Saturday, May 18, 2013

Butch buffs' buffet

AS it feels morally obliged to do, week after week, the Silly has once again published some of Butch Carlton's deeper thoughts. This may be a case of "do unto others", as there can be no scribbly editorial units in Fairfax World Headquarters who have not wondered what they will be doing with themselves when the receivers chase everyone out of the building. Perhaps, if they continue to provide a forum for a failed radio host, karma will kick in and their own coming days of even greater irrelevance and mounting financial stress will be mitigated by the indulgent charity of some as-yet-unknown philanthropist. Well, it's a theory, and just as valid as the notion that Silly readers arise of a weekend morn eager to bathe in the spleen of the otherwise unemployed.

The matter of where they will get their fix when the Silly is shuttered is pressing. But there is hope of relief, as it has long seemed that Butch's columns are written not with the ink of coherence but as a consequence of inscribing random thoughts on little bits of paper and plucking them in no particular order from a hat. If buffs were to collect his columns and slice and dice them, they could assemble fresh doses of Butchalalia every single day of the week.

To demonstrate that there would be no erosion of tone and substance from such a method, The Professor has this very morning taken today's offering and re-arranged the paragraphs in random order. It even works for the headline. See if you can tell the amalgam from the original:

Magnificent When A Guard Drops Her PM

From now on, disabled Australians and their families will find their burdens lighter, their hopes brighter. In this turbulent political year, Gillard somehow discovered in us what Abraham Lincoln so memorably described as "the better angels of our nature".

"Great morning tea with Snake Gully Shire councillors," they say. "Very much looking forward to tonight's dinner and folkloric performance to welcome the visiting Archimandrite of Antioch." Often there is a grainy photo of the happy knees-up.

I speak with authority. The north shore's bosky woods and grassy glades were my childhood playground. I attained high rank as a leader of the Seagull Patrol in the 1st Lindfield Scout Troop, and I was a prefect at Barker College (until an unfortunate Muck-Up Day incident saw me drummed out of that band of brothers). I nearly rolled an MGA 1600 on Eastern Arterial Road, Killara, in 1964. Later, my two elder children grew up in Turramurra. So, although politically I am a class traitor and I've moved thankfully away, I still claim cred …

Imagine my surprise when legions of the Twitterati reported back that, not long ago, Devine herself had upset the punters by accusing a gay tweeter of "rogering gerbils". It's a funny old world, as dear Lady Thatcher used to say.

How churlish. It was that spirit - or lack of it - which led the opposition Whip Warren Entsch to deny a pair to a Labor MP wanting to go home to Sydney on Thursday to care for her sick child. Politics, politics, always politics. Entsch was eventually persuaded to back off, but not before he had sniffed that: ''People's obligation in the first instance is to be in this Parliament.''

But, deary me, the place has changed. When I was living there some 20 years ago, a local matron knocked on the front door one evening, blue-rinse awry, fear in her eyes, panic in her voice. Concerned, I invited her in.

''The people who've gathered here today from around the country to witness this debate know what this means,'' she croaked.

It's when she drops her guard that she's magnificent. Humanity, passion and decency shine through. So it was on Wednesday, when she introduced the DisabilityCare bill to Parliament in a tide of emotion, tears welling, voice choking. Between sobs she spoke well and her words deserve to be remembered:

"Mr Carlton, you're in the media - there's something you should know," she quavered. "We must do something. The Chinese have moved into the street!”

Those gathered did not include the opposition, where the green leather benches were shamefully empty. Yes, the Coalition and its leader support national disability insurance; but in an election year it would not do to be too enthusiastic about a Labor reform, apparently.

Julia Gillard is so much better when not trying. Stuck behind a lectern, droning away at some boilerplate speech cranked out by her office gnomes, she is cold and remote, more than a bit prissy. Groping for prime ministerial gravitas, she comes across all head girl on speech day.

A fortnight in, the Twitterverse continues to reveal its mysteries to me. There was something of a spat between myself and the News Ltd columnist Miranda Devine a week ago when I tweeted a joke about her claim that she'd been "embedded" with the riot squad.

That done, we turn to a more fundamental question Australians must confront: where and what is Sydney's north shore? This has been bothering Herald readers, or some of them, on the letters page all week.

Prime ministers are ever conscious of their place in history. Gillard has been viciously assailed by her enemies, not least by those in her own party. Few prime ministers have been so abused, not even Gough and Malcolm back in the days of rage.

The most prolific of all is @Colvinius, who is Mark Colvin, host of ABC radio's PM. He scours the world's media and digests it for his 35,000 followers. The funniest I've encountered is the Melbourne writer and comedian, @benpobjie, who rattles off a fusillade of one-liners.

''DisabilityCare Australia starts in seven weeks, and there will be no turning back.''

