Tuesday, 27 December 2011

As I Please: The Williamson Moment, The Maggie Movie, The Ashes Of '011, The Beresford Fireworks Party, The Thatcher-Kristin Comparison, The Wikileaks Admonition, The Beresford Intervention, The New York Production, The Onion Sandwich At Wayne's, The Reading List, The Marples Distraction, The Guilt Of Gabriel Byrne, The Voting Trends Thus Far, Williamson The Liberal, The Popjie Intervention, Applause, Applause, And So It Goes

Saw The Iron Lady and wrote about it for Unleashed a piece they may not want and I'll put up here if they reject it. The short summary is two great performances in a film unworthy of them, sluggishly confected by two dull women with much more interest in dementia than politics, and no interest whatever, it seems, in how Thatcher changed, and pretty much wrecked, the western world.
On Thursday morning I became aware that Kristin Williamson had fingered me again as a sad, lonely, jealous, friendless failure and bade me get off the earth in her usual regal proud magnanimous way, and had foolishly done so in these pages, whose only editor is me. I had some green tea and Vegemite toast and a think, and after some vacillation decided to exhume our old sexual relationship, and a theory about her attitude I got from it, one chill, horny night in Diamond Creek.
It's in the correspondence under Tall Poppies.
I may also publish the missing Ellis-Brooksbank-Williamson letters from Days Of Wine And Rage that Kristin had suppressed.
It could be an interesting summer.
Saturday, 31st December, 2011
No correspondence yet from anyone who liked Nothing Personal and no more from the Williamsons. It's possible they will now do nothing but they could sue, I suppose, and strive to take the house. This is Annie's great fear, and my son Jack, who's a lawyer, pointms out how much Marieke Hardy had to pay for a wrong accusation that was up for only one hour on her blog and named the wrong male pest as her hate-bloggker and had to withdraw, apologize and fling sheaves of money at him. It's a new world. And not a brave one.
The difficulty David and Kristin risk in all this is contained in what she wrote about me in her book and in her recent ballistic reply, and what I wrote about her in mine that Penguin asked me to take out. It wasn't libellous but would make her 'uncomfortable', the editor said. Maybe it should be reprinted.
Here, say.
Their technique has been remarkably successful to date: just say 'You're jealous of our success, just look at the money we're making by writing plays that people want to see' and watch the befuddled critics crawl backwards out of the room. And for decades the critics have done so. It's worked very well.
But they've never acknowledged, not even for a minute, the part that timing had in their success, as it did in the life of Andrew Lloyd Webber, turning up with Jesus Christ Superstar just when the sixties youth culture was heating up to its clitoral climax and the censorship of the stage (forbidding dramatisations of Christ in the theatre, and nudity, and coarse language, and impertinent political comment) was being lifted at last in England and America.
In David's case it was the arrival of Don's Party a few months before Whitlam was uproariously elected, which made him overnight the limelit laureate of that particular eloquent, colourful, poignant, passionate era.
But had he done it a year later, and had John Doyle, for instance, come up with his Changi musical, or some early draft of Pig Iron People in the same big year, 1972, it would then have been John not David who became the flagship comedy-dramatist of the decade and the bankable brand-name of the nineteen-eighties, and it would then have been David who was writing Certain Women and A Country Practice, as Annie my wife did, and I did for a while, and stifling under the storylines. And it would have been John who was having glamorous opening nights at the Opera House and the West End. And deservedly so, because he is, as we all now know, the better writer.
But the ongoing Kristin Doctrine of Williamson Exceptionalism (other people also write good dialogue and raise laughs in plays that succeed but we are exceptional, chosen, apart from the common herd in a somehow royal, somehow predestined way) has an alluring touch to it -- of magical realism, of pixie-dust and rainbow's ends and wishes made on a star -- that has drawn too many female interviewers into the Legend that, until now, has been the scenario.
If you say you're the best, and you imply you have a particular gift for something or other -- Baz Luhrman comes to mind in this context, Stephan Elliot, Benedict Andrews, Barry Kosky, Alan Jones, Kyle Sandilands -- there will always be a few dull tycoons out there somewhere, and a few fearful bureaucrats in government boardrooms, to admire your impertinence and fund it, and often, not always, a large unlettered audience to reward you. Kristin to her credit understood this. But she did not reckon on the Legend outstaying its welcome, which it has.
These anyway are a few drear midnight thoughts on my seventieth New Year's Eve to heaven that may guide and shape and sweeten the days and days and days of Kristin ruckus that is to come.
A green tea, I think, and bed.
2.05 pm
It was David not Kristin that came back again to these columns, to correct and embellish a few 'facts' about his and Kristin's money, mentioning no amounts and not denying the sex or Kristin's part in his writing, and perhaps unwisely libelling me by saying my 'vitriolic attacks' on Kristin are because she doesn't treat me with the 'reverence' I think I deserve from 'the opposite sex'; though I never sue; I never sue.
But he's wrong, really wrong, about why I'm doing this. It's actually about good table manners, in the end, in table talk like this. For I would respond to Kristin's apparent guiding belief that all criticism of her and David is somehow a breach of royal protocol with the same splenetic annoyance if she and I were still committing adultery together; and I would by God resent, and resent in public, as I do here, her lofty disdain for better talents than David if we were still the threesome we briefly and brashly and lustily were in September 1974.
David says in his letter he will do now what I suggested a week ago, put money via the Writers' Guild into the upkeep and care of new playwrights. He hasn't said how much, and he emphasises it was all there in the pipeline before I suggested it, and it will start, a happy coincidence, next year; and whatever the sum it turns out to be for this good work it will be welcome.
