Five years ago — seems like a few minutes!

Yesterday’s blog post about the old Sutherland Post Office attracted a lot of interest, and the whole thing led to my gaining two more Facebook friends! I have been back to that post and added in a Google Street View of the site today. Do look.

Today I revisit April 2016. First, foreshadowing tomorrow:

Happily tugging my forelock: the Queen at 90

Posted on  by Neil

Earlier posts on Elizabeth R include Random Friday memory 28: seeing the Coronation from Sutherland (2015), The young princess and her 1933 wave (2015), Fairy Sparkle and the Old Queen (2014), Diamond Queen (2012), Oz Republic? (2008). In 1999 I voted in the referendum for the republic. In 2008 I wrote:

It will happen, no doubt about it, by 2050 if not by 2020. I honestly cannot imagine the current constitutional arrangements carrying on for all that much longer, but by 2050 I will of course be long dead. I guess though that at that time Australian Monarchists will seem rather like the Jacobites in McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series, and like those Jacobites they will probably still be having meetings. (The irony for the Jacobites is that they resent the displacement of the true monarchs of Scotland by the German Princeling George I, and instead look to another German Princeling, that of Bavaria, as the True Monarch. It’s true that the nearest descendant of James II is a Prince of Bavaria, but that line long since relinquished any claim themselves.)

Meanwhile, reading as I am the wonderful and sometimes cantankerous Norman Davies, this time Europe East & West, I should like to point out, as he does, that the last Queen of England was Anne. Since 1707 there have been no English monarchs as such; Elizabeth II (or perhaps to be quite accurate Elizabeth I) is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but not, technically, of England. All of which no longer has any direct relevance to Australia, but she ALSO happens to be Queen of Australia, and in that role is her connection with us. (See for the current position The Australia Act 1986.) Then there is of course the somewhat vaguer, but still I believe useful, Commonwealth, of which she is the head duly recognised by quite a few republics….

By 2012 I was saying:

I am not normally disturbed one way or the other by the fact Australia is a constitutional monarchy whose Head of State may or may not be an old lady who lives in England. (It is either her or the Governor-General, depending on who you ask or where you look.) As far as I am concerned the whole odd thing has a certain charm, and it works. Every time I see the ongoing saga of a US Presidential Election I am rather glad we are at least spared that – and spared the spectacle of turning the judiciary into yet another gaggle of elected politicians.

So roll on the Diamond Jubilee, as far as I am concerned. And I like the Queen…

And today with the Queen just turned 90 I may have moved even further, to the point where I am not sure big men in red bandanas really excite me into voting for a republic any time soon.


Yesterday I watched the 2002 telemovie Bertie and Elizabeth. First, it isn’t nearly as good as the 2010 The King’s Speech. But it isn’t all that bad either. There are some splendid performances: Robert Hardy as Roosevelt, for one, and David Ryall as Churchill. On the other hand Wallis Simpson is rendered rather as the Wicked Witch from the West – cartoonish. And there are some notable goofs.

A British Movietone Newsreel, complete with commentary, shows the Duke of York attending the Empire Exhibition at Wembley. This visit took place in October 1925 – not only is this four years before Movietone News began in Britain, but it is two years before sound film was invented. The Exhibition was covered by British Pathe News but the film is of course silent.

But I enjoyed revisiting the story nonetheless. See Review of Bertie And Elizabeth and a very thorough backgrounder on the Canadian blog Enchanted Serenity of Period Films:  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth – a peek into the past.


Still from Bertie and Elzabeth: death of George VI  in 1952

young kids

George VI, Queen Elizabeth and the present Queen in 1926 (left) and with the two princesses (right).


Conversation at City Diggers with a retired wharf labourer —  proud to be a leftie. “What do you think of the monarchy?” he asked. Turns out he is all in favour of it these days! You never know, do you?

That wharfie was a great friend and conversationalist — Terry Carney. He passed away earlier this year.

China-related: Jiawei Shen, Michael Wood, Du Fu

Posted on  by Neil

News item from ABC:

Former serviceman in the Chinese Army Jiawei Shen has been awarded the 2016 Gallipoli Art Prize for his depiction of Anzac mateship.

The Chinese-born Australian artist won the award for his work Yeah, Mate! which he said captured what the Anzac spirit meant to him: mateship, courage and humour – even in the darkest times.

The large-scale oil painting is an adaptation of a black and white photograph which hangs in London’s Imperial War Museum, and shows an Australian digger carrying an injured soldier over his shoulders at Gallipoli.

The photograph by Ernest Brooks has no name but includes the caption, “At Anzac Cove, an Australian bringing in a wounded comrade to hospital. The men were cracking jokes as they made their way down from the front”…


See also my 2008 post Personal Reflections: Saturday Morning Musings – the art of Jiawei Shen.

Then last night I watched with great delight Episode 2 of Michael Wood’s The Story of China—SBS 7.30. See The Story of China, episode two, review: ‘a delightful travelling companion’.

As he constantly reminded us, many of the attributes we associate with modern China – its status as trade hub, manufacturing powerhouse and global superpower – were also features of the Tang era. Standing in Xi’an, the old imperial city on the Grand Canal that marks the eastern end of the Silk Road, he reminded us that the canal (still in heavy use) was cut by hand in 605 by five million people, at a time when China’s manufacturing and export accounted for an estimated 55 per cent of gross world product. From Xi’an, “probably the first city in history to employ artificial lighting on a large scale”, China was also exporting religion, culture, language and, since woodblock printing was invented in this period, the technology of learning as well. It exerted on the East, as Wood put it, “an influence as profound as that of Rome on the Latin West”.

I was especially taken by the classroom scenes dealing with the Tang poets Bai Juyi. Li Bai and Du Fu. From the MayaVision site: “This was very impressive. We filmed in a school in Yanshe where the students teach me a Tang poem by the Chinese Shakespeare, Du Fu, about the cataclysms of the 750s.”


Wonderful. A tiny snippet of Li Bai from Leonard Durso’s blog:

from Fighting South of the Ramparts by Li Po (Li Bai)

What have the generals accomplished?
what they know
is less than what we’ve learned–

a sword’s a stinking thing
a wise man will use
as seldom as he can.

translated by David Young

And from Du Fu’s “Song of the Wagons”:

…We’re always driven onwards just like dogs and chickens.
Although an elder can ask me this,
How can a soldier dare to complain?
Even in this winter time,
Soldiers from west of the pass keep moving.
The magistrate is eager for taxes,
But how can we afford to pay?
We know now having boys is bad,
While having girls is for the best;
Our girls can still be married to the neighbours,
Our sons are merely buried amid the grass.
Have you not seen on the border of Qinghai,
The ancient bleached bones no man’s gathered in?
The new ghosts are angered by injustice, the old ghosts weep,
Moistening rain falls from dark heaven on the voices’ screeching.”


Du Fu

See also Four Poems on War By Chinese poets translated by Geoff Waters.

At the Frontier by Xu Hun (791?- late 850s)

We fought all night, north of the Sanggan River;
Of our forces, half did not return.
When morning came, so did mail from home;
Families still sending dead men warm clothes for winter.

