Last of August 2021 — and a sad note

Usually I post some kind of statistical summary of the month around the last day. Yesterday I did one on Facebook.

And yes, the blog has already hit most views for 2021 — 1,585 this month so far, compared with 1,558 in March, the previous best of 2021. May 2020 still beats both at 1,945. Back in 2014 three months were 2k or better — September, October and December. On averages per day September 2014 is best. This month will definitely go past 1,600.

I am of course writing this the day before it appears in public, giving me the opportunity to update before then — and find typos! The other thing as I write is that in less than an hour the NSW Premier is to give her COVID update. When I posted Sunday’s shocker my cousin Julie, who happens to be a PhD and a health physician in Queensland commented: “Brace yourself for the next few announcements.” And indeed we are!

UPDATE: So yesterday there were 1,290 new cases in NSW. Sunday was 1,218 — and that was a record.

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The photos on this post are of a part of East Redfern where I used to spend much time.

But there is a personal matter I want to raise, without going into detail. If you are one of my FB friends you may have noted a very significant disappearance in my friend list. One that involves some thirty-plus years of my life. No, it is not a death but a falling-out. Sadly, politics, combined with (I suspect) pressure of lockdown, have contributed to this event, which may or may not be permanent. I really hope not. I do know that not being able to travel must have hit him really hard, even if he has been making the best of it.

We shall see.

I was going to say more, but have decided against doing so. The whole thing underlines too the need to listen not only to what someone is saying, but to respond to why they are saying it. That applies both ways. It’s hard.

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But again, if you follow me on Facebook, it is the reason that on Sunday night out of the blue I shared this song:

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 42 — let’s go back 15 years

Surely everything in the garden was lovely back then? Well, one advantage/disadvantage of having such an extensive blog archive is that I can actually call that year back! Or at least, whatever I chose to blog about!

I was not all find of Prime Minister John Howard!

He has transformed Australia…

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… and sadly this is true, except I would say “deformed”. The image above derives ultimately from The Arabian Nights, of course, though this one is from Marvel Masterworks. You know the story, don’t you? “In the story of Sinbad the Sailor, the Old Man of the Sea, hoisted on the shoulders of Sinbad, clung there and refused to dismount. Sinbad released himself from his burden by making the Old Man drunk.” Getting rid of the Garden Gnome may not be so easy.

Yes, that is what I thought of John Howard. hence my nickname for him — which I still rather like. The links in this post are to 2006 Herald stories, so they may or may not work.

A grey garden gnome

Scenes from life under the Great Grey Garden Gnome of Kirribilli House

1. Too late John, my trust has been destroyed. “Liberal Party supporter and mother of four, Debbie Bridgman, said she felt ‘ripped off’ by the Howard Government’s pledge before the last election to keep rates low.”

2. Howard begs MPs: don’t stray on asylum. “JOHN HOWARD pleaded with government backbenchers in his party room yesterday not to vote with Labor on new legislation to process offshore all asylum seekers arriving by boat. It would be a disaster if government MPs voted with Labor, Mr Howard said, calling on those opposed to the controversial legislation to instead abstain. But in reply, the small ‘l’ Liberal MP, Petro Georgiou, said he would be voting against the legislation because it breached an agreement struck with Mr Howard last year, and Liberal values meant voting on principles.” I’m with Petro on this.

3. Teacher morale at rock bottom, survey finds. Oh the joys of the Howardite workplace “reforms” and also of their (and our) naive preference for private schools! “NEWINGTON College has threatened to sue a parent whose company conducted a survey that found 43 per cent of the school’s teachers were considering quitting, and just 13 per cent have faith in the headmaster and council. The study was commissioned by the teachers’ representative body, the Common Room, after a failed attempt by the headmaster, David Scott, to force the 40 most senior staff to reapply for their positions on lower wages with shorter holidays. The author is a management consultant.” See too Funds review to exclude public schools.

4. This one is close to home, as much the same has happened to Lord Malcolm. This really, really sucks. You can work, teen told.

MATTHEW PEARCE has leukaemia. With it comes aching limbs, blood tranfusions, lumbar punctures and being forced to stay at home or in hospital, leaving the 16-year-old cut off from his friends.

But, according to Centrelink, leukaemia is not a permanent disability, making him ineligible for the disability support pension.

Matthew’s mother, Vicki, had hoped to receive the payment to help cover the loss of her income after she quit her job as a Perth cleaner to care for her son.

Instead, she received a letter last month telling her that Matthew had failed the assessment test which disability pension applicants must pass to receive the payment.

