consensus, warts and all. Now we can go back to our snarky Facebook posts and Change.org petitions, safe in the knowledge that even if we’re bowed under by crippling debt in the name of a perverse and morally bankrupt free-market ideology, we won’t be annoying our betters. Thank goodness the adults are back in charge.

Dadrock is the future

I know bog-all about music. I had a few guitar lessons in Year Nine, but I also played cricket for three years and somehow Michael Clarke can get a sponsorship deal with Milo and I can't, so there you go. More importantly, I never learnt where to look for good music. I grew up in a town where nightlife is a choice between two shitty clubs around the corner from each other in an abandoned shopping plaza. (One's called Altitude; one's called Down Under. One's upstairs, one's downstairs. The reviews on TripAdvisor are pretty special if you've got the time.) The only source of anything resembling good music was Triple J, which I came to rely on like a saline drip and which explains my torrid late-teens infatuation with Karnivool. 

When I moved to Sydney, though, I found the live music scene disappointing for a long time. I ticked big overseas acts like the National and Frightened Rabbit off my bucket list, but there didn't seem to be any local bands to get excited about. Triple J led me to disappointingly vanilla servings like Cloud Control, Boy and Bear and the Jezabels, and the Living End was playing every festival fifteen years after they should've stopped. 

There was also an irritating sense of respectability that seemed to infect the punters at big gigs, like everyone was watching each other. I wanted to thrash around like a mad bastard, get sweaty and doused in beer and have fun, for Christ's sake, but there was some unwritten code of etiquette that said such behaviour was not the done thing. I got tired of going to gigs where people were paying north of sixty bucks to stand and nod with their arms folded. 

Worst of all, I couldn't find any music about Sydney. Bands from places like Glasgow and Brooklyn wear their hometowns on their sleeves. Whether they're proud or nostalgic or embittered with their city, they engage with it. They tell stories about the streets they grew up on, the rivers they got drunk beside, and those sounds filter back and become part of their city in turn. The Australian music on Triple J, though, sounded like was recorded in some no-place. I was living in Sydney and listening to music that told me more about the Bowery and the suburbs of Ohio than about Marrickville. The fabled Underground Music Scene I had assumed was bursting out of every pub didn't seem to exist.

Then I started living with a guy who is five parts indie music, four parts green politics, and three parts beard. About a month ago he got me onto a Melbourne band called Dick Diver, whose latest LP, Calendar Days, was named the Guardian's best Australian album of 2013. I'd never heard of them and, going on the fact they've only got about 4,600 Likes on Facebook, neither had almost anybody else. They had songs with names like "New Start Again," "Gap Year" and "Keno"; sad, funny little songs about being bored, being poor, fucking and fucking up. 

I was hooked, and after a bit of digging on the Interwebz I realised these kinds of bands are everywhere; tiny little ragamuffin outfits playing in dive bars, putting EPs and albums out on Soundcloud and Bandcamp and charging five or ten bucks for their work. They share drummers, bassists, singers; they form and dissipate and re-form as something else just as quickly. Twerps, Royal Headache, Full Ugly, Big Dingo, Total Control, Unity Floors, the School of Radiant Living, the UV Race, the Bed Wettin' Bad Boys, the Stevens - a whole school of them, practically invisible unless you know where to look. 

Putting a name on the kind of music they make is difficult; the term "dolewave" is sometimes used, but it doesn't ring true to me somehow. For want of anything better, and because I like how it sounds, I'm going to call it Dadrock.

Dadrock is an acquired taste. It's guitar-heavy, abrasive and usually sounds like it was recorded through an old sock. The singers are aggressively atonal, and often have strong Australian accents where most bands go to lengths to iron any 'Strayan out of their vocals. The bands who play it have a common fascination with the significance of mundane things; the songs are anecdotes about going to the shops and seeing an old girlfriend, staring at the TV and having nothing to do on a Saturday night, and standing on the edge of a circle of people by yourself at a house party.

In Adelaide, Bad//Dreems are making music that explores how dull and generally fucked-up Adelaide is, to the point of it being a kind of manifesto. "Scratch the surface here and you find another world, far removed from the leafy inner suburbs. The empty jail on the edge of the city. A decade long bikie war. The Family. This is the weird murder capital. The weed capital," is how they describe the mindset behind their debut EP, Badlands, and when they sing "I am bored, I am lonely, I am scared, I'm scared" on Tomorrow Mountain, it's Adelaide they're talking about.

Old Mate are another Adelaide band who just write about the boring, crappy things that happen to them. "I got fiiiiiiiiiiiiired! And I didn't know whyyyyyyyyyy!" they sing on one song, surprisingly called I Got Fired. On The Alma, they take about five seconds to capture how fucking dreadful work drinks are: "Dudes in t-shirts and it's ten degrees/I have to get out, I have to get out". I've never been to Adelaide, but after listening to Bad//Dreems and Old Mate I can picture what it must have been like to grow up there.

Same with the gloriously-named Scott and Charlene's Wedding. After writing songs about feeling sad on the Epping Line, the guy behind it moved to New York a couple of years ago and made a whole album about being a quietly bewildered expat where your accent makes people think you're English. Sydney outfit You Beauty have made a concept album about a washed-up footy player who falls in love with a breakfast show host, and is saved from alcohol-soaked oblivion by Ray Warren in a pub.

This kind of stuff isn't everyone's cup of tea, and that's fine, but I can't help but wonder if the reason these bands don't get much attention is how unapologetically Australian they are. Not Australian in a John-Howard's-Little-Battlers kind of way, but just being who they are; young kids from the suburbs making music about stuff that happens to young kids from the suburbs. We like to forget that we're this weird little accident of a country on the wrong side of the world, with our own stories of love and boredom and confusion. We don't have to be triumphalist about that, but we shouldn't ignore it altogether.

