Category Archives: radio

Thursday recommended site of the week: 1


Yes, a new feature for this blog! (And easy to do too…) But really, do look. The screen shot is linked to this excellent site where you will find much more than just the bad news or the sensation of the day.


Last night on ABC and this morning’s news…

… had a mix of the bizarre and the tragic. You wouldn’t read about it, would you? Hollywood couldn’t invent stuff like this.

Let’s begin with the tragic.

Terror in Mumbai (originally on UK Channel Four) was last night’s offering from Four Corners.

…Their first target was the Leopold Cafe where they killed 11 people. From there they planted bombs inside taxis as the moved across the city. Terror in Mumbai follows the young men every step of the way using telephone calls made between the raid’s masterminds in Pakistan and the gunmen in Mumbai. Those calls combine with the testimony of the captured terrorist Ajmal Kasab, to create an extra-ordinary chronology of the attacks.

The calls reveal how the young men are continually reminded they must kill as many people as possible, making sure that whatever happens they must not be taken alive.

Ajmal Kasab, speaking from his hospital bed tells how he and another man attacked the city’s train station slaughtering more than 50 people…

As the film progresses the relationship between the attackers and their controllers at the other end of the phone comes into clearer focus.

At times the young men appear utterly ruthless, at other times they break away from their conditioning and register their wonder at the hotel they have taken over. They talk of computers and expensive furniture as if in a wonderland.

As the film progresses the terrorists are told to kill as many people as they can in the Taj Hotel, and then to start a fire. The purpose? To let the world know a symbol of India and the decadent west is being destroyed.

As the phone calls continue it becomes clear the young men are not always willing to kill on command. In one chilling episode one gunman is told to kill a hostage. He stalls for time. Then an hour later he is ordered to shoot. A gunshot is heard…

It was riveting and incredibly sad. The Svengali on the other end of the phone gives new manifestation to the concept of pure evil. The psychology of the perpetrators, one of whom was “sold” — according to the program and his own testimony – to Lashkar e Toiba by his own father so that his siblings could afford to marry, reminded me so much of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. The father was a poor street yoghurt seller.

… The 10 gunmen had sneaked ashore in Mumbai around 9pm on 26 November, having sailed from Pakistan in a hijacked Indian trawler.

Less than an hour later, during a killing spree across the city which included the main railway station, four gunmen entered the luxury Taj Hotel. Young Pakistanis from villages in the Punjab, who had never set foot in a modern hotel before, let alone the vast suites on the upper floors of the Taj, they could not contain their amazement. The first few hours of intercepts at the Taj show them struggling to keep their minds on the task of burning down the hotel.

‘There are so many lights… and so many buttons. And lots of computers with 22 and 30-inch screens…’ says one.

The other chilling piece of evidence we obtained during the making of this film, was told by one of the gunmen, Kasab, who was taken alive by Indian police and his questioning recorded.

‘What’s your gang called? Your team?’ asks one policeman.

Kasab seems not to understand.

‘Your organization, your gang, your team?’, some of the other officers round the hospital bed chime in.

‘Oh… It’s Lashkar e Toiba.’ …

It is as well – again – to remind ourselves that it is not all of Islam we are looking at here, but a perversion. Jim Belshaw has also taken up that theme: For Tikno – selection, perception, bias and the MUI Fatwa. The comments from Tikno in Indonesia and Ramana in India enhance Jim’s wisdom on this. You may also listen to this: “Young Indonesians have made use of social networking sites to protest against terrorism.” The India-Pakistan situation has complicating strands of history involved – the mess of the Partition and the unsolved dilemma of Kashmir. (I studied Indian History at university and have ever since taken an interest.) Further, in relation to Ramana’s comment, there is no single body that can speak for Islam. To a degree everyone is his or her own mufti, and the result is amazing diversity. This can be good, but also complicates things terribly. The media do focus on the violent extremists, though Tikno’s point about the majority being against violent extremism is almost certainly a truer picture.

Now for the bizarre.

Malcolm Turnbull. Well, he is human, as that Australian Story episode shows, but a bit of a goose too. The show was filmed behind the scenes as the Utegate Imbroglio was occurring, and today all that became more bizarre still: I wrote fake email: Grech.

