Happy 80th birthday Phillip Adams!
Fiedler is interviewing him and having a conversation.
He is talking about the farm and the kangaroos and feral animals who live there.
He has an apartment in Kings Cross.
“Does living on a property change the way you see the world?”
When he was small he tilled the soil with donkeys and no motor vehicle or electronic appliances.
LNL is a wireless programme.
William Smith Adams - what you saw is what you got - no fragmentation of the personality.
These days people have multiple personality disorder - change and reconfigure and …. In contrast Grandpa was just grandpa.
He had a quiet wisdom and tranquility.
Bob Ellis called it the curse of interruption. - now is a great neon lit search lit sign which lasts a neurosecond -ahem, a nanosecond!
Reverend Charles Adams.
Sue Ellen Smith was Adams’ Mum. She came from Maryborough or did they live there?
Phil is two years old. His dad is writing a sermon. There is this vast thunderous noise and he looks up through the peppercorn trees and the sky is on fire.
He crashed through this door - thunder and lightning - he went to his father for comfort.
His first memory is apocalyptical.
“How so,” asks Fidler.
“A terrible sense of dread and mortality”.
A tiny farm on the outskirts of Melbourne - he was about four when it happened - and he was terrified of death and infinity and mortality.
It was dreadful and full of terror.
Christianity was the family business - he tried to believe in Charles’ god and failed miserably.
The Congregational Manse.
He joined the Communist party when he was 15 years old. 1954.
He felt the sting of poverty? Was everyone poor around?
The whole area was gentrified and something.
He went to school in badly hand-made clothing and a bike he was ashamed still to have pedalled.
Bullied for being an oddball and for being poor.
Kerry Packer was called a boofhead - so was Phillip Adams!
Reverend Charles called him Headling as a middle name. Kid with the big bum called Bottomley - it was like that.
A large papier-mâché head which he filled with brains - he didn’t quite decide to fill his head like that.
The only safe escape was books for Philip - the East Kew subbranch of the library.
Grandma and Grandad would send 2 romance books form the street - and also William books he would read for the 50th time and Biggles too.
The librarian went up the step and took Philip an adult book - The Grapes of Wrath.
All kids feel the battle and victimhood of injustice - something systemic and significant.
Your life is a walk in the park compared to others.
Mother partnered with a sleepy businessman who was abusive and violent.
His father didn’t protect him when his life was appalling - father was weak and appalling.
He broke off relations with his father and never spoke for 30-40 years until he died.
The poor businessman - PA made a bonfire of the PB/SB with his mother - at least his stuff.
Michael Burke is the guy’s name. Al Garnett character - ignorant and offensively unpleasant.
He must have been some kind of anti-father. And he tried to murder Philip - he was not a nice person.
Philip tried to protect his mother. He died too easily and painfully from a heart attack.
It was a ceremonial bonfire - suits; Lodge apron; [he was a Freemason]
Fidler’s dad could not bear to see a kid in a bad situation - and Philip supports children’ refuges like the Emblings.
The playground was not a playground - it was a little “hell on earth”.
The cruelty of children on each other - child-on-child abuse. It was just as bad as adult-on-kid abuse.
Blend and merge at the end of every school day.
With incredible shame - Mongoloid would be hanging out on the swings and PA and friends would pick on him.
The first refugee kids were arriving from Europe - PA was 6 to 14 when it was all happening. [1945-1953]
A shamed memory of what children do to children.
How did Philip choose to be an optimist? Not going to live that wounded self - a larger; more enthusiastic life.
On the cosmic level - you live in a meaningless universe without purpose - you give it a subjective meaning - meaning in another sense.
Philip’s meaning was trying to seek and find judgement. He was radicalised.
Comedy and humour was another radicalising and cathartic force for Philip - love is more congenial on balance.
Laughter contains great truths and he was a columnist for everyone - very inclusive
John Clarke had a genius for a compassionate satire.
He left because of the Soviet invasion of Hungary when he was 17 .
Then you put a concentration camp on the utopia and it gets bigger and bigger and the utopia gets smaller and smaller.
A monumental claim collapses from its own contradictions.
-ology became suspect.
He was expelled? resigned? it was a time of chaos - it was the Prague Spring which was the final straw in 1968. That was when he was 29.
He stumbled into the Labor Party and was very embroiled in it.
More recently he resigned in a huff about the Kevin Rudd coup.
Rudd doesn’t have many friends - Philip is one of them.
Utopianism is mad and nuts and it leads to greed, grief and unintended consequences.
The most sterile and capitalistic endeavour you can be in - advertising.
