ABU DHABI AIRPORT, RELIGIOUS TERROR AND AN AUSSIE BOGAN

12 months ago, (19th August 2018), I experienced the worst flight of my life, with Etihad, from Abu Dhabi to Perth.

What a cock up of an airport is Abu Dhabi, a total shambles!  In the transit lounge, people from many flights, queued up to be x-ray security processed, with nowhere near enough facilities to accommodate the sheer numbers, although it was interesting to observe that anyone obviously Arabic ( in dress), was waved through ahead of everybody else. Announcements, in strangulated English,  were, like instructions in Chinese-made assembly kits, illogical and headache inducing. Passengers would look at each other with “WTF?” written all over their faces.

Finally through to the departure gate, then onto a bus transferring us to the aircraft, as we boarded the plane, we found the air conditioning wasn’t running, worse, we had to wait an extra 50 minutes for people who were caught in the transit lounge melee.

Then life got interesting. A woman came down the aisle, stopped were I was sitting and looked at me in obvious wide-eyed panic. Though not dressed to indicate her faith, in what I think was a strong Turkish accent, she stood in the aisle saying the seat next to me, the window seat, was hers, but I would have to go somewhere else. “Ah why?” said I. 5/1″ in all directions, she literally started to shake and tremble, calling out to crew members in an increasingly terrified voice, that I needed to be moved.

Two crew members rushed over. I said I wasn’t moving and that I specifically wanted an aisle seat, as it was the only way you could get any air on their air ventless planes, never mind the stark reality that the air conditioning wasn’t working! I did feel sorry for the crew, they were nice people. They found a seat for her (the plane was about 80% full). As they moved her, I said, “For God’s sake, please don’t put anyone beside me!” They smiled and didn’t.

And still we sat in about 40c with no ventilation. The Captain was a serious Arabic sort of chap, definitely not a relaxed, Pom, Yank, Kiwi or Oz, announcing there was a delay – we knew that. By now, agitated, hot, stressed people were using the in-flight magazines as fans. An engineer (his vest said so), came on to the plane three times. Now and then a trickle of more passengers would arrive, as they were cleared through the bloody transit lounge.

Then the coup de grace – two Australian women got on board, one, the original bogan – surely she’d got lost in the transit lounge at Denpasar and found herself in Abu Dhabi? As luck would have it, they sat in the seats in front of me. Then Bogan got up, said, “It won’t fucking fit!” and started kicking the bags she’d put under the seat in front of her! I don’t think the crew knew what to do – they, like the rest of us, just gaped. The ugly Australian in full performance mode.

Eventually Bogan sat down and said to her friend, “I still feel terrible.” Then she began to cough and splutter, “I hope I make it!” she said. I silently hoped for quite the opposite.

The plane took off, but it took around 40 minutes for the temperature to come down to bearable. Dinner was served, along with copious water – we were all dehydrated.

Immediately after dinner, Bogan, without so much as a polite word, or nod to me, lay her seat right back. Then the cretin lent forward to see her screen – there was nobody in the seat in front of her, so she had all the room in the world. I called for more wine. Thinking, ”God, she’s allowed to vote and might even reproduce!”

About an hour later Bogan stood up and promptly collapsed in the aisle. Crew members rushed over and started giving her oxygen, then dragged her up to the gallery area. I must admit I did think, “Oh, she’s not going to make it!” Then I thought, “Oh God, they’ll go back to that hideous airport! Live bitch, live!”

She did. They moved her friend and she lay down across the two seats, moaning, coughing and perspiring.

About three hours out of Perth, I began to feel unwell, worse, it became obvious things were a bit queasy below and I was haunted by the thought of running for the loo, dying of embarrassment.

Somehow, with the aid of water and Ibuprofen, I got through. As we flew over Perth, said Bogan told her friend, who had now rejoined her, that she was feeling much better. I bloody wasn’t!

Bogan was first out of her seat, long before we’d finished taxiing. She actually got down on the aisle, on all fours, complaining to her friend that everything was jammed in under the seat!

I passed her in the airport arrival corridor, she’d stopped walking and was breathing heavily and moaning, her friend was nowhere to be seen.

Eventually, we’re all at customs, Bogan saw her friend ahead of her and called out, “I’m not feeling well, I feel faint!”

All hell broke loose, as border patrol people came running. “Are you feeling sick? Where’s your card? You’ve written down you’re feeling fine, has this just started? You fainted on the plane?! Right, you’re coming with us!”

If I ever see Bogan, or Etihad, or Abu Dhabi again, I swear I’ll kill!

Greg Ross

NEIGHBOURHOOD BULLY

Nobody could remain unmoved by the hideous morass of the Israel / Palestine conflict, a nightmare with no end in sight. The situation appears to be out of control, in terms of leader intransigence on both sides and that leads to the curious refusal of so many, to see the issue as anything other than Israeli bullying and warmongering, conveniently ignoring the stark reality that Arab nations have called for the extermination of Israel since it was founded and in various guises, terrorist organisations,most recently, the PLO and now HAMAS, have constantly sought to use terror attacks as their preferred methodology. That an Israeli warlord, such as Netanyahu should rise to power in the face of decades of terrorism, should surprise no one, yet Israel stands condemned, while HAMAS is almost seen as a peaceful organisation!

Seemingly intelligent thinking people appear completely blind to fact, choosing to see one side only. Pink Floyd founder, Roger Waters is perhaps the most prominent in portraying Israel as the ‘Monster’ of the conflict. His hatred of Jews and Israle is almost Nazi-like, yet here is a man, whose heart is undoubtedly in the right place – he cares about people, but he’s blindsided by deep hatred. His position of power, as an incredibly gifted rock god, is adding to the shocking rise of anti semitism across the world. He calls for other musicians to boycott tours to Israel, failing to understand that the very people who attend those concerts, are not Netanyahu supporters, they are the very people best placed to help bring resolution to the situation.

