Carlton CAN take the micky-taking

Some nights ago, I was being a wit-in-residence on my Twitter feed, replying to status updates and generally being a smart alec when I inadvertantly offended journo Mike Carlton. It resulted in Twitter blockage, and although I emailed him an apology, in that apology, I explained I would write about it.

So I blogged.

By the time I'd blogged, and gone live, turns out Carlton had accepted my apology.

Somehow, I don't think he'd seen the blog yet.

So now, I figure, I have something else, something bigger, to apologise for.

Meanwhile another Twitter buddy, the comic Nathan Lentern, points out Gerard Henderson - of the not-goat-horror-on-Herald-front-page-infamy - blogged about the Twitter exchange on his Media Watchdog site:


So I probably have this to apologise for too.

Sorry, Mr Carlton.




Carlton can't take the micky-taking

Carlton & Puppets
The journalist in happier times: detail, back cover, Mike Carlton's News Review (1982, Hammard)

I'll admit: a horrible summer man flu had hit and I was delirious. I did think I was in fine form, reading status updates on Twitter and Facebook and replying wittily. I stumbled upon some chatter between a Herald journo I follow and a journalist, columnist, broadcaster, author I've admired for the better part of thirty years… (apologies for the repetition below - haven't quite got the hang of embedded tweet coding)



What? Because I won't buy SMH I'm clearly one of Murdoch's minions? Not likely. Forget for a moment the entire history of 'knowledge sharing' that went on amongst 'cafe society'; apart from the routine I follow with - that probably made it easier for my services to be dispensed with the first time I freelanced for News Magazines - there are earlier blog posts suggesting I'm no News Corporation stalwart...


I thought my last few comments were worthy of reply, but none was forthcoming, so I called it as I saw it, at which point an old uni mate joined in:


The Word Was Gough
And The Word Was Gough… - Peter Luck and Mike Carlton (1975, M7)

Carlton News Review
Mike Cartlon's News Review - Mike Carlton (1982, Hammard)

Carlton Takes The Micky
Carlton Takes The Micky: 1983 in Review - Mike Carlton (1983, 2GB NewsTalk 87)

You know, cos he's old and grumpy (said the slightly less old, but probably just as grumpy, man) so perhaps he may do a Charlotte Dawson number…


A night later, the irony is I still have not seen the front of the Sydney Morning Herald. Was it amazing? Was it so amazing that it was worth the fuss?

Meanwhile, I did send Carlton an apology. Not unreserved. I explained that I would write about this, but being a journo, he'd understand. As Joan Didion once pointed out, a writer is always selling someone out. Given his history of taking the micky, I expected a better sense of humour.

I remain unemployed by News Ltd and Fairfax. Perhaps that's why I never purchase their papers - although I'm less impressed with SMH since it became, literally, a tabloid. (Its engagement in tabloid journalism was inevitable once it ceased to be a newspaper of record.) However, I'm also not employed by Crikey or New Matilda - and I subscribe to those.




Two Little Girls, Apparently

Rolf harris top


Disappointed as I'm gonna be if it turns out there is some veracity to the charges being brought against Rolf Harris, I'm quite annoyed at 's reporting of this story. I spotted it on Twitter on my way home from a show and all I could think was, 'there's no need'.

There's no need for the image of Rolf looking so awkward. Looking so awkward, dressed so spiffily. Can't help but feel they chose the photo that charted his greatest alleged fall from grace. It'd be different if it was a photo of Jake the Peg for this story, is all I'm saying.

No need for Rolf looking so awkward, dressed so spiffily, falling from grace having just received his Officer of the Order of Australia medal (a story News Limited reported on, prior from Rolf's alleged fall from grace); why not depict him suffing up as a Pom rather than an Aussie? He's got an MBE as well, you know!

But that's not what annoyed me most.

What annoyed me most, with the News Corp story illustrated by spiffy Rolf looking awkward, is the ad they chose to run with it.

