Non sequiturs and The Tweet

I am a fan of Wiley Miller’s “Non Sequitur”: we get it in the Sydney Morning Herald.  Lately he’s been having fun with the “fake news”/”alternate facts” meme.

A convincing take on where President Tweet’s head is at comes from Josephine Tovey this morning. It’s a bit of a worry.

There’s a new rule emerging for observers of American politics trying to understand a confusing new outburst or claim from President Donald Trump – go and check what’s happened on Fox News in the past 24 hours.

It was key to understanding his otherwise confounding comments about Sweden at a rally last weekend, when he told a fired-up crowd: “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”…

This was not a first. In fact, a huge number of Trump’s outbursts and falsehoods can be linked to something he saw on television or on one of his preferred websites….

It’s not only Fox that fires up the President. Several of his most egregious claims in recent months have come from or mirror those on America’s most prominent conspiracy website Infowars – which is perhaps best known for pushing the lie that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax….

Meanwhile on Politico you find aggregated latest stories.  I guess Tweet would count them as “enemies of the people” when they run inconvenient stories like Trump’s disapproval rating keeps creeping up.

A majority of respondents said Trump is not honest (55 percent), doesn’t have good leadership skills (55 percent) or care about everyday Americans (53 percent), isn’t level-headed (63 percent), doesn’t share their values (60 percent) and is doing more to divide the country than unite it (58 percent). However, a majority also said they believe Trump is a strong (64 percent) and intelligent (58 percent) person.

“President Donald Trump’s popularity is sinking like a rock,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. “He gets slammed on honesty, empathy, level-headedness and the ability to unite. And two of his strong points, leadership and intelligence, are sinking to new lows. This is a terrible survey one month in.”

But why should he worry? After all he won the most electoral college votes since Ronald Reagan, didn’t he? Not.

Mr Trump’s 2016 victory did not come close.

Former President Barack Obama won 332 votes in 2012 versus Mitt Romney’s 206 votes, a far higher number than Mr Trump’s 304 electoral college votes in 2016.

And Mr Obama won an even higher number – 365 – in 2008.

Bill Clinton gained 379 electoral college votes in 1996, and George H W Bush gathered an incredible 426 votes in 1988.

This amazing graphic shows quite clearly how the popular vote went — and confirms my belief in our Australian system of mandatory voting too! Bit hard to write these facts off as “fake news”, don’t you think?


Revisited Keating

The musical, that is. I saw it at the Belvoir in 2007: My 2007: retired and blogging.

This afternoon is when Lord Malcolm, Sirdan and I are booked to see Keating the Musical at the Belvoir. It seemed unlikely not long ago, as you may have read. It is still not a total cakewalk. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sad news

Lord Malcolm is not well enough to go.


Those tickets were booked back in November, in hope, but Lord Malcolm can’t actually walk at the moment. Sirdan and I went though, and I have to say it was great. The reviewers gave Keating 10/10 and it really deserves it. Afterwards we went to one of Surry Hills’s more delightful multicultural features: Erciyes Turkish Restaurant. Sirdan had never eaten Turkish before, and so liked it we have vowed we will do it again.

And would you believe it — Delenio and maybe The Rabbit may be interested — who should be in the restaurant but Oscar and his parents, whom I haven’t seen since many a Mine debate many a year ago? In fact, if you want to feel old, well if I want to feel old, just reflect on the facts. 1) Oscar turns 25 this year. 2) All the events portrayed in Keating happened since the time I met M! In the toilets at the Belvoir I said to another geriatric at interval: “Isn’t it terrible? It just seems like yesterday!” He replied, “Yes indeed. Sometimes the past is all you have left to live for!” I knew exactly what he meant.

Keating is sold out to the end of January. A new season is happening in March. If you are in Sydney, don’t miss it.

Extraordinary kindness…

10 JAN 2007

I just received an email from the writer/star of Keating!


I’m sorry to hear that Lord Malcolm couldn’t make it to the show last Sunday. Please let me know if his condition improves enough that he might be interested in going (and that it wouldn’t be too exhausting, volume and commotion etc.) and I’ll scrounge around for tickets – there are generally a couple of house seats each show set aside for emergencies.

Thanks for your words on the show; glad you enjoyed it!

Casey B

If ever I doubt this blogging thing is worthwhile, I’ll just reread this entry. 🙂

So having saved a copy some years ago to an external hard drive I was able to play it back yesterday on Junior HP. Wonderful.

HSC syllabus gets overhaul

Having taught the very first HSC in 1966-1967 and many more after that, I still take an interest. See If the jacarandas are out, the HSC must be coming… and HSC 50 years on. Today’s news: New South Wales HSC syllabus gets overhaul with more complex topics and NSW HSC: Back to the future in first major overhaul of the syllabus in 20 years.