And then there is that sleazy Radio 2DayFM The Kyle and Jackie O Show. So glad I never listened to them, especially after Media Watch revealed how bottom of the barrel the show has really been.

More 10 to 17 year-olds, by far, listen to 2DayFM than to any other Sydney station.

Yet up to now ACMA has done nothing about Kyle and Jackie’s obsession with boobs and willies, their parade of vaginas and penises, their discussions of anal sex, and oral sex, and faeces-eating during sex, and other such breakfast-time delights.

And then there’s the program’s routine humiliation and emotional manipulation of its ‘guests’.

Tonight, while Austereo reviews its ‘principles and protocols’, we’re going to look at a particularly sickening example. It wasn’t about sex, or juveniles.

It was about heartless exploitation…

About as funny as a pile of dead rats.



The Macquarie PEN Australian Literature anthology

I mentioned this here. It has now been published. You may listen to the Radio National Book Show for more information. There is also an interview on Late Night Live.


One fiction, one non-fiction

Two good reads for the last July 09 book review.

star30star30star30star30  1. Gary Bryson, Turtle, Sydney, Allen & Unwin 2008

I am not overfond of some of what passes as magic realism, but in this case the magic is really magic and the realism gritty and true. This is a wonderful first novel from Bryson, who works as a radio journalist on Radio National’s Encounter. From the title link above:

Mandy Sayer interviews Gary Bryson

Mandy Sayer was Gary Bryson’s creative writing lecturer when he was writingTurtle. She calls the book ‘one of the finest debut novels I have read in years’ and says Bryson’s storytelling is ‘quite simply, enchanting’. She spoke to Gary for Readings on the eve of Turtle’s release.

What are the chances of finding a turtle in Scotland?

You might find one in the zoo, but otherwise the turtle steers well clear of Scotland. A country where you have to wear two pairs of socks most of the year is no place for our flippery friends.

So how did a turtle that speaks with a Glasgow accent come about?

When Donald (the story’s narrator) has to imagine his escape from his mother’s curse, it’s a turtle that he latches on to, as an exotic creature that’s seemingly about as far from Glasgow as you can get. But Donald’s imagination is shaped by his culture and his upbringing, so the turtle he conjures up as his saviour is a distinctly Glasgow one. The Turtle in the book is a sketch of a particular kind of Glasgow character, all front and no-nonsense, whose relations with everyone are enacted through a kind of genial, foul-mouthed banter which sometimes spills over into vindictiveness, but also expresses a kind of love. It’s not so far-fetched, really. On the face of it a turtle is about the most un-Glaswegian creature you could imagine, but on the other hand, it hides itself behind this big, tough shell. That’s its survival tactic and it’s one that’s worked well for both turtles and Glaswegians…

star30star30star30star30 2. Umberto Eco, Mouse or Rat: Translation as Negotiation, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003

Sounds dry, doesn’t it? But is really is a most interesting book. As the reviewer in the title link says:

This is a real gem of a book – especially if you’re a translator. Eco does a great job of exploring the complexities of the translation process and the problems faced by literary translators in particular. Translation is not just "typing in a foreign language"; translators are forced to continually analyze, interpret, evaluate and – as Eco puts it – negotiate with a text in order to craft a translation that conveys not just the "meaning" but the intent of the original. As both a translator and a "translatee", Eco has a unique insight into translation, and he provides numerous intriguing anecdotes relating to how the trickier passages in his own books and the books of others have been dealt with successfully – and sometimes less successfully – by translators. Being a translator myself, I couldn’t help but nod and smile in agreement all through this book…

The Guardian reviewer exaggerates the book’s difficulty, though there are indeed some knotty passages. On the other hand very many of the anecdotes and examples are highly amusing as well as instructive, such as the passing of the opening of Genesis through several languages in a computer translator by which the Spirit turns into alcohol…


BBC World Service: some food for thought

I tend to listen to the radio for a while before going to sleep at night, usually between 10 pm and midnight. If I happen to tune in to ABC News Radio at that time I get the BBC World Service. While some may see this as a hangover from times past, I rather rejoice in it. Just lately there have been two standouts.

