Hello Cruel World
Saturday, November 30, 2002
St Andrew's Day - patron saint of Scotland, my ancestral territory
- & other important occasions.
A poem long-loved, in part for the evocation of feeling recognisable
by all who've been inspired by things in nature.
More recently, the last three lines have been a support in grief & illness
-- "blue-bleak embers"; "sheer plod makes plough down sillion shine"
truly connects at times when your jaw aches as you consciously
relax it yet again from unconscious gritting as you work through another
mentally & physically pain-filled daily journey.
"I could bore you raving about sprung rhythm and Hopkin's life
as a Jesuit, but there is no point in that.
Everything you need to know about sprung rhythm can be explained
in this simple rule.
Read it ALOUD, in your head.
There is only one way that it can be intoned that will feel right."
(c) 2001 Alex Reineck (www.netspace.net.au/~tlaloc/mainpage.html)
... and you've gotta use the old UK way of saying falcon, rather
To Christ our Lord
I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dáwn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rólling level úndernéath him steady áir, & stríding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl & gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, -- the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty & valour & act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, o my chevalier!
No wónder of it: shéer plód makes plóugh down síllion
Shine, & blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gáll themsélves, & gásh góld-vermílion.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Saturday, November 23, 2002
November 22: St Cecilia's Day
A mingled bunch of anniversaries: John Kennedy shot dead;
America reaches space; the Melbourne Olympics start.
In a triumph of humanity over technology, I seem to have
succeeded in getting some pictures uploaded to the "blogger"
site. Check out "In a small dark room". Nothing too exciting yet,
but have put up some of photos from
Christmas 2001, when Sydney was ringed by bushfires & smoke
covered us like the Land of Mordor (where the shadows lie). Will
experiment to try & improve style & form.
Warning! Medical/Personal Griping next 2 pars- you might
prefer to skip this bit
Have been pushing myself physically - just a bit - but the doctor
(oncologist - supervising chemotherapy) says not to do too much
& concentrate one healing. It's hard to judge what level to go to.
I want to not drop back too far in physical fitness (not in a heavily
athletic form, but just the ability to walk up all the stairs to the
place I'm staying, or walk to the shops up the hill & carry the shopping
back without having to sleep for several hours). Eventually
want to build up to being able to do what I used to, but that's quite
a few months away. Travelling across town to hospital daily,
preparing for Christmas & starting to go back to work for some
hours/week is plenty of exercise.
Spent a lot of time resting, soaking in oatmeal & oil-infused baths to
help restore the damage done to the dividing skin-cells by the cytotoxins,
putting lots of conditioner on what's left of my hair & working
out what to eat that is nourishing but not overloading the poor abused gut.
Everyone is saying how well I look.
Bit of mixed feeling about that.
I do feel considerably better than during the radiotherapy,
and far, far better than I was for quite some weeks after the operation;
am even improved on how rotten I was before being diagnosed.
During first few weeks, used taxis a number of times when the bus trip
&/or waiting in the hot sun for the bus was too much to face.
(BTW: What idiot approved putting glass roofs on bus shelters
sitting out in Sydney's hot sun? Doesn't anyone remember what the
original "greenhouse effect" was? Sometimes one inclines towards
the conspiracy theory that they're in the pay of
petrol/car/tollway companies & are actually trying to drive people
away from public transport.)
Despite the death & sickness in these last months, compared to:
people in other countries;people in less easy circumstances;
some of the exceedingly sick people indeed I've seen around
hospital, the time I've had has not been comparably awful. But still
not feeling all that terrifically wonderful. Still want a bit of
sympathy, the occasional helping hand, &c.
Grief pounces out of invisible shadows at any unexpected time like
the paralysing attack of the tiger: a phrase; a thought; seeing
things in shopping, hearing or seeing stuff on the radio & television,
in the papers.
Expressions of sympathy will be gratefully received. If you think I'm
a self-indulgent self-pitying bore, remember that old saying:
"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything."
Blake's "The Tyger"
Tyger, Tyger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye.
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, or what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? What the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp.
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
see also at:
www.rc.umd.edu; and www.poets.org; or
www.geocities.com/Athens/6181; or stellar-one.com/poems
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Back on the 10th of October (just before the Bali Bombing), I mentioned this short Mark Twain story. Perhaps an extract will bring its message back into mind in the times we are going through.
THE WAR PRAYER
O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth
to battle — be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go
forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.
O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds
with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale
forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the
guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us
to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us
to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing
grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children
to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and
hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy
winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring
Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it - for our sakes
who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract
their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way
with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love,
is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek
His aid with humble and contrite hearts.
An extract from the short story by Mark Twain
- one of several links (see earlier post).
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Tonight on the local ABC radio station, in honour of an interview
with John Bell, we were requested to provide a Shakespearean
version of an everyday event or remark. I rather liked this one:
The English Batsman's Lament (after W Shakespeare)
(To be recited whilst walking from the wicket.)
