What was I up to in August 2001?

Yes, my blogging can reach back to the year after the Sydney Olympics, thanks to the Internet Archive.

01 Aug 2001

Some things to do when drinking coffee

1. Write an acrostic sonnet. All you need is a friend whose name is 14 letters long, or a message that adds up to 14 letters. Some years ago, a famous Australian woman poet was rejected by the Bulletin magazine; she got her revenge with an acrostic sonnet under a male name. The editors did not notice that if you read down the first letters of each line, they spelled FUCKALLEDITORS. It was published.

I did this yesterday, while drinking coffee. I did not have anything rude as line-openers, nor did I do much more than write rhythmic rhyming prose! Still, it kept to the rules pretty well, and every time I do one I appreciate the skill of those past and present who can write seamless sonnets that are real poems.

2. Do the Herald cryptic crossword. I succeeded today in the time it took to drink one skim flat white and eat a sandwich! So either it was easier than usual, or I was inspired. Some samples:

“Drops tally–can’t find earl” (5,5) = LOSES COUNT
“Computer part for a complicated car trip” (4-5) = HARD DRIVE
“Thus might leader embrace a bully boy” (4) = THUG

Get it?

Chinatown coffee shop, 2008

05 Aug 2001

Warm winter day

It has been much warmer today. Cute people are beginning to shed their winter coverings 🙂

Morning brought the August Yum Cha at the Emperor’s Garden. The Empress was in good form as usual, and others there were Kiwi Nick, Sirdan, Malcolm, James/Lucy and myself. Clive unfortunately had a minor stroke in the last day or two and is in Royal North Shore Hospital. PK has not been to Yum Cha for some time, and I can think of two reasons–but it is a shame he’s not coming.

Almost immediately after my old reverend friend J came over to my place, and as M was asleep we went out and shared a wine, and then went to the Cafe Niki. J has recently returned from Egypt and Jordan, so some of the conversation concerned Egyptology, some Christian and Islamic theology. J has a lot of time for Islam, having spent much of his life in Islamic countries.


Cafe Niki back in the day…

14 Aug 2001

Lord, I’m weary…

Feeling rather exhausted, having had an annoying migraine earlier today that led to me coming home from work. Fortunately, I don’t go the whole trip with migraine…just weird visuals whereby a greater or lesser part of my field of vision is blotted out by sometimes amazing jagged lights and swirls. The first time it happened, many years ago, I was driving a car down a mountain road (Mount Ousley) late at night. This is difficult when half the road goes missing. I have been checked, in case you are wondering, several times, and nothing major is wrong with the brain–well, not in that sense 😉 My mother, and her father, suffered from it too. Fortunately most of the time it leaves me alone.

I rallied enough to share a herbal tea at Cafe Max and helped another cure a headache with acupressure!

In my continued relaxation reading (crime fiction) I read a real oddity lately, The Trial by Robert Whitlow (Nashville, Word Publishers, 2001). Yes, that publisher does give the game away: you have your “police procedural”, your “hardboiled”, and your English village/stately home detective fiction–and now your “born-again believer detective fiction”. It is actually not all that bad, but a curious concept and (to my agnostic Australian eyes) a cultural oddity of the first order. It is amazing how a Presbyterian ladies’ prayer group can affect the workings of the somewhat suicidal (but eventually saved) investigator, who eventually scores the born-again cute woman. The falsely accused murderer finds not only his case sorted out by these two, but also finds the Lord and converts half the penitentiary (except for those who run the system–but this is Georgia after all). He also donates a kidney to the victim’s wealthy father (whose name may be, but isn’t, Packer) who is then brought to the Lord in turn.

A passionate interest in American Football also seems to be a necessary ingredient in salvation.

In my Presbyterian days one of the sainted figures was the rather amazing young Calvinist David Brainerd (1718-1747) whose work was further publicised by the great (and last of the Puritan divines) Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) whose belief in the depravity of man and the sovereignty of God was so strong–doctrines he found “exceeding pleasant, bright and sweet”–that it seemed to escape his notice that the God he describes is a serial killer and a psychopath: just read the great sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to see what I mean.

Is it, then, unconscious irony that makes Whitlow write thus of Brainerd?

Anna Wilkes lived in an older area of Chattanooga named after David Brainerd, the New England missionary of the early 1700s who spent his short life preaching the gospel to native Americans in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Hundreds and hundreds of Cherokees were educated and converted to Christianity through the efforts of the missionaries inspired by Brainerd’s efforts, and many forced to relocate to Oklahoma along the infamous “Trail of Tears” sang hymns as they walked and died along the route west. All that remained of the original 1800s mission was a small cemetery at the edge of a shopping mall parking lot.

Now that actually does tell you a lot about American history. Seriously!

Oh–and with reference to last week’s diaries (esp. “is this a pizza?”) I must thank Sirdan for this which arrived on Sunday:

Good morning N—, a lovely morning to you, I do like the new page, colours are OK, and the roast tasted good [ref to a conversation we had], and what comment did the museum have on the “ANTIQUE”? — Danny.

