Guest Post: Speedbox -Postcard from Kislovodsk #2

Mineral water museum, Kislovodsk*

Mrs Speedbox is still in Kislovodsk, Russia, although she returns in a few days.  The following are additional observations that may be of interest to Cats.

1.  With regard to reporting on the war, Russian television is the polar opposite to what we see here in Australia in terms of partiality.  That won’t be a surprise but Mrs Speedbox has commented on the ‘gruesomeness’ of the reporting.  Russian TV news has no problem showing dead bodies in various states of disarray – bullet and shrapnel wounds and other much more severe injuries. 

2.  Russian TV has featured interviews with assorted residents of Mariupol and have particularly focussed on the damage to the homes and businesses of those people.  The interviewees claim that much of the destruction was caused by the Ukrainian forces.  The interviewees claimed that Ukrainian forces bombarded the town with artillery/rocket fire as Russian forces approached then, as the town was being taken over by the Russians, the Ukrainians adopted a ‘scorched earth’ mindset as they retreated.  One man claimed his house, and most of those in his neighbourhood, had survived unscathed yet the Ukrainians made a point of flattening every property as they withdrew.  Moreover, they claim the city is now riddled with booby traps.  The interviewees were very unhappy with the Ukrainian forces.   

The TV news also featured interviews with others who claim that Ukrainian forces have undertaken similar scorched earth practices elsewhere.

3.  Moscow is serviced by a number of airports.  If you have flown into Moscow on a heavy jet international flight, it is very likely you landed at Domodedovo or maybe Sheremetyevo depending on your departure point.  The smaller airport of Vnukovo mostly handles lighter aircraft on international commuter flights.  It is well known that numerous airlines have suspended flights to Russia and as a consequence of reduced air traffic, the government has decided to close (care & maintenance) Vnukovo airport.  Zhukovsky airport handles light aircraft, charter and some short haul commuter airlines and remains operational along with Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo.    

In the good times, the four airports collectively handled over 150 million passengers per annum.

4.  After 1991, each Russian bank issued their own credit card and signed up retailers but, there was a problem in that bank ‘A‘ didn’t trust that bank ‘B’ would honour purchases made on a card issued by bank ‘B’ at bank ‘A’s retailer.  Therefore, unless you had a card issued by the bank with whom the retailer also did business, your card was useless. 

There was no universal ‘clearing house’ and the individual banks were not set up to manage the inter-bank card purchases.  The issue persisted for a while but eventually common sense prevailed and the banks came to agreement – which also included access to Mastercard and Visa.

Recently of course, Mastercard and Visa announced they were suspending their services in Russia and whilst that suspension definitely applies to foreign bank issued cards, Russian bank issued Mastercard/Visa branded cards continue to work as usual inside Russia. 

5.  I should have mentioned the issue of purchasing the flight tickets to Russia in my earlier post. 

Because of the sanctions, searches for flight tickets to Russia have been blocked by most of the usual websites.  (They actually show a message saying that the booking you are trying to make has been blocked.)

Obviously there are work-arounds but the lack of direct website access is irritating.

6.  For most people, sending money to Russia is a problem.  The international SWIFT transfer system has shut out Russia and all of the other money transfer websites, including those not necessarily using SWIFT, now block the transfers – even Western Union has suspended services.    

Globally, there is a large expatriate Russian cohort who are commenting on assorted websites that they are now unable to remit money to their families and are requesting that a limit be implemented, rather than an outright ban.  The authorities are currently disinterested in changing the status quo. 

Theoretically, outbound remittances are also frozen however a friend is sending money to his son who is studying in the USA.  It turns out that there is a quirk in the system that circumvents the freeze.  That quirk cannot be exploited by all people and for my friend, it was a serendipitous discovery.  I won’t spell it out here but it is hilariously simple when explained.  You can bet your socks that the oligarchs are also aware and have been/will use it to move money both into and out of Russia.

*  Yes, a museum dedicated to mineral water.  It sets out the history of mineral water in the Caucuses and the health benefits.  There are numerous mineral water drinking fountains inside and a ‘bottomless glass’ costs 2 roubles (AUD .04c).

Guest Post: Wally Dali goes to the Archibalds, 2022

Of course, I’m nowhere near actually going to see the paintings in the flesh at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, even if the Chief Protector of Natives would let me depart Western Australia, which he won’t. To access it, here, I had to first check an automatically generated box to declare that I was not a racist. Fair enough, the Archibald Prize for Portraiture is hosted by the taxpayers’ gallery and administered by the Archibald Trust, and they can do whatever they please. If they want to nudge in a little reminder that the longstanding sober tradition of common access to Crown land in Australia is now kinda only operating under the blessing of an Aboriginal landed gentry, fair enough, and they’re hardly Robinson Crusoe there.

But we should also be reminded that the longstanding tradition of figurative art and craft has now been sundered to the new gods of cultural relativity. They reign throughout the land, from primary school right through to the halls walls of the rich and famous. In all seriousness, early childhood daycare is probably the last bastion of teaching Australians objective method, value, effort and efficacy in visual art practice.

