Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Egyptian Uprising explained. Also Laid!



"We're still a bit cross, you know"


Rather to my surprise, some commentators on this blog have been crying out for my analysis of the political unrest in Egypt; why I’m not too sure.

I have, however, an obsessive interest in international politics, a drinking problem and way too much time on my hands which makes me – I suppose – as qualified as anybody else outside Egypt to come up with a half-arsed explanation.

So here goes.

The current uprising has been sparked by the Egyptian people being feed up to the back teeth with a regime which is a) brutal, b) corrupt, c) incompetent and d) loved by none.

True, since 1955 the Egyptian people have been governed by regimes that were – at times – a mixture of all of the above but the difference seems to have been the recent uprising in Tunisia and the extensive coverage this received.

There’s been much blather about what a post-Mubarak government will look like, how representative it might be and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood, despite being the oldest and best organised Islamic society in the country, would probably have around 20 per cent support in any free and fair elections. But what seems obvious from the mass scale of the uprising and the nature of the demands being made is that the bulk of the demonstrators want democracy – not an Islamic state.

The other thing some commentators are pointing to is the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which saw a largely secular uprising hijacked by theocrats. However Iran, with its substantial supplies of oil was always better placed to go it alone politically, unlike Egypt which is closer tied to the West, both through tourism and Western economic aid.

The usual suspects are also pointing to the role of the West in backing corrupt, authoritarian regimes, like Mubarak’s. That’s true but the region is not without corrupt, authoritarian regimes that have no backing from the West. The problem, I suspect, is that the countries ruled by the Ottoman Empire didn’t go through the historical process known as the Enlightenment which eventually lead to the creation of stable liberal democracies in the West.

Also.

I was quite prepared to view Laid with an open mind, but the constant publicity around it is pretty sick-making, so I think I’ll give it a miss.

51 comments:

Alex said...

I always enjoy it when you talk politics, Ramon; and if you don't mind, I have a follow-up question for you:

How significant have trade unions been in orchestrating these protests? I keep hearing different things.

Ta.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

My information is that all social organisations - including trade unions - have been active in organising the protests and volunteers.

The International Trade Union Federation has also sent them a message of support.

squib said...

Ramon, you are excellent, thanks

Melba said...

Thanks Ramon. You are a pharoah of knowledge.

And I think it's hilARious that all the publicity and hype is putting people off watching Laid.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I certainly think it's mildly chucklesome, Melbs.

Lewd Bob said...

I have no idea what Laid is.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

The first episode of Laid is described thusly Bob

Following the funeral of a long ago fling, Roo McVie gets more than she bargained for when a second lover - and then a third - also dies.

It is a new Australian comedy.

Lewd Bob said...

All you had to say was 'Roo McVie' and it was enough to make me know - KNOW - how shit this show will be.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Shhh, Bob.

You'll make Melba cross.

Melba said...

Why would it make me cross, Ramon? Am I spruiking the show? I think not. I will be fine with it if it sucks major balls. My love for Fits has faded with time.

I like the first name Roo but the McVie bit is silly. Rue Life (with Mc thrown in to make it more obscure.) SO obvious and naff.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I can't remember what I called my lead character in the television show I wrote.

Susan McOhforfuckssake, from memory.

Alex said...

Let me guess, Ramon, it was about a woman with left-leaning political views who drank too much? I think If I'd written it, I would've left it at O'Forfucksake and made her Irish. That's just me, though.

Bob, I take it that you won't be joining me in watching the first episode in order to make an informed opinion?

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

it was about a woman with left-leaning political views who drank too much?

Pretty close, Alex.

It also had lesbian vampires who liked cricket.

Alex said...

Wow, Ramon. A crying shame it didn't get picked up, I thought that would've been right up the alley of SBS.

Kettle said...

A crying shame it didn't get picked up.

It did get picked up, Alex. My production company has been working closely with Ramon over the past several months and the first episode will be screening shortly.

Keep an eye out for it; it's called Splayed.

Melba said...

Oh touche Kettle.

I remember that episode Ramon.

And don't worry Alex. I'll watch, just can't guarantee it'll be tonight. It might sit with all the other recorded shit for a wee while until I get the energy.

But if I know there's to be an organised discussion I'll make the time to watch it.

See Ramon?

Alex said...

But if I know there's to be an organised discussion

Like election night? Cool.