There are no simple answers to conflict within the region – the English and the Americans, in recent times, aided by Australia, have contributed insanely to the on-going instability throughout the region, politics and oil have created bizarre, dangerous liaisons, with the western world, inevitably led by the US, prepared to overlook violence, as part of whatever deal is going, whether it be for oil or military access and bases. Yet Israel is portrayed as the violent regime of the region.

I call bullshit. Does anyone genuinely imagine they would enjoy the same safety, freedom and civil rights in Palestine, or Saudi Arabia for example, than in Israel? Next time you’re on an Arab Airline, have a look at the screen in-flight maps, Israel does not exist. Imagine if you’re an Australian, or English, or American and your country wasn’t on the map, you’d be a touch stupid, if you didn’t understand the subtext of the message.

I am not an Israeli, nor am I Jewish, I do have the pleasure and honour of having some lovely Israeli friends. I vividly remember holding the shaking arm of one friend, when she found it too hard to descend the many steps down the Nazi built Waldbuhne Stadium in Berlin. We were all there to see the wonderful Leonard Cohen in concert. She had come from Israel to see the concert, but the Nazi stadium was terrifying to her – the sound technicians were actually sitting in what was once Hitler’s private box.

These are a people who desire peace, but having survived the unbelievable  extermination practices of the Nazis, twill never allow themselves to be persecuted and murdered again, yet that is still the avowed goal of many Arab nations, certainly the leadership of the atrocious murderous thug organisation known as HAMAS.

Yesterday that same lovely, gentle lady reacted strongly to a Facebook post, accusing  Israelis of being mass murderers, with the following post. An accusing, biased world needs to read her words and understand both sides of this conflict. This is her response, it was written on 23rd May 2019.

The finger on the “share button” is so easy, isn’t it? It would be advised to take an unbiased stand and perhaps ask an Israeli what’s the situation with Gaza — an Israeli would tell you that although Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2006, 13 years ago, to the last inch, The Southern part of Israel is under continuous shower of thousands of deadly rockets fired from Gaza.


An Israeli would tell you that it takes a rocket 15 seconds from launch in Gaza will it reaches Israel. 15 seconds to run for your life and find shelter. Day in day our, for 13 years. 

The finger on the “share button” is so easy, isn’t it? It would be advised to take an unbiased stand and perhaps ask an Israeli what’s the situation with Gaza — an Israeli would tell you that although Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2006, 13 years ago, to the last inch, The Southern part of Israel is under continuous shower of thousands of deadly rockets fired from Gaza.


An Israeli would tell you that a mortar shell takes only 10 seconds, and ask you to try and run for your life in 10 seconds.


An Israeli would tell you that upon pulling out of Gaza, Israel has left standing thousands of acres of fertile greenhouses, for the Palestinians to use for building livelihood and life. And then would ask you if you know that the Palestinians burnt them all down to ashes because they were “from the Jews”?


An Israeli would ask you if you know that the millions of Euros and Dollars of aid money pouring from all over the world to Gaza is used by Hamas, a terrorist organization which publicly calls for the destruction of Israel, to build infrastructure, but not the kind you have in mind. Not hospitals, not schools, no childcare clinics, no, only death tunnels, through which ammunition is smuggled to fire more rockets towards Israel.


An Israeli would send you to read about Hamas, and the Coup they launched in 2007, to take the reins from the Palestinian Authority, how they shot hundreds on the streets, through many other hundreds from the rooftops, and shot the knee caps of everyone whom they considered “a collaborator”.


An Israeli would tell you how it hospitalizes hundreds of Gazans who need medical care and can’t get it because money is used on death instead of life.


An Israeli would ask you, what would you do if you were sitting in your Florida home and Cuba fire rockets at you — would you be sitting in your home and do nothing or defend yourself?


This Israeli asks you to be more careful with the information you are sharing. I educate myself deeply about American politics before daring to comment on it. So please do the same. Thank you.


Addition: It’s now 4pm in a 42C day. Since the morning, 15 burning flying kites have been launched from Gaza over the border, immediately igniting massive fires that burnt down the entire wheat fields of the area (harvest was due only next month) and they’re so bad, they started evacuating homes.

I took my title from Bob Dylan’s song, the lyrics herewith:

Neighborhood BullyB

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully.The neighborhood bully he just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully.The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully.Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully.Well, the chances are against it, and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
‘Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully.Well, he got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully.Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully.
Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully.Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract that he signed was worth that what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully.What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothing, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits for feed
He’s the neighborhood bully.What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully.

EUROVISION 2019 – Confessions of an out of touch Baby Boomer

It’s on again, the queen of talent quests, in every sense of the phrase and as has become our custom, Ann and I took our wine and champers and propped in front of the TV to watch the spectacle.

SBS are using the same two commentators from last year, Joel Creasy and Myf Warhurst, I know it’s completely non PC to say this, but Creasy’s theatrical, self-admiring camp leaves me cold, Warhurst is a far better commentator, but she struggles to get traction with Look at me! Look at Me! Creasy. I’m sure he’s a riot at a gay nightclub revue, but I wish they’d fuck him off. On to the acts, although even there, Creasy turns the performers appearances into cameos, while he plays “I’m the star here!”

First up was Neta, the Mickey Mouse girl from Israel, last year’s winner. Dressed in something that looked like a vivid Picasso dropped from a great height, as a fat bloke, I had to admire somebody that size and that confident in terms of sartorial display. God knows what her song was about, it certainly wasn’t about melody.

