Category Archives: What I’ve been listening to

Podcast: Mum Says My Memoir is a Lie

If you saw Q&A on ABC last Monday, you would have seen Rosie Waterland as one of the panelists.  “Who’s Rosie Waterland?” you may ask. It was, in fact, the first time that I have seen Rosie Waterland too, but she sounded very familiar because I’d been listening to her podcast ‘Mum Says My Memoir is a Lie’ for 22 episodes, over several weeks. You can find  it here.

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Rosie Waterland wrote an award-winning memoir about her troubled and dysfunctional childhood called The Anti-Cool Girl in 2015 . Her mother Lisa, an alcoholic, had been warned by her friends not to read it and, given her health and other problems at the time, it was highly unlikely that she would have done so.  Two years later, however, Lisa had cleaned up her act and was sober and she read the book.  This podcast, as mother and daughter face off over the veracity of  Rosie’s memoir, is the result.For the first few weeks of listening to this, I found myself talking about it to anyone I came across, urging them to listen to it.  It is graphic, disturbing, but also illuminating and thought-provoking.

Lisa, now in her 50s, has had her own troubled life, but has worked (remarkably) as a psychiatric nurse, and from her vocabulary, is clearly well-educated. From her voice, and accent, however, you can detect the effect of years of drug and alcohol abuse and some pretty hard living. Rosie sounds young (she is in her early 30s) and likewise, bears the traces of a private school education in her voice as well, mixed in with the effects of some pretty hard living in her own right. They often clash: sometimes over the veracity of Rosie’s obviously coloured memoir, which combines humour with real tragedy, but more importantly, often  over blame and responsibility.

You don’t need to have read the book, because each podcast starts with Rosie reading a chapter until she reads the whole way through. There’s mutual embarrassment here, when Rosie is reading about her own, or her mother’s, sex life, and discomfort when she exposes Lisa’s multiple failures as a mother.  Then, after Rosie has finished reading the chapter, they ‘discuss’ it. Sometimes it’s outright denial from one or the other of them; other times it’s reflection and a step towards reconciliation.  At other times, it sparks off an argument that you just know has been had many times before.  It’s interesting (and somewhat voyeuristic) listening to the whole of an argument, as distinct from just overhearing snatches of it on the phone, or worse still, being involved in the altercation yourself.  You hear the shifts in the logic; the outright stupidity; the inadequacy and immaturity of other parts of the argument. Your sympathies shift back and forth.  I noticed this most with the episode about Rosie’s weight gain.

Is it my age perhaps? For all Lisa’s flaws (and they are legion, as they are with us all), I found myself more often on her side. I wish her well.

But I must confess that by the end of the series,  I was tiring of it. The next-to-last two or three episodes could be easily skipped, with just the final episode as closure (and even that last one went on too long).  I wondered why she felt Rosie felt that she had to abnegate herself through her revelations (TMI, you might say) and combined with her weight problems, I started to feel too voyeuristic and even complicit in heightening Rosie’s pain.  Will she still want this podcast to be around in ten years? I wonder.

But the first, say, 15, episodes I found absolutely compelling.  Brave stuff- from both of them.  And when I saw her on Q&A the other night, I felt as if I were hearing the voice of a friend.

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The streets are alive…

…with the sound of cheeping, whining magpies. Ye Gods, who’d be a magpie parent? On and on the young ‘uns nag – “feed me, feed me”- constantly hanging round wanting food.

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I have so many questions! Are these magpies here the same ones I see in the next street? Are they the same ones who were hanging around last year? Will they dive bomb me? How smart are they anyway?

And here’s a fascinating little podcast to answer all those questions and more. It was on Radio National’s Offtrack program last week;  it’s called The Colourful Life of the Australian Magpie and you can access it here.

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My new best friends on podcast

I’m really enjoying Chat10Looks3, a podcast put together by Leigh Sales and Annabelle Crabbe.  You can subscribe on I-tunes or download them from their website at  http://www.chat10looks3.com/   It’s worth downloading them all and listening from the beginning because there’s quite a few in-jokes.

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They rabbit on about the books they’ve read, films they’ve seen, a little bit of current affairs and politics, favourite recipes and -yes- they cook cakes and biscuits for each other. Podcasts are often interrupted by their children coming to the door, the sound of them eating their delicious gifts to each other and bursts of laughter.  It’s like sitting beside two uproariously funny girlfriends having a coffee.

It was through Chat10Looks3 that I heard about a fantastic podcast called The Living Room by Diane Weipert

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(http://loveandradio.org/2015/03/the-living-room/)

What a podcast! Within 30 I found myself recoiling in disgust at the narrator’s voyeurism, sobbing at the sadness of what she saw, and wondering if, by making this podcast, she has committed an even more egregious betrayal.   It’s one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to- see if you agree.