And finally:

My blog is all about getting older!

Posted on  by Neil

When I adopted that badge on my old blog some years ago I guess it foreshadowed what my blogs would really become.

Post after post is about nostalgia, no matter what the surface topic may be. Yesterday is a good example. I bring this up because two recently read items inspire me.

First a fellow septuagenarian, our blogging friend Ramana from Pune. Look at his latest posts The Old Days and Aging. From them I have borrowed these.


Well, one might hope so…. But I can apply this to my own posts in recent years: “Oddly enough, the last week’s post on The Old Days somehow leads naturally to this topic as after all it is the aged who want to talk or write about them.”

Then today in the Sun-Herald  Sydney’s most colourful barrister and model for TV’s Rake, Charles Waterstreet, writes Nothing is gentle about going towards that good night. It is one of his best columns, but then that opinion may reflect how much I see myself in some of what he says.

Your diary fills up with doctors not dates, you spend spare nights inspecting dark spots on your body and compare the phone picture you took with Dr Google’s array of suspicious spots. The sun has been a harsh mistress, a cruel dominatrix. Who knew? …

You worry about dementia, but you forgot where you put the book on its symptoms. It’s one thing to feel old, but you dread worse, that you look old. You know you’re on your last legs when more and more people, upon greeting you, say how well you’re looking. You wonder which will be your last Olympics….

After all, I did call my blog before this one Neil’s final decade!

...a name perhaps more apposite to this one!

Revisiting October 2016

And so that’s October 2016 done!

Posted on October 31, 2016 by Neil

First a gratuitous image from The Gong:

I reposted that in December 2014 at More photoposts – and a health note. It was originally at June 15, 2014. I used it again in November 2015.

Guess I just like it…

Tram politics

Posted on October 16, 2016 by Neil

So it appears Labor has won again in the Australian Capital Territory election yesterday. Like Tasmania ACT uses the amazingly complicated Hare-Clark system for counting votes. I won’t even try to explain: read Antony Green instead. It appears it was a win for trams. This is what Labor proposed for Canberra:


Now I am personally rather fond of trams, as you may see in The silence of the trams (2014) and posts linked there.


A Railway-bound tram in Cleveland Street Surry Hills in 1960

But it appears tram politics is not an always easy thing. NSW Premier Baird’s Parramatta tram scheme seems to have hit a roadblock: Parramatta light rail costs blow out to more than $3.5 billion. And not everyone has been happy with the way the Sydney Light Rail is progressing: Felling of 150yo fig tree ‘a huge loss’, as NSW Government makes way for light rail project.

The shame in Sydney is that we scrapped our tramway system in the first place. See Shooting Through: Sydney by Tram whence comes this evocative photo of Sydney’s CBD:


Post script

I should have mentioned Time for Wollongong to look at light rail, though I doubt anything will come of it.

University of Wollongong academic Dr Philip Laird, a transport consultant to state and federal government, said the city needed to get on board the idea of light rail.

“It should be looked at,” Mr Laird said.

“Everyone else is either doing it or looking at it. It’s been very successful on the Gold Coast, which is now proceeding to its second stage and the mayor up there wants the third stage rolled out…”

Fight night in Vegas – greatest show on earth

Posted on October 20, 2016 by Neil

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Awkward! This is not a parody


This is a parody – I think


This is just clever…

Well, what to expect in the “debate” (more accurately “performance art”) today our time? I’ll be watching!

Apparently one of The Donald’s star acts in the audience in the third debate is Barack Obama’s half-brother. See Presidential debate: Why is Donald Trump bringing Barack Obama’s half-brother Malik? That’s The Independent (UK), but even more interesting is this July 2016 story in The Hindu (India).

United States President Barack Obama’s half-brother Malik Obama, a long-time Democrat, has switched allegiance to the Republican Party and intends to vote for Donald Trump because he believes the business tycoon “speaks from the heart.”

Mr. Malik (57), an accountant in Kenya, used to live in Maryland in the U.S. and is still registered to vote there…

‘Barack, Hillary killed friend Gaddafi’

Mr. Malik is also annoyed that Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama “killed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi”, whom he called one of his best friends. He dedicated his 2012 biography of his late father to Gaddafi and others who were “making this world a better place.”

But what bothers him even more is the Democratic Party’s support of same-sex marriage.

“I feel like a Republican now because they don’t stand for same-sex marriage, and that appeals to me,” he said.

Malik has 3 wives

Mr. Malik currently has at least three wives.

The President’s and Malik’s father, Barack Obama Sr., left Kenya in 1959 when Mr. Malik was a year old and his mother was pregnant with his sister Auma. Obama Sr. enrolled at the University of Hawaii, where he met and married the President’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.

They first met only in 1985

Mr. Malik did not meet his younger half-brother until 1985. Mr. Obama (54) has seven half-siblings from both sides of his family. Mr. Malik, the eldest, is the director of the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a controversial Virginia charity named after his father.

For more on Fight Night and also the source of my top pic see the UK Daily Telegraph Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to clash in Las Vegas ‘Fight Night’ debate: US election briefing and polls.

But if the election is subject to the vagaries of all those dead people voting and is rigged from the start, as The Donald insists, you may wonder why they’re bothering. Perhaps a coup would be easier and more certain?  And I wonder if they will take drug tests before the show?

Finally some good reads, the first two from a US writer, John Scalzi. A cousin of mine (who is a strong evangelical Christian) commended the first a few days back as the best analysis he had thus far seen.

At this point there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory,almost certainly the worst since the Civil War, and arguably the worst in the history of this nation. He is boastful and ignorant and petty, disdainful of the Constitution, a racist and a sexist, the enabler of the worst elements of society, either the willing tool of, or the useful idiot for, Vladimir Putin, an admirer of despots, an insecure braggart, a sexual assaulter, a man who refuses to honor contracts, and a bore.

He is, in sum, just about the biggest asshole in all of the United States of America. He’s lucky that Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad is out there keeping him from taking the global title, not that he wouldn’t try for that, too, should he become president. It’s appalling that he is the standard bearer for one of the two major political parties in the United States. It’s appalling that he is a candidate for the presidency at all….

The comment thread is instructive. Next, the latest post is Reporting in From Trump Country.

I live in Darke county, Ohio. In 2004, Darke county voted for Bush, who got 69.5% of the vote. In 2008, it voted for McCain, who got 66.9% of the vote. In 2012, it voted for Romney, who got 71%.

So you may not be surprised when I tell you the area in which I live is heavily tilted toward Trump in this election, and when November 8 rolls around, I expect him to win my county handily, likely gathering something like 70% of the vote.

Do I live among idiots? No. I live among wonderful people who will clear your driveway when it snows and watch your pets when you go away, who love and care for their friends and families, who are decent people in their day-to-day lives and are folks I am proud to call neighbors…

Finally, former NSW Premier and former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr.

Amid the bleakness of Shakespeare’s King Lear one character, Edgar declares: the worst is not/so long as we can say “this is the worst”.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse – Trump as candidate – here comes a more troubling prospect: the Trump next time, four years off, who defeats an unpopular President Clinton.