Cyrpus – Tamta. The tune was catchy, visually it seemed to about PVC bondage. Next.

Montenegro – D Mol. WTF? Describes my reactions best, being charitable, I think it was a local high school rehearsal.

Finland – Darude Feat. Darude’s Disco, but great visually and excellent drama. I quite liked it.

Poland – Tulia. Different. If you can imagine an Asian girl singing in tune at karaoke that’s sort of what it sounded like, I found it interesting.

Slovenia – Zala and Gasper. I really liked this, the intensity between the young couple was obviously genuine, though most of the time I couldn’t work out why the guy was there – perhaps the lyrics were imprinted on his eyes, she kept gazing there.

Czech Republic – Lake Malawi. Totally manufactured bubble gum, been done to death decades ago, Goodbye.

Hungary – Joci Papai. Bloke about his dad. Intense, great drama and love, bloody fantastic, absolutely loved it.

Belaruse – Zena. Boring, boring! Same old, same old crap. Hot tart in hot pants.

Serbia – Nevena Bozovic. Great voice, great music, at last, a female singer who wasn’t singing budgie in a disco cage. I really liked this.

Belgium – Eliot. Good visually, not a strong voice, but listenable.

Georgia – Oto Nemsadzi. Big emotional ballad, great voice, great drama, I really liked this.

Australia – Kate Miller-Heidke. Probably got a good voice, gimmicky – gave a new meaning to pole dancing – Kate Bush goes disco.

Iceland – Hatari. Music for a B grade Vampire movie, next.

Estonia – Victor Crone. Apparently he’s an Aussie, or a Canadian? But he’s learning the language, it just so happens the language is cross-over C&W.

Portugal – Conan Osiris. Interesting, Fado link?

Greece – Katerina Duska. Powerful voice, crap song, backdrop looked like the top of pink condom, very 90s, thanks but no thanks. Would like to hear her with decent music, maybe playing under the tree at Dousko’s on Hydra.

San Marino – Serhat. Ageing gay bloke with no voice – sort of reminded me of those nightclub owners of old who insisted on taking to the stage at some stage in the evening, convinced the audience was there for them.

Whilst the people voted, a lady in red, Sharon Cohen aka Dana International, (the Israeli singer who won in 1998), pouted and slinked over herself in a mirror, before singing something which had all the gay couples kissing, but the hetro couples more hesitant

In conclusion, I don’t think any of the acts I liked got through, too bad, I rank my top four, as follows:

  1. Hungary – Joci Papai
  2.  Serbia – Nevena Bozovic.
  3. Equal third: Georgia – Oto Nemsadzi,  Slovenia – Zala and Gasper

Roll on Round 2.

EUROVISION 2019 – Round 2

Somebody at SBS must have had a quiet word to Creasey, he was far less intrusive. Righto, straight into it.

Armenia – Srbuk           Loved it instantly, powerful voice, reminiscent of Adele’s Skyfall, great song, great singer, great stuff.

Ireland – Sarah McTernan    Sandy Shaw imitation without the catchy songs, bland, boring

Moldova – Anna Odobescu      Bloody brilliant! Great voice, intense, dramatic, loved the sand mandala.

Switzerland –  Luca Hanii         Boring, boring, been done a thousand times, goodbye

Latvia –  Carousel         My sort of music, beautiful, not show stopping, but lovely.

Romania – Ester Peony            I like this, even a Dracula reference (with the bats), a mad scene sprung to mind of a beautifully dangerous Russian agent who was going to kill you as she made to love to you, again touches of Adele, which is no bad thing.

Denmark –  Leonora      I liked this, great voice, quirky, catchy and no bloody disco, good stuff.

Sweden – John Lundvik     Great voice, but the song slipped into 90s shit, been done a thousand equally boring times, shame, I think he’s a better singer than this.

Austria – Paenda           Breathless budgie, more disco, boring! Try yodelling, Goodbye.

Croatia – Roko  I like this, visually interesting, great voice – Vangelis like, with a touch of Netflix Lucifer, without the wings.

Malta –  Michela            Walk Like an Egyptian … in an aquarium, more disco bullshit, goodbye.

Lithuania – Jurij Veklenko        Boy band castrati disco, yuck.

Russia – Sergey Lazaref           I like this, great tenor voice

Albania – Jonida Maliqi            I like this too, great voice and passion

Norway – KEiino           Disco, BUT, I liked it – sort of late 70s, bloody good.

Netherlands – Duncan Laurence           No, sorry, more boy band crap, goodbye

North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska   I really like this, great voice.

Azerbaijan – Chingiz     Clever, sort of disco with robots, but ultimately formulaic boy band stuff.

As we waited for the voting and counting, an interesting Israeli group called Shalva Band played, they were excellent, with a lovely story – Shalva is a non for profit Israeli organisation that works with people with disabilities, it was lovely to watch and in a way, these young people were the real winners of the night.

I also realised my taste is leaning very much to the darker, stronger Nordic and eastern Europe songs and singers, but then apart from Ireland, which was disappointingly bland, we haven’t yet seen the UK, France and Germany. The show is also reminding me that there is a whole world of manufactured bland, disco boy band, singing budgie entertainment out there, that millions enjoy.

My top Three:

  1. Armenia – Srbuk
  2. Moldova – Anna Odobescu
  3. Equal Third   Romania – Ester Peony  and  Denmark –  Leonora

I can’t not also mention  Croatia – Roko

As for the actual votes, only one of my picks (Denmark – Leonara) made it, while Switzerland, Sweden and Netherlands all went through, which does show how out of touch I am.

