Australian Ballet School…

So, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the last few weeks regarding the LNP Australian Budget for 2014, where we have seen savage cuts to education, healthcare, pensions, unemployment benefits, deregulation of university fees, family payments, higher education loan schemes, indigenous programs… you name it – anything that might be deemed a necessary public service has been ravaged or in the case of Medicare, had a ‘co-payment’ ie: levy/fee/tax, applied to it.

Then we started seeing things in the news like the Prime Minister’s daughter getting a $60,000 scholarship to a prestigious design school that has never been published, never taken applicants and was supposedly awarded on merit.  Things like the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, protesting university fees back in 1989.  And now a crazy arsed $1M grant for the Australian Ballet School to purchase a $4.7M mansion to use for it’s boarders.

What the actual fuck, LNP Govt?  There’s supposed to be a BUDGET EMERGENCY going on, how can we be giving away even $1M measly to a ballet school?  So I did what I did with most of my political rage – to spare my actual friends on Facebook, I tend to spew most of it forth on Twitter to a bunch of like-minded strangers.

I didn’t really mean to pick a fight with the Board of the Australian Ballet this afternoon, but… oh well.


Budget help for ballet Australian Ballet School’s new $4.7m mansion

The $4.7 million mansion in Parkville that has been purchased with the help of $1 million of taxpayer money.

The $4.7 million mansion in Parkville that has been purchased with the help of $1 million of taxpayer money.

It is one of Melbourne’s grand mansions – a sprawling century-old stately home that will be a new boarding school for Australia’s aspiring ballerinas – and it has just been purchased with $1 million of taxpayer money granted under Joe Hockey’s tough budget.

More than a few eyebrows were raised when young ballerinas emerged as rare winners on budget night, especially after the federal Treasurer declared, ”The age of entitlement is over.”  Tucked away in the budget papers was a $1 million grant for the Australian Ballet School, to help with its purchase of a new boarding residence. Armed with that taxpayer money, the school has spent more than $4.7 million on a mansion.

Set on a 2025-square-metre allotment, the Queen Anne mansion in Parkville boasts sweeping parkland views of the Royal Park Golf Course, a pool and gardens. According to Jellis Craig Kensington estate agents, the mansion is one of Melbourne’s ”last grand residences”.

”Exquisite period detail and soaring ceilings showcase gracious formal rooms and heritage splendour,” said the estate agent.  Whether ballerinas are lifters or leaners is a matter for debate, but the Ballet School seems to have been given a lift while many other arts institutions took a cut – more than $87 million of cuts over the next four years.

Screen Australia was cut by $25.1 million, while the Australia Council lost $28.2 million.

Just how the Ballet School came to be a beneficiary amid the cuts remains a mystery, but already many in Canberra – including some within the Liberal Party – are pointing out that it’s often not what you know, but who you know.  On the board of the Australian Ballet School is Daniele Kemp, the high-profile wife of former Liberal arts minister Rod Kemp, a predecessor of George Brandis as arts minister. Mr Kemp is now the chairman of the Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing lobby group.

Mr Kemp and Mr Brandis are said to speak regularly, but Ms Kemp on Tuesday denied that she had any private discussions with the Arts Minister about the $1 million grant.  ”We [the ballet school] applied for the grant, and we met with Mr Brandis as a board,” Ms Kemp said.  ”He [Brandis] did come to Melbourne to visit and meet with us, but I was just one board member at that meeting.”

A senior Liberal told Fairfax Media the timing of the purchase ”does not good look” as cabinet tried to sell its tough budget. ”This school is pretty much a creche for some rich kids in [the seats of] Higgins, Melbourne Ports and Goldstein, and it had enough cash to come up with more than $3.5 million on its own. I admit, it doesn’t look good,” the source said.  It will take substantial renovations to turn the six-bedroom home into a boarding residence capable of housing 28 students.

Mr Brandis confirmed he visited the school in February and the decision ”is another clear indication of the Coalition’s support for the arts even when facing such challenges with the budget”.

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Lack of Gravity is a Bitch.