The demands of the huge multinational clients - every boutique agency is run by an ex-Communism and Trotskyist.
The cunning plan to offer things people can’t afford. Manipulating the masses.
The late 1950s and 1960s - Australia had no film industry and there was ONE Australian play - that would be Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.
An odd Australian Council in advertising agencies - Schepsisi and Carey and Bruce Petty.
Amazing things done with the Australian film industry with Gorton and onwards.
The conquest of Australia House! Snags being cooked!
“How did you get away with stuff like that?”
“Nothing like a camera with you to engender resistance”.
Beresford/Humphries/Adams and Bazza McKenzie and the government executive. The GE was on the phone.
Please try to avoid too many Australian colloquialisms.
He was very proud that he kept his promise - Knock your dunny down into the grass.
“This is a family show”.
Converted them back into proper English - shove your head up in the dead bear’s bum. And the correct English translation is stuff your cranium…
Then we talk about the major columns in THE AUSTRALIAN and THE AGE.
Newspapers didn’t used to have columns -they were news wall-to-wall.
Graham Perkin was a legend - “Newspapers are in their dotage, don’t you realise,” said Philip Adams.
“Our newspapers will become a sagging lump.
“They’ve already seen the news and it’s on flipping television”.
Perkin took that on board and Adams was the first columnist for the Age.
He wrote about meaninglessness and could do this at intense and extensive length.
He had two pages in the Age and was encouraged to ramble.
John Singleton said he was a million words in desperate need of an editor.
And everyone else was doing it too - and he got lots and lots of letters.
There are 600 boxes of correspondence which are in the bowels of the National Library in Canberra.
They were in the farm in the shearing shed and rats were gobbling them up.
He would get some 20,000 letters. He would answer them all with his dictaphone.
Invariably now the letters are e-mailed.
He never wrote a poem - he dictated it.
We would go to the Bulletin or the Nation Review and he would do the same with correspondent.
How does he deal with abusive letters?
Bill Leak had a terrible letter from Timms - “Your offer that I should marry your daughter interested me greatly. Please send photo” he said as reply.
Which arsehole did it come off?
To this day it was delivered in perfect order from Australia Post - they can’t even deliver a Compact Disc without breaking it!
Did it have some structural integrity to it?!
Fidler was in a comedy group when he was younger.
and 2GB was when PA was working - “Total vision is a passing fad. Radio will outlive the passing parade like a cockroach”.
“radio was like two of you the guest and the listener sitting at a small table”.
That is why Gladys was invented - it wasn’t a joke about low ratings.
It’s a truth - it’s not a mass medium - it’s not like television - that broadcast energy.
You’re not shouting like - it amplifies the human ego - look at the shock jock phenomenon.
Don’t beat visitors or listeners with a point of view or your point of view.
Fidler can’t think of another guy like Adams [Adams is a bunch of guys, yes?].
2UE was considered a radio hellhole - RN was considered a Station of Lecturers.
Robyn Williams is an awesome science communicator since the 1970s and 1980s.
When he arrived at Radio National - it still talked to people like a university lecturer talked to a student. philip thought it was wrong.
Honorifics: forget them! Address the guest by their first name.
Then you’ve got to be two people talking - remind them how important they are at first.
You take people as you find them in an Australian egalitarian way.
Oh, yes, the book of australian jokes - the Hawke joke.
“There are 2 corpses on the Hawke library - one is a wallaby and one is a politician”
“There are skid marks on the wallaby”.
Isn’t that fantastic in that irreverence? So was Keating especially about Gough Whitlam.
PA collects ex-Prime-Ministers. And diplomats who have to behave themselves in office and then they tell the truth ex-officio.
They tend to be wounded - and yes politics is a very cruel profession.
When Keating was reduced to human rubble.
Rudd did not leave the political process entirely unfazed or unscathed.
And, yes politicians do age at this accelerated rate.
You’d swear it was 20 after 5 or 10 years leaving office.
Advice from J Lang - watch how politicians treat drivers cleaners waiters nurse flight attendants.
And Keating DID marry a flight attendant - Annita Iersel.
80th birthday - people express great happiness when he bounces back from the grave.
A question to Ita - Ita is not in the first flush of youth herself.
Alan Jones admit to being just 70.
John Laws is 85.
Someone is 95 and still on the air [1923, right?].
Australians are not good at #talkingaboutdeath
We say that they’ve passed away or passed.
They will the sentence to be over as soon as it’s said.
Humanity is bad about talking about death.
Refusing to admit to its reality leads to pyramids and cathedrals.
As long as we deny death/prolong life as far as possible we will not be fully human.