But, my school days are long behind me, and my foreshortened art career at Uni also. In wanking on about this crop of anointed shortlistees, I’ve tried to avoid too much gossipy pop culture- although it’s valuable for context, and also to map the trends of what is catching the eye and acclaimed of the Arts Elite which administer so much of what we are told is Australian Culture- and give a bit of weight to the objective values of method, composition, colour, observation, execution- which should be drummed into every student as being the foundational bedrock of visual art for the Western Tradition and the open market alike. Just like in theatre, music, and poetry, in painting there is no mastery of the art without attention to the craft.

Continue reading “Guest Post: Wally Dali goes to the Archibalds, 2022”

Rabz’ Radio Show May 2022: the Sixties  

The Sixties has a rightful claim as the period in time that produced the most memorable contemporary music in human history.

So many genres came to prominence, including:

·         Jazz

·         Folk

·         R&B

·         Soul

·         Rock

·         Psychedelia

John F Kennedy – elected 1960, assassinated 1963. During those years, a seismic cultural wave across the Anglosphere was brewing. Motown began to assert itself in the USA, while in the UK, the post war blues were being thrown off with a vengeance. 

The influence of the Modernists: The fifties in the UK saw the emergence of young working class men who had access to “Modern” jazz and soul records shipped over to (mostly black) GIs in the post war years (see also “Northern Soul”). These records essayed musical styles that had largely not been heard outside of black audiences in the USA. The UK’s “Modernists”, with their love of tailored suits, Italian scooters (Lambrettas and Vespas – accept no substitutes), cafes and most importantly amphetamine pills, began looking for something other than bebop to excite them. Unfortunately many of them eventually morphed into hippies, while their younger brothers ended up becoming the original skinheads out of sheer disgust.

The Beatles, the Stones and the Who came to prominence from 1963 onwards and the rest is history.

Bobbie Zimmerman (Dylan) decided to harness some electrickery for his new black Strat, resulting in a (mythical?) hippie cutting the cord at the Newport Folk Festival, 1965. Dylan would then go on to introduce the Beatles to Mary Jane while seeing many of his finest songs covered by artists that were able to do them justice (see for example, the Birds and others).   

Soul – James Brown, Ike and Tina, Marvin, Gladys and the Pips, etc …

The Monterey Festival – the film is highly recommended.

Woodstock – the less said about it the better, although a chemically altered Pete Townshend giving Abbie Hoffman the mighty heave ho during a break in proceedings remains its most legendary incident (along with Jimmy’s Star Spangled Banner).

Altamont 1969, when the sixties died an inglorious death courtesy of a hopelessly inappropriate venue, very bad drugs, very bad choices in bouncers and to paraphrase Keef, “all those fat naked people”. The footage of Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh fleeing the scene in a helicopter after hearing that the Angels were beating down on musicians remains a defining cultural moment. I’m not sure who borrowed whose image first, Peter Fonda for Cap’n America, or the Lesh at Altamont.

There are so many great songs from that decade I was at a total loss as to which two songs should wrap up the post – after polling some friends this afternoon, the choices are:

Mainstream – Petula Clark 1964: “Downtown”

Chemically crazed – Cap’n Beefheart 1969: “Moonlight on Vermont”

Honourable mentions – Dylan (1965), “Like a rolling stone” and the Stones (1967), “Out of time” (Chris Farley lyric version).

Enjoy and post those favourite classics, people!   

LeakGate Round-up

Firstly, a reminder of what is at stake:

Here is the Politico article breaking the story. Here is the actual draft judgement by Justice Alito. Malcom Kyeyune discusses the aborting of norms involved in the leak of this SCOTUS judgement. Shaun Fleetwood suggests that this move to bully and harass the justices of the SCOTUS was invited by Chief Justice Roberts’s previous weakness re Obamacare. Jacob Nu argues that even if Roe is overturned, abortion will remain a federal issue, as does Robert George. On the more mundane matter of who may have leaked the document, speculation can be found here and here.

Why is the MSM ignoring this paper?

Abstract: To examine the possible non-specific effects (NSEs) of the novel COVID-19 vaccines, we reviewed the randomised control trials (RCTs) of mRNA and adenovirus-vector COVID-19 vaccines reporting overall mortality, including COVID-19 deaths, accident deaths, cardiovascular deaths and other non-COVID-19 deaths. For overall mortality, with 74,193 participants and 61 deaths (mRNA:31; placebo:30), the relative risk (RR) for the two mRNA vaccines compared with placebo was 1.03 (95% CI=0.63-1.71). In the adenovirus-vector vaccines there were 122,164 participants and 46 deaths (vaccine:16; controls:30). The RR for adenovirus-vector vaccines versus placebo/control vaccine was 0.37 (0.19-0.70). The adenovirus-vector vaccines were associated with protection against COVID-19 deaths (RR=0.11 (0.02-0.87)) and non-accident, non-COVID-19 deaths (RR=0.38 (0.17-0.88)). The two types of vaccines differed significantly with respect to impact on overall mortality (p=0.030) as well as non-accident, non-COVID-19 deaths (p=0.046). The placebo controlled RCTs of COVID-19 vaccines were halted rapidly due to clear effects on COVID-19 infections. However, the data presented here argue for performing RCTs of mRNA and adeno-vectored vaccines head-to-head comparing long-term effects on overall mortality.

The paper, Randomised Clinical Trials of COVID-19 Vaccines: Do Adenovirus-Vector Vaccines Have Beneficial Non-Specific Effects?, can be found here.