It’s easy to tick off what gave the Republican nomination this time to a bossy, ignorant demagogue – the loss of industrial jobs, anxiety over borders and trade, racist resentment of minorities. Perhaps, as well, bewilderment at a multipolar world where America can’t get its way.

None of these is about to fade.

The old jobs aren’t coming back. China is shrugging off traditional manufacturing so the plants in America’s industrial belt aren’t going to be opening again. In any case the robots are arriving to disrupt manufacturing and services alike.

The anger of white working-class males, incited by Trump, is bound to simmer angrily at a distrusted woman in the White House imposing background checks for gun buyers and appointing three or four liberal justices to the Supreme Court…

I think he is spot on….

Thanks to Tim Blair…

Posted on October 25, 2016 by Neil

Just on ten years ago my then blog got a boost thanks to Tim Blair: see I’ve been Timmed. One outcome of that was my long-running but now former sparring partner Kevin from Louisiana. He was quite a Tim Blair fan but lamented the 2008 shift to the Murdoch tabloids: The Death of Tim Blair.

These days I often read Tim over lunch of a Monday when he shares intellectual space with Andrew Bolt in the Daily Terror. This habit may not be good for my digestion, I fear, though I do tend to skim as both are more than a bit predictable. BTW, I don’t buy the paper, as City Diggers supplies it for free.

Yesterday after an Assange/Triggs spray, TB went on to provide a very handy list of institutions and people.  I suspect he wasn’t recommending them after all, but it was kind of him nonetheless to give us pointers to some of the most enlightened folk out there, along with an occasional crazy. Any I am not already familiar with I must check out.

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon has called for the formation of a new government-run cult-busting operation….

The new operation could look at busting groups with extreme policies and secret internal structures that indoctrinate their members with outlandish philosophies.

Following the formation of Xenophon’s new task force directed at smashing cult-like organisations, police anticipate numerous prosecutions of: Greens politicians, Friends of the ABC, the Australia Institute, editors of the Guardian, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Sustainable Population Party, anti-mining group Lock the Gate, the Refugee Council of Australia, the Human Rights Commission, the Clean Ocean Foundation, all members of Toyota Prius ownership clubs, Socialist Alternative, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Press Council, The Australian Natural Therapists Association, editors of Green Left Weekly, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Ecotourism Australia (and anyone running any organisation with an “eco”prefix), staff and publishers at Mamamia, Greenpeace Australia, The Australia Council for the Arts, GetUp!, anyone on Twitter who has used the phrase “social justice” approvingly, the Arts Law Centre of Australia, the Wilderness Society, the Australian Republican Movement, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Solidarity, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Screen Australia, the United Nations Association of Australia, the Australian Progressives, People for Nuclear Disarmament, the Clean Energy Council, the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, Occupy, the Australian Network of Environmental Defenders Offices, the Alternative Technology Association, Vegan Australia, the National Union of Students, Architects for Peace, Destroy the Joint, the Atheist Foundation of Australia, the Australian Egalitarian Movement, the Climate Council, Ausdance National, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the Australian National University, World Vision Australia, everybody who has ever corrected the mispronunciation of “quinoa”, Amnesty International Australia, Australian Marriage Equality, the Public Transport Users Association, the United Nations Refugee Agency Australia, editors and columnists at Fairfax’s Daily Life lady pages, the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, ArtsHub, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australia Day Council, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Friends of the Earth Australia — and, of course, every single member of the Nick Xenophon Team.

One of TB’s more outlandish performances in recent years was this in 2014:


Par for the course at The Terror. Naturally some actual Lakemba residents – that is people who have been there longer than 24 hours – responded. See Dear Tim Blair & the Daily Telegraph and Comment: Enough fear mongering, let’s give Lakemba a fair go.

Welcome to Lakemba – the seething hot-bed of radical Islam and anti-woman, anti-infidel hatred.

That’s the picture portrayed by Daily Telegraph columnist Tim Blair, in his divisive and offensive feelpinion titled “Inside Sydney’s Muslim Land”.

It’s an insidious emotive piece, instructive for its glaring factual omissions, which misrepresent a vibrant, multifaith and multicultural community.

Lakemba may be only 30 minutes from the centre of Sydney, yet it is remarkably distinct from the rest of the city. You can walk the length of crowded Haldon St and not hear a single phrase in English. On this main shopping strip the ethnic mix seems similar to what you’d find in any Arabic city. Australia may be multicultural, but Haldon St is a monoculture.

It goes on to depict an enclave teeming with malevolence and fundamentalism; a bricolage of things all just too decidedly foreign – yes, in Lakemba we have signs written in squiggle, women who walk round in bedsheets, and there are shops which sell burgers made from dromedaries…

If I wanted to portray an entire community as angry, aggressive, radical Muslims, I’d certainly ignore the fact that the largest ethnic group within that community were Bangladeshis – the vast majority of whom follow a moderate, Sufist form of Islam. I’d certainly not mention the Christian Samoan community, or the Chinese, Indian or Greek shopkeepers running businesses on a street apparently only home to hate-peddling Islamic bookstores…

In fact, it’s striking how little resemblance Mr Blair’s cursory overview of Lakemba bears to the suburb I call home.

In my Lakemba, I walk to a cafe where the barista is an Algerian with a weathered face and dry sense of humour. Asked how he is, he assures me he ‘can’t complain’ in a voice that hints that should I scratch deeper, he’d happily share with me a litany of woes. Mention football though, and all that changes. His eye’s come alight – the Fennec Foxes (the Algerian national side) did all of Africa proud in the recent World Cup, pushing eventual champions Germany to extra-time. He regales me with stories of Porto’s 1987 European Cup winning side – and the night the mighty Bayern Munich succumbed to the sublime backheel of the great striker, Mustapha Rabah Madjer – also Algerian.

I compare Mr Blair’s dystopic nightmare of angry young radical Muslim men with the block of twelve units I live in. Next door is a softly-spoken young Jordanian guy studying nursing, and working nights in a kitchen to make ends meet…

Downstairs lives a Greek woman – she works as a receptionist and raises her son by herself. Elsewhere in the building live an Indian family, a young Lebanese plumber, and Indonesian, Chinese and Filipino families.

Why is it that our pictures of Lakemba are so different, Mr Blair? What is the agenda that drives you to misrepresent this community?

I’d love to believe this was just lazy or sloppy journalism, but coming as it does from a vastly experienced, senior columnist, amid a climate of increasingly shrill anti-Islamic rhetoric, I have profound misgivings….

Related: Media Watch 27 June 2016.

Munching halal and Japanese bikers again!

Posted on October 30, 2016 by Neil

Chris T and I dined at the excellent Samaras again yesterday. The question of how long Samaras has been in Wollongong came up and is answered here.

A family that plays together stays together, and so does one that works together.

Mohamed Nemer remembers how, from the age of seven, his daughter Samara would plead for him to one day open a restaurant.