Life is all too brief - to waste an hour of it is a blasphemy.
Stop deflecting and stop pretending and live in the moment and rejoice in it.
The chance of us being here is vanishing remote - it relied on the dinosaur asteroid.
The spilled seed in copulation. We can’t really be here - and yet we are. Enjoy it.
The fact that anything exists at all - carbon molecules organising themselves in to diamonds.
Living next door to Kerry Packer who was a fellow atheist.
He hated plutocrats on principle.
A $10,000 investment for The getting of wisdom - Packer can you pay for it? Invest it?
The excuse to visit in Melbourne Adams’ office - and there were several alpha males.
It’s 100000 or nothing. And then there was the cheque corrected.
For dinner in this working class restaurant in the Cross.
Kerry was a very serious dyslexic and he found reading impossible. So he became an interrogated who sucked information out of anybody.
About 3am in the morning he wanted to know What was a black hole and Adams quoted Stephen Hawking.
That’s what I’ve got inside me - a black hole.
The kids John and Heather Embling looked after - so was Kerry Packer damaged by a monster father.
Adams’ attitude really softened and then they became best friends.
Adams was Packer’s closet confidant - closest, I mean.
His choice was beyond bleak - don’t do it to James!
Don’t make it into an intergenerational issue - but James is seriously mentally ill - and he has the Packer curse in spades.
1648 - the slide into authoritarian leaders. Putin; Duterte; Trump - a lot of these people are ELECTED!
Could Australia elect authoritarian leader or leaders?
Kicking a the norms of democratic behaviour.
Someone who was born a week after he was - July 1939 - by this leader.
JOHN WINSTON HOWARD. The appalling treatment of refugees. Involvement in the horror of the War in Iraq.
In complete definiace of what the public wanted - the mass marches.
The perverted killing. He chose to accept the nonsense by Dubya and Bliar.
Trump hasn’t done anything really bad - yet.
Prorogue the parliament - advise the Tax Department - advise the police to attack the political enemies.
Violence against democracy - it is in peril.
He jokes when he talks about the United States as a failed state.
Comparatively healthy democracy like Australia.
“Do you still look at the Universe with Awe and Fear”?
“Wonderment and dread” - his wonderment has increased.
The test of a great idea is that its opposite - life is short and it is very long. You can do amazing things in your lifestyle.
The little boy who was terrified of fire and thunder still live-in 80-year-old Philip.
There are more stars than there are grains of sand in Earth. Billions of suns and moons out in the universe.
Many people still believe that God has a role in it or it is.
He can understand the need.
Fidler grew up with science fiction - travelling from planet to planet like country to country.
The distances between planets - a powerful idea! The vast unspeakable gulf between planets in the solar system.
We’re just beginning to understand the Great Paradoxes that advanced brains cannot even begin to comprehend.
It numbs the mind and it exhilarates. It is a dazzling fireworks display.
How is space able to bend? He puts his head up against this idea [Fidler] - it is a contra intuitiveness which doesn’t put against our cave brain.
They stair at their computer screens - they fill their time with their smartphones.
A lack of curiosity - an interest in the Kardashians - more than a cosmic adventure with a rocketship.
A wacky idea - in the future you could upload their consciousness - PA would be up for that - he doesn’t doubt - he’s more interested in artificial intelligence - hand on evolutionary process to others.
Humans will be pets and playthings for advanced robotic creators that look on us with sentiment.
He doesn’t want to have his future uploaded - a pseudoeternal life.
He doesn’t want to be stuck in heaven with people who he has successfully avoided.
Most people will be in Hell - Israel Folau said that - PA was on the list three times.
How are things better than they were when you were a young man?
Favourite aphorism and story - Pablo Casals was 80 and he survived the Spanish Civil War - press conference in Madrid - cogitating and complaining about the terrible mess of the world.
How the world was cuffed - he stopped when he heard his own voice hanging in the air.
Two sentences cannot fit together - they do it perfectly. “The situation is hopeless - we must take the next step”.
That is the whopper - we must take the next step.
We cannot surrender to it - it is the human nature to make things better.
Remaining curious is the best shield against depression and ennui [Fidler].
And knowing nothing is also interesting.
He wrote a list of things that he knew nothing about - astronomy to zoology.
He knows less and less as the common human knowledge increases.
A sense of defeatism and excitement and intensified curiosity.
“I will no longer be permitted to be curious and I will be curious that I’m no longer curious”.
PA’s favourite theme - Wombat Waltz by Elena Kats-Chernin.
[then the Wombat Waltz is played at the end].