And I’ve just learnt that Anna Odobescu actually did exactly the same song in a previous Eurovison … for another country? WTF? How can officials allow that to happen?

Roll on the finals!

EUROVISION – THE GRAND FINAL!

Great introduction, full kudos to Israel for fantastic production throughout the event, but this final was brilliant, fabulous spectacle.

What interested me, was seeing if I judged the singers and their songs differently on this second viewing, indeed, I found that some of the songs appeared quite different and I’d be half way through a song before I realised I’d heard it before, others, for example, the Aussie entry, were exactly the same. As I write this, I haven’t reviewed my previous notes.

In order of appearance:

Malta –  Michela   Disco dance track, pleasant but been done to death a thousand times in the last 40 years, good voice, great legs.

Albania – Jonida Maliqi   Fabulous voice, really good, dramatic and wonderful rhythm

Czech Republic – Lake Malawi   1980s bubble gum disco crap – Wiggles for 13yr old girls.

Germany – Sisters        I really liked this, I know they’re a  manufactured duo, but it’s an excellent ballad, they’ve got great voices, good drama  and they had an obvious rapport.

Russia – Sergey Lazaref   Great tenor voice, great song, dramatic, fabulous ballad, fantastic stuff

Denmark –  Leonora  Quirky, clever, light as a breeze at first, but one of those songs that sneaks up on you, very ironic, excellent voice.

San Marino – Serhat   Rod McKeun on disco steroids, a sort of monotone Julio Iglesias.

North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska     Fabulous voice, great song, backing arrangement was weak in places, bit overall, fantastic.

Sweden – John Lundvik         If it was original, it would be good, but really, just another manufactured boy band piece, boring as bat shit.

Slovenia – Zala and Gasper   These two are totally in their own little world of each other, great tender song, genuine, there’s just something about the beauty of innocence here that makes it a lovely song and performance to watch and listen to.

Cyrpus – Tamta  oh shit, the PVC bondage blonde again. Rave muzac, boring and tired repetitive crap, same old, same old.

Netherlands – Duncan Laurence   Starts off well, presented a lot better than the previous time, I liked it this time

Greece – Katerina Duska   Oh no! Not the pink condom again!  Excellent powerful voice, reminds me of Toni Childs, but too much screaming and a crap song, but she’s good, love to hear her sing something decent.

Israel – Kobe Marimi  Pleasant, strange voice  powerful at times, but weak at others and a bit too histrionic.

Norway – Keiino   Boy band with a blond chic. Had its moments, towards the end, some fabulous singing by a bald guy, singing / chanting in Joik style, could have listed to that a lot more, but  ultimately just another dance song.

UK – Michael Wright  Pleasant, squeaky voice, sort of talent quest boy band singer, not convincing in any way.

Iceland – Hatari  I realised this time around, they’re taking the piss, in way, quite self – ironic and of course, very Viking, as well as being a vampire movie dance. A bit of fun.

Estonia – Victor Crone  I liked it this time, struck me that the arrangement had been changed, but I could be wrong, ‘though it’s still crossover C&W.

Belaruse – Zena Hot chick in hot pants screaming disco, boring.

Azerbaijan – Chingiz  Bloody formulaic, nothing to see or hear here, robot disco.

France – Bilal Hassani   Not a great voice and just one more same old, same old, ordinary and boring. I was very disappointed, as at first, I thought she was going to do a female Jacques Brel, but sadly, no.

Italy – Mahmood  Clever rap with a middle eastern flavour, it grew on me, although ultimately a dance track.

Serbia – Nevena Bozovic  Incredible voice, love it! Drama, melody, a show stopper for me.

Switzerland –  Luca Hanii  Boring, boring, boring, yet another simpering boy band, yuck!

Australia – Kate Miller-Heidke   Kate Bush on a Pole, great presentation, fabulous visuals, very Cirque du Soleil, the vocal gymnastics left me a touch cold, but it’s obvious she can sing

Spain – Miki  I liked this, exciting, not a great song, but infectious and feel good.

Voting

Interesting to see Australian voters placed Norway first, Australia second, Spain third and Azerbaijan fourth.

While we waited for the officials and voter judging to be made then collated, we were treated to past winners singing various songs, the segment was excellent, although confirming how much of a formula is applied to songs. Then the big guest announcement – Madonna!

Yes, there was Madge, thankfully not a pubic hair in sight. Visually  a very impressive gothic church intro to Like a Virgin, but dear God, this was another Meatloaf at the AFL Final moment, She was flat, out of tune, obviously uncomfortable – couldn’t really make any small talk with the presenters. In reality, she was outclassed and out performed by almost every entrant that night. One of the voting country representatives, as she awarded her country’s points, said that Madonna was flat, it  was a fair comment.

The real voting began and it was fascinating to see how the judges points went, as compared to the voting TV audience. It was laughable to see Cyprus and Greece and Russia and Azerbaijan supporting each other – pure politics, fuck all to do with judging, but what really shocked me, was the TV voting audiences refusal to give Germany any points at all. My German wife explained that nobody likes Germany and usually something like that happens. My thoughts were that there’s a lot of growing up to do with the youth of Europe, I found it disquieting.

Then there was pandemonium, as the band from Iceland held up Palestinian support banners, an interesting moment, however things settled down and the winners were announced:

First was –  Netherlands – Duncan Laurence  

Second was – Italy – Mahmood 

Third was – Russia – Sergey Lazaref  

Me? I’d have chosen the following as winners:

Equal First:  North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska and   Serbia – Nevena Bozovic 

Second:  Russia – Sergey Lazaref  

Third: Albania – Jonida Maliqi  

Oh alright, I can’t help myself, I’d have given equal fourth to:

Germany – Sisters    and  Netherlands – Duncan Laurence  

Same time, next year … Holland!

