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Essential Reading

Our agile and innovative artistes

antarctic dancerFiguring out just how much the typical family pays in taxes can be a bit nebulous, what with deductions and all, but let's just say for the sake of argument that $30,000 dollars dispatched every year to the ATO sounds about right. And let's also accept that, when a new bridge or the like goes up, families contributing a large piece of their earnings to the common good are entitled to look upon that structure with proprietorial pride. That's our bridge, Mum and Dad might say as they drive beneath it on their way to work, whence the earnings that pay those taxes flow.

If bridges are not to their taste, not to worry, as there are other endeavours in which Canberra invests taxpayer money. Government spending is always "investment", don't you know, and some of these expenditures undoubtedly hold greater appeal to citizens of a more artistic bent. One such example might be the project now being undertaken by choreographer James Batchelor. That's him above, demonstrating a rubber-limbed intimacy with the bollards aboard the CSIRO's RV Investigator, currently en route to the Antarctic. The ABC has the scoop (emphasis added):

James Batchelor believes science and art can work together, and he has hitched a ride to one of the most inhospitable places on the planet to prove it.

Contorting himself around Australia's new Antarctic research ship RV Investigator, the performance artist is giving scientists new insight into the world of dance during the 58-day sub-Antarctic voyage.

He has travelled 4,000 kilometres out to sub-Antarctic Heard Island, an Australian territory taking performance art to new extremes.

"It's quite different, and I think also for the crew and the scientists are not used to having a dancer on board," he said.

"So they might walk into a room and I'm on the floor, so it's quite an eye-opener for them in terms of what dance is and where it takes place."

The Canberra choreographer is one of two Australian artists on the ship; South Australian visual artist Annalise Rees is producing work at part of a PhD.

And that $30,000 mentioned earlier? It's a number of very nearly as much significance to Batchelor as to the families from whom it was extracted in the name of the nation's betterment. Without two recent Australia Council deposits in the dance maven's bank account totalling precisely that sum, it is unlikely Batchelor would have polished his art to the gleaming degree now on display somewhere in the Southern Ocean. Indeed, who knows where his career might have stalled without the assistance of an enlightened government and its arts bureaucrats? Why, he might have remained a self-funded nonentity, condemned to writhe in obscurity beside lamp posts, trees, traffic signs and other inner-city fixtures! His handouts are listed below. (click to enlarge the image)

snot of the antarctic IIA quick check via the Australia Council's "awarded grants" search page suggests fellow seagoing artiste, Annalise Rees, has not yet bagged any taxpayer dollars to support "her practice", as the creatively subsidised like to put it. But going by one of her polar-themed "installations" (below), she would certainly make a likely candidate. Those bits of paper jammed into tall glass jars are entitled "7/8 Lay Hidden" and should be taken, perhaps, to reflect her thoughts on the nature of icebergs. Probably climate change, too, but that goes without saying.

iceberg artAs an artist yet in the early stages of her career, Ms Rees still has a some skills to master. Were she to stuff a sheet of dark paper into the work above, for example, it is entirely conceivable she might be eligible for an Indigenous and Torres Strait Arts grant, many of which seem very generous indeed.

Taxpayers of Australia, know that you are blessed indeed! Now stop gawking and get back to work. An entire population of people who wear only black is demanding  your support.

The ABC's story on the uses to which public monies are put can be read via the link below. Somewhere on one the ABC's many websites there may also be a story about whether the current deficit is the consequence of a spending problem or a revenue problem.

-- roger franklin

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The evil of two lessers

sanders and trumpMost days, there is little reason to feel any sympathy for my son, whose birth date on each of his twin passports, American and Australian, testify that he has the bloom of youth about his twentysomething cheeks, stands to enjoy a long, interesting life and, as our latest Prime Minister would put it, is blessed to have come of age in this, the most exciting time to be alive. Being also agile -- a gifted short-stop who can pitch a baseball at 90mph -- and innovative to boot, especially in winkling money out of his father's wallet, the fruit of my loins might very well represent the sort of ideal citizen of whom Mr Turnbull dreams after gliding past the Nolans and Drysdales to place his supremely gifted head upon the Lodge's lovely new pillows.

Just now, after this morning's telephone conversation, Junior has the benefit of both my sympathy and advice that he stop at the nearest bar and a order something strong and bracing, preferably in double measure. He lives in New York, you see, where unlike Australia the nanny-staters have not yet banned the stiffer-than-average libation. Given the New Hampshire primaries results, Junior might as well enjoy one of the US's civilised decencies.

"Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump!" he exclaimed, "a fruitcake socialist and a land shark! That's the best this country can put up for the White House." Speaking as an Australian, he continued, "Americans are mad as cut snakes." I reminded him that his mother, a Brooklyn gal, is reasonably sane most of the time, and that he had to take at least some small measure of blame on his own shoulders. Weren't you telling me only the other week, I reminded him, that Trump's bull-in-a-china-shop campaign was knocking the Republicans' moribund leadership for six and that this was a good thing?

Switching to his American persona, he responded that, yes, he had said that, but never expected the property developer "to hit a home run". Trump would cause a bit of damage -- a bit of good, too, if you subscribe to the view that complacency needs to be ruffled from time to time -- but then fade away, as tends to be the case with the flash-in-the-pan mavericks of American politics. Ross Perot and John Anderson would be waiting to greet him from atop that pile of ambitious and delusional discards. That was Junior's theory anyway.

As indicated by the Wall Street Journal's running tally of the New Hampshire results, available via the link below, my son's prognostications were deeply flawed. Trump isn't fading; far from it.

Come to think of it -- and here is an item of parental counsel any young man with a pink and resilient liver can take to heart -- he should make that drink a triple. So should 320 million of his countrymen. They're going to need it.

-- roger franklin

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Peak stupid

smh cat warmingThe "skybox" atop the front page of today's Sydney Morning Herald.

When they recruit editors at Fairfax, are IQ tests involved? Do they then hire only those with scores lower than their shoe size?

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