The chairman of the standards authority, Tom Alegounarias, said he expected some criticism that the new syllabuses were “old-fashioned” or “dumbing-down and back to basics” but he denied that, saying it was about “depth and mastery”….

He said a new topic, the Craft of Writing, would be mandatory for all English students. English is the only compulsory HSC subject.

Mr Alegounarias said being able to write well, and understanding the mechanics of good writing, including the correct use of grammar, had never been so important, with the demand for digital content increasing at a rapid rate.

The executive director of the English Teachers Association NSW, Eva Gold, said she could not comment on the final English syllabuses because teachers had not yet seen them. But in a submission to the draft syllabuses, the association raised several concerns.

It warned that reducing the range of texts was not appropriate “for 21st century learners” and it would be difficult to maintain students’ interest while spending “40 hours on a single text”.

The association also questioned whether the Craft of Writing module would be simply “subsumed into other modules”…

In History, students will look at how the modern world was shaped, with topics including the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the expansion of capitalism, while there would be a requirement to study a non-European and non-western topic.

The new syllabuses will be introduced next year for students doing the HSC in 2019.

At the moment only the draft syllabuses are available at the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW. I had a quick look at Modern History and Advanced English.


On that Craft of Writing module:

Students write for a range of authentic audiences and purposes using language to convey ideas and emotions with power and precision.

Students examine and analyse at least two challenging, short prescribed texts as well as texts from their own wide reading, as models and stimulus for the development of their own ideas and written expression. They explore how writers of sophisticated fiction, nonfiction and poetry use language creatively and imaginatively for a range of purposes to express insights, evoke emotion, describe the wonder of the natural world or invite audiences to share an aesthetic vision.

Through the study of enduring, quality texts of the past as well as recognised contemporary works, students analyse, evaluate and appreciate the versatility and power of language. Through considered appraisal and imaginative engagement with these texts, students reflect on the complex and recursive processes of writing to further develop their ability to apply their knowledge of textual forms and features in their own compositions.

During the pre-writing stage, students generate and explore ideas through discussion and the compilation of ideas and speculations. Throughout the stages of drafting and revising students experiment with various figurative, rhetorical and linguistic devices, such as imagery, narrative voice, characterisation, dialogue and tone. Students consider purpose and audience to carefully shape meaning. During the editing stages students apply the conventions of syntax, spelling, punctuation and grammar appropriately and effectively for publication.

Students have opportunities to work independently and collaboratively and to reflect, refine and strengthen their own skills in producing highly crafted, imaginative, discursive, persuasive, and informative texts.

Note: Students may revisit prescribed texts from other modules to enhance their experiences of quality writing.

This module may be studied concurrently with the common module and Modules A and B.

Quite a lot of that is stuff I would have done from 1966 through to my last coachee in 2010. So no great surprise. The NSW English Teachers’ Association did have reservations.

Using the fourth module, The Craft of Writing as a support module for the three others is an elegant solution to the division amongst teachers of whether there are too many modules in the current syllabus. Teachers were tentatively supportive of the structure but wanted more detail.

There still needs to be greater clarity on how the Craft of Writing module fits in, will be implemented, and what is required from both teachers and students. Branch

This is the section that Standard students struggle with the most. It is somewhat unclear as to whether the craft of writing modules will be focused on authentic, real-life writing or more ‘creative’ responses. Again this section is incredibly vague. It seems somewhat like current ESL Module B, which can be rather laborious and monotonous. Faculty

Others warned that The Craft of Writing would simply be lost as it will be subsumed into the other modules, reducing the variety of textual experiences for students.

I imagine it [The Craft of Writing] will evaporate under the pressure of school life. After all, isn’t the craft of writing about how we teach composing, the processes we use to teach students to create texts. It is as much about how we teach writing in the classroom on a daily basis. Member

Additionally, members could not see how, what seems to be essentially a repetition of ‘Reading to Write’ offers progression for students in the Advanced course

Not seeing any particular benefit for Advanced students. Wide experience of a range of texts is essential for success at this level, and there is no reason to think this will stop. Member

Watched Leonard Cohen doco again

I saw the man himself in Wollongong: About last night–Leonard Cohen in WollongongLeonard Cohen again. And of course he left us last year: Leonard Cohen.