Looking forward to it, Kettle. Funnily enough, I once doodled a rough draft for a comic book called "Splayd"* (yes, without an "e"). It was meant to be a piss-take on "Blade: The Vampire Hunter", and was about a boozy trans-gender vampire who hunts vampire hunters. I now know why I wasn't happy with it. No cricket.

*Y'know, 'cause a splade is one of those knife, fork, spoon combo thingies.

Kettle said...

I remember being here on election night, Alex.

Funnily enough, I once doodled a rough draft for a comic book called "Splayd"* (yes, without an "e"). It was meant to be a piss-take on "Blade: The Vampire Hunter", and was about a boozy trans-gender vampire who hunts vampire hunters. I now know why I wasn't happy with it. No cricket.

Looking forward to the re-draft!

Melba said...

We had splades. Cool as.

Alex said...

Will you be watching too, Kettle?

I just realised I'm an hour behind here. Damned daylight savings.

Kettle said...

Alex I will if I get some work finished first. I've got nine minutes...

Melba said...

I won't be watching it like now, or whenever it started. We've taped it. I'll view at my leisure... Or should I watch it now?

Mr E Discharge said...

Well, that was a complete load of shit wasn't it?

Melba said...

I disagree Mr E. We chuckled. I think it was funny, but it was all down to the lead actress. She was good otherwise it would have been woeful.

Better than I expected.

Alex said...

Thoughts:

* Shot, edited and scored competently. Generally sufficient, if bellow average, acting. Lead actress was alright. Sheila playing the flatmate was distractingly bad - a "just read me my lines and I'll say them back to you" performance. Bloke who played the taxi driver at the end was a bit of a stand-out.
* Intro was annoyingly cute. Ditto the ABC voice-over guy doing his "and if you want to get laid again next week" shtick during the end credits.
* Bizarre writing tick involving men and their brothers? Guy at the start wants to form a business with his brother, she asks the fella at the funeral if he still lives with his brother and the bloke she rings at the end lives with his brother too. The fuck?
* Speaking of, unnaturally spartan use of the word "fuck" draws attention to itself. Either use it more naturally or drop it completely.
* Death related material needed more gravitas. Would've contrasted nicely with the dry, sexually oriented humour. Jokes weren't terrible, but not strong enough to be the only thing the show has going for it.
* Insufficient arc in character development led to lack of compulsion to see what happens next. Maybe a full hour would've been better?

Still better than I expected, too.

Mr E Discharge said...

Next episode should have a warning up front.

"The following program is rated LE.
and should only be viewed by people with Low Expectations. It contains strong mediocrity and low production values, which may offend some viewers."

Kettle said...

I thought it was ok; I really wanted it to be excellent though (local production, etc.).

My major beefs (if a non-meat eater can have such things) were that the humour was based on the awkwardness premise (and I suspect it's near impossible to sustain half an hour of awkwardness funny), and that the characters didn't act/react how people in those situations might act. I don't mean the characters should have taken death more seriously; in fact the opposite, that perhaps it would have been funnier if their treatment of death was more flippant, thus more offensive (and thus funny to me), as Roo started off being in the scene in the kitchen at work after the first chappy died.

For example, in terms of people not acting as you'd expect them to (even in a comedy), I just couldn't believe the chap in the taxi after the wake would freak out in the way that he did when Roo tried to kiss him.

I was probably hoping for more of those totally inappropriate conversations you have with your dearest and most evil friends when you hear about, or find yourself in, situations like that.

I did think the line, "like hitting a monkey with a cricket bat," was funny, and will give the show another go because I really want it to be excellent, etc. Hopefully it will be more offensive next week.

Mr E Discharge said...

My major beefs (if a non-meat eater can have such things) were that the humour was based on the awkwardness premise (and I suspect it's near impossible to sustain half an hour of awkwardness funny), and that the characters didn't act/react how people in those situations might act.

If you're trying to do the dry, deadpan humour bit, you need a REALLY good writer. My beef is that there are lot of really good writers out there who would kill to have their work go to air, but can't get a break.

But a vapid litle twit like Ms Hardy, whose only claim to fame is being the Grand-Daughter of somebody famous can get funding for this steaming turd.

squib said...

Well I recorded it so thanks for all the spoilers, you people

Kettle said...

My beef is that there are lot of really good writers out there who would kill to have their work go to air, but can't get a break.