Cheers

Aotearoa and I Are Wounded.

This eve, I am wounded. Now and then, tears well in my eyes, all I can do, is find succor in beautiful music … at this point, the Duet from the Pearl Fishers is playing.

I have lived in Australia far longer than my birth country – Aotearoa (the Land of the Long White Cloud – New Zealand). Australia, many moons ago, became my home, I loved, and still love her. But in recent years, a tension of white supremacy and racism has reared an ugly, increasingly strident head. To the point where now and then, over the last three or four years, I’ve seriously given thought to travelling on a Kiwi passport, I had begun to be ashamed of being Australian.

I have watched, read and listened, as increasingly strident politicians, inevitably Liberal, National, or the hideous One Nation, sought attention for vile vilification of non white, or non Christian people. It sickened me.

Occasionally, people I called friends, even family, would espouse views that took my breath away, in terms of blatant, uninformed, biased racist, unfounded fear. Flames fanned by the right wing federal government, under the rabid Abbott, the principle abandoned Prince – Turnbull and, in recent months, the ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ unforgiving ‘nice uncle Morrison.

Increasingly, I’ve read incandescent shared posts (set up by Russian trolls), warning of our rights being trampled by Muslims and Africans. Meanwhile, white Catholic priests have been found to be buggering little boys for years, but the message stays on point – Muslims are taking Over, They Want Sharia Law! That’s interesting, I wonder what the Sharia Law punishment is for sexually assaulting children?

I’ve been ridiculed, sometimes dropped, or blocked, for my “leftard fucking views”. Sometimes, I’ve wondered myself why I bother. Then I think of my grandkids and know that I must try to leave them a better, beautiful world, which segues into today and the abominable horror that has locked down the City of Churches and now, the entire Kiwi nation, in horror and disbelief.

I don’t care if you unfriend me – the Liberal / National parties, the Pauline Hansens and the ultra right wing Christian parties created the Christchurch killer, with their message of fear, venom and hate.

Those fucking bastards have blood on their hands – 40 souls and counting. Australia has bred, nurtured and empowered a killer to cover my country of birth in blood and darkness.

This peddling of filth and hatred must stop. NZ has never been perfect, but in it’s own way, it’s been naively pure, always striving to be better, but Australia, like Saudi Arabia, now exports terror and hatred.

As Australians, we all need to dwell on the sewer we are swimming in. As for me, I am wounded, as is my country of birth, but just as Aotearoa will overcome, my tears will dry and by God, I’ll will work to turn this once magnificent nation around.

We are in grave danger of loosing our soul, we are no longer ANZACS, we breed white supremacist racist hatred and killers, all the while telling ourselves we’re the nation of a fair go. Bullshit.

I would like to think that all across this wide, brown land, we are sitting stunned, shocked and ashamed, wondering how it came to this.

I am wounded, and so I suspect, are our nations and the World.
Greg Ross

The WA Ballet … On Pointe with DRACULA

Dracula Programme Cover

Dracula is potentially an artistic minefield, it can so easily tip into Hammer Horror farce, shattering audience illusion, however the WA Ballet company has taken Bram Stoker’s iconic horror story and produced a masterpiece of dance and theatre.

Francis Ford Coppola, with his still stunning film Dracula (1992), understood the story was essentially that of lost love, despair and a corresponding descent into madness, Artistic Director Aurelien Scannella not only agrees with that interpretation, he’s come out of dancing retirement to take on the role of the Old Dracula.

It’s not often every element of theatre comes together in the way this production does – the sets, the lighting, the costumes, the music and of course, the dance. It’s a meticulous attention to detail I’ve not witnessed since the late Leonard Cohen’s concerts – perhaps there’s a Prince of Darkness synergy there?

Costumes and sets inevitably establish an era and a mood, but Phil Daniels and Charles Smith have also managed to set character, a Dracula aficionado will instantly recognise the main players, and it has the effect of enhancing the choreography. There was no sense the costumes had had to be worked around, rather a seamless match of costume and dance giving life to character.

The sets were, as to be expected, gothic and brooding, brought to life by Jon Buswell’s subtle, but evocative lighting, emphasising the collaborative thought and attention to detail throughout this production. Without in any way diminishing any particular set, the scenes that resonated for me, in no particular order, were the waltz scenes, the set reminding me of the Schönbrunn Palace interiors in Vienna, the power and sense of vastness in the interior of Dracula’s castle, the carriage delivering Jonathan Harker to the castle, Renfield’s asylum cell and the bed were Dracula’s brides seduce Harker.

Scannella has chosen to use music predominantly written by the Polish composer Wojciech Kilar, (dec), in fact much of the music features excerpts from his score for Coppola’s Dracula, if that sounds as if it was a simple task of matching film score to scene, nothing could be further from the truth. Kiwi arranger, Michael Brett has brilliantly matched diverse pieces to scenes, even including a little Chopin. Under the direction of Canadian conductor Judith Yan, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra is simply wonderful. As one might imagine, cellos are prominent, but special mention must be made of the piano – there was a keyboard passage that filled the auditorium with crystal clear emotion.