When you consider the photo of Rolf in the context of the ad for laxative, News Corp is - ahem - clearly taking the piss.

Rolf harris news story full


It's as though the Murdoch press is saying, 'we don't think he's in quite enough poo as it is'.

While firmly believing in 'innocent until proven guilty', I did not write this blog post with the intention of showing disrespect for victims of assault, nor do I seek to trivialise assault.

On the other hand, people making constipation strainface in the presence of laxative ads - even knights of the realm - I declare (ahem) 'open slather' on that!


Constipated rolf




Some Twitter nonsense


Umberto Eco once wrote a lovely little article on how Mac vs PC is, essentially, the equivalent of the age-old dichotomy of Catholicism vs Protestantism.

At the time, I was working at a posh Anglican school, and I chose to email Eco's quote to all the staff - who reacted with defeaning silence. The only other Rock Chopper on the staff - who happened to have gone to my old school (a Catholic private school whose reputation for academia and discipline I never questioned until employed by said posh Anglican school, where I realised that in comparison, we got away with murder and learnt little) - assured me I was wasting breath, effort and intellect sharing that sort of learnéd observation. In other words, I'd probably offended everyone else on the staff.

As it happened, they would have been more offended by my zealous embrace of Apple Macintosh dogma rather than Catholic dogma; just as the IT department was poised to stock computer labs with a multitude of iMac G3s (remember them?) someone in the senior staff did a deal that saw every student receive a PC laptop and all us followers of false prophets and questionable computers seemed to be given a bit of a wider berth.

I do remember, around that time, realising that 'goodies' used MacBooks while 'baddies' used PCs. Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example; Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. (I said they were good; I never said they were great. But then again, there's Stephen Fry, who is better than all of them put together.) Bond villains, on the other hand, always use PCs.

The other day, Judah Friedlander suggested a totally different take via Twitter (perhaps both Catholicism and Protestantism are a little less relevant to him). For Judah, the Mac/PC divide applied to Star Wars. But it's not what you think; the Death Star Droid isn't powered by Windows.

Rather, this happened, which made my day:

Judah Friedlander

Best Twitter interaction since the day Fry RT'd and LOL'd my foolish comment...

Stephen Fry LOLs Dom




Much funnier by accident


When I tweeted it nearly a year ago.



Carrie Bickmore, by accident, the other evening on The Project:


Much funnier. Not least of all for the way Carrie does her best to carry on. And for the way Charlie Pickering reacts. Great telly.

Just sayin'.



MySpace gets needy

Certainly a sign of the times when social networking software resorts to utilising other social networking software to try and win you back… from the other social networking software.

To wit: I spotted MySpace advertising on Facebook:


You got a Facebook page, MySpace? That's pretty desperate, even for you. It’d be kind of cute – in a kind of geeky way – if I were to somehow StumbleUpon your Twitter profile, where you announced it in a tweet.


But for you to just pop up on my Facebook unannounced – that just makes me uncomfortable. Next you’re gonna start friending all my friends, ‘liking’ all my status updates, joining all the groups I’m on, comment on my oldest photos as though you the fragment of them caught your eye in that new Facebook layout when really you’ve gone through each and every one like any other Facebook wall-stalker, trying to suss out if I have someone special in my life and whether you shape up to them.

I’m just not comfortable with it.

Get off MyBack, MySpace. I need my space, MySpace. If you can’t respect that, you’re no Friendster of mine.

Don’t make me have to block you.


Let Fran Foo read your tweets for you!

Don’t you hate having to read tweets firsthand?

I know I do.

That’s why I’m so pleased to read the work of journalists like Fran Foo. Franny, why don’t you have a fan page on Facebook? You are so clearly Walkley Award quality.

And as for News Ltd breaking the story, I wanna be the first to say I can’t wait to be charged to access articles like this on your site. Nothing wrong with your ‘user pay’ model at all. Not when the ‘Rupert pay’ model produces this level of keen journalistic mind, shining an ever-enquiring light to reveal the greater truths.