The thing is though, Mr E, someone may be a really good writer (of screenplays, novels, whatever) but unfortunately the writer is only half the equation. If a writer just happens to be writing stories (in the broadest sense) that the reading/viewing public aren't particularly taken with (or that some funding body/production company/publishing house considers the reading/viewing public to be interested in) then they're not going to 'get an airing'.

I think there is a difference between being a writer per se (telling your stories), and being a writer for economic gain (offering your stories as commodities for others to buy).

Clearly Hardy's style doesn't suit everyone (no writer's does), but the fact she is widely published (and has been for over a decade) does suggest some 'purchasers' (people, institutions, etc.) consider her product valuable (again, in the broadest sense).

I'm not defending the market, or Hardy's writing. I'm just not entirely sure some writers are failing to get a break because another writer gets a show made every few years.

Thoughts?

Alex said...

Nice points for discussion, Kettle.

the humour was based on the awkwardness premise...perhaps it would have been funnier if their treatment of death was more flippant

I think a show that did nothing but derive humour from people being flippant and cavalier about serious issues, with nothing to drive it on an emotional level, would exhaust my patience pretty quickly. And for me, the problem with the awkwardness was that it was about the only thing we got from the main character until right before the end - making her a bit two dimensional and tiresome. Supporting characters were little more than props.

the characters didn't act/react how people in those situations might act...I just couldn't believe the chap in the taxi after the wake would freak out in the way that he did

I rarely agree with this line of thinking. Firstly, how often do people in real life act in ways that defy belief? Secondly, I'm more entertained by pleasant surprises than utter predictability. Lastly, I think it's a natural part of fiction that you get an condensed, exaggerated and distorted reflection of life. What I do expect, is that a story justifies itself by using a comprehensible and consistent (very important) internal logic. Considering the amount of hints they dropped about there being a tangled history there that will be further explained in a later episode, I thought the chaps reaction was appropriate. It also allowed for a tiny amount of sorely needed depth to be introduced to the main character.

the line, "like hitting a monkey with a cricket bat," was funny

The bit that cracked me was the "I don't know if that helps" that came after it, so I'm putting this one down to good delivery more than a stroke of genius from the writer.

Alex said...

Another good point, Kettle. I think it's true that while you can ridicule poorly skilled artists/entertainers, you can't blame them for the proliferation or exaltation of low-quality product. That's down to the consumer.

Of course, one of the criticisms I've heard here is that Ms Hardy's ties to the ABC means that we all pay for her product whether we like it or not.

Also, you're welcome Squib.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Meanwhile, today's Crikey reports

About 608,000 people nationally watched Marieke Hardy's new ABC comedy Laid last night

Not too bad, but not that flash either.

Kettle said...

Not too bad, but not that flash either.

A pretty good summing up of the show, Ramon.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Thanks Kettle, not too bad considering I didn't even watch the show.

As I said, I have no real feeling re Marieke pro or con but with starting figures this sluggish she better prey they pick up as the show goes along.

Alex said...

If the show itself doesn't pick up, I wouldn't be surprised if the numbers dropped off.

Kettle said...

Now that we've well and truly ruined Laid for Squib, can I change the topic and ask for some advice?

I'm going to a 'Pixies and Pirates' fancy dress party on Saturday night and costumes are compulsory. I keep thinking of going as Blackbeard the pirate but there's no way I'm going to be able to grow a beard by Saturday (also, I'm a girl so struggle with a lack of facial hair generally).

Any suggestions appreciated.

Alex said...

I take it you're against being a pixie then, Kettle?

You could burn a bunch of music CDs and go as a media pirate.

Or, you could look here for inspiration.

Mr E Discharge said...

Clearly Hardy's style doesn't suit everyone (no writer's does), but the fact she is widely published (and has been for over a decade) does suggest some 'purchasers' (people, institutions, etc.) consider her product valuable (again, in the broadest sense).

Widely Published?????
If her Wikipedia entry is be believed, (and it's not) her only published work to date has been a book of short stories for children. That's it.

The same entry states that she "created, wrote and produced" a series for Seven. Yet the entry for the show lists her as a producer only, creation and writing? Nope. She cannot be held responsible for the show being cancelled after one season, being a "producer" at Seven is mostly about photocopying and Lattes for the EP.

The only screen writing she has been credited for seems to be one episode of "Packed to the Rafters".

I've working in and around this industry here and the states for nearly forty years, I know writers who have spent years dedicated to refining their craft, moving up through the ranks by sheer determination as much as talent.