He also reminds me, correctly, of some of his past kindnesses to me and Annie: of the money he put into my run against Bronwyn Bishop (a thousand dollars, Annie recalls, a sum only Peter Garrett equalled and no-one bettered) in late1993, and of the money he gave us, the total I don't remember, when our house burned down a few months before; and I thank him now of course without caveats for his generosity twice in that far-off calendar year. And I in turn, of course, can also remember, not that it matters, how twenty years before that I helped make Maggie Fink fund the Removalist film, and with O'Malley helped create the theatre, the Nimrod, and the director, John Bell, that launched his career in Sydney.
We have had our ups and downs, as Eleanor of Aquitaine coldly jested in The Lion In Winter. He praised Down Under and A Very Good Year. I praised Petersen, Phar Lap and Duet For Four and bagged Gallipoli, and he sued me for it. We travelled in Bali together, quarrelled in foyers, saw the same great British theatre, got drunk in Chinese restaurants and shared a few girls, or I think we did; two for certain. He mocked me so accurately in Celluloid Heroes that Graham Blundell was excised from the Ellis role in the Belvoir production lest I note the close resemblance and sue them for it. I so esteemed Dead White Males I saw it four times and commanded my grumbling family to it. He said I was 'unequalled as a rhetorician in the Australian context', high praise for him. We were civil at writers' festivals. We never shared a bed again. We exchanged affectionate letters. I really liked Face To Face. My review of it was never published. We planned once to write a musical together but Kristin, territorial as ever, put a quick stop to that.
Kristin is like that. She defends her patch with ferocity, and any intruders are soon cast out of partnership with her meek and sorrowing tall obedient consort. Like Margaret Thatcher or Bronwyn Bishop she believes the past can be removed from a nation's brain cells if a tough bright girl just has the will to say 'it never happened' or 'how dare you bring that up, it was a long time ago.' David has caught the disease of denial, and in his latest response now says, in effect, 'I know I can't write, of course I can't write, but I must be paid millions for failing to do it. I think this is only fair.'
But the pigeons are coming home to roost in the eves of elden memory and it's time perhaps he revealed how much he lately paid resurging litigants, and how much of its wording had to be changed or abolished for legal reasons before Kristin's memoir was printed last year, if the Penguin rumours are true; and how happy he was in the end with a book that aired so many of their marital difficulties and cast him as an adulterous goof and her as a loyal wife who only took lovers when exasperated by the number, frequency and foolishness of his, a book he said in interviews he had begged her not to write. And if her decision to do no more writing is connected to this.
And it's time he said -- though of course it makes no matter in a legal sense -- what sort of work she did on plays like Sons of Cain and Corporate Vibes and Top Silk and Nothing Personal which seem to some to more echo her voice and style than, say, Don's Party, The Club or The Department and if she will get a credit in future (like, say, 'With Kristin Williamson') for the research work she occasionally does for her hardscribbling spouse, if this indeed is the case. When she told my wife in 1974 how lucky she was that I let her put her name on plays that we wrote collaboratively, David was preparing, or conceiving, or working on A Handful Of Friends and this could be added to the list of their joint projects if the theory is true.
There are always two names on the plays and screenplays I co-write. It halves my income from each of these projects but I think it only fair.
Sunday, January 1st, 2012, 7.53 am
Went with difficulty to Beresford's fireworks party in the house he bought from the Williamsons by the water in Birchgrove, walking for fifty minutes from a blocked-off Darling Street and sharing my map with other pilgrims enthused by water and fire and the turning of the year as I to their surprise was not.
The first thing Bruce said at the door was 'The Williamsons aren't coming'. We agreed it was a pity.
The guests who made it through the policing and watched on the verandah the great flowering of beauty above the Bridge included John Duigan, whose new movie Careless Love is terrific and reviwed in these pages, and who may or may not direct in partnership with Bruce, if we can fix it, our Murdoch miniseries; his sister Virginia Duigan, Bruce's wife, whose novel The Precipice, lately launched by Barry Humphries, Annie says is really good; the cinematographer Don McAlpine who shot Breaker Morant and Driving Miss Daisy, now in his middle seventies and shooting 'a science fiction film' in New Orleans; the playwright-academic Larry Buttrose who is unabashedly still at work on his vast and punishing Don Quixote Project; the American-born actor and writer Nicholas Hammond who was one of the children in The Sound Of Music and lately played Arthur Miller in Intimate Strangers in the reading Bruce directed at the Wharf; and his partner Robyn Nevin, content she said to be touring in the Doll at 69 (she is six months younger than me) as it meant she was 'still working'.
She wasn't pleased I was fighting, again, with the Williamsons -- 'Still at it are you, darling?' -- but agreed I think with my dim view of Nothing Personal, though Beresford liked it a lot. 'It was my idea,' she said. 'I was up at Pearl Beach at a lunch with some semi-retired arts bureaucrats and I looked around the table and thought a play about people who were losing their influence in the world, and how this affected them, would be a good thing to do. And I soon asked David to write it. And he did. And it wasn't what I wanted at all.'
'And you rejected it?'
'Yes. Yes, I did.'
'Have you seen this production?'
'No. No. I haven't.'
She'd directed Corporate Vibes, of course, and may not have liked the experience.
And the fireworks banged and crackled and bloomed and faded above the Opera House and the Bridge and the dark, boat-bobbing water.
David and Kristin would have loved to have seen this from the old verandah, I thought.
But not, perhaps, tonight.
11.55 am
This blog racked up 1196 hits on Friday-Saturday and 1154 on Saturday-Sunday not counting my own interventions and on these figures, I am told, it just might attract some advertising, from cinemas and theatres, for instance.
Not, I would think, from the Ensemble for a while.
Kristin's resemblance to Margaret Thatcher is worth brooding on. She lacks the whisky component, but other qualities are similar; the David-Denis comparison merits attention also.
I will ponder this more closely.
6.45 pm
Beresford has written in defending Nothing Personal under my piece about boat people and constitutes, thus far, the Williamsons' only advocate in these pages.
It may not prove a breach between us, the first in fifty-one years of acquaintanceship, friendship and collaboration early and late, but then again it may.
And so it goes.
11.50  pm
