Posted by: jkirkby8712 | February 15, 2011

Tuesday, 15th February 2011 – a bit of movie intrigue, and some personal dramas from a Monday night.

I went out again last night – this time to see a movie, and while other aspects of the night [as shall be revealed] spoilt the night a little, it was an extremely worthwhile visit.  The movie was ‘THE KING’S SPEECH’ which in short was the story of the man who became King George VI of Britain, of his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch  who was plagued by a dreaded stammer and considered unfit to be king, ‘Bertie’, through his wife’s persistence [the eventual Queen Mother], engages the help of an unorthodox Australian speech therapist named Lionel Logue. Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country through war [or as one reviewer put it –   ‘the story of King George VI’s transition from a blubbering stutter-stricken wreck to a smooth spokesperson for the throne’. The patient/psychologist, teacher/student plotline runs parallel to that of Albert’s ascension to the throne due to a scandalous marriage perused by his brother Edward VIII (Guy Pearce). 

I have to say that I found the movie and storyline totally absorbing, with that impression added to by the brilliant acting, especially by the two lead male roles – Colin Firth as ‘Bertie’ [King George VI] and Geoffrey Rush as the unorthodox speech therapist. There was one particularly interesting point made about the film by one writer, which basically directed the urgency and necessity for the stammer problem to be overcome – with the advent of the wireless, no longer could royalty parade the streets at a distance and rule from the sanctity of their palaces, but they had to be heard as well..  ‘Set during the 1930s, when the British royal family were slowly making peace with the realization that the monarchy was no longer about ruling and governance but about stage managing media representations. Not long into director Tom Hooper’s feel good slice of historical fiction Michael Gambon as King George V enunciates an impassioned spiel about how the royal family can’t pass policy, can’t govern, and that the media – particularly the strange beast called the wireless – has recast them as a group of actors’.

As with my comments about Bryce Courtney novels on Sunday, the historical aspect of the movie, even though embellished for the purposes of entertainment, etc, was a particular fascination for your writer. Luke Buckmaster, writing in ‘Cinetology’ about the movie, explains this ‘impression’ much better than I ever could.  He says:-    ‘The dramatic momentum in The King’s Speech flows far too fluidly for it to be bought in the context of historical veracity as anything other than “inspired by.” Hooper suavely and cleanly fulfils the dramatic rhythms required for interesting storytelling, a telltale sign that liberties have been taken, truth stretched. However, it’s a fool – or a person destined for disappointment upon disappointment – who measures individual scenes in recreations such as this against historical knowledge to determine artistic worthiness. Adapting a “true” story has never been about being faithful to facts, per se; the genius lies in taking fiction and finding ways to make it truthful. This often manifests in broad strokes and emotional messages, and The King’s Speech demonstrates its brilliance in these departments in a tent pole moment in which Firth’s character, a king cursed with a most undignified of afflictions, musters up the courage to articulate an all-important declaration of WWII address to the people of Britain. We feel the gravity of the moment, not for its external ramifications – talk of a war that led to the death of millions of people – but for its personal significance in the life of one man who simply managed to spit it out’.    So if you are a student of history, but don’t mind occasionally straying from the precise facts and details in order to try and bring that ‘history to life’, this movie is a must see. I’ve not yet come across anyone who was vigorously critical of it.

KingsSpeech  Meanwhile on the ABC television tonight, another fascinating episode of Q & A, and although at the time my mind was disturbingly on other matters involving one of my siblings and a family crisis up north [the details of which won’t be displayed in this forum], it was another interesting panel of guests facing the questions from a live studio audience. On the panel, we had John Pilger [journalist and author], Greg Sheridan [the ‘Australian newspaper’s foreign editor], Lydia Khalil [Middle East specialist], Craig Emersen [Federal Minister for Trade], and Helen Coonan [former Liberal Communications Minister]. I imagine that with Lydia on the panel,  quite a deal of discussion revolving around Egypt, Israel, etc, but in actual fact, from what I heard, 85% of the questions and subsequent debate & discussion [and argument I might say, particularly between Pilger & Sheridan, who should have been on the same side] involved the Wikileaks saga and their spokesman,  Julian Assange, and the rights and wrongs of all sides of that particular international ‘area’ of concern. Examples of a couple were:-

In the wake of charges of sexual assault being laid against Julian Assange, an incredible wave of misogynistic abuse was directed at Assange’s alleged victims by some supporters of Wikileaks. My question to the panel is, do you believe that, Julian Assange should be afforded heroic status and considered above reproach at the expense of affording appropriate weight to the investigation of serious allegations?  Or,

The Australian Government was quick to label Julian Assange a criminal despite the fact that he has not been charged with any crime and despite the fact that the information he released has been embarrassing at worst. Shouldn’t a government that is so fervently intent on bringing democracy to the middle east, practice what it preaches?

While apart from a couple of questions related to Egypt’s future and hopes for a peaceful outcome, it was inevitable that the following question concerning the controversy over a recent comment by Tony Abbott would be raised, viz,

While Tony Abbott’s “shit happens” comments could be construed in a number of different ways, what was the media’s role in making it the story that it is today? Was it a fair story and a real issue or was Tony Abbott under trial by media? Tony Abbott probably would have come out of that controversy looking much better had he responded in a different manner to the way he did when challenged by the Channel 7 reporters. General opinion on the panel pointed in that direction while not condemning T A of any wrong doing or disrespect towards our troops in Afghanistan. Similarly, even Greg Sheridan condemned the TV channel for their approach to the whole section, and I certainly agree with that view – very poor effort, once again, by the 7 network! 