Keeping his promise, Mohamed opened a restaurant with his family five years ago [@2013] and named it Samaras.

Amid the array of canvas photos inside the Wollongong eatery is one of a woman making bread and another of a man picking peaches from a garden in the mountains of south-eastern Lebanon.

The Middle Eastern passion for food has been embraced by Mohamed and his children Omar, Macey, Alyca and Samara…

So eight years then.

Last time Chris T and I were at Samaras was in August: With the Japanese bikers in the halal restaurant…. Odd, but not quite so strange, that there was a pair of Japanese bikers of mature and beneficent appearance yesterday as this weekend Wollongong is hosting a sizable gathering of Harley Davidsons….

Back at Samaras: we resolved on two items we had had before: grandma’s olives and the meat-lover’s platter. You may read about grandma’s olives on Munching against the fear of “the other”…

Yes, “Grandmother’s Olives!” The lovely young woman serving us assured us they were indeed from her very own grandmother, that in fact she had herself helped harvest them at one time. They proved to be delicious, not over salty. There was an enlarged photo on the restaurant wall of said grandmother in her olive grove…

I look back on Grandmother’s Olives now with even more wonder. Is not our world enlarged, even by a meal such as we had yesterday – and halal the lot of it too.  “Reclaiming” Australia = Impoverishing Australia, in my opinion. (See also Reclaiming Australia Persian-style in Wollongong.)

And the platter FOR ONE! You’d have to have some appetite!


What we tried for the first time was an entree called Za’ahtar.

Screenshot - 30_10_2016 , 8_21_26 AM

Also Romanised as Za’atar: see Wikipedia.

There is evidence that a za’atar plant was known and used in Ancient Egypt, though its ancient name has yet to be determined with certainty. Remains of Thymbra spicata, one species used in modern za’atar preparations, were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, and according to Dioscorides, this particular species was known to the Ancient Egyptians as saem.

Pliny the Elder mentions an herb maron as an ingredient of the Regale Unguentum(“Royal Perfume”) used by the Parthian kings in the 1st century CE.

In Jewish tradition, Saadiah (d. 942), Ibn Ezra (d. circa 1164), Maimonides (1135–1204) and Obadiah ben Abraham (1465–1515) identified the ezov mentioned in the Hebrew Bible with the Arabic word “za’atar”…

In the Levant, there is a belief that za’atar makes the mind alert and the body strong. For this reason, children are encouraged to eat a za’atar sandwich for breakfast before an exam or before school. This, however, is also believed to be a myth fabricated during the Lebanese civil war to encourage eating of za’atar, as provisions were low at the time and za’atar was in abundance. Maimonides …, a medieval rabbi and physician who lived in Spain, Morocco, and Egypt, prescribed za’atar for its health advancing properties.

The things you can experience without leaving Wollongong!

2017 now: Revisiting September 2016

Just so you know, though I was in Wollongong tucked up in bed at the time. Or sweating like a pig in bed…


Now to revisit September 2016.

Five (of many) decent Australians…

Posted on September 17, 2016 by Neil

The first two came my way at Diggers yesterday. Terry the retired wharf labourer is a regular. He’s about my age so like me he lived through the Korean and Vietnam War periods and more, seeing things from a wharfie’s perspective. It was delightful then to be able yesterday to introduce Terry to the Major-General.


Major General Brian (Hori) Howard served in the Australian Regular Army from 1959 until 1990. Amongst his many military appointments he commanded a battalion and an infantry brigade, was Director General of Operations and Plans for the Australian Army, instructed at the British Army Staff College, and served in several overseas countries including Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Japan, and Uganda. He saw operational service in South Vietnam for which he was awarded the Military Cross. He successfully completed the Canadian Armed Forces Command and Staff College and the Australian Joint Services Staff College. Major General Howard’s last military posting was as Director General of the then Natural Disasters Organisation, (now Emergency Management Australia), Australia’s national counter disaster organization. For this service he was awarded an Order of Australia.

In 1990 Major General Howard was appointed by the Minister as Director General of the NSW State Emergency Service(SES), the organisation responsible for dealing with floods, storms, land and inland water searches, and the majority of road accident rescue outside major cities. He was responsible for setting up a modern emergency management and rescue system for the State…

source (pdf)

Terry and the Major General got on rather famously…

The other day my post concerned two of the weirdest and most rancid maiden speeches you are ever likely to encounter. But we did hear quite a number that were rather different, as Alex McKinnon noted:

It’s a perverse dynamic; people who tear down and divide get rewarded with airtime and column inches, while people who do the difficult, tiring work of building something up get ignored. But while major news outlets publish and broadcast Hanson’s speech, some very different speeches from newly-elected pollies have flown relatively under the radar. It’s worth taking the time to watch and listen to the words of these new politicians who in their humility, bravery, and willingness to be vulnerable, reveal a dignity and cause for hope that people like Hanson do their best to extinguish.

First, “young fogey” Julian Leeser, Liberal Party MHR for Berowra in Sydney, a wonderful personal account of his father’s suicide and its impact.


…I felt a great emptiness ripping at my stomach. I went to the garage and saw the car was missing.

We called the Police and later they came round to tell us that they’d found my father’s body at the bottom of The Gap at Watsons Bay…

…the day he died the music died with him, and it was years before I could listen to his music again without tearing up.

Over the past twenty years I have gone back over the week leading up to my father’s death too many times – and I keep thinking back to the signs he was giving us…

Suicide, they used to say, is a victimless crime, but they never count the loved ones left behind.

In the past 20 years we have changed our approach to suicide, depression and mental health.

And while there has rightly been a focus on the mental health of adolescents and young people, we must remember that people suffering at other stages in their lives are equally important.

And sadly the number of older people taking their own lives is increasing – my own father was fifty five.

In these past 20 years, we have spent millions on mental health and suicide prevention. Every government has tried – but despite all the good will, it is a fight we are losing.

In my own electorate we have had more than 100 people take their own lives in the last eight years. And across Australia eight people die by suicide every day….

Second. Indigenous Labor Senator from the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy.


Yuwu bajinda nya-wirdi kulu kirna-balirra yinda nyawirdi nyuwu-ja barrawu, bajirru yiurru wiji marnajingulaji ngathangka, bajirru yirru li-wirdiwalangu ji-awarawu li-Ngunawal Ngambri barra jina barra awara yirrunga, bajrru li-ngaha li-malarngu marnaji anka nya-ngathanya bii, li-ngatha kulhakulha, li-ngatha li-nganji karnirru-balirra.

Yes, let us begin. You are there, senior one—Mr President. We have no word for ‘President’ in Yanyuwa, so I refer to you as ‘senior one’. And I thank you for this place, and for all you others also here with me, and you, the traditional owners, the Ngunawal and Ngambri, for this country. This is your country…

My kujika has allowed me to see both worlds—that of the Western world view and that of the Yanyuwa/Garrawa world view. I am at home in both. I am neither one, without the other. But what of those who cannot balance the two and what of those who do not have the same?…

I think of the women in my life struggling still just to survive—I call them my mothers, sisters, my friends—who endured tremendous acts of violence against them, with broken limbs, busted faces, amputations and sexual assaults. I stand here with you. My aunt who lost her job that she had had for 10 years without warning simply because she spoke out about the lack of housing for her families, I stand here with you. To the descendants of the stolen generation still seeking closure, I stand with you. To the people with disabilities forever striving for better access to the most basic things in life, I am with you.