Ah, the dancers. It is after all, the WA Ballet. The cast were breathtakingly good, they were the characters, the illusion was peerless, whether it was the erotic danger of Melissa Boniface as Lucy appearing to float on pointe, or the innocence and sweetness of Carina Roberts in her dual roles of Elizabeth and Mina, the reasoned calm and comfort of Polly Hilton (Mrs Westenra), the studied, perfect, individual masculinity of Oscar Valdes (Jonathon), Gakuro Matsui (Arthur), Adam Alzaim (van Helsing), or Christian Luck (Doctor). Then there was the believable madness of Jesse Homes as Renfield, catching flies to eat, driven mad by the scent of his master. I don’t know which dancers were playing Draculas brides, however they were equally stunning, the eroticism and sensuality of the bedroom scene with Jonathon Harker on the bed, and the graveyard dance of the hunted stood out, reminding us of the undertones of sexuality that make this tale so fascinating. Then there were the kids! Although not required to dance, Dante Pendergrast, Zac Bresland and Leuan O’Donohue added poignancy as potential victims pursued by Dracula’s brides and in another scene, the lone child with his bereft mother who’d lost her baby to Dracula.

Then there is Dracula – two of! This was a masterstroke of creative thinking. Dracula withers without blood, without feeding he falls into decay and the monster is revealed. In other productions I’ve seen, Dracula drinks and gives some sort of power display, but in the WA Ballet’s production, (a new work), he is truly transformed, it’s both fascinating and beautifully done.

Aurelien Scannella plays the hungry decaying old Dracula, while Matthew Lehmann plays the young thirst quenched Dracula and they are two different beasts. Scannella’s Dracula is decay, evil and dangerous. His performance is like watching a tiger stalk, at once both repellent and riveting. Then he feeds and the transformation is astounding. In a fabulous display of choreography, lighting and dance skill, Lenmann’s reinvigorated youthful Dracula appears, whilst Scannella’s decaying Dracula fades into the shadows. Lenmann’s Dracula is not obviously a monster, he’s a sophisticated suave seducer, but he is still Dracula, you really have to see the changes to understand just how clever it is. Fantastic stuff. The production has added two butlers to the story and they work in two ways, firstly we quickly understand their appearance is a prelude to Dracula arriving, secondly, they serve to remind us there is an undercurrent of homoeroticism to the story, in fact their costumes are near naked as the story becomes more intense.

I’ve really had to stretch to fault this production, only two things slightly jarred for me – the first when Elizabeth throws herself off the castle parapet, the dummy used just fell to the floor, making an unrealistic thud as it hit the dance floor and the second, when the nurse screams seeing Dracula outside the window. The scream actually ruined the illusion for a minute – as a ballet, it succeeds beyond anything I’ve witnessed, in terms of conveying the tale without speech, the scream was a rare corny moment – it would be far more effective if she put her hand over her mouth and collapsed on the floor.  As for Elizabeth’s suicide, I’d like to see the dummy float to the floor without the Hammer Horror thud – easy to do with wire. But that’s really it, apart from those tiny two details, I can’t fault the production.

Apologies to dancers I’ve not mentioned, I counted about 36 performers on stage as the cast took their bows, the audience on Friday night rightly could not stop clapping, my two adult daughters were as overwhelmed as I was with the production, the three of us agreeing, we’d like to go again, it is that good. You will not see a better ballet performance and production anywhere in the world. I hope at some stage they do tour this, European audiences would go wild over it.

Greg Ross

ON AIR – A Review of Mike Carlton’s New Memoir.

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Hey Dad, I think you might enjoy this, something to read on the flight to Germany,” my daughter Saraj handed me an Advance Proof of Mike Carlton’s new autobiography.

Daughter knows dad. A long term fan of Mike Carlton’s work, I could not put the book down, spending much of my time down the back of the Airbus, leaning against the bulkhead, totally engrossed.

Although I grew up in New Zealand, his early years memories mirrored mine so vividly, once or twice I found myself lost in warm nostalgia and as I’d flown across the ditch to live in Oz in the eary 1970s, everything post adolescence resonated as well, astoundingly so.

Fear not, although for obvious reasons there is much about Australian media, especially radio, throughout the memoir, it is fascinating background, however this is the definitive book every Aussie Baby Boomer has been waiting for, it’s our history written in captivating detail, scene after scene of political history, from the disaster of Vietnam, through the experience of being a colonial in England, to the rambunctious pits of Australian business and politics.

As you would expect, Carlton is fearless and pulls no punches, one can imagine a few deflated, annoyed egos, will, (if they haven’t already), drop Carlton off the soiree list, but for the rest of us, anyone remotely interested in post WWII Australian history will treasure this memoir.

524 pages long, in 12pt type, the paperback is substantial, a William Heinemann book, published by Pengun Random House we now have the perfect gift for family and friends. If you were around Oz in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and still here, this is the must-have book for your library. It is that good.
Greg Ross

DEAR ETIHAD AND KLM … ALL I NEED IS SOME AIR TO BREATHE!

Now I must be honest, the return economy airfare of $1,136.00 Perth to Amsterdam was so ridiculously cheap, I have no right to comment about anything; on the other hand, it is an advertised service and the airlines involved have already sent me emails asking for comment.

I purchased the ticket from Air France in February this year and flew to Amsterdam on Tuesday 17th July. The first leg from Perth to Abu Dhabi was flown by Etihad and the second leg (Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam) was with KLM. Both airlines used Airbus A330s.

Although I’d been able to book my preferred seat with Etihad at the same time I booked and paid for the flight, there was no way I could book a preferred seat with KLM, which seemed strange, as Etihad was the code share airline, whereas KLM and Air France are the same company. The message on the KLM site was that I could book a seat 30hrs before the flight, however that also proved impossible, so in spite of completing onine boarding there was no choice other than to stand in the queue at the airport.

The very pleasant and helpful lady at the counter dealt with it, however I had to accept the window seat allocated on the KLM flight, there was no apparent way to change to my favourite ailse seat.

Compliments to the Perth border / customs – (God knows what they are called these days under the Turnbull / Dutton regime) – passage was thorough, but polite and quick. The finished departure lounge area is excellent, you can buy a drink, or a snack and there are now toilets everywhere. Time to board.