Now excuse me while I tweet the link to this blog about a news story featuring tweets about Facebook – which will end up as my status update on Facebook.

(Thanks to Mikey Mileos for bringing the ‘article’ to my attention, and for pointing out that a blog was a waste of time – “Josh Elliott from Perth said it all”!)

Return flight

It was Tuesday December 1, 2009. The Liberal Party spill had taken place  and their new leader, Tony Abbott, had been elected. Many of the tweets emanating from Australia were commenting upon it.

Meanwhile, the ABC’s North American correspondent, Lisa Millar, reported at 10:30am EST that Prime Minister Rudd’s plane had been grounded.


Almost immediately, I offered my reply:


SBS must have also tweeted the Rudd grounding because later in the day, my favourite Twitter-using SBS journo re-tweeted the news:


And, still having a good reply to it, I repeated it, again, almost immediately:


Now New Matilda emails me today’s Daily Cartoon, by Tim Hall. Hilarious and visually stunning, it still kind of reminds me of something I may have read elsewhere…


That time of decade again!


I must be afflicted with some degree of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Apart from the desire to own various editions of the same albums or books, a need to organise all knowledge of comedy into a working body (which I like to refer to as a ‘unified field theory’ of comedy; relax, it doesn’t actually mean anything beyond being an intellectual-sounding metaphor) and becoming irrationally annoyed that we in Australia have given in and now spell the word ‘gaol’ as ‘jail’, I also get the irrits when we treat the wrong year as the end of a decade or millennium.

The new millennium didn’t begin in 2000, it began in 2001.

The new decade doesn’t really begin in 2010, it begins in 2011.

But I guess if we started counting the new millennium in 2000, this is the end of that decade. (And even Arthur C. Clarke made the error; after correctly selecting ‘2001’ as the important year in 2001: A Space Odyssey, he followed the story up with 2010: Odyssey Two.)

So here we are, December 2009 about to begin, and journalists are compiling their ‘round-up of the decade that was the “noughties”’. A year early, if you ask me. But nobody seems to be asking me if their timing is right.

No, it’s nearly the end of the first decade of the current millennium, and what journalists are asking me – and you, and anyone else who appears to be listening – is to do the news-gathering for them. Here’s a question I was asked earlier. I can’t help but have an answer for that.



A journalist’s tweeted reply to my comment is as follows:

Could say the same 4 comedians. As ppl whose job it is to comment on society we HAVE to rely on getting input from the masses

I disagree.

In the first place, the comedian’s job is to entertain. News has only taken on that mentle in recent years in order to keep turning a profit – having to entertain audiences that would prefer sugar walls and happy endings.

Good comedians are the ones that have their own world view, and reveal it more-or-less by stealth: ‘you think the world is like that, but have a look at what I can see from where I’m standing – actually it’s like this’. Their degree of skill at revealing to you what you know, but didn’t realise you know, is a mark of how good they are. The art is to conceal the art.

News, on the other hand, used to be about reporting the facts. Uncoloured. No agenda. (Of course, everyone has an agenda.) And professionals were paid to gather those stories. To use all their skills. Now, they depend more and more on stories coming to them. And people love their brief moments of fleeting fame, so love to step forward with their stories. Maybe they should try to perfect the art of concealing the art also: be well read, be ‘metropolitan critics’ who get around and hear all the opinions and sniff out those leads…

Back to the ‘decade in review’, however.

A news service ought to know what the big stories of the past decade were. They just spent the past decade presenting the stories. It’s not supposed to be a live concert by your favourite old rocker. You might feel ripped off if you see David Bowie live and he doesn’t do ‘Changes’ or ‘Fashion’. You shouldn’t – he was, up until his last world tour, still making brilliant new music and I’m happy to not hear ‘Space Oddity’ if it means I do hear ‘The Heart’s Filthy Lesson’ or ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’. Bowie is canny enough to poll his online fanbase for a list of songs they want to hear live, if he wanted. I’d much rather he presented the show he chose, but will accept that he may actually ask the people that keep him in nice designer suits what exactly they want to hear.