Last night I watched again a documentary I had stored on an external device, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (2005) by Lian Lunson. Much of it centers on a Sydney Opera House tribute concert in January 2005. Sydney blogger Don Perlgut writes:

In the Sydney Festival of January 2005, an historic Leonard Cohen tribute concert was organised at the Sydney Opera House by music producer Hal Willner.  Called “Came So Far For Beauty”, it featured a fascinating array of musicians singing Cohen’s songs:  Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Martha Wainwright, Beth Orton, Linda Thompson, Teddy Thompson, Jarvis Cocker, The Handsome Family, Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla.  Australian-born LA-based documentary film-maker Lian Lunson obtained permission to film the concert, and subsequently went about making a documentary about Cohen.  To do this, she befriended Cohen and conducted many hours of interviews with him.

The result is a deceptively simple but artfully structured documentary.  Interspersed with twelve songs from the concert are interview segments with Cohen and others which illustrate and illuminate the songs with stories from and about Cohen’s life.  Cohen is frequently hilarious, always humble and very thoughtful.  It took me a while to attune to what was going on, but the result is frequently very moving and – for Cohen fans at least – always entertaining.  I loved some of the musical interpretations (the Wainwrights doing “Hallelujah”), although found others distinctly odd (Cave’s “Suzanne”).  The result is powerful, and after an almost unbearable wait to hear Cohen himself sing, the final number features Cohen doing “Tower of Song” taped in New York, with Bono and U2 as his backing band.  Strange?  You bet.  Effective?  Absolutely.

Yes indeed! But you may also be interested to read  Walter Mosley quarreling with the man and the movie:

Still, there was something I didn’t like about Cohen.

Instead of watching the film a fourth time I bought the soundtrack and listened and listened and listened. Most of the performances opened new insights to these dark and troubled, brilliant and insightful songs. But it was the flamboyant and over the top Rufus Wainwright who seemed to get at the heart of the music with his performances. I didn’t feel that he was better than many or most of his fellows that evening but that he seemed, like a fiction writer, to get at the truth of the lyrics, the character of the man and the film.

It came to me after many days of listening that the only difference in Rufus’s performance was that he reveled in the cruelty of the lyrics. He was unafraid of the disdain and self-hatred that Cohen brought to his songs. These small musical and poetic masterpieces were not bits of objective nonfiction that condemn the culprits while secretly forgiving the poet (and therefore the listener). Cohen says that we are all guilty, we are all co-conspirators in the crime.

And so finally I understood that I disliked Cohen for showing me how I should be critical of myself. This final realization passed under my radar and into my soul. The film itself left no important moment out of the intelligence of the singer and therefore allowed the truth to come to light.

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man tells the truth from the title all the way through to the last song returning us to the man who is for us.

Here are a coupple of highlghts:

Darwin 1942-3

The things that were happening as I prepared to enter this world!


That telegram from my father arrived soon after I was born. Meanwhile, Japanese air raids were continuing in our north, though the main one was 75 years ago today.

  • 20 Jun 1943 – Raid No. 55.
    Three killed and eleven wounded.
    Winnellie area hit, also RAAF.

  • 28 Jun 1943 – Raid No. 56.
    Nil casualties.
    Three huts damaged.

  • 30 Jun 1943 – Raid No. 57.
    Two wounded.
    Aircraft and vehicles damaged.

  • 06 Jul 1943 – Raid No. 58.
    Nil casualties.
    Four aircraft damaged.

  • 13 Aug 1943 – Raids No. 59 & 60.
    Nil casualties.
    Nil damage.

Today’s Sun-Herald: Bombing of Darwin: 75th anniversary brings new recognition of attacks.

Australia marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin on Sunday but for generations the country was kept in the dark about the true dimensions of the Japanese attack.

At 9.58am on February 19, 1942, just four days after the supposedly impregnable British garrison in Singapore collapsed, Japanese bombers escorted by Zero fighters appeared in the skies above Darwin…

Military historian Tom Lewis’ new book, The Empire Strikes South Japan’s Air War Against Northern Australia 1942-45,  reveals new information about the war.

He told Fairfax Media that contrary to enduring claims there had been 64 raids in the Northern Territory, his research of Japanese war records found 77, while 208 enemy combat flights were carried out in northern Australia.

“In wartime, some truths get lost, viewed through different prisms, changed or forgotten,” he said.

darwin_648x365_2198078453-hero 178689-darwin-bombing-1942
See also The bombing of Darwin – Fact sheet 195.

On 19 February 1942 mainland Australia came under attack for the first time when Japanese forces mounted two air raids on Darwin. The two attacks, which were planned and led by the commander responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor ten weeks earlier, involved 188 attack aircraft which were launched from four Japanese aircraft-carriers in the Timor Sea, and a second raid of 54 land-based bombers. The carrier battle group consisted additionally of two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, seven destroyers, three submarines, and two other heavy cruisers on distant cover.