I still contend that that script with Hardy's By line would not have been funded. This all about patronage and nothing about talent.

And she's a Vegan!
A Fucking Vegan!

Mr E Discharge said...

Correction:
I meant to say "contend that that script WITHOUT Hardy's By line would not have been funded"

Kettle, Why not borrow a Fender Precision from someone and go as Kim Deal?

Melba said...

SQUIB DON'T READ THIS, IT'S MORE ABOUT LAID













I agree Alex I don't know that it can be sustained if it's only about the awkwardness. I liked the main actor's delivery of the lines; I agree I though the guy in the taxi reacted unrealistically but then it served to lead to the next piece of action.

I guess it's just a whimsical 'what if' premise and I'm prepared to give it a go because there is a lot of worse stuff around.

I don't require a lot of intellectual challenge from my tv, far from it. West Wing probably satisfied me in a permanent way, and I don't want serious. Too many cop shows. The tv I like is not mainstream, and I liked this because it was different. It was. Not a cop in sight. Not a nurse in sight. And no fucking families as the central arena of drama.

I wanted it to go for longer, though.

Kettle said...

Widely Published?????

Yeah, I would say so. She's written a kids' tv series, the channel 7 one (Last Man Standing, which is the series everyone always refers to as a flop, including her), as well as episodes of some regular Australian soaps (yeah, I know). She's been a newspaper columnist for years and contributes to a range of magazines, including Frankie. She's written intros and other pieces for anthologies. She's also got a novel and a creative non-fiction book due out next year (this year? Can't remember). Can't think of anymore off the top of my head. Maybe it's not much for a typical writer? I don't know, but it seems a lot.

I guess I was thinking, in terms of talent versus 'a name' behind the show, there seems to have been quite a number of people involved in its creation which makes it more difficult for me to dismiss it because she wrote it (and she's just a name, talentless, etc.). My understanding is that the screenplay was written collaboratively by Hardy and Kirsty Fisher (who also contributed to Last Man Standing, and has written episodes of Stingers), that it was produced by Liz Watts (who also did Animal Kingdom, which I thought was excellent), and directed by Trent O'Donnell, who did Review With Myles Barlow.

Then... I suspect your point will be that if so many people were involved why is Hardy's name the only one being bandied about in the media? Gah! Indeed.

Anyhoo Mr E, I'll stop banging on about it now as it looks like we're coming at it from different perspectives. Thanks for sharing but.

Thanks also for the Kim Deal idea; you reckon my ukulele will pass for a bass?

Mr E Discharge said...

Thanks Kettle,
Let us agree to disagree then.

A lot of this goes back to the lengthy discussion Alex, you and I had about wankery in the arts, and my attitudes are pretty much entrenched. I thought the show was shit, still do, and won't be watching next week.

On to more important things,,,,,

No, a ukulele will not do!

As a fallback, maybe a Richenbacher would do.

Kettle said...

As a fallback, maybe a Richenbacher would do.

Awesome. I'm actually having morning tea with some chaps from a guitar factory tomorrow; I'll see what they can rustle up.

Mr E Discharge said...

Go for the Fender if you can, the Richenbacher is a bitch to keep tuned.

Alex said...

I'm confident I know you well enough to know better, Mr E, but looking at this thread in isolation, I reckon one could easily get the impression that Marieke was the reason you hated it. It's just that, while I agree that it wasn't "good", if you're considering it on a scale from very, very good shows to very, very bad shows, I'm afraid I struggle to see justification for the rank of "steaming turd".

Melba, I agree that stories don't have to be intelligent to be entertaining. The trick to holding an audience, I think, is to always keep them caring enough about the characters that they can't turn away. Seems to work for the soaps, at any rate.

Kettle said...

I take it you're against being a pixie then, Kettle?

Nothing against pixies per se, Alex, I just prefer the company of pirate wenches.

West Wing probably satisfied me in a permanent way.

That's gold, Melba.

Alex said...

So, Mr Kettle is going as a pirate wench, then?

Melba said...

Alex you've said what I was thinking.

But each to their own. I'm not saying it was terrific either, but I don't think the vitriol is justified.

But that's ok.

Alex said...

Alex you've said what I was thinking.

Well, I'm glad I wasn't the only one thinking of Mr Kettle as a pirate wench.

Melba said...

Er that's not what I meant but it will cause less offence if people read it that way.