Went to see Gravity in 3D at the Gold Class cinemas last night thanks to a gift Mr K received from some work colleagues… because fuck knows, it’s become completely unaffordable otherwise.  Would you believe that tickets for the Gold Class cinemas are now $42.50 each?  I have no idea why this has occurred – it’s not like the service has intrinsically altered or improved from when they first starting appearing in Australian cinemas, and yet the prices have nearly doubled.  Not only that, but there is no concession rates for children or students or pensioners AND when booking online… which we are all being encouraged to do these days… you get slugged with at $3.25 per ticket ‘booking fee’, plus a couple of dollars for 3D glasses.  So that’s $93 and ‘thanks for coming’ before you even decide if you want popcorn with that.  🙁  Must be a strategic effort to keep the riff raff out of the fancy cinemas or something.  Anyway, I digress…


Gravity is about some astronauts who are working on fixing some shit on the Hubble telescope when things all go horribly pear shaped.  I’m not going to go into the whats and wherefors, there are plenty of people writing proper reviews if that is what you want (hell, why would anyone come here for a movie review! 😛 ).  The main characters are a medical engineer with a tragic past, Dr Ryan Stone, and her fellow astronaut, Mat Kowalski a veteran of many space missions who has the gift of the gab – played by the gorgeous, Sandra Bullock (looking remarkably unmade-up and human for a change), and the devilishly handsome, George Clooney, respectively.

GRAVITYAs I was saying, they are doing a seemingly routine space walk, working away trying to fix some computer panels on the Hubble Telescope or some such crap, when a debris field heads their way and things go tits up big time.  What ensues is a big ol’ mess and lots of frantic ‘I’m going to die’ moments, poignantly interspersed with god awful interludes of denial and disbelief, anger and resentment and a veritable plethora of emotional lumps in the throat for the viewer to digest.

gravity 3 -debrisI can’t imagine how absolutely horrifying it would be to be literally ‘lost in space’ – adrift from all mankind, and prospects of assistance non-existent.   This film certainly hits home on the frailty of human mortality front.  There is a good deal of panic, extreme calm under pressure followed by more panic etc., as the film carries on in a terrifying but quasi-predictable story arc.   We’re not 100% sure what’s going to happen, but it’s Hollywood, so odds are in your favour it won’t contain a tragic ending of Shakespearean proportions.

gravity 4Anyway, I don’t do spoilers so I’m not going to write anything about what happens next, but I highly recommend this film.  In fact, if I can find the time I intend to go see it again while it is still in the cinema, because visually, it’s really quite stunning.

Speaking of spoilers though – did everyone see the Neil deGrasse Tyson Twitter rantings about the ‘Mysteries of #Gravity’?  I tell you what, that’s exactly what I’d want if I had just presented a $100m film to the movie going public – an international renown astrophysicist picking on my latest artistic project because it’s well… set in space. 🙂  NDGT had a field day pointing out anomalies in the film that were incongruous with known conditions in the space above Earth’s atmosphere, but was later quoted as saying that his criticisms were actually a compliment – if they had totally screwed the pooch he wouldn’t have bothered!

neil degrasse tyson full list gravity tweets




Twitter – direct access.

I have only been using Twitter for a little over a year – I know, I’m fashionably late to the party, as per usual – and have inadvertently found myself ensconced in the warm fuzzy grip of what I like to call, the ‘Great Australian Labor Party Circle Jerk’.

One of the things that seems to happen almost by osmosis on Twitter is the ‘birds of a feather, flock together’ thing.  That is, like minded people with similar interests and opinions end up following each other, and retweeting one another, and not to mention sharing and resharing each others links until they are all over the place like some sort of informative glitter herpes, as they pervasively inhabit every crook and crevice of your Twitter feed!  This is never more apparent than when following people primarily engaged in the political arena.  The main impetus behind my ending up in this particularly, erm…  illustrious circle, was to engage in that now, much beloved Queensland past time – Campbell Newman bashing.  The decidedly nepotistic and morally bankrupt, Queensland Premier conducts himself like a reincarnation of Napoleon (complete with Little Man Syndrome), in such a dictatorial manner that he may as well tattoo a frigging target on his forehead!   So yeah, anyway… all these people with similar opinions crowd together daily, in a social media enabled, schadenfreudristic political feeding frenzy, which recently culminating with the meat food provided by the federal election, and the victory of a complete prat that the ALPCJ absolutely love to hate!  Actually, for a while there people seemed confused as to whether to stick with the tried and true, comforting and familiar Newman Bashing or to switch to the new and exciting, yet very satisfying, Abbott Bashing – fortunately for all involved, the ALPCJ resolved this dilemma by determining that it is possible to have it all, and proceeded to swiftly and efficiently bash BOTH Newman and Abbott, via the inherently flexible #LNPfail hastag!