If you’re travelling on an Arab airline, you know the plane will be the latest, in perfect condition and the seat will have USB and 240v power, plus a large screen, as indeed did our aircraft. After a lengthy period of post operation non activity, I’ve put on a bit (read too much!) weight, but I was surprised to find that doing up the seatbelt was a struggle. The seats are excellent, comfortable, even for a wide bum bloke like me, legroom is also fine, athough I’m only average (175cm) height; however, if the person in front puts their seatback down, you’re stuffed, the only thing you can do is turn and apologise to the person behind, saying you have no choice but to do the same. I think if the airlines are going to cram people in like sardines, the time has come to axe seat recliners.

Worse was to come. I have no trouble doing long distance (10hr+) flights; however I am claustrophobic, and the first thing I do when I’m in my seat, is adjust the overhead air vent on to my head / face, that fresh forced air is a pyschological game saver for me. Unfortunately, the A330 has no personal air vents and to make matters worse, Etihad runs their cabin temperatures very warm, it must be 2c-3c warmer than other airlinines I’ve travelled on. When the meal had finished and the person in front had laid their seat back, I felt closed in, hot and trapped. In the finish, I spent the majority of the flight standing up at the back reading a book, only returning to my seat for turbulence and to relieve my aching legs.

The service on the flight was great and the cabin crew were really lovely – sometimes on Middle Eastern airlines, there is a reluctance to serve alcohol and service of anything can be slow; I always buy water to bring on board, as it can be up to an hour into a flight before you’re served anything (in economy); but this flght was superb. However, the heat and lack of air vents, combined with the curse of the reclining seat, meant I hated the flight and couldn’t wait for it to end.

It didn’t get any better when we landed at Abu Dhabi. No terminal for us, we exited out on to the tarmac, queueing in midnight 36c heat for buses to take us to the terminal; but at least there was air conditioning, not so in the terminal.

It seems in Abu Dhabi, they either haven’t got around to installing air conditioning in their terminal, or it might have broken down – but it was as hot as the desert and there are no automatic trains to transfer passengers across considerable distances, all in ridiculously high temperatures.

When I finally reached the gate for the next flight (KLM), I found utter chaos – the flight had started boarding, there was no orderly queue, rather half a dozen haphazard lines of people trying to pass through a two passport controller bottleneck and if anything, it was even hotter!

Of course it was, the doors to the outside of the terminal were wide open! Even when a bus filled up and left, the doors remained open waiting for the next bus. Eventually the bus pulled up beside the aircraft, but there we waited in the heat, as something was sorted out on board the aircraft.

Finally, we were welcomed on board the KLM Airbus A330, into fresh cool air, leaving behind the nightmare that was Abu Dhabi airport. For a major international airport, all I can say is they must be joking, it’s the worst I’ve ever had the misfortune to find myself in.

Sliding into my window seat, I was pleasantly surprised to find there was quite a bit of arm room between the seat and the window and although the aircraft didn’t have personal air vents either, there did seem to be some sort of airflow, coming down from the back of the overhead lockers, down past the window. I lent into it.

Compared to the Etihad A330, the KLM A330 was positively austere – no charging ports, a very small entertainment screen and the remote control tucked into the side of the armrest – I couldn’t help but think we’d gone back a generation in cabin design. But hey, the crew were friendly, the seatbelts were a lot longer than the Etihad belts and my fellow passenger, a Norwegian sailor, was a lot of fun, the flight was only about seven hours, it should be OK.

The crew came around within minutes of take off, asking what we wanted to drink, very friendly, great people. All good, until the kid in front suddenly lent her seat back. The wine went everywhere. I thanked the Gods I was wearing dark jeans. My Norwegian mate and I discussed murder, he suggested a time honoured Viking method – apparently you wound the criminal, then place them in a cage with crabs. I stared ahead at the kid!

Shortley afterwards, the cabin crew came round with our meals. I looked at our steward and shrugged, pointing at the seat in front of me which was almost hitting my forehead. He nodded and talked to the parent and kid, up went the seat. He also gave us both more wine and told us to let him know if we needed more. We grinned.

Somehow, the kid refrained from laying back her seat while we ate and waited for the tray collection, but within seconds of her tray being collected, bang! I hadn’t opened the wine, I also hadn’t finished my coffee. Yes, coffee all over my jeans. “I give up,” I said to my sailor mate, “I’m going down the back for a while.”

One of the cabin crew asked me if everything was OK; I explained that the laid back seat, the lack of air and the wine and coffee spillages meant I felt more comfortable standing down the back. She smiled ruefully and poured me a wine.

Full marks to the KLM cabin crew and I must say, it’s really good to see airlines like KLM, employing a mix of young and older staff. The Middle Eastern airlines appear very much fixated on pretty young things (male and female).

I tried sitting down a couple of times, but claustrophobia (no room, or air) got to me each time and within 30 minutes or so and back to the back I went.

Landing on a beautiful, clear, warm summer’s morning in Amsterdam is soul pleasing and while in the last couple of years, Schipol has been a nightmare with all the renovations completed, they’ve got it right, it’s a pleasure to pass through and it’s airconditioned!

Less than an hour after landing, I was on the train out of the airport, heading for Germany, thinking just how comfortable and civilised long distance train travel is; compared to long distance air travel, it was a relief to get off both aircraft to the sanctuary of the train.