And then there is my young cousin-sister who struggled with her identity as a lesbian in a strong traditional Aboriginal culture. Her outward spirit was full of fun and laughter, yet inside she was suffocating from the inability to find balance in her cultural world view and that of the expectations of the broader Australian society around her. So one night she left this world, just gave up, at the age of 23.

To the sista girls and brutha boys who struggle with their sexual identity, I say to you: stay strong, I stand here with you. To the people of the Northern Territory and the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, I stand here with you.

Bauji Barra. Thank you.

Finally, MHR Labor for Cowan (Western Australia) Anne Aly.


…Today I stand here not just as the first graduate from the university named in her honour to be elected to the federal parliament but as the first of Egyptian-Arabic heritage, along with my colleague the member for Wills, Mr Peter Khalil, and the first Muslim woman. I mention the latter points not to claim any special accolades but because they mark a significant moment in the history of this nation, especially right now and especially given the circumstances of my election…

My parents arrived from Egypt at the Bonegilla migrant camp in Albury Wodonga in 1969, later settling in the outer suburbs of Sydney. Despite having qualified as a textiles engineer, my father, like many migrants, ended up taking a job for which he was overqualified, though no less grateful. He became a bus driver, and together my parents built a life for themselves and their three children. I started my schooling at a Catholic school and I ended it at an Anglican school, having attended several public schools in between. Those years shaped my view of Australia and my place within it. Coming from a practising Muslim household, I would read from the Bible and sing hymns at morning chapel service while fasting for the holy month of Ramadan and celebrating the holy days of Eid. When I asked my mother what I should do during chapel service when we read the Lord’s Prayer, she responded that I should also bow my head in prayer and remember that we all worship the same God. Most importantly, I learnt that the values that make us Australians are measured not by the colour of our skin or by our religion or where we were born but by our dedication to the fundamental principles of equality and fairness…

I have worked with former violent extremists, I have become an advocate and a patron for victims of terrorism, I have advised the families who have lost sons and daughters to violence and hatred, and I have mentored young people who have sadly fallen prey to such dangerous ideologies. I have seen the worst of humanity, and I have often despaired, but I have also seen its best through the eyes of people like Phil Britten, Louisa Hope, Jarrod Morton-Hoffman, Gill Hicks and Michael Gallagher—all of whom have survived terrorist attacks; and through the work of organisations like Together for Humanity; the Bali Peace Park Association; and Youth Futures WA, which provides essential services to young homeless people in Cowan; and, of course, the inspiring young people who have worked with my own organisation, People against Violent Extremism—or PaVE…

Personally, I have mentored young people who have, sadly, fallen vulnerable to radicalisation, and I have helped families divert them from a destructive path. The ripple effect that reaching out and changing just one life can have on entire communities cannot be underestimated. I was most moved by the words of one young man who, in a quiet moment of contemplation, whispered to me, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I’d be dead or in jail.’ I am pleased to say that that young man is now successfully enrolled in a university degree, is a leader in his community and is looking forward to a bright future.

The fight against terrorism is a fight for reason, and we cannot afford to let it be hijacked by populism or by party politics. This is not the sort of issue where pointing out the gaps in our policy response should attract accusations of being soft on terrorism or insinuations of appeasement or, even worse, supporting terrorism. We have to get this right, because the currency here is people’s lives. That is why I will continue to argue for a reasoned, balanced and, above all, smart response to the threat of terrorism.

Our response to terrorism needs to be intelligent and proportionate…

Here then we have had five Australians who so far as I can see in their diversity bear little resemblance to the paranoid rantings of The Revenant of Oz. May such prevail.

Phone call from the Mufti

Posted on September 19, 2016 by Neil

See my 2007 post:

Old friend

04 October

I introduce my old friend The Mufti of Watsons Bay thus on Who’s Who:

The Mufti was my neighbour in 1988-9 and has become a good friend who has helped me in many ways. Even he would admit to eccentricity. In some ways a total Tory, he shares my desire to see the back of John Howard. It is amazing who the Mufti knows: he’s even had afternoon tea with the Queen. He was an Anglican priest but reverted to Islam a couple of years ago. Not a terrorist.

Nor too strictly Muslim either now. He called in today. I hadn’t seen him or even spoken to him for possibly a year. In fact I had been feeling a bit guilty about that. But it turns out he has been overseas quite a bit: Zanzibar for one!  Looks tanned and terrific, especially for a man of 77. The Rabbit has met him.

And 2008:

Surry Hills 12: personal space

Posted on September 23, 2008 by Neil

Thought you should see where these pictures come from — and I am a messy person, and I didn’t clean up specially for your visit either, I’m afraid. This is what my lair looked like on this day.


The Mufti of Watson’s Bay gave me this screen for my 50th.

The screen now resides at M’s in East Redfern….

Just a simple 70-something old patriot, me…

Posted on September 23, 2016 by Neil

So let’s start with the National Anthem:

Australians all let us rejoice
For we are young and free
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea:
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare,
In history’s page let every stage
Advance Australia fair,
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We’ll toil with hearts and hands,
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands,
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share,
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia fair.

Seems quite a few of our modern self-appointed patriots and their groupies and hangers-on don’t subscribe to tosh like that. Last night I watched (until growing horror and nausea forced me to pull the plug) a weirdo we’ll call Adolf the Incredible Hulk on an ABC2/JJ forum called Hack Live. Back in 2015, by the way, The Hulk posted this fan-pic on his Facebook:


See that last comment from The Hulk himself? “There should be a picture of this man in every classroom and every school and his book should be issued to every student annually.” With three likes…

OK, so ABC2 decided to give the creep a forum last night. You can read their account:

Tonight’s show came a day after an Essential media poll showed that 49 per cent of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration. So where did our panel stand?

First up, UPF leader [Hulk] got things going by saying that he believes Australians feel ostracized in their own country.

People who are proud to be Australian are “immediately made to feel racist, or uneducated bogans,” [Hulk]  said.

At this point he was – literally – dominating the debate…

Lawyer and community advocate Lydia Shelly [wearing a hijab] said [Hulk’s] far-right views and those of radicalised Muslims were like “two sides of the same coin.” but [Hulk]  wasn’t buying it. “I haven’t beheaded anybody, I haven’t killed anybody, so I think that’s a bit of a long shot,” [Hulk] said.

Former soldier who served in Afghanistan, Andrew Fox Lane, pointed out [Hulk’s] past convictions and his attitudes towards women that have been posted online. Andrew warned against a blanket ban on Muslim immigration and said the rhetoric around the debate has become too brash, and should be more pragmatic instead…

So not everyone on the show was a loony… Read these two reports on the program: Daily Mail and Pedestrian TV.