A few brief points about each of last night’s panelists.

John Pilger, who grew up in Sydney, is known internationally as an unswerving opponent of tyranny and oppression and an articulate espouser of progressive causes. His enemies claims he exaggerates and distorts the facts to suit his political ends.  He has been a war correspondent, author and filmmaker. He is one of only two people to win British journalism’s highest award twice. He has been International reporter of the Year and winner of the United Nations Association Peace Prize and Gold Medal. For his broadcasting, he has won France’s Reporter Sans Frontieres and Academy Awards in both Britain and America. His first film, The Quiet Mutiny, made in 1970, revealed the rebellion within the US Army in Vietnam that led to its withdrawal. His 1979 documentary, Cambodia Year Zero, revealed the horrors of the Pol Pot regime. His new film, The War You Don’t See, shown on TV and in cinemas in the UK in December, will soon be released in Australia. He is the author of numerous best-selling books, including Heroes and A Secret Country, a history of Australia. In 2003 he received the prestigious Sophie Prize for ‘thirty years of exposing deception and improving human rights’. In 2009 he was the recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize. Recently John has become a leading supporter of Wikileak’s founder Julian Assange and has contributed to his legal defence on sexual assault charges.\

Lydia Khalil has spent her career focusing on the intersection between governance and security — whether it be understanding the rationales behind terrorism and counterinsurgency, how to create governance systems that lead to functioning societies or the effects of youth and technological change that inevitably impact every generation. Lydia focuses on the Middle East and the Arab world, and her current research examines how the rise of Middle Eastern youth will clash with the traditional power structures of the region.  In her early twenties Lydia was appointed to the White House Office of Homeland Security as a graduate fellow. A year later, she served as a policy advisor for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from 2003-2004, where she worked closely with Iraqi officials on political negotiations and constitutional drafting. Since then, she has been a counterterrorism analyst for the New York Police Department, and currently holds numerous positions including her work as an International Affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior policy associate to the Project on Middle East Democracy.

Greg Sheridan is The Australian newspaper’s foreign editor and is one of Australia’s most respected and influential analysts of foreign affairs. Growing up in Sydney, Greg graduated from Sydney University with an arts degree in 1977 and was an active participant in the student politics of the time, along with future high-profile Liberals Tony Abbott and Peter Costello.  He began his journalistic career 30 years ago with The Bulletin, and his coverage of Vietnamese refugee stories in the period after the Vietnam War sparked a lifelong interest in Asia and regional politics. He joined The Australian in 1984 and worked in Beijing, Washington and Canberra before returning to Sydney as foreign editor in 1992. Greg knows the structures and societies of Australia’s neighbours intimately and has interviewed prime ministers and presidents in Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and many other countries.  He is also a keen observer of US international affairs and is on close terms with senior figures in Washington. Greg is the author of several books on Asia and Australia’s role in the region.

Craig Emerson has represented the seat of Rankin, in outer suburban Brisbane, since 1998. Minister for Trade and a member of the Gillard Cabinet, Craig is regarded as one of the Government’s most innovative policy thinkers. Born in Baradine, NSW, in 1954, Craig studied economics at Sydney University and then completed a PhD in the subject at the Australian National University in Canberra.
 He has extensive experience in government at both the State and Federal levels. From 1986-90 he was economics adviser to Prime Minister Bob Hawke, and subsequently he was senior policy adviser to Queensland Premier Wayne Goss. Other positions he has held include CEO of the South-East Queensland Transit Authority; Director-General of the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage; and Assistant Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Craig has a deep policy interest in such areas as innovation, deregulation and ecologically sustainable development. He has written widely on challenging policy issues and on securing a prosperous future for Australia. His other interests include rugby league, volleyball and playing the guitar.

Helen Coonan entered the Senate at the 1996 election that brought the coalition to power under John Howard, and eventually became that government’s most senior female office-holder. Born in the NSW town of Mangoplah in 1947, Helen attended boarding school in Wagga Wagga before moving to the University of Sydney to complete her law degree. She then embarked on a diverse legal career that included starting her own legal firm, becoming a partner in a large commercial law firm an working as a commercial barrister.  She also practised as a registered attorney in New York for a large firm specialising in the entertainment industry, working for such clients as the New York City Ballet and making legal arrangements for Bruce Springsteen’s first tour of Australia. Following her election to the Senate Helen was promoted to the front bench after the 2001 election, when she became Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer. In 2004 she was promoted to the Cabinet as Minister for Communications and the Arts, a post she held until the Howard government lost office in 2007. In Opposition Helen was shadow minister for human services, foreign affairs and finance before deciding to leave the front bench when Malcolm Turnbull was defeated as Opposition Leader and replaced by Tony Abbott in December last year.

As for the more personal issues of the night, involving one of my sibling, well I came out of the cinema on a high from the movie I’d just watched, to find three messages from other siblings for me to contact them, regarding the circumstances surrounding a 4th sibling!! I have to say, that left this writer feeling somewhat distressed for the rest of the evening, though I did manage a touch of amusement at the conclusion of Q & A, where a pre-recorded question involved a young man proposing to his girl, on camera!  A nice little Valentine’s Day touch, even if something I’d never do!!

Also learnt via Facebook, that son Adam, was moving out of home [again] – my wife’s family home. It had been intended that he and live in girlfriend would move out together – but apparently, she is staying behind for the time being, and Adam is on the move!  Shirley found out about the move from the girlfriend!!!  The ways of the young!!

Today is Tuesday  –  that all happened on Monday!! What will today bring??




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