The hits on this blog this New Year's Day look like totalling more than two thousand; proving, I guess, that the lovers' quarrels of even septuagenarians draw audiences when honour's at the stake (in Hamlet's words) and the arguments well put.
Or it may be that the Williamsons' world is one of corporate secrets hidden for generations from prying eyes and this is the world of wikileaks where everything soon gets known by everybody.
Let's see what the morrow brings.
Monday, January 2nd, 2012
7.25 am
My co-writer Denny Lawrence emailed while I was asleep that there will be a staged reading in New York of our Olivier-Monroe-Miller-Leigh-Coward play Intimate Strangers to scare up backers for a full production Off-Broadway this year. The Curtis-Branagh film on Monroe and Olivier has at last alerted interest in the bleeding obvious and the excellent script, praised alike by Bell, Carr, Collins, Williams, Beresford, Nevin, Forsythe, Ralston Saul, Al Clark and Greta Scacchi, and rejected, of course, by the Ensemble three years ago, who preferred the work of the Williamsons.
Twelve years in the writing, during which our audience died, and three years in the waiting after the economic downturn hobbled its first, fresh London hopes, the touring New York version and a proposed new West End one with Barry Humphries as Noel Coward may fund some part, I guess, of my extreme old age, now imminent, and show the world at last some measure of the Williamson Effect, which is to stop good work getting on in significant Australian theatres, and interrupting careers that might have else brought joy to many audiences.
Andrew Upton has for three years refused to read it, saying 'I'm just so busy'.
9.40 am
Went to Wayne's for an onion sandwich, a Vegemite sandwich, a peanut butter sandwich, a Coke and a latte and a brisk walk round the block and began to wonder if I should sell now from this address the DVD we did of Beresford's reading --- with Muldoon, Heather Mitchell, Amanda Bishop, Nicholas Hammond, Terry Clark and Patrick Brammall as Olivier, Leigh, Monroe, Miller, Coward and Tarquin Olivier -- of Intimate Strangers for five dollars each; or four. It might convince some theatre managements of its superiority to Nothing Personal and Dog's Head Bay and encourage them to put it on in my lifetime and make me a few spare millions; but you never know.
Best, I think, to do a few more readings with that fine cast and then sell shares in it. The Olivier-Monroe market is hot for a few weeks and we should move now.
And so it goes.
2.15 pm
A biscuit and a latte at the Bookoccino after going for half an hour to The Skin I Live In which seems to be rubbish, and a look at what the politicians are reading over the summer (Shorten Richard Mahony, Mawson, and After America; Swanny Keynes/Hayek, Kissinger on China, and Keith Richard's Life; Rudd The Tyrannicide Brief, Ruby Blues, Civilisation, and Why The West Rules -- For Now; Penny Wong some baby books and There Goes The Neighbourhood, and Gillard of course Tony Bilson's 'culinary memoir' whilst curled up front of her role model Miss Marple wittering and solving things on the television) and listing in my mind, for what it's worth, what I am also reading.
Niall Ferguson's Empire; Peter Ackroyd's The History Of England: Foundation; Eric Lax's The Mold In Dr. Florey's Coat; Wodehouse's Carry On, Jeeves for the eighth time; Hitchens' Unacknowledged Legislation for the second; David Marr's Panic; W.H. Auden's Prose, Volume IV; Arthur Miller's Echoes Down The Corridor; Thomas Harris's The Fear Index; Ian Kershaw's The End: Hitler's Germany, 1944-45; and, if I can get them, Fred Raphael's Letters 1978-79 and Hugh Trevor-Roper's wartime diaries.
It is a little amazing to me that the Prime Minister has not yet read her first book on Asian or European or Middle Eastern or American affairs; or any novel on any subject whatsoever since high school; but who am I to criticise our Blameless Leader In This Time Of Enormous Global Challenge for such a tiny oversight. No doubt there will be someone in the office to tell her what to think; what to think, say, when Gaza is next bombed to smithereens, on January the tenth or so, I am told, and to write the pro-Israel speech and coach her through its delivery; the one that says that like 007 Israel is licensed to kill, and kill in particular children 'in self-defence', on any Christmas holiday of their choosing, and that will be that: only a few dozen immolated schoolkids, Prime Minister, who will miss them, only their immediate family, only people unapprised of the big picture; people much like, well, you, Prime Minister.
But, hell, by then Miss Marple will have solved nine Home County homicides; and that, of course, is what matters.
3.05 pm
No defence but Beresford's yet of Nothing Personal in the fifteen days since I called it a sort of war crime. Perhaps the North Shore audience is uncertain about it.
I ask them to speak up, if they will, and say why they liked it so much. And anyone who detested Intimate Strangers, of course, when it was on, and why they found it so bad, boring and feeble-minded.
I invite contributions.
9.30 pm
Watched four episodes of In Treatment marvelling at the dialogue and the performance in particular of Mia Wasikowska, then seventeen, and the subtle, shaded reactions of Gabriel Byrne, the guilt-smitten psychologist, who can hint aggression, lust and moral fury better than almost any living Irishman other than Peter O'Toole. The  blog hits for today are now 2,501 in only eleven hours, not counting mine, and should top three thousand by this long night's journey's end. Would Kristin Williamson call this a 'success'? I doubt it.
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012
8.50 am
A good exchange with a Liberal-voting fool who seems to be a Williamson friend in the columns below this entry.
It would be interesting to track the Williamson audience from Labor in 1972 through Democrat in 1985 to Liberal now. It has nothing to do with his politics I think, just the social circles which he, an Engineering graduate resident in Coastal Queensland, grew more familiar with.
And so it goes.
11.40 am. The final figures for yesterday now in: 3,978. Tendulkar already in.
4.45 pm
India's innings a debacle. How foolish it is to bowl so well. It loses the SCG millions, and saddens a billion batting enthusiasts, here and on the Subcontinent.
The more I think about Thatcher and Kristin the more appropriate the comparison seems. Will-power. Gorgeous legs. Lofty flirtatiousness. Implacability. I suspect Maggie too would have been terrigic in bed.
Is 'terrific in bed' libellous? Under the Higgins Rules, probably.
It could be seen to imply the woman was 'unchaste'.
What a proud Sustralian coinage.
11.25 pm
A very funny send-up of all this by Ben Popjie on his blog shows good writing did not end when Rodney Cavalier by ministerial fiat abolished good spelling.
It should go in any future update of Dwight MacDonald's classic collection, Parodies.