1. The Reith Lectures 2009: “A New Citizenship: Professor Michael Sandel delivers four lectures about the prospects of a new politics of the common good.” I caught the tail end of the first one last night and the audience Q&A. Excellent stuff, and an encouraging perspective on what may emerge from the present troubles. The era from Reagan/Thatcher to the meltdown now feels increasingly like a passing era, not a destination, as many economists in the 1990s saw it – an age of “market triumphalism”. What Professor Sandel is advocating, however, is not the end of globalisation but a new model for the relations of market, state and people.

2. BBC Radio 4’s Analysis: Economy on the edge. There is a podcast, but a summary rather than a transcript. The summary leaves out much that was of interest in the broadcast, but gives the main outline. The panel was particularly interesting: George Soros, Willem Buiter, professor of European political economy at the London School of Economics and former member of the monetary policy committee of the Bank of England, Christine Lagarde, Minster of Economic Affairs, Industry and Employment in France, and Zhu Min, executive vice president of the Bank of China.

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Posted by on June 15, 2009 in current affairs, globalisation/corporations, radio


Substantial food for thought on Radio National

Given the trivia and infotainment and sometimes unbalanced ranting that characterise too much of the media, it can be refreshing – and challenging – to tune into Australia’s Radio National. I probably should do so more.

I was struck particularly by some recent episodes of All in the Mind.

1. Child soldiers: the Art and arts of healing (Part 1 of 2). “Born into the bloody horror of war, Sudanese rap artist Emmanuel Jal was 9 when he was recruited into the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Army as a child soldier. Incredibly he survived, and his music reaches a generation of Lost Boys.”

2. Child soldiers: the Art and arts of healing (Part 2 of 2). “In Sierra Leone, child soldiers committed acts that words can barely describe. At the war’s end, ravaged communities responded to them with terror and stigma. A minority of former child soldiers, many orphaned, have access to reintegration programs. Dance and movement therapist David Alan Harris describes an extraordinary project to respond to the traumatised psyche through engaging the body.”

You can listen, or read the transcripts. It is strong stuff.

Then I enjoyed A tribute to Isaiah Berlin on The Philosopher’s Zone.

John Gray: Although he thought each of these conceptions, negative and positive liberty were in some ways legitimate and authentic developments from a basic core, which is common to both, he preferred negative liberty to positive liberty in any of the versions that it had had throughout history, and there were several. I mean I think what he feared in positive liberty was paternalism, and even a type of authoritarianism, or even totalitarianism….

I should make one very important point though. I think it’s a great mistake as some people do, to assimilate Berlin therefore to certain types of narrow or extreme liberal or libertarian thinkers who argue that what states should only do is to protect negative liberty. And he himself certainly did not take the view that the purpose of government was only to protect and promote negative liberty. As I mentioned earlier he wasn’t a tremendously political person; he was never actively involved in politics but if I had to describe his political outlook it would be that of a Rooseveltian liberal or in British or Australian terms of a moderate social democrat, and of course being that, meant that negative liberty could and should be tempered and constrained and supplemented by other important values such as social cohesion, distribution, equality and so forth.

Nonetheless he was strongly critical of positive conceptions of liberty because they assumed within individuals and between individuals and in societies as a whole, an actual or a potential harmony which he thought was delusory.

NOTE: The transcript for the second All in the Mind program goes up later this week. You may listen though.

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Posted by on June 9, 2009 in Africa, Australia, Australia and Australian, faith and philosophy, human rights, humanity, inspiration, intellectual spot, radio


Straying on to Marcellous’s territory

Last night I happened to listen to this concert on Classic FM:

Geoffrey Saba: Beethoven Sonatas
Geoffrey Saba, piano
Jennifer Hagan, reader
Beethoven Piano Sonata No 30 in E, Op 109 20’24
Readings from Beethoven’s letters (part 1) 11’59
Piano Sonata No 31 in A flat, Op 110 20’32
Readings from Beethoven’s letters (part 2) 13’14
Piano Sonata No 32 in C minor, Op 111 27’33
Gluck arr Kempff
Ballet Music from Orfeo 5’18

Fortunately I decided to listen through pretty good headphones instead of on my rather antique radio. The readings from Beethoven’s letters were sometimes amusing, I have to say, and the program quite wonderful. The real point is that it is the first time I have consciously noted a Stuart piano, which Marcellous writes about here. It sounded good to me.