That's why I love this music. It says more about who we are - as young people living in crappy sharehouses in the city, scrambling to pay rent, trying to get paid for what we like doing instead of pushing spreadsheets around, staring into our phones - than anything I've heard before. It's honest. 

Or I'm full of shit. Either way.

 

Mike Carlton's Twitter game is off the hook

Mike Carlton is a 68-year-old columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, best known for hosting the drivetime and breakfast timeslots at 2UE for a number of years.  As a well-known media personality with generally progressive views and an active Twitter presence, Carlton attracts a lot of negative attention from conservative keyboard warriors and other people you just somehow know not to sit next to on the bus. He deals with it in a fairly rigorous manner.

Not many prominent individuals openly tell people to go fuck pineapples. Politics aside, it is a rare and refreshing contribution to the debate to hear someone telling someone else that they could be better spending their time off Twitter, fucking pineapples. That Tweet piqued my interest, so I went back through some of his older ones to get a better feel for his unique style.

In 2007 Carlton's fellow 2UE presenter and longtime rival Stan Zemanek, a right-wing shock jock of the Alan Jones variety, died of a brain tumour. When asked if he would set aside their feud to attend Zemanek's funeral Carlton replied: "I'd only go to check that he was actually dead". Whatever your opinions about that, you cannot deny his commitment to the YOLO. This man does not give a fuck.

That's him chatting to David Oldfield, one of the brains behind One Nation. Note how Carlton tags @smh (ie. his bosses) in a Tweet where he calls someone a "ridiculous little pissant". Dude loves the word "pissant," incidentally. Here he is just calling everyone a dickhead.

The best part about that last one, for me, is the lack of explanation. Why does Gerard Henderson think he is a dog? Is this why Mike Carlton doesn't like him? Did Gerard Henderson wake up one day in the body of his labrador John Galt, leading to some hilarious and ultimately heartwarming Freaky Friday-style escapades? No one knows.

I thought I'd have to dig a bit to find this many, but none of these Tweets are more than a month old. He has more than 7,000 of them. If he keeps this up, Mike Carlton will insult one in every 12 people on Earth before he dies. I would move to a cave and sleep on my own body hair to avoid the possibility of ever being insulted by Mike Carlton if I didn't know I would wake one night, shivering in the cold, to see a black shadow looming over my inert form whispering, "you know who lives in caves? Pissants."

You can find Mike Carlton at @mikecarlton01 if you like being simultaneously entertained and terrified.

Mike's Birthday Present

Today's my housemate Mike's birthday. He's also one of my best friends, which makes what I'm about to do a little less weird, but not by much.

Mike inspires a strange kind of affection in the people who know him best. A while back one of them, John Fennel, channelled that affection into a labour of love called To De Window, To De Waal, a Tumblr consisting of Mike's head Photoshopped onto things that aren't Mike's body. You can find it here; highlights include Mike as the Eye of Sauron, Mike on the moon, and Mike as the giant statue of Jesus that overlooks Rio de Janeiro. It was an outstanding piece of work, and one that has stayed with me.

Some time after this I went to the United States for about a month, and while I was over there Mike contacted me and offered me a room in his house when I got back. To celebrate our burgeoning friendship (and as an homage to John) I printed out a large picture of Mike's head, laminated it, and took it around New York and Washington DC with me. I'm not huge on taking touristy photos, but I made an exception for anything that could fit Mike's head on top of it. For his birthday I've collected all these images into a fetching Powerpoint presentation; I can't embed it here but I've included the pictures below for others to enjoy, with some helpful captions for context. 

Mike is one of the best people I know. He's smart and ambitious without being a prick, he has spectacular taste in music and beer, and he's one of the few people around who, like me, is both physically unfit and loves football. He makes me tea. I do his dry cleaning sometimes. It's a friendship that works. I hope this photo collage of his head crudely imposed on New York landmarks is a fitting tribute to that friendship. Happy birthday, bud.

(For an enhanced viewing experience please click this link to play Green Day's 'Time Of Your Life' as you look through the pictures. The presentation was designed with that in mind, and it is how Mike will experience it when he wakes up from his nap on the couch. Take your time. Let the soothing tones of Billie Joe Armstrong set the pace, and linger over each photo for as long as you feel is best.)

Once Upon a YOLO: An Introduction

Heya. In a fit of young-white-man-decides-to-broadcast-his-feelings, I bought a domain name about a month ago with the intention of starting a blog. I forgot all about it until a Newcastle Knight with my name broke his neck, after which I felt the need to re-establish my online presence so well-meaning middle-aged women would stop sending me messages of support on Facebook.

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I should flag from the outset that I won't be updating this much; freelance writing is my main source of income besides Old Man Centrelink, so if I have a great idea for an article I try to find someone to pay for it. Still, this could be a good place to explore knotty topics and post blatantly libellous bile no professional outlet wants to be associated with.

Besides that I'll be focusing on depression, both in general and my own personal experience. I know lots of people with depression and lots of people who are sympathetic to it, but more broadly I think there's a deep misunderstanding of what depression actually is; what living with it day-to-day is like. While it's different for everyone, I figure lifting that veil as much as I can on my own can only be a good thing.

That said, there'll be some lighter moments too - otherwise I may as well have started a Livejournal. Expect some GIFs, a lot of references to R Kelly and Space Jam, and at least one slideshow of photos of my housemate set to Green Day's "Time Of Your Life". Besides all that, we'll see how we go.

In the meantime, here's a video of Jeff Goldblum's weirdy, creepy laugh from Jurassic Park set to some $ikk b34t$$$ in a remix. Consider it a reward for your patience in reading all this.

You're welcome.