And it gets worse; read the whole story.

Why on earth do we tolerate this government?

I looked for hopeful signs, as I still do.

Two posts with heart in a troubled world

The first is a poem by George El-Hage of Columbia University, written July 29, 2006. It is on the Tabsir site and the title is “A Letter to the Children of Qana”. It is quite a long poem. Here is a short sample.

We sprinkled you with flowers
And wiped your faces with the covers of the holy books.
Alas, the Torah did not inspire us
Nor did the Gospel save us or the Qur’an console us.

All of us,
Both sides of the border,
We are all Cain
We are all Yazid
We are all Judas.
We are all vampires and murderers
And we are all responsible for your sacred blood and your innocent souls.

The second on the Killing the Buddha site is Searching for Sufis by Jill Hamburg Coplan.

…I was raised with two religions, neither one Islamic: Judaism and Zionism. In fact, I’m a not-so-distant relative of Israel’s founder, David Ben-Gurion. Probably it was rebelliousness, but I’d always felt a gravitational pull towards the Arab and Muslim side of things. Late in 1992, with Communism’s fall, I suspected that, as two minorities (“nationalities” was the preferred Soviet term), the Jews and the Muslims were heading for interesting times. Central Asia was also appealing as the birthplace of Sufism — mystical, ecstatic, meditative Islam. I’d read that Sufi mathematics, medicine, and poetry, developed in the medieval courts of Avignon and Andalusia, had spread from there to permeate Europe’s Enlightenment. Sufi masters were jesters and folk heroes. Carl Jung equated their mental-healing techniques with psychotherapy.

And how about this: Through the centuries, wherever Sufism held sway — like Ottoman Turkey — Jews could find safe haven. If I could find a Sufi, I thought, I could approach him with genuine respect, bringing my own real curiosity about mysticism, and produce for American newspaper readers a kind of encounter that might help them understand Islam in a different way than a demonizing story about a radical hostage-taker or half-crazed suicide attacker ever could. And if not, well, Judaism reserves its mystical texts and practices for old male scholars who’ve mastered everything else. Perhaps the more tolerant Sufis would open a door for me…

Read them both.

This short post was a bit depressing — still is! And now we are over twenty years into a new century!

A place to reflect on human folly…

…and the obscenities we visit on ourselves. Go to Death Tolls for the Man-made Megadeaths of the Twentieth Century. You will be drawn into a journey you won’t soon forget.

Now the buzz word among reactionaries is “woke”! But this is much the same and I am happily guilty of both.

Sam, this is so true!

Read Sam (Queer Penguin) on political (in)correctness.

There’s been much theorising (I couldn’t be arsed linking stuff today as I’m writing this in about 20 mins prior to my first Monday morning meeting – just trust me) that Howard won the 1996 election as a counter-offensive to the politically-correct Keating government; middle Australians (whoever the hell they are) felt left behind by the PC thugs who’d hijacked Labor for their own elitest and ultimately irrelevant causes, such as reconciliation, becoming a republic, multiculturalism and so on.

But am I the only one who reckons the PC pendulum has swung massively in the other direction? That these days the modern mainstream discourse is strongly grounded in the Right’s court? Between the ruling federal government (and, dare I say, several state ones too), highest profile media commentators and, increasingly, bloggers, there seem to be a whole new set of rules for dictating thought and opinion – what are the “right” things to think and feel and what are “wrong”.

No, you aren’t the only one. You are absolutely right, even correct! See also my earlier post PC but with a sense of humour .

OK, another topic….

Wisdom abounds if you would seek it…

Or so I like to think. I have been finding much in the challenging pages of If God is Love by Philip Gulley & James Mulholland.

President Bush, in the days after September 11, suggested we were fighting to defend our way of life. But what if our way of life is unjust and oppressive toward much of the world?

When we fail to acknowledge our complicity in the injustice in the world, we often replace real justice — economic and political equality — with retribution. What we seek is not to rectify injustice, but to defend our inordinate piece of the pie. The answer is “homeland security” rather than global equality. We seek an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth from people blinded by rage with no food to chew. Unfortunately, when we attack the poor, we seldom do justice. Ungracious justice is merciless, justifying the ugly and violating the principles we pretend to value.

It is nice to know such Christian prophecy (in the proper sense) still exists in the USA. Unfortunately, many Christians, locked into fundamentalism or narrow dogma or into a literalist view of scripture, reject what this utterly Christian book has to say, the true reason being, I suspect, statements like the one I just quoted, which Americans (and the world) really do need to hear.

