Saturday, October 08, 2011

Saturday morning musings - rain, Terra Nova & The Slap

This morning I browsed the Australian papers as I usually do looking for story ideas. Not inspiring.

There are perhaps things that I should comment on: I have said before that I would write something on the renewed interest in industry policy, but my heart isn't in it! Then if the constant beat up in The Australian about Mr Rudd's interest in regaining his position as PM has any validity, perhaps we should revisit the reasons why he lost the position. Not the ostensible political reasons, but the underlying problems in approach that laid the basis for subsequent problems. Has the leopard in fact changed his spots, or will it be more of the same? Again, my heart isn't in it.

It's a gloomy morning here in Sydney. It's been quite wet across much of South Eastern Australia. Many of the irrigation and water supply dams are close to full. Just as the long dry spell was cited as evidence of climate change, now the wet is being cited as evidence for the opposite. Oh well.     probability of exceeding median rainfall - click on the map for a larger version of the map 

  Actually, the rainfall one is interesting. This is the latest Australian Bureau of  Meteorology rainfall projections suggesting that the northern half of the country is likely to experience above average rainfall, below average in the far south east. Australia is a big country, so there are always considerable variations within the bigger patterns.

Staying roughly with climate, last night eldest and I watched the first long episode of Terra Nova. Described as Lost meets Jurassic Park, the series begins in 2149; life on planet Earth is threatened with extinction due to dwindling worldwide air quality and overpopulation. Scientists discover a rift in space-time that allows people to travel 85 million years back in time to the late Cretaceous period of a prehistoric Earth, but in an alternate timeline thus avoiding paradoxes caused by reverse-flow time travel, offering a chance to save humanity.

I didn't know that the series was filmed in South East Queensland, nor that production was much delayed by heavy rain. This can be a very wet area. Charles Chauvel's 1949 epic Sons Of Mathew suffered similar problems to Terra Nova.

I quite enjoyed Terra Nova, eldest loved it. However, I hope that it's not too much like Lost. I got lost in Lost!

Staying with TV, on Thursday night I started watching The Slap on SBC TV. Both the original book and the TV series received rave reviews. The Australian's Peter Craven is an example. I hadn't read the book, but was attracted to the TV series by the reviews. I switched off after 15 minutes.

I accept that I am clearly not representative. Neil Whitfield takes a different view, while the first episode on Thursday night came in at number 5 in the mainland capital city ratings with 946,000 viewers. Interestingly, it did better in Sydney than Melbourne. For the benefit of international readers, there can be very significant differences in viewer patterns across Australia reflecting parochial as well as cultural differences.

Out of curiosity, I did some browsing round looking for comments. Most, not all, were positive. However, I'm not sure how many agreed with this comment from Peter Craven. 

The Slap happens to be one of the most elaborate and richly orchestrated representations of the ethnic mix of contemporary Australia put together and it carries, as if it were incidental, that part of Tsiolkas’s mission with a subtlety and assuredness that the book can scarcely match.

It's not necessarily that people disagreed, rather that this wasn't the issue they focused on as compared to corporal punishment, breast feeding, issues of discipline with children, even who had the best bum. The comments on this ABC sponsored post will give you a feel. One of the twitter streams is here.

I accept that it's all a matter of taste. I just felt that's life too short to bother. 


Anonymous said...

Jim I like your synopsis: "Scientists discover a rift in space-time that allows people to travel 85 million years back in time to the late Cretaceous period of a prehistoric Earth, but in an alternate timeline thus avoiding paradoxes caused by reverse-flow time travel, offering a chance to save humanity"

I mean, there's nothing more I admire in you than your firm grasp of reality, and the art of the possible!

The Slap was reported by several friends as an uncomfortable read, so I avoided it, but I do like that Craven quote. He should do art critiques based on those words, and probably get paid for it.

Hoping boredom lifts. My weather tree predicts rain, and it has never been wrong.


Neil said...

I obviously stand by what I said about The Slap, which I think is just brilliant.

However, I did my preparation by having lunch on Wednesday at The Hellenic Club. This coincided with a very large Greek wake.

Jim Belshaw said...

kvd, the synopsis is largely a take from Wikipedia.I do wish that I could go back in time, but only in the appropriate way. Boredom, gloom, will lift.