At 27 December 2011 at 23:55 , Blogger Doug Quixote said...

Thatcher and Reagan; her with dementia, him with Alzheimer's, and one wonders how far back these things really do extend. They may be diagnosed only as the affected person reaches an advanced age; but can medical science assure us that the affected person did not have sub-clinical effects, fifteen or twenty years previously?

I have blogged, only half facetiously, that our ex-boxer has pre-Alzheimer's; it might help explain some of his behaviour, such as the 22 seconds of silence.

[A less charitable view would be that he was sorting through several possible lies and found none of them sufficiently exculpatory, and the truth (heaven forfend!) wouldn't serve at all.]

Reagan and his Reaganomics, tax cuts for the wealthy, Laffer curve, and trickle down shit, Thatcher and her me-tooism; as you say she changed, and pretty much wrecked, the western world. But she had plenty of mates. They still seem to run the narrative, though there are signs of change recently.

But did it all stem from Alzheimer's/dementia??

At 28 December 2011 at 00:12 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

The film suggests it was more to with whisky -- and being, in a man's world, self-compelled to seem the ballsiest guy in the smoking-room. Thatcher gave no ministries to women; she understood the first Queen Bess's flirtatious, cock-teasing power only worked when there were no other women in the room to compare her with and she emulated it with a courtesan's flair. Several ministers were besotted by her. Or they were until she was so far gone with drink, and drunken insult, they strove to be rid of her.

The film gets a good deal of that. But the better film, Margaret, starring Lindsay Duncan, should be seen to learn how the story can be better told.

I hope they put my review up.

But you never know.

At 28 December 2011 at 00:41 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've blogged about the supposed epidemic of sleep deprivation among the youth before and I enjoyed reading that one on the drum. As always though, I'm not sure how accurate you are. Some of us (I'm 24) may be out there killing ourselves with lack of sleep, but surely it's voluntary for most of us. You don't have to party all the time, or be up working late, there's always a choice. Unless you're a doctor, nurse, police officer, parent of young children, etc, or an idiot who buys into the workplace culture of "being seen" to put in the hours all the time to look good to their bosses (but that's a choice). Although I'm lucky in that my job performance is easily measurable, and my bosses are good. Others aren't so fortunate.

Certainly I can't function properly without at least 7 hours sleep a night, usually I get 8. It's worth missing the occasional social event/ducking out a little early in order to be fit for work.

As for the Iron Lady, I'm looking forward to seeing it this weekend, even though it seems to, as you said, focus less on the politics and what Thatcher meant for the UK/the West.

Doug Quixote, as much as I'm leery of having Tony Abbott in charge, I doubt he boxed enough to damage his brain too badly. Dementia pugilistica usually only affects professionals, but you never know....


At 28 December 2011 at 01:44 , Blogger Intolerable Tim said...


I was at the 'G enjoying the game. Tendulkar looked indestructible, his bat as big as a 2 x 4. And I left the ground at 5:20, and he was out at 5:55pm to Siddle, who mostly bowls line and length with little to no movement.

Today was terrific, the two men that we all think ought to be dropped making the only runs. The top four batsmen succumbing to balls that were nothing special at all. Sharma's dismissal of Clarke was a bloody good delivery.

Why doesn't Clarke bat at 3? Gutless, comrade, protecting himself.

This deserves a column in and of itself.

At 28 December 2011 at 03:31 , Blogger Doug Quixote said...

To Alistair :

"Detailed neuropsychological testing can reveal mild cognitive difficulties up to eight years before a person fulfills the clinical criteria for diagnosis of AD. These early symptoms can affect the most complex daily living activities. The most noticeable deficit is memory loss, which shows up as difficulty in remembering recently learned facts and inability to acquire new information."

"Subtle problems with the executive functions of attentiveness, planning, flexibility, and abstract thinking, or impairments in semantic memory (memory of meanings, and concept relationships) can also be symptomatic of the early stages of AD."

Sound like anyone we know? As for dementia pugilistica " only affects professionals", we may suppose that the disease is not actually constrained by the rules of amateur status, but by the number of hits taken. A poor amateur boxer would perhaps suffer rather more than a good professional.

At 28 December 2011 at 05:12 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doug, I said that dementia pugulistica USUALLY only affects pros, not exclusively. Here's why it's far less likely to affect amateurs:

In the UK and Australia, amateur boxing matches consist of 3x or 4x two minute rounds, sometimes three minute rounds by special arrangement. The fighters wear headgear for protection and hits are disqualified unless a certain marked area of the glove makes contact. The referee has much greater scope to stop the fight than in a pro bout.

In contrast, professional boxing has up to 12 three minute rounds, no headgear permitted and less restrictions on the area of the gloves allowed to make contact. With pro boxers being much more skilled than amateurs, it follows that they will hit harder.

Also if you've ever boxed or watched much boxing, you'd know that you get hit, a lot, regardless of skill level. Even while blocking/guarding and deflecting punches there's still a decent amount of force transmitted to the head.

From what I've been able to find out, the incidence of dp in amateurs is very small. One swedish study contradicts this, but it only had a sample size of 14 amateur boxers, no basis for comparison to pros and none of them actually developed mental illness in the 10 year period of study, some of them just "presented increased levels of markers for neuronal, axonal and astroglial injury'

I get that you dislike Tony Abbott, but I doubt he's mentally ill.


At 28 December 2011 at 16:43 , Blogger Doug Quixote said...