But the news is the news. Don't ask me whether I want to hear about September 11 or Weapons of Mass Destruction or the first black president over the deaths of Belinda Emmett or George Harrison, the end of John Howard’s term as Prime Minister (and the erosion of our rights as citizens that coninued beyond his  leadership) or our first female Governor General. I’m not gonna switch the channel in disgust because you failed to remind me of Paris Hilton’s sex tape, the bizarre media fixation on Maddi McCann, Tanya Zaetta ‘entertaining the troops’ or the story of Chantelle Steadman and little Alfie Patten. Particularly when we perhaps ought to be reminded of Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine, the Cronulla Riots and talkback radio’s role in inciting them, East Timor’s independence and Australia’s assistance in that struggle (only maybe this time point out there was oil involved, and lots of it, and also add the reminder that much of it is currently spilling into the ocean, bad for both our energy needs and our ocean resources…).

See, when you specifically skew the news to the audience, it stops being news. It starts being entertainment. And then comedians do start having to do your job for you: reminding the audience how the world is, and in particular, reminding them that it’s not necessarily the way people who sell airtime and audiences to advertisers would necessarily have you believe.

So, news outlets. Tell me. What do your beancounters want you to tell us the big stories of the last decade were, exactly? How does that differ from the way you believe you ought to placate your audience with the big stories? And going through your archives, what actually were they at the time?

If, after all that, the likes of Juanita Phillips, Samantha Armytage and Chris Bath feel the need to pepper their bulletins with dick jokes in order to keep the viewers’ attention, it may well prove more entertaining, but it’ll still be a case of the news not doing its job properly anymore, not proof that journalists and comedians are essentially the same thing. (Although, we can afford to lose ‘Kochie’; doppelganger James O’Loghlin is a fine comedian who does ‘serious’ much better than Kochie does ‘funny’; there’s no need to have them both loose on the airwaves!)

Nice Crisp Flavour?

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Actor Tom Felton asks, “Does this flavour crisp alarm anyone else or am I just weird?”

To be honest, Tom, I suspect the reason Kettle opted for this flavour combination for their ‘savory snacks’ (the term for their ‘hand roasted potato chips’ that they prefer over ‘crisps’), is because a competing multinational corporation’s food division had already copyrighted the particular cocktail of chemicals that constitute ‘sour cream and chives’ in that territory.

Or, perhaps, given the unavailability of flavouring additives x and y that normally constitute ‘sour cream and chives’– the variables stand for those substances listed as numbers in the ‘ingredients’ section of food packaging so that we never really know what chemicals we are consuming – they had to go with x+1 and y+1, which shifted the resulting flavour a little to the right of the hitherto acceptable ‘sour cream and chives’.

But if either of these options happens to be the case, I’d go a step further and suggest it’s been done before. Why go to the trouble of removing the letter ‘h’ from the word ‘yoghurt’, if not to sidestep legal redress from established purveyors of ‘yoghurt and green onion’ chips?

According to my buddy Lexa, in the US, Kettle offers both ‘Sour Cream, Onion & Chive’, and ‘Yogurt & Green Onion’ flavours. So what’s actually going on – while it still may be an instance of utilising chemicals x+1 and y+1 instead of x and y – is that practice favoured by companies of producing an extensive range to lock out competition. After all, if someone likes the Sour Cream, Onion & Chive flavour, chances are they’ll actually like the Yogurt & Green Onion flavour.

Irrespective, I still must conclude that you are just a little bit weird, Tom. Kettle’s ‘Yogurt & Green Onion’ chips are fine. It’s the ‘Custard & Garlic’ flavour that’s to be avoided. And the ‘Pickled Herring Thickshake’ variety.


Who'd have thought someone else would have made a similar observation – and a similar joke – about Kettle’s Yogurt & Green Onion chips? Alex points out that Judith Lucy did – about a decade ago on The Mick Molloy Show.