Neil, I am not suggesting that you should not stand by your comments. After all, I turned the program off. I focused on my own reactions to the program and that of others.

I have no idea as to whether, for example, it accurately presents either Greek life in Australia or family life spanning cultures. I suspect not, although that may not be true of Melbourne. I did find it interesting given the prominence placed on the multicultural element that so few commented on it. Some Greek Australian commenters, however, did protest.

The comment stream that I looked at too reflected just the first episode. Someone seeing the whole series may well have a different view.

I mentioned that I was surprised at the Sydney vs Melbourne ratings. I thought that it was a very Melbourne program in cultural terms.

Legal Eagle said...

A lot of my friends loved The Slap, but I can't bear to watch Fawlty Towers, for goodness sakes, so I avoided it. A friend I know and trust said I'd probably get upset and uncomfortable.

I think it probably is a Melbourne book; and a particular kind of Melbourne at that.

Neil said...

Hi Jim. While it is true that I did have lunch at The Hellenic Club the day before I saw TS, and indeed that well over 100 Greeks were there at a wake at the same time, I was just a bit tongue-in-cheek with my comment.

The lunch was excellent as always, and no-one slapped anyone -- but it was after all a wake, not a birthday party.

But I do admire the book and thought the acting and production standards of the TV version well above average -- as is also the case with the very different but also brilliant No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

The Slap is very confronting but this is quite intentional. I am not surprised that there have been a variety of responses because ut certainly isn't bland. Good literature/film often is confronting and disturbing. The Slap really is a mature work and well worth thinking about. Craven is rather good on it.

Be interesting to see if Maximos watched it.

Jim Belshaw said...

LE, we may suffer from similar weaknesses!

The Melbourne question is interesting and almost enough, perhaps not quite, to make me read the book and watch TV. There has always been a snooty side to Melbourne humour.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Neil. Your comment provides an entry point for what will be today's post.

Anonymous said...

The Slap is a wonderful spoof of inner-city life and living in Australia. It may have special relevance to Melbourne because many of its characters have a Greek heritage, but it speaks about the type of people you could just easily find in Newtown or Glebe. Almost all its characters are eventually revealed for their failings and double standards

A compelling read, if you haven't read it. I thought the ABC did a great job (and I'm far from being a fan of this channnel's drama.

No 1 Detective Agency is a ridiculous and far-fetched depiction of an African sleuth. Anyone who has lived and worked in Africa would appreciate that. This may have to do with some sort of unconscious but misplaced expiation by the author for his Rhodesian background.

Neil said...

Agree with Anonymous about The Slap! Disagree about No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency -- we need to recall it is also comedy. As for its authenticity, perhaps I can leave that to McCall Smith to answer: "03. Why did you choose to write about Botswana?

"I suppose that the main reason is that I find Botswana a very interesting and admirable country. I respect the people who live there – they have built up their country very carefully and successfully. I admire their patience and their decency.

I thought, too, that it was a great pity that there are so many negative books and articles about Africa. I wanted to show readers in the rest of the world that there are many great and remarkable people living in southern Africa – people who lead good lives, with honour and integrity. Mma Ramotswe is one such person. There are many people like her – fine people, people with great gifts of intuition, intelligence, and humour. This is not to say that there are not many problems in that part of the world – there are. But the problems are only one side of the story – there is another, more positive side.

"04. Do you visit Botswana?

"Yes, I try to go every year..."


You can even do a No 1 Ladies Detective Agency Tour if you visit Gabarone!

Jim Belshaw said...

Anon, you have forced me to read the book!

I thought that Neil defended no 1 pretty well. Neil, I am still struggling on today's post!

Anonymous said...

Well, McCall Smith would say that, wouldn't he? Bostwana is a significant part of his bread and butter. No 1 was a flop in Britain and elswehere; only 7 episodes were made.

Despite all the nice things one can say about the best people in Africa (as for nice people in any part of the world), the most influential ones, especially those in the sub-Saharan continent are authoritian, kleptomaniacal thugs.

Botswana is quite exceptional (although Zambia may be looking up after its recent election).

"There are so many negative books about Africa" for good reason; it's a depressing place. Have a read, for instance, of Peter Godwin's three books about Zimbabwe or Jane Bussman on Uganda and so on.