Two on the Great Divide – A review

I’ve been watching this show for the past three weeks and have been enthralled, but it seemed like I should see it all before I made a judgment. So Two on the Great Divide was screened on the ABC and if you hurry (and live in Australia) you will be able to see all three episodes.

The “two” in the title are John Doyle, a “comedian” to the general populace, but to me: an all-round-dude. And then there is Tim Flannery — a scientist, a geologist, plus a few other bits of paper he gives to his grandma to frame on the wall – and I think a one-time Australian of the Year. I guess you could also call him an environmental commentator too.

Two very different people at a dinner party. At least at a boozy, no-holds-barred dinner party I would hold. At that setting, I would much prefer John Doyle. If I was out hiking or riding in the wilderness, perhaps I would pick Tim. But then again, I would probably drag John along – just so we could bitch about Tim.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Tim, I just don’t really want to know him personally. And I certainly wouldn’t want to spend how many weeks it took to film this series in such close confinement with him.

I would describe Tim Flannery as quite drunk with excitement about certain things, but then incredibly sober when you want to just ramble and talk about poo.

The first part, the drunken enthusiasm – may seem charming. But Tim does this in a way that makes you cringe. For example: he uses your name a bit too much when addressing you. Personally I find that a bit subversive. I know from my humble psychology — PY101— background that if you want to endear yourself to someone you mimic their body language, you mimic a few of their actual key spoken words and you drop in their name a few times during conversation. Tim does the ‘name-drop’ thing so much you want to throttle him the next time he does so. He is also just too “decent”.

This is where John was conceived in Lithgow – I love that he would share that with us.

John, on the other hand, is just perpetually drunk. He might not be actually intoxicated, but he has a swagger about his prose. It is sometimes affectionate and considered, but then he will throw a grenade into the conversation. And sometimes you will think he is playing a diplomat — but then he says, or makes it impossibly clear — what he thinks. With a fantastic bluntness.

Plus John Doyle is crazily funny. And perhaps there’s a great wisdom in his words.

Anyway – the characters make this series. I might have actually grown to enjoy the fact Tim was a bit of a dip-shit. And then the actual main character — the Range — is, you know, spectacular.

The Gold Coast which Tim thinks, due to its geology and massive population, is in great danger of a disastrous storm-surge in the near future.

The Great Dividing Range is a strip of mountains that stretches from Melbourne up through the Snowy, across to the Blue Mountains in NSW, north to Barrington Tops, then New England, Mt Warning, over the Queensland Border at Lamington, then up to Toowoomba (where we are riding on Saturday) and then Carnarvon Gorge and Mt Bartle Frere and all the way to Weipa and across the Torres Strait to Dauan Island – only 7km from Papua New Guinea.

And crucially, ALL rivers to the west of the Divide (above Lithgow) flow west, and rivers to the east, flow east to the sea.

But the other thing that makes this series is the totally obvious FACT that our recent mining boom is raping our landscape. It is so omnipresent in this tiny strip of our nation. The Great Divide must only take up 10 percent (if that) of our country – but the influence of that activity is extreme. The point they keep drumming in is that there is a literal great divide amongst Australians, not just a big mountain range (which is quite pathetic — let’s face it, by world standards).

This is Toowoomba (where I was conceived incidentally) and where we are riding to – and back from – on Saturday. Toowoomba is where the Divide split into the great escarpment and the Divide.

We also get to see how the Brumbies of the Snowy are literally trampling other indigenous- species into oblivion (yet fools think that is cool), we don’t get to see poker machines at the Penrith Leagues Club (cause filming there is banned), but we do see how the club indoctrinates the next generation with skill-testers. We see the coal-seam gas debate in Queensland and how that has brought farmers and environmentalists together and John Doyle’s genius when he says that he thinks the Greens are at fault in being so bloody-minded and “black and white” when attempting (and failing) to reach out to rural Australia.

One of the big bits of infrastructure that coal-seam gas has generated. (pun intended).

We also see that the view from the highway is probably amazing, but just over the ridge, beyond any casual inspection, there will be a big, fat, hole in the ground that stretches for miles around. A scar on the earth’s crust at best or more likely a massive gaping wound on the once beautiful landscape.

Advertisements

(My thoughts on) Ramones — End of a Century

This week I finally watched “End of the Century” a 2003 documentary about the Ramones which you can watch for free here.

I’ve never really been a big fan of the band but that didn’t mean I didn’t like them. I remember the first time I heard them (Blitzkrieg Bop) in that movie National Lampoon’s Vacation. I love that song, but for some reason they still just passed by me and it was only in the last 8 or so years that I’ve come to truly appreciate them.

It was actually in 2006 when things changed. The band I played bass in at the time — the Little Lovers — were asked to play at a Ramone-a-thon and it was then that I started – or in reality – was forced to pay attention. Acutely.