Yesterday I mentioned that amazing software package that delivers me 4000+ classics, among which is Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ. (Note that The Communist Manifesto is also in the package, and so is The Origin of Species.) According to Wikipedia:

He was born at Kempen, Germany (40 miles northwest of Cologne) in 1380 and died near Zwolle (52 miles east-north-east of Amsterdam) in 1471. His paternal name was Hemerken or Hämmerlein, “little hammer.”

In 1395 he was sent to the school at Deventer conducted by the Brethren of the Common Life. He became skillful as a copyist and was thus enabled to support himself. Later he was admitted to the Augustinian convent of Mount Saint Agnes near Zwolle, where his brother John had been before him and had risen to the dignity of prior. Thomas received priest’s orders in 1413 and was made subprior in 1429.

His classic treatise on the religious life is shot through with the almost Manichaean dichotomy of flesh and spirit characteristic of that age; mind you, I suspect hedonism, or exaltation of the flesh, is equally wrong. A life predicated on crystal meth and sex seems to me as inhuman as any. But there is still much wisdom in the old Thomas.

TURN your attention upon yourself and beware of judging the deeds of other men, for in judging others a man labors vainly, often makes mistakes, and easily sins; whereas, in judging and taking stock of himself he does something that is always profitable.

We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost.

In another tradition altogether, ABC Radio National’s Encounter was quite fascinating this week. I happened to hear it early this morning, having woken very early. See Heaven Doesn’t Speak, an account of Confucius that was both fascinating and informative. This is part of the Australian mix now and we can all learn from it.


Then right near the end of the month — strangely relevant today! However, I would no longer put much store in the 9/11 conspiracy theories Weiner toys with.

Let future historians decide how well we have been led…

When they do, they could do worse than attend to Bernard Weiner, whose “Twenty Things We Now Know Five Years After 9/11” was referred to me by The Poet, with the note that he would send “The Boys” to get me if I did not publish this here. No need, Poet. It is indeed a masterly summation, with some strong words thrown in with the undeniable facts.

In sum, we know that permanent-war policy abroad and police-state tactics at home are taking us into a kind of American fascism domestically and an imperial foreign policy overseas. All aspects of the American polity are infected with the militarist Know-Nothingism emanating from the top, with governmental and vigilante-type crackdowns on protesters, dissent, free speech, freedom of assembly happening regularly on both the local and federal levels. More and more, America is resembling Germany in the early 1930s, group pitted against group while the central government amasses more and more power and control of its put-upon citizens, and criticizing The Leader’s policies is denounced as unpatriotic or treasonous.

The good news is that after suffering through six-plus years of the Cheney-Bush presidency, the public’s blinders are falling off. The fall from power of Tom DeLay is a good symbol of this, and the true nature of these men and their regime is finally starting to hit home. Cheney is acknowledged as the true power behind the throne, and Bush is seen for what he is: an insecure, uncurious, arrogant, dangerous, dry-drunk bully who is endangering U.S. national interests abroad with his reckless and incompetently-managed wars, his wrecking of the U.S. economy at home, and with his over-reaching in all areas.

If a Democratic president and vice president had behaved similarly to Bush and Cheney, they’d have been in the impeachment dock in a minute.

And speaking of “Know-Nothingism emanating from the top”, check today’s Sydney Morning Herald front page story Weapons cover-up revealed: “The Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, issued instructions to suppress a damning letter about the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the war, a former senior diplomat says.”


Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 41 — another record in NSW

As you can see.

Now (Sunday) the total is 1,2018!

So my escape today is to ten years ago and the end of another August here in The Gong.

…it has been spring for the last couple of weeks, whatever the calendar says. And people liked yesterday’s Shakespeare sonnet, so I thought – why not?
From my window

The Shakespeare sonnet mentioned above was posted because I was feeling the approach of my seventieth year. Now of course it is the eightieth that looms…

View from my window…

Then on 28th August 2011:

Diggers again and beef penne! Oh yum…!


Then wandered around Crown Street Mall. Let’s hope the “Mall Sceptics” lose at next Saturday’s election! It’s a treasure, that’s what it is…


See also Crown Street Mall Sunday people — 1.

And a selfie from ten years ago!


Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 40 — our town and some brilliant finds

Yes, the 40th in the series! OMG! Longer actually, as our lockdown began 26 June. So Day 61 in fact.