And a footnote about the pianist:


1968 photo: Linked to source

Those book reviews I promised will appear tomorrow…

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Posted by on April 2, 2009 in Marcel, music, radio


Radio National Poetry special: Five Bells by Kenneth Slessor

I heard this, and am now downloading it too. It was excellent.

From lyricists to anarchists to satirists, Australia has an extraordinary poetic tradition, which, in the flurry of new releases, often gets lost. This is why The Book Show dedicated a special week to five classic Australian poems. In these programs Lyn Gallacher celebrates the work of Judith Wright, Kenneth Slessor, Rosemary Dobson, CJ Dennis and AD Hope. The series begins with Kenneth Slessor’s masterful and much loved ‘Five Bells’

There is also a transcript. I must make sure to hear the rest of the series. “Rockpool” by Judith Wright is on today at 10am, repeated at midnight, but also available as a podcast.

Some of you will recall that I posted “Five Bells” as Friday Australian poem #8.

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Posted by on January 6, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, OzLit, poets and poetry, radio


Radio presenter John Cargher dies

Just in on ABC News.

He sure kept on going right to the last, didn’t he? His last program was just last week. See John Cargher.

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Posted by on May 1, 2008 in events, music, radio


John Cargher

I happened to catch the 42nd anniversary presentation of John Cargher’s Singers of Renown this morning on Radio National.

With much regret, ABC Radio National announces that the program of 26 April is the final edition of Singers of Renown after 42 years on air.

Recently John Cargher made the difficult decision to retire from broadcasting, because of continuing ill health. John’s commitment to music and to Singers of Renown remains undiminished, but he believes that the time has come to say goodbye to his listeners.

You will be able to hear some landmark editions of the show throughout May and June. These will include some of John’s programs exploring the great operas, and his four-part series ‘A Century of Singers 1901-2000’, first broadcast in 2000. Read the rest of this entry »


I found this inspiring

If, as I did this morning, you happen to be in Oz and wake at 5am, turn on Radio National and catch Bioneers, but only until the end of January. This morning’s program featured US writer and broadcaster Thom Hartmann. Hartmann has that American gift of the gab in spades, but (rather like Jim Wallis of Sojourners) he made a great deal of sense to me. A version of what he said is here.

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Posted by on January 7, 2008 in current affairs, environment, humanity, media watch, politics, radio, USA


Kevin Rudd cricket commentator

I am doing my favourite trick at the moment: reading, blogging, watching India (147/6) bat on Channel 9, and listening to the ABC commentary on ABC Local. This last fifteen minutes Prime Minister Rudd has been guest commenting, not too badly either for a first effort… He has a really good manner in such informal situations.

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Posted by on December 27, 2007 in Australia, Cricket, Kevin Rudd, radio


Spiritual Classics Pt 3: Judaism: Radio National


The third in a series exploring the sacred texts of the major religions. From Genesis to Job, the Bible is a moving account of the people Israel struggling to explain the origin and persistence of evil and God’s call to do good. Mary Phil Korsak explains her motives for providing a fresh and earthy translation of ‘Genesis’ as a long poem. Translator Stephen Mitchell relates the power of ‘The Book of Job’ to his own life. And Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins illuminates the wisdom of Hillel in the Talmudic book, ‘The Sayings of the Fathers’.

I was really impressed with the extracts read from Genesis, and with the translator’s arguments for her interpretation.
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Posted by on March 30, 2006 in Bible, book reviews, faith and philosophy, interfaith, radio


The World Today – Dispelling the myth of Mao: Jung Chang sheds new light on the Communist leader


Surry Hills Library yielded some treasures today, Jung Chang’s Mao: The Unknown Story (2005) being the first. I am two chapters in and it is a breath of fresh air! I wrote an essay about Mao Tse-tung way back in the 1960s when I studied Asian history, and since then I have read much about him and quite a bit of his own writings. I also met Jung Chang briefly in the early 1990s.

Don’t romanticise the old bastard; Jung Chang should make that temptation less likely. You may find a range of reviews of Mao: The Unknown Story on Metacritic.Com, and further reviews and an extract here.

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Posted by on January 16, 2006 in America, Asian, book reviews, Chinese and China, Christianity, culture wars, faith and philosophy, globalisation/corporations, History, human rights, interfaith, radio, Surry Hills, Top read, writers