Dear Alistair,

Thanks for the lecture/sermon. There is a substantial and growing school of thought that any blows to the head are detrimental, and whilst some of us may have braincells to spare, others do not.

But please look up the meaning of the word 'facetious', for it applies to all my posts on the subject of Tony Abbott. Long may he be Leader of the Opposition : ten years would be good.

At 28 December 2011 at 17:09 , Blogger Doug Quixote said...

To Bob :

I've just read the exchanges between you, David and Kristin elsewhere on this blog. Kristin's prose is definitely better than David's, if not a match for yours. But a little circumspection may be advisable - Hell hath no fury . . . and all that.

Saturday's party should be fun; I wish I could be there!

At 28 December 2011 at 17:28 , Blogger Helvi said...

Bob, I found your efforts on father/sons bonding most amusing...a bit late in the life tho, don't you think.
Waiting for your Iron Lady critique to appear on the Drum today...going to see the movie tonight anyhow.

At 29 December 2011 at 01:34 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

No worries Doug, lecture comes not from a desire to defend TA, but from a love of boxing.

At 29 December 2011 at 12:29 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

To Doug Quixote,

You could be right about circumspection. With the Williamsons and me it's always uncharted territory: here there be Kristins. Her book, which leaves out most of their widely adventuring sexual life, is like the famed Kenneth Galbraith phrase 'the conventional wisdom': she admits to a brief reluctant experiment with adultery, because David was doing it, and then agrees with her presumed readership that it was a bad, bad idea and she will not do it again. As I recall it, she was keener than that, and, by her own pillow-talk anecdotes, more frequent. Adultery after all was what, in a big move, acquired David, and all the glory that followed.

The serious question that arises here is false advertising. Her allegedly tell-all memoir-biography is more like a politician's press-release, with a lot of the crucial past air-brushed, restructured and re-imagined to fit the legend, the more acceptable narrative, the conventional wisdom. And yet it is sold as the unflinching keyhole truth. Is this a crime under the Act? Does any reader know?

At 29 December 2011 at 13:33 , Blogger Intolerable Tim said...

It's no crime to lie, Comrade, unless under oath in court.

And if it told the truth it may not have been a memoir.

We must discuss this by email in the context of Richard Nixon.


At 29 December 2011 at 20:25 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

No, no, is it false advertising?

Is false advertising a crime?

At 29 December 2011 at 20:29 , Blogger Intolerable Tim said...


False advertising is wrongly describing a product. If the product is wrong in and of itself- which you say it is- then that is a different issue. But not false advertising.

Sorry to return to my lawyer pedant roots.

At 29 December 2011 at 20:36 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...


We must gaol her, comrade, somehow.

At 29 December 2011 at 22:48 , Blogger Doug Quixote said...

If it was illegal to "mishandle the truth" in memoirs, the gaols would be full to the brim.

Hey! I've got an idea for a new law . . .

At 29 December 2011 at 23:00 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Not autobiographies, biographies.

It's called David Williamson: Behind The Scenes.

At 31 December 2011 at 16:36 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Sorry, I meant 'not memoirs' biographies.'

At 31 December 2011 at 18:06 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Sorry, sorry.

'Not memoirs, biographies.'

At 1 January 2012 at 22:56 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

I was told on Saturday night a terrible story. That Andrew Upton told David Williamson TO HIS FACE in a formal meeting in Upton's office that the STC would never again put on a Williamson play because his kind of theteatre was past it.

The thought I would guess was not too remarkable or unvommon that year in Sydney but to his face?


At 2 January 2012 at 07:14 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Sorry, that last paragraph should read: 'The thought, I would guess, was not too remarkable or uncommon that year in Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide, but to say it to his face?


At 2 January 2012 at 08:56 , Blogger Shantytown said...

You have talent, Bob, and don't let jilted lovers tell you otherwise.

But what makes you ultimately unreadable is your tendency to veer wildly off the freeway you were coasting down so magnificently, and start thrashing through the bush on the side of the road in panting pursuit of god knows what.

To claim that Williamson's success is due to this timing and that fortuitous turn of events is a bit sad. Indeed, if my grandmother had balls she'd be my grandfather.

You can't let yourself go through life thinking what could have been, what should have been, if only; how the winds of fortune blew over your own eminently deserving head and whisked away a lucky little bugger instead.

This sad little elegy for shattered dreams and thwarted ambition was topped only by your not unsurprising little Gillard-Israel epileptic fit.
Once possessed, your pen starts to rattle violently and incoherently and us poor readers are left to make sense of things like "the [speech] that says that like 007 Israel is licensed to kill, and kill in particular children 'in self-defence'".
Yes, Bob, of course.

I for one enjoy your writing. It's never too late to turn around your fortunes, look pass past rivalries, obsessions and hatred, and take control of your life once more.

Cheers and have a happy new year.

At 2 January 2012 at 12:35 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Unreadable you say, but one you always enjoy reading. If only I left out the content I'd be then, what, readable? You must strive to discover in the years you have left what these adjectives mean.

'Unreadable' means something you could not finish reading. 'Enjoyable' means something you did finish. it can be one but not both.

The word you are probably striving too form in your mouth is 'arguable' or 'controversial' or 'contrary' or 'anti-Israel' or 'anti-war'. Or, if you think killing children should not be mentioned, 'unduly Christian' or 'unduly humanist' or 'unacceptably pro-children'. Or, if you think killing children is a good thing, 'anti-post-natal-abortion-by-necessary-air-raid-in-self-defence'.

It puzzles me why the mention of the children our side is soon to kill, on, or around, January 20, is 'ultimately unreadable'.

Got your attention now, haven't I?

Please explain your fascist opinions.

I will read every word.

At 2 January 2012 at 12:36 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Sorry, 'on or around January 10'.

At 2 January 2012 at 13:04 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

And, oh yes, I don't go through life imagining what might have been, but I do so now and then. What if my sister had not been killed at 22 and had married, as she was asked to, Doug Anthony. What if our house had not burned down and all our home movies of the children's childhood not been lost. What if the children who miscarried had come to term. What they might have looked like, and made, like their siblings, of their one life on earth.

