We saw Les Miserables today.
It was a fantastic cast, crew and creatives of amazing talents.
While we’re all there to see if Jean Valjean (Simon Gleeson) escapes his nemesis, the dogged Javert (Hayden Tee), or if student Marius (Euan Doidge) will make it with Cosette (Emily Langridge), watch out for the minor characters (especially the Thenardiers: Lara Mulcahy and Trevor Ashley) who will catch you unawares. Even the emerging actors playing the roles of lost boy Gavroche and the younger Eponine and Cosette put in memorable performances that earned generous applause.
No one in the cast or ensemble is filler – everyone is working every second they’re on stage. And it’s the quiet beats and extra work the actors do to bring their characters to life (especially Mulcahy, watch her buxom frame seem to float on air towards a tier cake or mock young Cosette) that make their performances all the more compelling.
This reimagined production’s fast-paced storytelling, cutting out the extraneous plot points, is more in line with what modern audiences expect. And the rear-projection in places will capture your imagination with seamless cinematic effects to transport you virtually off the stage.
You’ll laugh, cry and hold your breath throughout the three hours – and it will seem too short a time to spend in this world of revolutionaries, lovers and others. In places, your heart will soar with the hopes of the characters and elsewhen you’ll palpably feel their despair. But you’ll be gripped from the moment the lights dim to the final bar of music.
My favourite song is the main theme, Do You Hear the People Sing? This is a tough song to perform because anyone with a nodding acquaintance has their favourite rendition. While there were points that I would have appreciated the pronunciation to be more deliberate on the downward beat and perhaps a bit more drawn out, the version here was very satisfying. The standout songs were the Thenardiers’ Master of the House, the cast belting out One Day More and Eponine’s solo On My Own.
But what’s so telling is how relevant this story is even today. There are parallels between a pre-July-Revolution France and the West in the 21st century that are keenly felt. From the brutal treatment of workers under the yoke of unscrupulous employers supported by the police state, to the opposing forces of naive student idealists betrayed by an apathetic, scared and lazy public – this is every bit as much Australia 2015 as it was France 1815.
If I could make an improvement it would be to lift the overall lighting on stage without affecting the ratios too much. It was sometimes difficult in the back 10 rows to see what was happening on stage or pick out who was singing. I’d sacrifice the dark and sculpted Caravaggio ambience for clarity in these instances.
That small criticism aside, if you love the book or any of the films then this is a performance you won’t want to miss.
It’s always fun as a writer to look back over your prognostications and howl at how you got so much so very, very wrong. Take a swig from the old caraffe of humble wine and chuckle at your own naivete.
That’s almost preferable to the kind of scary feeling you get when you look back and see how close to the mark your predictions hit.
Here’s some excerpts from a keynote I delivered in Melbourne to the Australian Unix User Group in 1999. This was a time when Mambo No.5 by Lou Bega was at the top of the charts, Australia was about to deploy INTERFET troops to Indonesia and John Howard was PM (so not much changed, after all). And the biggest IT story was the pending cyberpocalypse of the Millennium Bug – a damp squib that took out a few cash registers and not much else.
Against this backdrop, I framed my keynote on what I saw as the big IT issues that were about to break – mobility, cloud services such as software-as-a-service, ubiquitous wireless communications, smartphones and “WebTablets” (yeah, the language was yet to be coined but the concepts were the same).
A couple of stories about the consequences of population growth today caught my eye. The first looks at the press of population as we hit 24 million people living in Australia next year. The other is on a related topic of development in Sydney and, by implication, elsewhere in Australia.
Growth in population is a given. Indeed, our economic models require population to grow if only to maintain our standard of living. But development is vexed by self-interest. Developers want deal flow, which is why they’re ripping into suburbs like marauders with no concern for residents. The banks want loan books. The State Government wants property taxes.
People just want a place to live that meets their needs.