Punting for glory, I would have strewn the field
. . . . . . . . . .with numberless number'd cracks.
Now all's lost! The Waugh is dunne.
Who would Warne me of what's Hayden here?
Clenched in thy whoreson clutch, a round red globe,
. . . . . . . . . .'twas all my hope, alas,
Now gone entire.
Other jokes going the rounds are what I call "dry humour":
Dry? Worst I can remember in my 72 years. Went to check
the stock this morning & found the ruddy clothes horse had died.
Dry? It's so dry the trees are following the dogs around.
One big old gum was too slow for that & had to learn to whistle.
Dry? It's so dry we've had to send the pot plants out on
Saturday, November 09, 2002
Remember Kristallnacht — 9/11/38
Remember Kristallnacht - 9/11/38
[In Australia 9/11 is November 9th]
Two sites of many
November 9th is still a pertinent anniversary: "Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass".
In 1938, incensed by hearing of his family in Germany being forced into "relocation camps" in the November snow under Nazi laws, an adolescent Jew in Paris shot and killed a German diplomat.
Goebbels used this for propaganda about conspiracies against Germany, inciting Germans to "rise in bloody vengeance", culminating on the long winter night of November 9th in organised widespread violence. Non-Jews who protested were beaten. Police and firemen watched people brutalized, buildings smashed, looted and burnt.
Morning footpaths were impassable under an icy glittering crust of broken glass and ashes.
Lack of public protest encouraged the Nazi government to pass even more repressive laws in the next few months. Prominent Germans who protested were arrested. Ordinary Germans who protested were beaten up.
Can we hope that we've learnt from last century's several examples of disasters wrought by stirring up - for power, for gain, for dogmatic religion or ideology - the darker side we all have?
Monday, November 04, 2002
Reply to 'Red alert over Greens threat'
The Australian Financial Review's editorial, Red alert over Greens threat, included the laughable-if-not-so-treacherous 'weasel' phrase, "a headlong rush to sustainability".
We are currently commemorating the 40th anniversary of Rachel Carson's publication of Silent Spring (it took me, barely in primary school, a few years to work out which of the possible meanings that title meant). There were earlier discussions of the problems being caused by the kinds of things happening around humans, but this work caused a major public reaction where the others tended to be among specialists and particularly interested groups.
It is nearly 30 years since "The Limits to Growth" report from the Club of Rome was disseminated.
A lot of good work has been done since then, but the 'headlong rush' has in general been in the opposite direction to sustainability. Many statistics demonstrate this. Reports from even simple things like satellite images demonstrating the magnitude of human effects have been released in the last year.
The Fin Review also quibbles that 'sustainability' is poorly defined. Contemplate other poorly defined concepts such as 'life', 'death', 'love', 'money', 'good', 'evil' or 'human'. Somehow, despite sometimes violent disagreements about them, humanity has agreed that they have considerable importance. Many people and societies have come to ways of dealing with the majority of incidences of these of importance in most peoples lives, while conceding that there are 'hard cases' in all of them which fortunately occur less frequently than the others.
Consider perhaps some ideas opposite to 'sustainability'. Concepts like 'greed', 'selfishness', 'short-term vision', 'stupidity' (in the sense of failing to learn from repeated previous examples and/or failing to grasp clear logical connections), 'unviability' and particularly 'destructiveness'. Can the Fin Rev manage to support these in any kind of thinking way?
I hope this makes some sort of sense. I tend to get up to white heat very quickly when I see this kind of argument about issues close to my core philosophy - one reason that I've steered away from involvement in political parties despite requests.
Just a little follow-up that met me not long after posting the one
before. This story is from the St Louis Post-Despatch
Scientists sound alarm over world's plants
(standard style) -
Hunted down original source, but can't read it because am neither a
subscriber to 'Science' nor a member of the AAAS, & don't want
to pay. You may want to try it.
Estimating the Size of the World's Threatened Flora
Nigel C. A. Pitman and Peter M. Jørgensen
Science 2002 November 1; 298: 989 (in Brevia)
Sunday, November 03, 2002
An Angry Reply
The Australian Financial Review's piece (Red alert over Greens threat,
31/10/2002), included the laughable-if-not-so-treacherous 'weasel'
phrase: "a headlong rush to sustainability". This is probably an example
of one type of "Straw Man". Argue against a nonexistent danger
of "a headlong rush putting everything else aside".
I would characterise it more as the headlong rushing of tortoises
uphill through chilled molasses. Consider:
We are currently commemorating the 40th anniversary
of Rachel Carson's publication of "Silent Spring" (it took me,
barely in primary school, a few years to work out which of several
possible meanings that title meant). There had been earlier
discussions of the problems being caused by the kinds of things
happening around humans, but it was this work that
caused a major public reaction, where the others tended to be
among specialists & particularly interested groups.
It is nearly 30 years since "The Limits to Growth" report
from the Club of Rome was disseminated.