You think it's wrong of me to do this, do you, unacceptable and 'unreadable' in some way. You're still reading, though, aren't you?

So you think it's wrong to examine the past, and imagine what might have happened if, say, Hitler had died on the Western Front from a bullet fired by Anthony Eden who was for two months only a hundred yards from him.
Wrong to do that, you say. Wrong to do what is known in many cultures as 'thinking'.

It's interesting how close you seem to fit what we know of 'the fascist type'. What happened was necessary. Millions must be sacrificed for the cause. The Leader knows what we must endure, and we must yield to his Will. We must not ever think of historical alternatives. This is our Fate.

But you will not have read this far a writer so unreadable.

Sleep well,'old friend, when next you sleep.

KnowmI am thinking of you.

At 2 January 2012 at 13:19 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Sorry for the typos, I 'll do the last bit again.

It's interesting how close you fit what is known as 'the fascist type.' What happened was necessary. Millions must be sacrificed for the Cause. The Leader knows what we must endure, and we must submit to his Will. We must not ever think of historical alternatives. This is our Fate. What is, is. Imagination is troubling to the sleep of the Warrior. Let be.

But you will not have read this far a writer so unreadable.

Sleep well, old friend, when next you sleep.

Know I am thinking of you.

At 2 January 2012 at 14:10 , Blogger Shantytown said...

Bob, Bob, Bob.

It seems the 'unreadable' comment struck a raw nerve. I apologize; I should have been more clear.

You have a lovely writing style, but you sometimes apply that style and harness it to incoherent rage (and in this case, envy) to produce unreadable rubbish. I'm sorry if I return now and again to see if you've laid off the invective a bit and allowed for your talent to come through uncrippled by the burden it usually has to carry.

To return to your other points.
No one is saying to never reflect on the past and wonder what could have been— and I doubt that you seriously thought that's what I was saying, but I'll let it pass for now.

What I was saying is: if you wish to challenge Williamson's standing, do so by continuing to critique his work and hold him up to the harsh light of public scrutiny. If you wish to demonstrate in this petty my-weiner-is-bigger-than-yours fight (which I also find enjoyable, voyeur that I am) that you are truly the more well-endowed one, than produce better work, write better stuff, show us what you've got.

What I find objectionable is when you slump in the corner and sniff "well, I COULD have done better, but fortune favoured the undeserving". Please. If you wish to draw yourself to the height of another, pick yourself up; do not push them down.
How you get from here to examining the theoretical implications of Hitler's early demise is, again, the work of a man who impulsively veers of the highway and starts blundering over the rough.

Also, Bob, it's the second time you mentioned some child-killing spree Israel has lined up for January 10. Care to elaborate?

And I am not a fascist. I never sue but I ask that you retract.

At 2 January 2012 at 16:00 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

No, I have never said I was a better playwright than David since I have never written a play unaided and the comparison is improper.

I have said that John Doyle is a better playwright, Janis Balodis, Nick Enright, Steven Sewell, Ron Elisha, Hannie Rayson and Peter Kenna and that better drama has been written than David's best by Tom Keneally, Ray Lawler, Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, Jim McNeil, Geoffrey Atherton, John Powers, John Dingwall, John Waters, John Romeril, the young authoress whose name eludes me of The Will and the writer/songwriter whose name I cannot find of King Of Country. You will note I did not put Alex Buzo or Jack Hibberd in either list although they were/are old friends.

Your allegation therefore that I am striving to say my weiner is bigger than his, when both of us know what the answer is, is libellous and I never sue.

Your saying that you never said what you said invites the question of why you said it when you didn't apparently, mean it and your overall truthfulness as a human being.

The question is, and will ever be in spite of your confused allegations, whether David deserves to be rewarded more than the thirteen or so other stage writers who are plainly on occasions better than him at his best.

You say he should.

Again I ask: why?

At 2 January 2012 at 20:18 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

I should add to that list Our Country's Good, a play by Timberlake Wertembaker from Tom Keneally's novel The Playmaker, set in Sydney in 1788 and as good as a play by Shakespeare.

I assume Wertembaker is English but it counts in my view as an Australian play.

And Louis Esson's The Time Is Not Yet Ripe, which is as good as Pygmalion.

At 2 January 2012 at 21:29 , Blogger Shantytown said...

I'm glad we've cleared this all up like adults; my truthfulness as a human being is questionable, and I am lucky to esacpe a libel suit.

One more thing. You mentioned some child-killing spree Israel has lined up for January 10. Care to elaborate?

I would like to see how human truthfulness and non-libelous assertions work. Ta.

At 2 January 2012 at 21:36 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

It's a guess, based on recent Israeli statements and what happened in the days before Obama was sworn in.'An attackmon Gaza in which, as always, children die.

Approve of this sort of thing, do you?

Say why.

At 2 January 2012 at 21:37 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

I invite David to settle the weiner question.

As I recall it, there was not much in it.

At 2 January 2012 at 21:39 , Blogger Shantytown said...

Sorry. Was going to avoid the whole Williamson issue since I don't really give a flying 3-day threesome about it aside for your heaving attempts to attribute much of his success to nothing but lucky timing, but this is too good to pass up.

"The question is, and will ever be in spite of your confused allegations, whether David deserves to be rewarded more than the thirteen or so other stage writers who are plainly on occasions better than him at his best.

You say he should."

Where did I say that?
I never sue, so don't worry if you can't find chapter and verse.

Oh. And so it goes.

At 2 January 2012 at 21:39 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Sorry, an attack on Gaza in which, as always, children die.

At 2 January 2012 at 21:44 , Blogger Shantytown said...

I do appreciate your resolve to settle the weiner question once and for all, and I'm sure David does too, but is it ok if I sit this one out?

I like the way your pen flows, not your penis.

At 2 January 2012 at 21:53 , Blogger Shantytown said...