In accordance with NSW Health advice Saturday 26th June Collegians will be closing its venues from 4pm today. This includes:

Collegians Wollongong, Collegians Balgownie, Collegians Illawarra Leagues, Collegians Figtree & Collegians Port Kembla

At this stage we hope to re-open our doors on Saturday 10th July in accordance with the end of the lock down Midnight Friday 9th July. Pending further advice from NSW Health.

Thank you for your understanding. Stay safe and take care. Collegians Management

Well here we still are… As I have said City Diggers is taking advantage of the lockdown to do major renovations.

The coffee shop bar yesterday!

Talked to a club friend from early on in my return to The Gong, Steve Hitchens, about this yesterday on the phone. BIG changes. But as I said to him, I hope the Bistro menu is better than it was in the lead-up to lockdown — the reason I and Maurice and many others migrated to Illawarra Leagues. Be interested to see the changes though.

Speaking of The Gong, on Thursday I went to town to the chemist as I had to renew some medication. Waiting for the bus at this bus stop I had a conversation which I later reported on Facebook:

At the bus stop in The Gong this morning — a woman around my age was consulting the bus timetable as I scanned the intersection of Crown and Keira for a bus…

“Are they after you?” she suddenly said.

Apparently some kind of police or public order officers had just gone past. I hadn’t noticed…

She laughed and said, “You never know these days, do you?”

We chatted about how things were going. “It’s bad,” she said.

“Yes, but our parents lived through the War,” I replied. “This is not as bad.”

She agreed. “Yes, I was born just after and I remember…”

And told stories of shortages and rations.

“I was born during,” I replied. “And I think now we should be tapping into the spirit our parents had back then.”

“True,” she replied. And went on her way.My bus arrived. A 39. Good, Mount Keira Road service. And I was the only passenger.

Meanwhile the internet continues to deliver, especially through Facebook, some amazing things.

First a family history treasure from the Wollondilly Historical Page on Facebook. I have colourised the image.

John (Jack) Whitfield (1864-1956) joined the Police Force as a Probationary Constable on 28th October 1889. Previous to this he worked as a sawyer with his father W.J.J. Whitfield at his Bluegum Creek Sawmill near the Thirlmere Lakes.John Whitfield was the last constable with the Police Force at Appin. The Court House/Police Station was closed in 1933. Photograph from Whitfield family collection.

Uncle John deserves colour! I met him when I was a kid, but I hardly remember him I’m afraid. I better remember his brother Bill and indeed his other brother, my grandfather Tom. And his sister Annie, who attended the reception in Shellharbour in 1972 for my gold medal Olympian cousin Beverley.

Then on a completely different tack is this brilliant video from journalist George Monbiot on climate change.

So very true! I am ashamed to see that Aussie motormouths like Alan Jones PhD (not) are a significant part of the picture! Game, set and match George! He uses plain and sometimes Anglo-Saxon words at times — perfectly justified, in my view! But if you are a bit precious about such things. be warned if the letter F frightens you….

And yes — kind of contradictory of me, but I really love steam trains! This wonderful footage is of my favourite steamer of all time — the C38! Beautifully edited too. The ending is so apt, given this was the end of the era really. Enjoy! Sorry that you have to watch on YouTube instead of here, but it is very much worth it!

Yes, I know absolutely dreadful things have been happening in Afghanistan. On Facebook first thing yesterday I wrote:

I will not spend too much time on this but like everyone I will be following these events closely. Nothing but absolute revulsion can be our attitude, There is nothing good about ISIS, nothing worthy in their cause or their tactics. They appear to hate everyone except themselves.

Any here or in the USA who turns this into partisan politics of any kind is simply contemptible.

But soon after I did share an item from blogging and FB friend in California, Kanani Fong with this note:

Kanani Fong shared this saying “I thought of this photo this morning, when I heard the news about the Kabul airport. It was the last image I saw last night before tucking in. The Marines have always brought a dose of safety and clarity wherever they go. Much love to their family, friends, and fellow Marines.”

Her husband worked as a surgeon with the US military in Afghanistan. She was involved in that excellent documentary Restrepo.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 39 — spring 2011 and 2009

But no tangible lockdown relief after yesterday’s 1000+ cases….

So just some posts on the season signs of which are already visible. Walking back from the bus stop yesterday I saw that the magnolia a few doors up in Mount Keira Road is in glorious bloom, much as it was in August 2011.


Ten years ago! Hard to believe!


Go back two years to Surry Hills. I called this one “simple spring image”.


And in Belmore Park between Central Station and Haymarket:


And of all my photos this is one of my favourites, Haymarket 2009 — joy of spring!