Politicians tweet about the good works they perform, keen to tell the world of their dutiful attendance at worthy civic functions and obscure ethnic frolics. @Malcolm_Turnbull and @KRuddMP are assiduous at this, as you would expect.

The north shore begins at Boundary Street, Roseville. It runs up the Pacific Highway and the railway line to Wahroonga and not a metre more. The posher side stops two kilometres east of the line, but most definitely does not include St Ives. People west of the line get in, but only if they're within a kilometre of their local station. And that's that.

It was obvious, tacky and silly, I admit. I took it down and apologised. Shocked, The Australian put me on page three last Saturday, and her Melbourne colleague Andrew Bolt, the Rinehart Cowboy, went nuts as well.

But the future will acknowledge her commitment of the nation to care for its disabled is a towering Labor landmark on the road to social justice, in every way as significant as the basic wage, the aged pension, the 40-hour week, Medicare and Mabo. And take a bow, Bill Shorten, for bolting the policy together.

But the absolute trump is @ShockJockCoach. I haven't a clue who that might be but, as the name suggests, each morning he or she tweets a running commentary on the wretched excesses of Alan Jones and Ray Hadley. It's not just hilarious ; it's a great national service.

Here is the correct answer, which I never tire of giving: if you have to ask, you've got no business being there. They don't want you in Warrawee and Turramurra, Pymble and Roseville. You can christen your children Hamish and Sophie and book them into Knox and Abbotsleigh; you can acquire the mandatory golden retriever, and the Volvo XC90, and the Federation bungalow with the tennis court, but still they'll see through you. Honestly, you'd be happier in Frenchs Forest.

There you go, Butch buffs. It's as easy as a former Slater & Gordon union lawyer.




  1. Indolent says:


    Today's column describes a very exiting event that took place in the life of the young Butch.

    "I nearly rolled an MGA 1600 on Eastern Arterial Road, Killara, in 1964." Carlton tells his readers.

    This sentence contains a level of detail not usually found in his other works. The make and model of the vehicle is included to ensure the reader understands he was/is a cool dude and the full address and the year of the event is provided for authenticity just in case anyone thinks he is making it all up. Alas, he reverts to the subjective when he uses the phrase 'nearly rolled'. Butch we are told, once nearly rolled a car back in 1964. A proper journo would have rolled that car. I doubt that he even got close. It could also be said that Butch once nearly wrote a coherent column or that he was once nearly a successful jock.

    I wonder if he owns a car these days. If he does, I hope it's a small one. The thought of Butch behind the wheel of a large automobile deeply disturbs me.

    1. Well, what with his constant ravings about speed cameras and speeding fines being 'revenue raising' plus his constant, 30-year liking for Tired and Emotional states, I suspect that he gave up cars (and driving) years ago.

  2. "We must do something. The Chinese have moved into the street!"

    This coming from a man who currently lives in the most white-bread region of Sydney that can be found -- the upper northern beaches.

  3. The 18yo Butch's access to an MGA 1600 (1959-62) in 1964 reveals a degree of poshness I never expected from a devoted Labor man. Is our man Mike yet another of the privileged toffs, like Phillip Adams, who wears his socialism like a fashion accessory.

  4. "Imagine my surprise when legions of the Twitterati reported back that, not long ago, Devine herself had upset the punters by accusing a gay tweeter of 'rogering gerbils'."

    Okay, so help me out here. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but when I do a twitter search for all the legions of Twitterati who tweeted Our Butch about gerbils, I only come up with...... two?

  5. No doubt Butch was belting down the road with a buxom broad listening to the Beach Boys.

  6. I'm sorry, Perfessor. I tried. Rearranged or not, the idea that a man around sixty is still producing such emotionally stunted undergraduate zombia is not only repellent, but quite sad.

  7. Carlton regales:

    ''DisabilityCare Australia starts in seven weeks, and there will be no turning back.''

    Costello says it is more like seven years!!!!

  8. She should know better; it's "rogering with gerbils".


  9. I would have to agree with everything Butch says here. Wonderful elocution that. Tremendously convincing. It really was silly, and he admits it.

  10. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.May 20, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    Yes, I see, Prof. It does make perfect sense, doesn't it? Like re-arranging musical notes. The North Shore upbringing and the blue rinse and the four decades old in-group and she's magnificent when she drops her guard, isn't she great, and Andrew Bolt, and Malcolm Turnbull, and the medja and all.

    I think Fairfax readers only read in memes. Their brains go click, click, and context matters not. You demonstrate well how this audience can be endlessly titillated by verbal juggling of antedated stuff to give the same anachronistic sense of wondrous satisfaction that it has always aroused. There is no need for any quality journalism any more. It is already written. Just as Allah says.

  11. Being a bit old, I was slow to realise what has been happening at the SMH.
    Clearly, Carlton has not not been writing for years, his columns have been constucted from his earlier "works", as it were.
    Probably by a young intern, who is a product of child led learning, so fashionable today.