This entire process of gravitating towards like minded individuals, or as I like to think of them from time to time, stark raving lunatics, is not even remotely surprising given the Twitter environment seriously discourages diversity of opinion.  For you see, when someone comes in from ‘outside’ and spews forth a diametrically opposed view to your own, they rarely do so with any courtesy. The limitation of 140 characters per tweet, does not a polite interjection, make.  As such, niceties are frequently abandoned in favour of making as strong a point as possible AND should that approach fail, or should the ‘outsider’ not have a sufficient grasp of the overarching issues, the specific case in point, or even just the English vernacular!, they often use their 140 characters to slag off at the original poster using nasty four letter words that you’d never dream of directing at a perfect stranger, were it not for the anonymity of the internet!  Naturally these trolls end up blocked pretty quickly.  The result of this decided lack of courtesy is that most of the people you end up following and/or are following you, tend to reflect, rather than challenge, your own ideologies.

But I have digressed considerably from my original intention when I set down to write this post.  I was going to write about ACCESS.  It’s the ease of access, or the appearance thereof, that I find most amusing on Twitter.  Access to people in positions of power, celebrity or influence.  Access to what they are thinking, access to what they might be doing, access in many cases of unprecedented direct contact.  Whether such communications are received or dignified with a response or not, is irrelevant… Twitter enables the masses to communicate directly with well known person, and what they choose to do with those tweets is, for many tweeter, neither here nor there.

I can tweet at Dita von Teese and tell her to pull her head out of her arse: “Why on earth are you tweeting about a fucking perfume launch, the day after 20 school children are shot dead? #BimboAlert”.  I can tweet at Pope Francis and tell him:  “Keep up the good work, it’s about time we had a progressive Head of the Catholic Church – hope you survive the inevitable assassination attempts! #HistoryRepeats”.  Or I can even tweet at Annastacia Palaszczuk, Leader of the Queensland Opposition (the self same one who was notably and completely absent from the media during the recent Federal election even though she was well placed to be telegraphing to the entire country what a disaster zone Queensland is turning into under a LNP Coalition government but was obviously too busy plucking her eyebrows or something, and we barely heard a peep out of the bint with the unpronounceable surname!), when she’s headed out for a night on the town…

annastacia palaszczuk twitter feedNow I got to ask you – as a public figure, whether you’re a burlesque strip tease artist, head of one of the worlds largest religious institutions of the leader of a political party – why would you lay yourself open like this?!?  It’s completely irrational.

Btw, I never received a reply to this Tweet – how rude! 😉 – but Ms Absent From The Media Palaszczuk, has been seen in the news challenging the Newman Government every day since I sent it!

Pope Francis Tweets

I saw a tweet from Pope Francis on my Twitter feed this morning. A missive from the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God – it was his third tweet apparently and has been retweeted thousands of times already.

social media and the vatican

A humble and thoughtful sentiment from someone we are being told is a simple and humble person.  So I clicked to expand it and see what sort of responses the Pope, head of the wealthiest and most influential organizations on the planet was getting…

social media and the vatican

I should have known. Of course the masses (pun intended) are going to be disrespectful to an extremely public figure if they are able to interact directly with that public figure.  And not everyone is Catholic and/or Christian so why should they defer to a little old Argentinian man who lives in Rome who they’ve never met and are never likely to meet.  But it made me wonder how many ‘followers’ (on Twitter, not in the Church) did the Pope have?  And how many of his followers would be trolls like this guy, following along so they could poke fun from a safe distance.

vatican catholic church and social media Holy snappin’ duck shit!  Over two million followers after barely two weeks in office and having barely tweeted twice before!  Impressive.  But I guess that’s to be expected though when you have a pre-existing, financially sustaining, membership of nearly 40% of global population.  Actually I thought it would be much higher, but perhaps many of the Pope’s flock don’t have great wifi access.

Then I noticed that Pope Francis is himself only following eight people… now surely as the leader of an enormous Church, he’s not supposed to follow anyone, except perhaps maybe God, but I was curious to see who those eight were, so I thought I would check out who he was following…

vatican catholic church socia media

Turns out Pope Francis is following only himself.  Eight times. In Eight different languages.  What a disappointment.  I was kinda hoping he might be following eight influential world leaders, or eight important thinkers, or eight renown philanthropists.  Or maybe as his tweet says he should be following, the poor, the weak and the vulnerable?  Who knows.  Anyway you look at it, the Vatican plus social media equals  a veritable ecclesiastical minefield – open to direct and immediate backlash from people; believers, agnostics, atheists and aggressive antagonists. Glad I’m not on the PR team responsible for his Twitter feed.