Truly – the bloke made some conspiratorial claims about who controls the migration of refugees, which was met with claims he believed in the Illuminati – but tbh, after he dropped that “so what”, it was game over.

Put simply, [Hulk] was given an audience tonight. He was given viewers. He was given everything he needed to put his case across… And he shat the bed with patently racist and nearly goddamned fascist ideas. He alienated anyone who might have wanted to understand his frothing fear of Islam, while only speaking to those who’ve already made up their minds…

I do fear for my country if these far-right terrorism fear-struck nutters like The Hulk dominate in the future. As I wrote on 15 September this year:

For example, The Revenant says her patriotism “will never be traded or given up for the mantras of diversity or tolerance. Australia had a national identity before Federation, and it had nothing to do with diversity and everything to do with belonging.” I on the other hand put diversity and tolerance at the core of my patriotism. I think “fair go” captures that. For more see my 2011 series Being Australian.

Multiculturalism in Australia is conditioned by compatibility with the citizenship pledge.

I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,whose democratic beliefs I share,whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.

There is scope there for 1,001 individual or cultural variations. Assumed is a sufficient degree of integration both for the welfare of the individual and for community harmony – but this depends above all on willingness to accept difference as part of our freedom as citizens.

Reject all self-styled “Patriots” and support  the better country we have been working so hard to bring into being.

Search here under patriot.

NOTE: In case you wondered, I use pseudonyms for certain individuals or groups to minimise my contribution to their ego-googling. I have no desire to add to their online presence more than is necessary in rejecting their ideas.


Related reading: Peter Hartcher, Our new threshold of intolerance: Australia is on the cusp of a dangerous crisis.

… Turnbull has shown repeatedly that, while harsh on terrorism, he is an advocate for tolerance and unity. Shorten and Turnbull and all leaders need to protect this deep national equity. Yet we now know that this, while necessary, is not sufficient.

Australia is on the cusp of joining the West’s dangerous crisis of cohesion.

1950s Sutherland: sheer nostalgia 60 years on

Posted on September 27, 2016 by Neil

Do go to the source, Picture Sutherland Shire, for (currently) 465 images.

Yesterday I wrote: “We spent much of 1953-4 looking for Russian spies in the bush in West Sutherland, being excited further that they were building Australia’s first (and still only) nuclear reactor just across the Woronora at Lucas Heights.”


And here is Sutherland Shire Council Chambers in 1954, the year of the Royal Visit:


Note which flag flies highest. We were still “British Subjects” in those days.

At Federation in 1901, ‘British subject’ was the sole civic status noted in the Australian Constitution. The Australasian Federal Convention of 1897–98 was unable to agree on a definition of the term ‘citizen’ and wanted to preserve British nationality in Australia. An administrative concept of citizenship arose from the need to distinguish between British subjects who were permanent residents and those who were merely visitors. This was necessary for the Commonwealth to exercise its powers over immigration and deportation. Motivated by the nationalism of Arthur Calwell, the Minister for Immigration 1945–49, this administrative concept was formalised in the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948. In 1958 the Act was amended so that naturalisation could only be revoked if obtained by fraud. This prevented a naturalised person being stripped of citizenship and deported.

Throughout the 1960s, Australian citizens were still required to declare their nationality as British. The term ‘Australian nationality’ had no official recognition or meaning until the Act was amended in 1969 and renamed the Citizenship Act. This followed a growing sense of Australian nationalism and the declining importance for Australians of the British Empire. In 1973 the Act was renamed the Australian Citizenship Act. It was not until 1984 that Australian citizens ceased to be British subjects.

Next to Council Chambers was the Library. In 1954 I was a frequent borrower. The children’s books were in the room to the right of the front door.


And local shops that I would often have been in. The car could even be our Standard Vanguard, if this photo was taken around 1953. We had graduated to a Vanguard Spacemaster by 1954.


Not exactly crowded is Sutherland’s main street, is it? I suspect too by the light that this is summer.

South Australian superstorm and outage

Posted on September 29, 2016 by Neil

Yesterday a superstorm led to a total power failure in the entire state of South Australia. Think about that:



See SA power outage: how did it happen?  One element some have raised is the fact that South Australia relies more than other states at the moment on renewable energy.

Key points:
  • South Australia has the highest rate of renewable energy in Australia
  • The ‘one in a 50 year’ weather event ‘couldn’t have been prevented or foreseen’
  • SA to be an example for other states and territories when planning for significant weather events

So, maybe not….

We haven’t heard the last of this though.

7884738-3x2-700x467Image of South Australian storm by Erik Brokken — on ABC News

2016 – surreal year goes at last

Looking forward though: 28 January 2017 is Chinese New Year, a Year of the Rooster. I just can’t resist this:


Love it! See Chinese Year of the Rooster marked with huge Trump sculpture.

With the Year of the Rooster approaching, a Trump-inspired sculpture is on display at a shopping centre in Taiyuan, Shanxi province. The designer told Chinese media he was inspired by both his iconic hairstyle and hand gestures.

Now for three items I commend to you as you look back over the year:

First, Singapore blogger Au Waipang: Rebuilding from the rubble of 2016 voter-quakes.

2016 will be remembered as one of those break-point years when an old order started falling apart. The worrying thing is that there is no sign that any better new order will be born.

Still, 2016 had its uses. The series of victories by what had been unlikely personalities and movements — Rodrigo Duterte winning the Filipino presidency, Brexit, and of course, the Donald Trump victory, have been cathartic. Some good commentary in various media have followed as a result, full of soul-searching and self-criticism…

Very clear, very thoughtful.

Second, journalist George Monbiot: Frightened by Donald Trump? You don’t know the half of it.

As usual, the left and centre (myself included) are beating ourselves up about where we went wrong. There are plenty of answers, but one of them is that we have simply been outspent. Not by a little, but by orders of magnitude. A few billion dollars spent on persuasion buys you all the politics you want. Genuine campaigners, working in their free time, simply cannot match a professional network staffed by thousands of well-paid, unscrupulous people.

You cannot confront a power until you know what it is. Our first task in this struggle is to understand what we face. Only then can we work out what to do.

Third, from the World Bank: Year in Review: 2016 in 12 Charts (and a video). One item:

The UN estimates that 2.4 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation facilities, nearly one billion of whom practice open defecation. Good sanitation is a foundation for development – conditions such as diarrhea are associated with poor sanitation, and left untreated, can lead to malnutrition and stunting in children. This year’s first High-Level Panel on Water brought together world leaders with a core commitment to ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Now, rather anticlimactically, to the year on this blog.

