Miscellany: It’s not my fault!!!

It’s not my fault!!!

One of the enduring features of US politics and the US world-view is that it’s always someone else’s fault – a phenomenon familiar to many of those with children.

The red, white and blue menace of the Brits; the black menace of anarchism; the red menace of the commies; the green menace of the Muslims; and, the yellow menace of the Chinese currency have all been deployed at various times to explain what’s wrong in the US. The last is currently advanced as the reason for the problems with the US current deficit and US exhortations for revaluation of the yuan are manifestations of it.

To his credit John Howard has spoken out against the push – well at least spoken in favour of the Chinese position. Now there is some firm academic evidence to suggest that US savings problems, debt etc etc are the real problem.

In a new paper – To be a Rock and not Roll – HSBC chief economist Stephen King looks at the arguments. A column in The Economist (22 January 2005) summarises his findings and points out that a 10% revaluation of the yuan would reduce the $US trade-weighted average by just 1 %. King also estimates the dollar needs to fall by about 30% to reduce the US current account deficit to 2-3% of GDP. As The Economist says: “it would be ironic if a change in China’s foreign exchange policy came not as a result of US pressure, but from China’s own disillusion with the dollar as an international reserve currency.”

Prez nixes Boland pix picks

A crikey reader has provided a fascinating insight into Michaela Boland’s (see previous Miscellanies) taste in the arts – well cinema anyway.

Michaela got upset with Miscellancy over his response to her comments about the Melbourne Festival. Now the crikey reader informs us that Ms Boland was, in 2002, the Australian correspondent of Variety and got to vote in the Sight Sound 2002 poll of critics, directors and others of the greatest films of all time. Sight and Sound first held the poll in 1952 when the Bicycle Thieves topped the list and has done it every decade since. The 2002 critics poll of the top films of all time resulted in the following list (in order): Citizen Kane, Vertigo, La Regle du jeu, The Godfather and the Godfather Part 2, Tokyo Story, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Battleship Potemkin, Sunrise, 8 1/2, Singin’ in the Rain. Note: for all the pedants who check the additions the Coppola pair were counted as one.

Ms Boland’s list of the top 10 films of all time (in order) was: When Harry Met Sally, The Party, Rope, Trainspotting, Citizen Kane, The Pillow Book, Grease, My Brilliant Career, To Kill a Mockingbird and Breaking the Waves.

Now Miscellany loves When Harry met Sally. So does the public as its “I’ll have what she’s having” scene was recently voted one of the all time great comic moments in film – along with the :”what have the Romans ever done for us?” scene in the Life of Brian. But whether it’s the greatest film of all time we’re not quite so sure.

You will have noted, as the crikey reader who alerted me to her Carl Reiner Crystal-Ryan voting preference no doubt did, that Ms Boland’s list shares only one common film with the consensus view of the couple of hundred film expects around the world. Galbraith’s comment that the conventional wisdom is always wrong, and the new book about the Wisdom of Crowds provides some support for the person who comes out with the outlier view so Ms Boland’s view may well be the accepted wisdom by the time of the next Sight and Sound poll in 2012 – but somehow Miscellany doubts it.

I should say that my top ten is also a bit light on when compared with the Sight and Sound list. My view is that you can list the top three of Kurosawa, Eisenstein and Coppola in any particular order to fill the first nine places. My 10th choice would probably be Clueless – the best yet film version of a Jane Austen novel – and an enduring title of relevance in so many circumstances.

By the way, Singin’ in the Rain was part of the opening night events at Melbourne in 2003 when thousands of people danced in the streets to the Kelly steps. Perhaps Ms Boland missed that – along with the whole 2004 Festival – too.

Disinfopedia is dead – long live Source Watch

One of Miscellany’s favourite online sources is the Centre for Media and Democracy’s disinfopedia site. The CMD has recently decided to change its name to Source Watch. It still covers PR firms and their clients but the editors felt the old title was a bit too all-embracing. You can still use the disinfopedia web address for a while and it re-directs you. Otherwise go to www.prwatch.org.

Kuwait ….deja vu all over again!

Everyone remembers the heart-wrenching story of the awful Iraqi’s taking the Kuwaiti nursing cribs and the emotional evidence of the brave Kuwaiti nurse who testified before Congress about it all. Just as everybody remembers that the brave nurse was actually a member of the Kuwaiti royal family put up to the testimony by Hill & Knowlton.

Now PR Watch has found a similar case. Jumana Hanna was one of the bravest witnesses to Saddam’s horrific regime. Paul Wolfowitz recounted her suffering, in agonizing detail, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Washington Post went big on the story. But when Sara Solovitch came to write a book about the harrowing story she discovered that Hanna was no brave survivor but a homeless prostitute who scammed US officials into giving her a new life in the US. The Post has retracted its original story. Paul Wolfowitz, of course, is now planning similar tactics to start a war with Iran.

What’s wrong with the arts? (continued)

Miscellany has had some lovely emails about managerial language and gobbledy-gook in the arts. One was from Joel Becker of the Victorian Writers Centre (Miscellany has an interest in the VWC) who recounted how someone had emailed him about whether he would be “interested in looking into collaboration and recommendation scenarios and opportunities”

Richard Letts at the Music Council of Australia provided one which is worthy of inclusion in Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner.

It was an invitation to a conference which went: “ KNOWLEDGE + DIALOGUE + EXCHANGE /remapping cultural globalisms from the south/ is a conference project about the remapping of global orders, histories and cultural production from the perspective of a critical matrix positioned geographically south and outside the dominant hegemonies of European and North American traditions…..and so on and so on and and so on.”

As Richard says translation is difficult but one of the key issues the conference was to pursue was around the idea that we in the south are on the periphery but somehow succeed in influencing the centre. Richard continues: “strike me pink, doesn’t that sound like a multisyllabic version of the cringe?”

Post-modernism and museums (continued)

During the Sydney Festival (which Miscellany attended because he thinks you need to actually attend before you form a judgment unlike one critic we all know) we went to a great exhibition at the Australian Museum. The exhibition – The Butterfly Effect – contained a range of objects and installations integrated into the permanent exhibits. Now while it was a great exhibition it had another virtue – to see it you just had to go around the entire museum. In doing so you couldn’t help noticing two things. First, the Australian Museum is an old-fashioned 19th century cabinet of curiosities. Second, it was full of kids really enjoying themselves – a sight which is rare in the post-modern versions of museums.

Voting and Iraq

The fact that people voted in Iraq – despite the violence – was a wonderful thing.

But when George W. Bush says it was one of the grandest things in Iraq history it perhaps overlooks a few other incidents in the history of a region which was once the most splendid in the world. Indeed, it was splendid long before European settlers rushed to the new world so they could burn witches and murder Indians in the way people who thought like them had been burnt and murdered in Europe.

Not everybody is intent on forgetting those other grand moments and what has recently happened to their legacy. The recent International Council of Museums general conference in Seoul considered a number of resolutions and passed one which “condemned the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage during armed conflicts.”  It also condemned the “plunder and vandalism” in places such as Iraq and other countries.

Much of the ICOM conference was spent discussing the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage which is designed to protect cultural treasures other than the obvious physical monuments. A typical example of such intangible heritage would be the lifestyle of the marsh Arabs in Iraq which was destroyed by Saddam Hussein. Sadly the Convention wasn’t in force then and – anyway – the same people who aided and abetted the recent plunder and vandalism in Iraq were, at the time, arming and supporting said Saddam and telling everyone how useless UNESCO was.