What no one is discussing is how younger generations wisely have rejected the property ponzi scheme that ensnared their parents and older siblings. This “time-share generation” is delaying major rites of passage or bypassing them entirely, choosing collaborative consumption that values access over ownership. Younger Australians reaching maturity are less inclined to tie themselves down to a 30-year mortgage or even a 5-year car loan. They tend to car share, rather than own a vehicle (self-driving cars like Google’s reinforce this preference). Generations coming through prefer to share a house or rent than buy their first home. Many prefer to live in shared accommodation (with their folks or others) well into their 30s.
They are explorers, not settlers.
As a community we need to look for more sustainable economic solutions. For instance, high quality lodge-style accommodations with individual small living quarters supported by creative communal areas. Innovative bank loans to allow these sorts of developments to be built and traded. A removal of the 50sqm rule for getting bank loans. Replacing the antiquated and wasteful craft building industry with prefabricated, modular construction. And other ideas to house a growing population without destroying the amenity that attracts people to certain areas in the first place.
We need to focus on the enabling information infrastructure that looks holistically at what future generations want to achieve, including smart roads and utilities infrastructure, and not just transplant 1920s high-density or 1950s roads solutions for the 21st and 22nd century. If we are to revisit the past, then it should be to learn from concepts such as Buckminster Fuller’s Triton City.
We shouldn’t expect just more of the same if we’re to create a sustainable, liveable and desirable community fit for the 21st century.
Michael Malone did much to set Australia on the path to a connected future, but does he deserve all the credit?
Not a bad piece by Peter Moon today in the Australian Financial Review (How Michael Malone kickstarted the Australian internet) on the iiNet co-founder’s resignation. But in shoehorning his narrative into a Campbellian Hero’s Journey, Moon’s piece suffers from over-simplification and revisionism I find frustrating – especially in the erroneous headline.
For instance, Dialix’s Jeff Johnson did more to kickstart the internet than iiNet by offering 1c/KB downloads when most network providers charged by the minute. Dialix, Australia’s first commercial ISP with a national footprint, enabled early net users, in theory, to maintain 24/7 uptime for pennies (plus the cost of a phone line). And this was three years before iiNet. Moon’s headline would have been more accurate were it to refer to iiNet as helping the internet get out of second gear rather than ‘kickstarting’ it.
But Moon’s most serious breach is how he liquid-papers out of existence Malone’s co-founder. By sticking to the MSM fascination with “One man against all odds”, Moon falls into the trap of ignoring Malone’s friend and uber-geek co-founder Michael O’Reilly. Those of us who were around in the mid-’90s would usually refer to “the two Michaels” whenever we spoke about iiNet, that’s how central O’Reilly was. In a similar vein to Apple – to carry forward the garage analogy that Moon deploys – Malone was Jobs to O’Reilly’s Woz. And in those early days, the two were inseparable on the public stage (although O’Reilly usually fielded the hard, technical questions).
Moon also glosses over Perth’s unique collegiate atmosphere in those early days before the web was mainstream c. 1995 without appreciating the impact it had on other elements he discusses. This shared approach to the emerging industry arose out of the hobbyist community where BBS operators collaborated with each other for mutual support and gain (especially against the vicissitudes of a ravenous Telecom). Malone and O’Reilly weren’t players in that earlier online community, however it was those BBS sysops who transformed into the nucleus of the WA ISP community into which the iiNet co-founders thrust their seed.
This played out in unexpected ways. For instance, in the creation of WAIA, Australia’s first ISP/IAP association formed in WA (the iiNet co-founders were there with me at the inaugural meeting). This relationship contributed to WA-IX, the first ISP data peering exchange in Australia that was the model for the rest of the industry. WA-IX lifted performance for users while keeping ISP costs under control. So when Moon says iiNet “probably wouldn’t have been sued (by AFACT acting for film studios) in the first place if its management had implemented a safe harbour” against copyright infringement, he ignores that this was culturally antithetical to a community founded on sharing. iiNet also had a strongly Libertarian view informed by the US EFF dating back to the earliest days (Perth lawyer Kim Heitman, formerly iiNet’s director of regulatory affairs and WAIA spokesman, helped to found the EFA that was modelled on the US cyber-rights association). And in my dealings with the two Michaels, I’ve found them to share similar pro-sharing beliefs. In any event, safe harbour laws for sharing weren’t even on the radar back then and iiNet – rightly on my view – preferenced customers’ needs over those of rent seekers.