Neil’s Commonplace Book has averaged 40 visits a day this year, down from 47 in 2015. The most viewed items in 2016 have been:

  1. Home page / Archives 8,074 views in 2016
  2. Ziggy’s House of Nomms 297
  3. All my posts 271
  4. Tom Thumb Lagoon 187
  5. Outnumbered, Merlin, and other recently seen TV 186
  6. The swimmer 143
  7. Random Friday memory: 1 – John Mystery, my brother, Illawong 121
  8. About 93
  9. Random Friday memory 17 – Caringbah 1965 85
  10. Family history–some news on the Whitfield front 76
  11. Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames” 74
  12. What a treasury of family history! 74
  13. Hey hang on! That has to be nonsense… 73
  14. Friday Australian poem: #NS6 – Mary Gilmore “Old Botany Bay” 69
  15. The silence of the trams 61
  16. My former workplace in the news today 54
  17. Bicentenary of Dharawal massacre in Appin area 53
  18. Neil’s personal decades: 11 – 1875 – to Araluen and Braidwood 52
  19. Reclaiming Australia Persian-style in Wollongong 49
  20. Some great stories, and some of them new to me… 48
  21. Anzac Girls last night on ABC 47
  22. Restoration Australia: Keera Vale 38
  23. Wollongong High’s centenary, my family history, WW1 37
  24. 1957 or MCMLVII 37
  25. Fly on the wall school doco: Revolution School 35

Revisiting August 2016 – plus Debbie Reynolds

Cyrille de Lasteyrie via Eric Tenin on Facebook posted this remarkable photograph:


Carrie Fisher watching her mother on stage from the wings

M returns, while I waste more time on Senator Belfry…

Posted on August 17, 2016 by Neil

M is (i believe) just back from Europe after a long and most wonderful two months and more. He went towards the end of May. Among a heap of photos he posted on Facebook a couple of days ago is this, taken while trekking to Mont Blanc.


An appropriate kind of image given the rest of the post.

Yesterday I devoted time to Senator Belfry’s amazing appearance on QandA on Monday. The transcript is now up. A small sample:

[BELFRY] Sure, the longest temperature record for temperatures on this planet is the Central England Temperature Record, which goes back to the mid-1600s. And the first of the – sorry, the latest in the 17th century, the latest warming cycle in the 17th century going into the 18th century was faster and greater than the latest warming which finished in 1995. And Justin Bieber wasn’t flying his private jet around in the 1600s. That’s the first thing. The second thing was we’ve had a pause in this so-called warming for now 21 years. It depends how you measure it. 21 years. And I’m absolutely stunned that someone who is inspired by Richard Feynman, a fantastic scientist who believes in empirical evidence is quoting a consensus.
BRIAN COX: Can I just say – I brought the graph, right.
BRIAN COX: Let me tell you where the pause is. The pause that’s often quoted, if you take this point here, which is about 1997, I think, and you ignore 2015-2016, you can choose that point and you can draw a slightly straighter trend line on there. But that’s a misunderstanding. The question is does that rise and, also, secondly – I’ve brought another graph – is it correlated with that, which is the graph that shows the CO2 emissions – the CO2 in parts per million in the atmosphere – and you see that peak there, where it goes flying up. So the question essentially is first of all are those two things correlated and, secondly, do we understand the physical mechanisms and we’ve understood those since the 19th century. I mean, I can teach you. I’ll give you a lesson if you want.

Belfry’s technique is to drown you in a blizzard of horseshit. Let’s be honest here. You can go to yesterday’s post and find a link to his own site where the horseshit is stored in vast quantities. On the other hand you could go here.

Date:  Feb. 27, 2014


U.S. National Academy of Sciences, U.K. Royal Society Release Joint Publication on Climate Change

WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, the national science academy of the U.K., released a joint publication today in Washington, D.C., that explains the clear evidence that humans are causing the climate to change, and that addresses a variety of other key questions commonly asked about climate change science…

The horseshit vendors, Belfry among them, are armed against that of course. In response to what they will fling at you go to  Has the Royal Society embraced climate skepticism? and The Latest Denialist Plea for Climate Change Inaction.

Rather than being distracted by Belfry’s twaddle, take notice instead of David Attenborough, himself at one time a doubter of anthropogenic climate change.

When asked by the Independent if the world should be more concerned by our deteriorating environment than we are about the threat of terror attacks, his answer was simple: “Yes”.

“The nature of human beings is that they’d far rather face the disaster that is happening tonight than the one that is happening tomorrow,” he said.

“Climate change will affect the whole of humanity, while terrorist attacks will only affect a small section of humanity. Of course, you wouldn’t say that if you were related to someone who had been beheaded or blown up or murdered. But humanity is facing a very big, slow, long, drawn-out threat, and that is to do with the way the weather is changing and the size of the population.”

Sir David reiterated his warning during an interview with the Associated Press to mark his 90th birthday on Sunday, when he explained the most critical problems facing the natural world today. Top of his list was rising temperatures caused by climate change – “a very, very serious worry indeed”.

Finally, an excellent piece in today’s Fairfax press – if you could have found it on their abominable new websites, that is. I resorted to Google in order to locate it.

Richard Muller, a former prominent sceptic US scientist, re-examined 14 million temperature observations from 44,455 sites across the world going back to 1753. The results prompted a “total turnaround” in his views, as my colleague Ben Cubby wrote in 2012.

“Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by 2½ degrees fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1½ degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases,” Professor Muller wrote.

Roberts [Belfry], a former coal engineer, and then manager of the Galileo Movement, was unimpressed.

“We’ve based our views on empirical science, and there’s nothing in the Muller study to undercut that,” Roberts told Cubby at the time. Climate change science had been captured by “some of the major banking families in the world” who form a “tight-knit cabal”, he insisted….

‘It does sound outlandish’

For Roberts to be right, at least 80 science academies around the world have to be wrong, as would almost 100 per cent of the scientists publishing work in the field….


So frustrating having to revisit some of the most asinine arguments ever! I watched  my copies of The Climate Wars (2008) by Dr Iain Stewart and Meet the Sceptics (2011) and sighed deeply that all this was bubbling up again. See also my posts Look who’s at the rally along with A Jones and A Anderson… With friends like these… (2011) and Documentaries to make you think, cringe, cry, or wonder.. 2 (2011).

This one I have just downloaded!  Watts Up With That hates it; Lord Monckton tried to have it suppressed.

The truth is that it is brilliant and very fair to a whole lot of people who are not used to the concept of fair representation themselves. Even Lord Monckton is humanised rather than demonised; the presenter even goes so far as to say he rather likes him as a person. That is not just a ploy.

What’s up with Monckton is now pretty well known. It’s easy really: he’s just plain wrong.

Scarier even than that is the US Republican Party and so many “freedom-loving Americans” and weird right-wing TV channels from Fox on through even more biased and crazy excuses for news and commentary. Watch the doco to see what I mean.

And more on the egregious Belfry:

J.K. Rowling Joins Physicist Brian Cox and Monty Python’s Eric Idle in Calling Out Climate Science Denial

And more! Do visit Peter Sinclair’s Denier Destroyed on Aussie TV. Crowd Goes Wild (19 August), especially for the last two videos addressing the climate denial myths that Belfry promotes.

First, the “no warming in…(pick a number) years” canard, (which has really gotten pretty ragged with 2 record warm years in a row and a third underway) is a favorite of Far right US Senator Ted Cruz. I asked 4 scientists to weigh in on the deception…

Finally, the idea that “NASA has fudged the data” is put to rest by scientists who actually understand temperature data and how it is used…

Memento mori – another from the Class of 1959

Posted on August 19, 2016 by Neil

Look at my 2013 post Found–something from my last year at high school.