So we can expect Gaza to be 'bombed to smithereens' on or around January 10?

(BTW, wise of you to have retreated carefully from 'kill in particular children' to 'an attack on Gaza in which, as always, children die'.)

I don't claim to know one way or the other, but you sure do (enough, at least, to have prophesied it thrice). But at least you won't have to pulp this blog if it turns out to be a crock.

At 2 January 2012 at 22:00 , Blogger Shantytown said...

"Approve of this sort of thing, do you?

Say why."

I don't.

Say why you thought I did.

At 2 January 2012 at 22:07 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

You said my oen 'rattled violently and incoherently' when I spoke of the death of children, as though such a small thing shouldn't affect me.

But apparently it affects you too.

And it's still your view I've no right to bring it up.

Explain yourself.

You brought up the weiner and I answered you, and now you want to 'sit it out' as though I had brought it up.

Very good. Very clever. Very Karl Rove.

Which Liberal politician do you work for?

Please answer this.

At 2 January 2012 at 22:08 , Blogger Shantytown said...

"when Gaza is next bombed to smithereens, on January the tenth or so, I am told"

"our side is soon to kill, on, or around, January 10"

Doesn't sound like a guess to me.

At 2 January 2012 at 22:18 , Blogger Shantytown said...

I sometimes don't know if you're joking, Bob.

You see, a my-weiner-is-bigger-than-your-weiner competition is not taken literally (although given the blindingly colourful history you shared with us, I can see how you were mistaken).
It is a metaphor, or colloquialism if you like, for when grown men start fighting in the sandpit about whose writing is better than whose, who has given more charity, and so on.
I think you know this, but who am I to spoil your fun. I enjoy this as much as you do, y'know.

Your pen rattles violently and incoherently any time you write about Israel (and other select issues). It was you equated Israel with child-killing. I can not help you with this.

I do not and have not worked for a Liberal politician. I have, however, worked for a federal Labor MP. No, I will not tell you who.

Any other questions?

At 2 January 2012 at 22:57 , Blogger Defenestrator said...


At 2 January 2012 at 23:19 , Blogger Defenestrator said...

Defenestrator is Bob Ellis for the moment while y machine is glitched.


Why not say?

Yopu know who I work for.

At 3 January 2012 at 03:44 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Sorry, you know who I work for.

At 3 January 2012 at 03:53 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Does Israel kill children or not?

What do you mean, you can't help me with this?

If it's a Labor politician you refuse to tell me of it must be Julia.

At 3 January 2012 at 08:30 , Blogger Shantytown said...

"Does Israel kill children or not?"
Yes, absolutely. It's who they are, their raison d'etre, it's what gets them out of bed in the morning and allows them to sleep at night. Sorry to have short-circuited your inevitable retort, but I really think you're capable of a little more mature discussion. When you're ready let me know. I'll be waiting.

And Bob, why do you reserve a special revulsion for child-killing? Why not also the adult Gazans who are killed? It is they who leave behind grieving spouses, shattered families, mangled futures. It's an F-18 roaring overhead, and they're just as defenceless as the little kid.

Or maybe, Bob, maybe the reason why the killing of the children so enrages you (and me) is because it was brought upon them by their adults; they had no choice, no involvement in the terror and the provocation, but it is they who must suffer for the sins of their fathers. They are innocent, oblivious to the chess game that their elders and leaders are playing with their lives.

That is the real outrage, Bob. I agree with you.

At 3 January 2012 at 08:32 , Blogger Shantytown said...

Why does it matter who I worked for?

The answer to that question is precisely the reason why I do not wish to tell you.

You have a curious inability to play the ball, and if you do insist on playing the man, let it be me and only me.

At 3 January 2012 at 12:03 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

If Albert Speer said at his trial 'What does it matter who I work for? Judge me for my deeds and not my chain of command', there would be some who would say he was dodging a vital question. But tastes vary.

Killing children is particularly abhorrent because it wrecks the whole family. When my sister was killed I was ten and my other sister seven and my mother went mad and we were never the same. And when a kindergarten is bombed by phosphorous in Gaza many familes thus bereaved do not recover. And Israel's policy of killing untried 'terrorists' who are 'hiding' among 'the civilian population' (i.e. staying with relatives who have children') is particularly nasty and smacks of Herod the Great.

You seem to think it was their parents' fault they died under the bombardment of men untried for anything.

I would say it was the fault of Israeli government policy which pretends not to have capital punishment, but bombards whole neighbourhoods, and graduation ceremonies, in the hope of killing somebody or other who may oppose their current policies.

It was Gillard, wasn't it.

At 3 January 2012 at 12:56 , Blogger Shantytown said...

Well done, Bob.
It took you a couple of posts but we now have Godwin's Law in full effect (with all its corollaries).

You have to emerge from the black-and-white world of your fantasies and into the nuanced world of reality. It's not just goodies and baddies, good and evil.
It is very tempting to try to understand the complexities of so twisted an issue as the ME conflict by reducing it to the simple variables you have. But this is both simply inaccurate and counter-productive to your quest to make sense of that stormy corner of the world.

I note that your examples of the madness of child-killing were exclusively where Palestinians were the victims, the Israelis the aggressors.

Bob, answer me this:
Do you find Israeli strikes on Gazans (and you may include as 'many' 'scare' 'quotes' 'as' 'you' 'like' in your reasoning) to be as morally unacceptable as a Hamas (or any Palestinian) missile strike or suicide bomb targetting Israelis, assuming children are killed in both.

A simple yes or no will do, Bob. Let's see you try.

PS. How was your sister killed, and was justice ever served? I knew that she had died, but I had assumed it was in some accident or to some disease. I apologize for any insensitivity on my part that may have arisen.

At 3 January 2012 at 13:32 , Blogger Doug Quixote said...

Listen carefully, I will say this only once : there is no sense rehashing all the Israeli/Palestinian/ME troubles at any time, but especially not on an internet blogsite. Go look at the morass of comments on Michael Brull's latest article on the Drum, if you doubt me and have a masochistic turn of mind.