The 2015 Hazel Rowley Lecture, Adelaide Writers Week

I’ve been very much enjoying catching up on the podcasts from the 2015 Adelaide Writers Week. What a terrific site!

The 2015 Hazel Rowley Memorial Lecture was delivered by David Marr.   Unlike Rowley, who wrote from historical sources after her subjects had died, Marr comes to writing biography through journalism, particularly through the genre of the long form political profile of 5000-10,000 words- a length rarely encouraged in our sound-bite, tablet-friendly, swipe-driven media landscape.

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marr2Marr particularly embraces The Quarterly Essay format, which at 30,000 words, is a form that provides scope for a slim biography of subjects who are still alive, still dangerous and where there is still time to warn.  I’ll certainly be dusting off his Quarterly Essay on Tony Abbott after recent events, and his latest one on Bill Shorten landed in my letterbox this week.

Marr recounted being tackled by a psychiatrist on Q&A who derided his qualification to make assessments of character, claiming it as a skill that psychiatrists took years of training to master.  However, as Marr pointed out, biographers are in the “business” of character too. In the maelstrom of politics, character, he argues, is fixed.  In both political and literary biography, the approach is the same: to discover the character, paint the world, follow the life and rate the work.

The winner of the 2015 Hazel Rowley fellowship was announced: Caroline Baum. She will write on Lucy Dreyfus, the wife of Alfred Dreyfus.  She delivered what sounds to have been an unexpectedly emotional acceptance speech which, like Marr’s presentation, honoured Rowley as a biographer in a fitting tribute.

ANZAC Centenary Peace Coalition Forum 3: from ANZAC to Vietnam

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Two weeks ago I mentioned that I would be attending the third forum presented by the ANZAC Centenary Peace Coalition.  This series of fora has been running throughout 2015 at the Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church, following a chronological trajectory of the history of the peace movement from the early 20th century through to today.

This third session, hosted by the Victorian Council of Churches, dealt with the period immediately following World War Two through to Vietnam.  Of course, by this stage we’re venturing into living memory.  Many of the audience were themselves participants in these events as part of their life-long commitment to peace activism.

Andrew Hewett commenced with the post-war period.  During the 1950s and early 1960s the peace movement was largely caught up in the politics of the Cold War.  Conscription was introduced for the Korean War, but not for overseas deployment.  It was not a time of militant activity or demonstrations and the Peace Council was strongly identified with Soviet  ideology. The Melbourne Peace Congress was held in 1959 with over 1000 delegates and led to the formation of the Council for International Co-operation and Disarmament.   The Communist Party of Australia and the trade unions provided original grunt and international links.  They were joined by the Peace Parsons, the Unitarian Rev Victor James, the Presbyterian Rev. A. M Dickie and Rev. F. J. Hartley from the Methodist Church.   In 1960 the first CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) group was founded in Melbourne and the Victorian Peace Council was disbanded.  The CND, part of an international movement, increasingly turned its focus to Vietnam.  (See e-Melbourne for a good entry on this).

Michael Hamel-Green, who gained much prominence as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War took up the story for the 1960s and 1970s.  The CND focused on the Pacific, where nuclear tests were taking place. Some ALP politicians took up the cause (Calwell, Cairns and Uren) and a nuclear-free Pacific became ALP policy.  The introduction of conscription for Vietnam and the extension of conscription for overseas service came as a surprise to many.  In the two years after its introduction (1964-1966) there was initial dissent, particularly amongst teachers, and between 1967-9 there was a shift to non-violent civil disobedience.  The government was reluctant to jail large numbers of objectors.  Between 1970-2 there was mass mobilization, culminating in the May 1970 Moratorium march (interesting video here- look at it!), which 1 in 30 Melburnians attended, blocking the city from William Street to Parliament House.  The Liberal/Country Party coalition government withdrew all combat troops in 1971. (See a 1970 article written by Michael Hamel-Green in all his youthful passion here)

Finally Rev Dr. Sandy Yule spoke about the relationship between Christian Churches and the anti-Vietnam protests.  He was a member of the Student Christian Movement at time, and the Church had had a long-standing presence in the peace movement of the late 1950s and 60s through the Peace Parsons (Revs James, Dickey and Hartley) and through the World Council of Churches’ opposition to the apartheid regime.  The 1948 Christmas Bowl Appeal marked the shift of the churches towards development as a vehicle for peace, as did the Action for World Development inter-denominational initiative. He noted that the churches have a role as a source of peace-making, especially through models of consensus decision making.

The evening finished with questions from the audience.  The masculine dominance amongst the speakers (and the audience-questioners too) was properly noted by an audience member.  The next and final forum, ‘From Military Security to Human Security’ to be held on 26th October, will provide some balance here, with three female presenters (Professor Jacqui True from Monash University; Prof Robyn Eckersley from University of Melbourne and Ass.Prof. Marianne Hanson from UQ).