A lot of good work has been done since then. Things could be
worse than they are, but the "headlong rush" has in general
been in the opposite direction to sustainability. Many statistics
demonstrate this. One easy one: a Tom Lehrer song from near the
time of "Silent Spring" about nuclear destruction (We Will
All Go Together When We Go) hymns "nearly two billion hunks
of well-done steak"; recently I think I remember newpaper reports
of events marking the six-billionth human alive at present.
Reports from plain simple things like satellite images demonstrating
the magnitude of human effects have also been released in the last year.
The Fin Review also quibble that "sustainability" is poorly defined.
Contemplate other poorly defined concepts such as "life", "death",
"love", "money", "good", "evil" or "human".
Somehow, despite sometimes violent disagreements about them,
humanity has agreed that they have considerable importance.
Many people & societies have come to ways of dealing with the
majority of incidences of these of importance in most peoples
conceding that there are 'hard cases' in all of them which fortunately
occur less frequently than the others.
I wonder how we could calculate how many people have been born,
then died early because of the physical & social destruction?
How much (nett) water, air, land polluted or lost, how much
valuable ecological infrastructure destroyed (with how much
human & non-human suffering), how much social capital dried up
& blown away like the lost soil, how much other damage done in
those 40 years? Then we'd have to see how the balance sheet
worked in the other column, like that fellow who's recently published
a book of selected good statistics. Of course, we can have some
good discussions about how to value the things in the different
columns, or even how to define them. Unfortunately, while
talking continues, so does time & lost chances.
Consider also perhaps some ideas opposite to "sustainability".
Concepts like: "greed", "selfishness", "short-term vision", "stupidity"
(in the sense of failing to learn from repeated previous examples
&/or failing to grasp clear logical connections), "unviability" and,
Can the Oz Fin Rev manage to support these in any kind of
Trawlings caught in the net
Trawlings caught in the net:
[Do the words "Told you so" have any resonance here? (Going back
to that pre-Olympic legislation ... what _did_ happen to that?
Despite Ric Birch's assurances, don't know if it did end up with 'sunset'
clause. Trying to remember if it was State or Federal.)]
All the way with LB ... er ... ASIO
By Alan Ramsey
November 2 2002
... Squads of assorted police, directed by ASIO agents, guns drawn, were
bursting into homes of people "who may have some knowledge". That's all
it takes, in these days of fear and not a little hysteria, to have armed
police take your home apart, in front of your children, and cart away
anything they choose, yourself included, to examine at leisure, telling
the rest of us, in a sense, to mind our business, that all is above
board and entirely lawful, and, as Williams asserted on Wednesday, "that
everything is being done in order to ensure the Australian community is
Was looking for EM Forster's bit on not believing in belief, having
come across the quote recently. Sounded like one of the sort of
things I've been rabbiting on about. Finally found it at:
What I Believe
E.M. Forster in Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
Interestingly, it also addresses another subject that's a recent worry
(particularly since September 11th). People are currently bringing up
some memories of the sort of things done in the 1950s & 1960s to
helpless 'no-count' types (e.g. poor &/or non-white &/or prisoners
&/or mentally ill &/or handicapped) for Cold War experiments,
and the penalising of others on the merest suspicion of connection
with 'unAmerican' activities. Interesting how many seem to think it was such a happy & innocent decade, the fifties.
Even in retro shows like 'Grease' - as well as ones made at
the time like 'West Side Story' you could see some of the
problems. This gives you some idea of the kind of pressures
building up at the start of the 1950s. Which of course is what I've
been pointing to with the anti-terrorism moral panic (see story above).
While searching, ran across some interesting places, including
[BTW, Pink Alert]:
Assorted quotes & examples of people mostly living a tolerant life.
This seems to be a 'defensive' site against the blitz of the American
"Moral Majority" - who don't recognise any other morals - since it
seems to assume a bad attitude towards atheist/agnostic 'nontheists',
as he dubs them:
And an article, some years before he died, by Carl Sagan (another
of my heroes):
His last book was "The Demon-Haunted World". According to
someone who'd read earlier drafts, Dr Sagan strengthened & hardened
it up, he thought perhaps CS knew that it was likely to be his last
word on the subject. Have a couple of his books, might check
for that one next time I get to a a) library; b) 2nd-hand book shop.
Thoughts about democracy, government & society:
Article on www.smh.com.au [Franco's "stolen children"]
Have heard this story about Chile too. Looks like Latin America copied
the old Latin country. I suspect similar things have happened
over centuries, e.g. heretic's infant children being taken before
they burn the parent(s); native peoples' children being deprived
of their language & culture, to be acculturated to colonialists'
ideas -- including the inferiority of the natives & their culture
(have heard the Australian 'stolen generation' story repeated
in several countries).
FOR THOSE FASCINATED WITH THE 'ENGLISH' ROYAL FAMILY
The thought in the story did occur to me at the timing of the s
udden cessation of that trial...
What butler saw will remain secret
(This blew up into quite a noisy story over the next few weeks.
Then faded off.)
This is my blogchalk:
Australia, New South Wales, Sydney, English, photography, reading, natural history, land use, town planning, sustainability.