At 3 January 2012 at 14:10 , Blogger Shantytown said...


Couldn't agree with you more, mate.

That's the point I'm trying to make to Bob: simply loading up his bow of tired old hatred with flaming arrows of hyperbolic stupidities, and then firing them any time he think he sees an opening (Gillard, in this case) is not going to advance his fortunes any.

This issue is clearly beyond his scope, but I thought I'd call him out on a few of the bigger sillies without him rehashing the usual rot.

I guess not. Thanks for the siren call.

But I'll have a look at the Drum piece now, but only as a spectator.

At 3 January 2012 at 14:23 , Blogger Shantytown said...


Allow me to clarify, for I may have been too harsh.

As I said, you write well and you know that. The way you think, your ideas, are also (almost) always something I enjoy devouring with my breakfast of internet goodness, whether or not I agree with them (which I do more often than not).

Just stick to what you know, and away from petty rivalries and talent-destroying obsessions, and 2012 will be one in which you rise again.


At 3 January 2012 at 14:39 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

That's a strange way of saying I'm unreadable.

Choose your words, Gillard staffer, choose your words more carefully.

My sister was killed by three young men racing a car and two motorbikes through a red light on the corner of Parramatta Road and Norton Street at nine am on a Sunday morning. The car had no brakes, lights or horn and hit her and she went fifty feet in the air. They all got three months.

This is more than the Israelis get for killing hundreds of children in air raids on 'civilian areas.' The reason why I object to them doing this more than Hamas firing random rockets is they kill more children, by a factor of eight hundred to one, with more sophisticated weaponry that the US pays for, manufactures and supplies.

If the above sentence is a 'hyperbolic stupidity' I need you to tell me how.

I repeat, you think dead children a minor distraction from the size of my weiner, and I begin to doubt you work, or have ever worked, for the Labor Party.

You sound too much like a monster for that.

At 3 January 2012 at 15:08 , Blogger Shantytown said...

For a man who insists I am a 'Gillard staffer', your doubts are odd. I'll remind you that it is you who has doggedly hung onto this (to me insignificant) CV trivia, after you had asked me if I was a Liberal staffer. Whatever floats your boat.

Sorry about your sister, although I am of course decades late. I have never felt that grief and can not try to imagine it. The context in which you brought it up made me think that she had been intentionally killed, not that this lessens your loss in any way.

But what it does do is provide a handy illustration of your unfortunate tendency to view things in very basic, primitive, simplistic terms.

To explain:
You brought your sister's death into a discussion about the contrasting morality of the Israeli/Palestinian killing of children. To you, they look the same. In both cases, children were killed; tragically and inexcusably so.

But what you fail to discern is the context, the nuance; you lack the ability which distinguishes good thinkers from average, to see detail where others see nothing.

Do you honestly believe that the hoons who killed your sister are just as evil and morally bankrupt as someone who goes up to a child and, say, stabs them to death?
I would guess that if they had to fill out a questionnaire featuring 'did you mean to kill an innocent child?', they would tick no. The Hamas suicide bomber would tick yes.

It is this confused notion of morality that drives you to say that you object to Israel more than Hamas, simply because the numbers compel you to.

It is intellectually cartoonish things like this which I call 'hyperbolic stupidity'.

But please, call me the monster, call me the guy who couldn't care about dead children.

Your moral compass is broken, Bob. It's never too late to fix it.

At 3 January 2012 at 15:44 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

No Israeli pilot intentionally kills a particular child on an air raid. Nor did the three young hoons intend to kill my sister as a target of their wild spree. But the assailants in each case acted illegally, committed manslaughter and were not unduly punished for it.

Nor do the Hamas rocket-firing hoons intend to kill a particular person, and your weird idea that they are more wicked than their heavily armed assailants in their billion-dollar getaway vehicles indicates, I think, that you are part of a pro-I

At 3 January 2012 at 15:48 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Pro-Israeli group, or faction, or synagogue, and you are not I think debating fairly whilever you conceal this.


At 3 January 2012 at 15:52 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

It is not a question of whether a manslaughter intends to kill a partivular person, old or young. It is a question of whether he is behaving murderously, as did the killers of my sister. And the Israelis, who killed three hundred children -- inadvertently, no doubt -- in Gaza three years ago were behaving murderously when they did it. And when they killed in that war thirteen hundred people o Hamas's thirteen, they wer

At 3 January 2012 at 15:53 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

were behaving more murderously than Hamas.

Do you get the picture now?

Or won't your political masters, Labor or Liberal, let you?

At 3 January 2012 at 15:55 , Blogger Bob Ellis said...

Sorry, whether a manslaughterer intends to kill a particular person.

Forgive me.

At 3 January 2012 at 16:08 , Blogger Shantytown said...

I am not part of or aligned with any "Pro-Israeli group, or faction, or synagogue".

Does one have to be in order to condemn both Israeli and Hamas violence while seeing the gulf in morality between the two?

I don't have any political masters, Bob. It's called thinking for yourself. Crazy, I know.

You still don't seem to be able to wrap your head around the fact that this isn't a numbers game, where the lower body count indicates greater evil.

So you admit that when the Israelis killed 300 children it was inadvertently. Would you say the same for suicide bombers and bus bombers and missile launchers?

Does the homeowner, for example, who blasts the head off a homicidal intruder have the same "murderous intentions" as the guy who hunts down his ex-wife and throttles her to death?

It's a little sad that I've had to reduce this complex issue, which as Doug points out is a waste of time to discuss, to so basic a question.

I forgive you your mistakes Bob, but never your willful ignorance.

At 3 January 2012 at 16:11 , Blogger Shantytown said...

Out of interest, could you identify those speeches of Beazley's that you wrote?

I ask because I have never met so decent and human and intelligent a person in federal politics as he, and I would love to see those issues where you two had commonality enough that your words came out of his mouth.


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