19 Aug 2001

Good Yum Cha…but somewhat nasty news…

First, the mid-month Yum Cha took place at the Golden Harbour this time. We found the food good, indeed the beef on skewers at the end was to die for. However, it is a bit chaotic there, and the next one (first Sunday in September) will be back at the Emperor’s Garden. Clive, I am glad to say, is well and out of hospital, although he wasn’t at Yum Cha. It was in fact a very small Yum Cha, just the Empress, Malcolm and myself. Good as always though.

I have been writing limericks just lately, but not for here 🙂 One popped into my head as I was walking back from Yum Cha. A good one too!

Xerts Restaurant has its first birthday party tonight and M went off in rather fetching black vinyl trousers. Hard to believe he has been working there eleven months.

The somewhat nasty news was in the Star Observer, in the form of a letter from Lance Leopard, whom I have known on and off since he was a teenager, what–1987? He had been bashed on Oxford Street recently, resulting in his having his jaw wired up–he jokes himself that that would seem poetic justice to some! He warns us all to get behind the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, and remarks on the irony of the fact his last public engagement before being bashed was to present that group with a large cheque from a fund-raiser he had done.

Mindless and/or homophobic violence always distresses and mystifies me. I have been pretty lucky thus far, but as Lance said, we should all develop eyes in the back of our heads when we are out.

30 Aug 2001

News…insoluble problem?

The current situation concerning the Tampa with its cargo of human misery and/or criminality plucked from the sinking Indonesian refugee boat exercises the minds of many of us. I do not know the answer, let me say that up front, and have some sympathy for the dilemma confronting the Australian government which is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

This is part of a world problem, and everyone should remember that. If you want villains, start with frightful regimes like Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq (compounded by the aftermath of the Gulf War) and the Taliban in Afghanistan (a horrible mix of religious puritanism, tribalism, the working out of Russia’s cold war adventurism and the USA’s CIA support of anti-Russian forces at that time which eventually led to the Taliban and so on…) As the Bible (or is it Shakespeare) teaches, it is amazing how sin leads on to sin. Perhaps every refugee directly or indirectly resulting from Cold War policies should be given automatic entry to the United States or Russia, whichever they choose? There might be a certain justice in letting the Cold War’s aftermath come home to roost.

Then look at the extraordinary successful capitalist enterprise known as people smuggling. Finally, look at the role of Indonesian business/military interests (And who controls them really? Anyone?) and government. Rather than absorbing all these co-religionists (generally–but some are probably not religious in the case of Afghans, hence the need to leave their country) Indonesians shelter them briefly and then, at a price,give them the means to sail on their way.

We could sell them food, fuel and supplies, I suppose, and give them a map with “New Zealand this way” marked on it…
On the other hand, demonising asylum seekers is not a good idea. Probably most of them have some justification. Nor is it likely that the countries they come from will provide them with appropriate exit papers.

We need to bear in mind too that there are refugee camps in, for example, Pakistan that are overflowing with people probably just like those on the boats. From these camps there are recognised ways of applying for asylum in and entry to Australia, and strictly speaking this is the way it should happen. (An ex-student, Evan Ruth, works with UNHCR in such camps.) From the asylum-seeker’s viewpoint, however, this legitimate channel must seem fairly hopeless, as the numbers we have in fact taken from them have been very small. On the other hand, despite the rather infamous Wackenhut private detention centres here, a large proportion of those who fly or drift ashore have had their claims recognised and do stay in the end.

As for the Norwegian government’s response, it might be said Norway is a long way from the action, even if a bit of Norwegian territory floating around near Christmas Island is where it’s happening. They can afford to wash their hands of it.

What we don’t want is for the current situation to roll back the achievements of multiculturalism in this country over the past 30 years. We can do without people like Jim Ball, 2GB’s late night Hansonite (yes, he gave Hanson the full arse-licking treatment on his program earlier this week.) Last night he opined that all those in the Senate who demurred from the Government’s attempts to put through draconian laws on the subject–the ALP, the Greens, the Democrats and Brian Harradine–would in an ideal world be accused of treason and taken out and shot. Such talk is very dangerous in a democratic, pluralist society. He has not yet suggested using our new Collins Class submarines to “take out” refugee boats before they get into Australian waters, but I am sure some have already thought of it.

This has got long enough, and I am well aware that I have not solved anything; but I hope at least it gets you thinking. And do put up every critical defence you can against media manipulation on this one! Particularly beware of “polls” on the Internet or to newspapers or tv stations, which are obviously meaningless as there is no sampling procedure, no control on how often people vote, and indeed no conceivable validity–except to make mischief.

Ironic again to look back at last year’s diary: “14 days to the Olympics”… That buzzy season with all that goodwill seems so long ago.

I’m not a politician. I’m just a nobody. I turn with relief to the warmth that comes from the people I love and close the shutters. Does that make me selfish? Hey you, to whom it may concern, I’m just glad you are there to share the journey sometimes. Don’t take too much notice if I get too carried away with my rants. On the other hand, maybe that’s part of what you like in me? One could get terribly depressed about things like this, but what can we do? In caring about each other we find an oasis, a point that keeps some balance, that keeps us sane. By keeping true to that we do something. Who knows what it is in the scheme of things, but it is something at least. I retreat to that when it comes down to it. I am more grateful than you can conceive for love given and returned.

There is another selection from my 2001 blog at August retro–3–way back!