That’s a pity and of course, you can overcome most of the issues I’ve written of; flying Premium Economy or Business, it is true that you get what you pay for. When push comes to shove, Etihad had the better equipped cabin, however both crews were great, the food on both was very good, but the lack of air vents is a killer for me. In future I will only fly with airlines that have personal air vents and I do think all airlines should stop Economy seats from being able to be laid back. Most of all, I wish I didn’t have to go through the airport at Abu Dhabi again, the return journey will certainly be my last.
Greg Ross

Telstra … just add Foxtel and call the men in White Coats! Aargh!!

Dear Telstra

I find myself in some Alice in Wonderland mad dream, all because I made a decision last week, to accept your offer of including Foxtel  with my Telstra Bundle account.  “Do tell!” I hear you say. Herewith!

Having spent the prerequisite 40 minutes or so negotiating the deal with your chap Dhali – it could have been Charlie, I really have no idea and that in itself can be part of the problem in dealing with Telstra – misunderstandings due to speaking with somebody who sincerely wants to help, but whose accent is difficult to follow. But that is perhaps a debate for another time.

Dhali organised for a technician to come to my house sometime between 10.00am and 4.00pm today (Monday 2 July). Last night (Sunday night), around 8.40pm, my mobile rang – I missed it the first time, as I as glued to the TV watching the final episode of MYSTERY ROAD. However  the phone rang again within a couple of minutes and I managed to get to it.

It was a Telstra technician, apparently the bloke coming to fit the dish etc today, he told me there was a problem, in that it was going to be raining on Monday and that I needed to change the date. I agreed with him that it was going to be raining, heavily and that I had wondered what would happen. He repeated that I needed to change the date. I replied that surely he and his boss should work out what could or couldn’t be done and available dates, then ring me to ask what suited, he responded, saying ,”They already know, you have to ring them!” I replied that I didn’t want to do that, as I felt it was their responsibility to organise things, saying, “If I ring Telstra, I have to listen to the bloody computer woman, none of her options will fit the purpose and I’ll have to give my name rank and serial number to five different people before I get anywhere and the whole process will take another 40 bloody minutes!”

“You’ve got to do it!” he said once more.

I told him that it looked like it was going to rain for the whole week and I could imagine going through the process night after bloody night! He said I was right, it was going to rain all week and that probably nothing would be done until the following week, but it was my responsibility to ring them and change it.

I then explained to him that I was going overseas for four weeks in mid July and that in all probability the damn thing wouldn’t be installed before I left and that I might be better off cancelling it all and having another look when I got back in late August. He liked that idea and said, “Yes, why don’t you cancel it and look at when you get back, good idea, you just need to ring them.”

I was astounded, this bloke was definitely not headed for a role with the sales team any day soon.  I confess I did say, “Mate, I’m fucking well over this, I need to think about the whole bloody thing!” He replied that he was in agreement, I needed to think about it and then ring them! My head was spinning, I went back to my programme.

When it finished, (fabulous series, by the way – congratulations ABC), I decided to try the Telstra written Chat Line, to see what could be sorted. Here, I must say, I work in the mining industry, where safety is paramount,  I do understand that nobody should be up on a roof in wet weather.

I started ‘Chatting’ with Patrick.

Patrick was overjoyed to hear from me and told me not to worry, “I can be helping you with that.” We spent 23 minutes swapping lines and scenarios, eventually concluding that everything was booked for Friday 6th July,  between 10.00am and 4.00pm. For my assurance, he gave me a reference number: INT 1-1583366987866  and then wrote, “To show my confidence, you can also get a copy of this chat for your superb peace of mind.”  He went on to say, (bless him), “… you really deserve this great customer service … you’re now my 23rd RESOLVED concern for tonight and I’ll take your word on it.” I must admit, that baffled me, but hey, I’ll go with the flow. Warily happy, I turned my attention to the FI Austrian GP, only to find, that like me, my fellow Perthite, Danny Ricciardo was not having a great time.

This morning (Monday), I awoke to find a message sent late last night, by my good friend Patrick. Unfortunately he had  been unable to get through to anybody and guess what?

YES! You’re right! He suggested I ring Telstra in the morning to organise everything!

It’s not often I need a malt whiskey at 7.00am.

I’d  tweeted  a summary to Telstra and Foxtel. Never heard from Telstra, but Charlie from Foxtel came back to me, shocked, sorry and determined  (just like my other good friend Patrick), to help and rectify the situation. So he could fully understand what had preceded,  I sent him the transcript of my conversation with Patrick.

We had reached the stage of discussing the time frame, when my mobile rang. It was the technician from last night! It was 11.07am and it became immediately obvious nothing was happening in the Telstra workshop, or forward planning worksheets – although I seriously doubt you have that sort of thing! He asked me, “Have you decided to cancel yet?”  I started to laugh at the sales orientated commitment of this bloke. “No mate,” I replied, “I’m trying to work out what is the best thing to do for me, although I’m basically over this shit let me tell you!”

“It’s raining!” he said.

“Mate, I bloody well know that, I wouldn’t expect anybody to  get on my roof today and they’re still saying it’s going to rain all week.”

“Exactly!” he proudly and positively replied, “You won’t get anything done this week. So what do you want to do?”

I replied, “Mate, I have no bloody idea!”

“Well you need to ring them!”

“No mate, I’m not putting myself through all that push button 3, 4, 5 nonsense, I’ll send them an email.”

“Yes,” he replied, “Send then an email and tell them you’re changing it to another day, or later in the year, that’s what you’ve got to do” and he hung up.

I went back to chatting with my new friend Charlie at Foxtel, to find he’d sent me a message telling me  he completely understood my frustration, but I needed to call Telstra and explain the position to them, signing off wishing me a great day.

It’s now 2.00pm Monday afternoon and all my instinct says to just walk away and call nobody and just see what happens. I don’t think I care anymore, in fact, I think I might bring my overseas flight forward!

Greg Ross