Image

Ramone-a-thons were organised by Tim – that beautiful, beautiful man from Tym’s Guitars – and they featured maybe 20 or 30 bands all smashing out Ramones songs, with very short sets, over about 12 hours. They’d been running for years and years previous so it was quite an honour to be up there.

So us Little Lovers suddenly had to learn a bunch of Ramones songs and initially I thought that would be a piece-of-piss. Cause, the songs were all pretty straight-forward punk rock — right? There didn’t seem to be any technicality to them.

But how wrong I was. We soon discovered there was nothing “straight-forward” about a Ramones song. We were rehearsing and rehearsing trying so hard to get the time changes right, and then when that eventually seemed to be covered, Wintah and I would get the chords all wrong. For example, if there were 4 chords in the entire song, those 4 chords would on the surface appear to be structured the same way throughout, but we soon discovered there was always a trick to the order of them later in the song which constantly threw us. And added to that a lot of detail found its way into the typical Ramones song that was easily missed (or dismissed) on a casual listen.

Anyway – it goes without saying I had a whole new appreciation for the band after that. I remember coming up to Tim on the eve of the 2006 Ramone-a-thon and saying, “Holy shit man, these songs are fucking HARD.” And he laughed and agreed but there was a look in his eye like he had heard these very same words from all the deadshit musos just like me that had come before playing at their first Ramone-a-thon.

So getting back to the film. It was actually quite a story. They were all such characters. I was genuinely surprised and bewildered by the fact this band functioned for so long, or more appropriately – dysfunctioned.

Image

Johnny was such a disciplined robot, not to mention an asshole. The bit where he has to ask Linda about whether a power-struggle had developed in the band (after Linda, who had been Joey’s girlfriend, left him for Johnny) and later he says he felt bad when Joey died and asked why he felt that way – it was like he had never even wondered up until that point.

And so you just wanted to give Joey a big, fat hug and say, “I feel for you buddy.” Another revelation was the fact he had OCD and was so fragile – both physically and mentally. But then he kinda came out of his cave. All he needed was confidence and rock n roll gave that to him. He initially had confidence on stage cause he was kinda “acting”, but when he got used to the praise and the attention he almost realised he was actually valuable and could stand up for himself. If you look at this story and wonder which of the characters have that “arc” – that was Joey.

Image

Dee Dee was the definitive cartoon junkie, but also their main song-writer and almost the band’s rock, though he hated it. The moment he walks off down the corridor outside the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame after-party – tragic. Even though it makes me gag just to say it – but it was “poignant”.

Image

Then Tommy and pretty much all the other drummers — even Marky — were solid and just a bit dumb-struck by the intense politics going on around them.

The other thing that interested me about their story was how they felt quite cheated – something I can totally relate to. Like they had been pioneers, yet never really made much money out of it. They made more money from t-shirts than records and playing live. There was also an overwhelming sense that rock n roll was not just a job, it was a fucking shit job.

One last thing, I loved their gimmicks. I think rock n roll is about 50% gimmick. A good gimmick differentiates you from other bands and internally it binds you. And the Ramones had a bunch of gimmicks. They had the uniform — like they were modern-day Beatles – but more suburban. They all had the same surname – like a family and they had Dee Dee counting in the songs almost to scientifically demonstrate how fast they were. And thus they had ultra-short sets with almost even shorter songs and no gaps between these songs when they played live.

And now Johnny is dead. The only Ramones left are Tommy and the other drummers. There’s an exerpt from Johnny’s posthumous autobiography in a New York magazine I read recently. He was a list-maker (just like me) and quite anal and methodical. But we knew that already. He also liked cats.

And just saying, but he has some pretty wise insights. He has a story to tell which I suspect anyone in rock n roll would get a hell of a lot out of. Even though he was an asshole.

Image

From New York Magazine – Johnny rates the Ramones’ albums

Image

The day the wind changed

“The day the wind changed” is a documentary conceived, narrated and filmed – I assume – by a resident of Strathewen where dozens and dozens of people died. Perhaps over a hundred if yopu include the surrounding districts. I watched half this documentary during my lunch break today, and the rest just then.

It opens with some pretty compelling footage. It’s told from a local perspective. It’s a human story rather than a traditional history. It has a lot of tears and a lot of conflicting opinions about what this all means.

At the time I was really angry that so many people died in cars. And there is a guy that wants to cut a million trees down just to prevent some idiots dying trying to out-run fire at the last minute. But then there is an awesome dude who says that the trees in fact protected a lot of people and it was paddocks that gave the fire more impetus. But at the end of the day, I am not really sure if there is an answer. The bush is the bush.

I don’t know if this link works – but here it is. Worth seeing.

http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/889059