Users transitioning from the BBSs of the day merged seamlessly on to the ‘information superhighway’ (as it was known back then) resulting in very quick growth for ISPs. This was a fertile hunting ground for iiNet, which merged with rival ISP Wantree just prior to its 1999 share float. Indeed, it was the prospect of shares in the listed entity that subsequently attracted many WA IAPs, who took over executive and technical positions at the listed company. Malone’s vision was complete, O’Reilly having sold to his partner the year before. But this extraordinary coalescing of interests couldn’t have happened were it not for the monthly BBS (then WAIA) beers at an inner-city pub, which allowed Perth’s IAPs to socialise and consolidate under iiNet’s banner in a way the more confrontational and suspicious east coast industry couldn’t manage.
Moon alludes to iiNet having form with creating networks, but fails to mention that when Telstra became overbearing, the upstart iiNet built its own broadband network – the first of its ilk to do so.
Moon isn’t short of praise for Malone and the ISP he founded but misses milestones, failing to credit how iiNet developed its own consumer access and networking devices, wrote key software, instituted pre-pay and bundling, and contributed to the Linux kernel – vital infrastructure for the early internet industry globally.
Malone always put innovation and transformation at the core of the little ISP and it will be interesting to see how he puts these tenets to use where he lands next.
Postscript 16 May 2014: Over beers with Malone earlier this week, he raised that Dialix was using UUCP, a system that was internet-like, on its own network before iiNet launched. Although Dialix had many of the features of the internet and gateways into it, iiNet was the first commercial ISP to offer unfettered access to the net, Dialix following a year or so afterwards.
Today, the Sydney Morning Herald is running a column by Peter Hartcher lauding Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s reaffirming of his Age of Entitlement speech. This manifesto says that Aussies are basically on their own if they fall on hard times and this boils down to, “Suck it up, Princess!”
What Hartcher and Hockey don’t tell us is how our own Treasurer’s entitlements (what he claims from taxpayers over and above his salary for doing his job) have exploded in the past year. I blogged on Hockey’s previous claims.
The Herald might like to probe Hockey’s own expenses claims before it starts rallying to his side. How to square what Hockey says about entitlements when in just six months from 1 January 2013 he racked up $278,687.48 in expenses (up from $195,177.01 in the six months beforehand and $43,479.00 in the period before that).
According to Expenditure on Entitlements paid by the Department of Finance and Deregulation, this included:
Home Base $14,662.00
Overseas Travel $21,964.77
Car Costs $22,601.24
Office Facilities $119,076.88
Office Fit Outs $153.64
Office Administrative Costs $83,796.55
Family Travel Costs $8,560.38
Hockey gets a ‘dedicated data line’ in his home that costs ~$1560 a year paid for by the taxpayer where the Coalition insists if citizens want the NBN, they have to pay for it themselves. The $119,077 in Hockey’s office facilities is a single line item without further details.
But the really big blow-out in Hockey’s entitlements were in office administrative costs, which exploded from $12,789 to nearly $84,000 in the six months covering the election campaign. Family travel costs grew over three successive periods from nothing to nearly $4000 to $8560 by the middle of last year.
Hockey’s entitlements claim notes ‘adjustments’ for parliamentary travel to Melbourne on 16 July 2012 (-$160), family plane tickets (-$1250.04) and Comcar (-$81.81). As Treasurer, Hockey earns $365,868 a year salary, plus super and other entitlements.
There is no suggestion that Hockey was not entitled to make any of these claims or that he has done anything wrong in doing so.
Sydney put on its usual fireworks show, owing to the rotation of the Earth and an historical accident of cartography, the first one of a major city each year.
Here are my (copyrighted) images from last night, using the same techniques I outlined in this earlier blog post on how to shoot fireworks. I wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2014.