Look at the Latin prize in Fourth Year, our second-last year at SBHS. David Chadwick, here some years later, but still very recognisable.


And that is from his obituary, published in today’s Sydney Morning Herald

With the Japanese bikers in the halal restaurant…

Posted on August 21, 2016 by Neil

Samaras Restaurant was very busy yesterday when Chris T and I went there for lunch. I felt more than usually patriotic – proud of living in a land where diversity is accepted and respected — as we hoed into the amazing “meat lovers” platter, all halal of course. This is what we had:


The menu says that is “for one” – well, you’d have to be very hungry to manage it. Chris and I shared and, with a side dish of cauliflower, had more than enough. And I tell you, it is even better than it looks! Even in Surry Hills’s “Little Lebanon” in the past I have not had better.

And yes, there was a table of around 15 young Japanese bikers and friends in the restaurant as well, all tucking into the excellent food, and appreciating the friendly vibe and good service. As did the anglo-celtic Aussies who took over those tables when the Japanese left.

Ah Wollongong! Here it is not too unusual to see sights like:




Note the Buddha in the background, by the way. These photos are from my photoblog under the tag “multicultural”. Despite what some say, we Australians have been rather good at creating a positive experience of cultural diversity. May we continue thus to grow,

Which brings me to the latest by the Revenant of Oz, now a Senator. I prefer to name her thus 1) because she is a revenant and 2) I avoid adding to the sum of her name being mentioned on the Internet. Her latest has caused a degree of mirth:

Australian Multicultural Foundation and SBS chairman Hass Dellal said One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s preoccupation with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) implementing some squat toilets in its Melbourne office reeked of “insecurity”.

ATO’s acting chief finance officer Justin Untersteiner told the Herald Sun this week that the office deployed the toilets because it was committed to “maintaining an inclusive workplace”.

Pauline Hanson asks in a Facebook video posted on Sunday: “If they don’t know how to use our toilets…then what the hell is going on?”

She then responded to a comment on that post: “It’s not just a matter of dollars Wade. It starts with toilets and ends with costing us our Australian way of life.”

Waleed Aly commented in the Fairfax Press: a good opinion piece, I thought. He goes on to make an interesting point, having mentioned Revenant sidekick Senator Belfry’s amazing outing on last Monday’s #QandA.

…And  [Belfry]  sounds nothing like Hanson. Sure, he’s not a fan of the Racial Discrimination Act, but he doesn’t seem especially fixated on Muslims – or toilets for that matter. That’s even truer of Rod Culleton, who will be One Nation’s senator in Western Australia. He hates banks, probably because one of them took his farm.

But when asked recently about One Nation’s dogma that multiculturalism has failed, he replied: “I wouldn’t say it’s failed. I respect multiculturalism. You know, I’ve married a very beautiful Greek woman and her family love me like a son.” That woman, by the way, was also a One Nation candidate in Western Australia. Ask her about Hanson’s proposed royal commission into Islam and she says, “that’s one of the ones that, again, I will not be in agreeance with”.

Well, that’s quite a disagreement. It’s remarkable that Hanson would have candidates so at odds with what, until now, has seemed her party’s political reason for being…

We’ll only figure out what that all means over the next three (or six) years. But the starting point is that Hanson presides over nothing particularly organic. Drill to the bottom of One Nation and you find varieties of disillusionment, but not always xenophobia. It’s just not that coherent… But they might have more in common than they seemed to a month ago. That includes the same proclivity for bizarre video stunts. And you know that old saying: it starts with toilets and ends up costing your political authority.

I have wondered what collective I might use for the Revenant’s group: Ein Volk has connotations that may be unfair. I thought of the Had a Gutful Party, which is accurate but abbreviates to HAG, possibly sexist. Maybe POP? Pissed Off Party?

BTW, I do suspect that when you saw, as we all did…


… your first thought was not “that’s a Muslim.” You probably felt something about the cruelty of war. You probably saw a frightened child. You probably reached out in humanity and wished this world could be better. Let’s keep those reactions alive, eh!


And this bus-load makes me proud to be an Australian!

…Many of us are still pretty far from being comfortable travellers in an increasingly diverse world. We may be curious, but we can lack confidence, erring on the side of silence rather than diving in and risk saying the wrong thing.

Perhaps we worry that no one will stand with us if we do speak out. That our fellow Australians indeed are the racists we’re stereotyped to be. That it’s easier to stay quiet than risk a debate with a Hanson supporter. Perhaps it all just makes us feel too nervous and we pretend not to hear over our headphones.

Whatever it was on Thursday, this was a pretty neat example of 50-odd people keeping their cool, making it calmly clear that none of us was tolerating racism, and having the confidence to sort it out. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept, so they say.

Thirty years is a long time and forty even longer

Posted on August 24, 2016 by Neil

I missed this, unfortunately, as I rarely attend night-time things these days, especially in Sydney. I had been invited:

Its a long time ago, but you taught me for a few years at Sydney High – 1985 and 1986 – for 2 unit English. Memorable times, including the infamous “shit poem” you asked a friend to come in and read for us, and our universal dislike of Dickens’ Great Expectations!

My colleagues and I are having a 30 year reunion on Saturday August 13, 2016 – we’d like to invite you if you’d like to come.

The inviter is on the right, a former teaching colleague on the left:


Apparently a debate on the topic “It is better to live fast and wild in middle age than in high school” was part of the night’s proceedings. They were very good at debating, that class of 1986. Some have gone on to considerable eminence in related fields. I’m told  “over fifty-five ex-students and a small number of teachers calling ‘present, sir’ at the Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst on Saturday 13 August.”  I am sorry I could not be with them, but am having fun guessing, occasionally successfully, who is who in the photos.



Some of these people may recall this:


See More “Neil’s Decades” – 10: 1986 again

Watching “Billy Elliot” again

Posted on August 28, 2016 by Neil

Back in August 2006 I posted:

Then another coachee, doing Standard English, has as one of his texts (yes, I know) Billy Elliot. Again the laptop and the local video library worked wonders for us. Great movie. and a rich enough text too at many levels. A shame I have this embarrassing tendency to cry in the last few scenes, a phenomenon I described to my coachee rather than enact in front of him.

So ten years on I blubbed (privately) in the last few scenes all over again.

Interesting viewpoint about that scene:

The worst part of the film, Billy Elliot, is the ending. I know that the ending has people sobbing in their seats (including Elton John), but it is so sweet and corny that it destroys the real-life aspect of the film. In the film, everybody is happy. Billy is a super-star. Michael is open and proud of his new boyfriend. Tony is thrilled to see his little brother perform. And Dad is overcome with joy and pride. Only Fairytales for children under seven should end with “And they all lived happily ever after.”

The story of Billy Elliot and the miners is depressing, and the audience needs a lift at the end. The film uses the silly happy ending to send the audience home happy. But it ruins the gritty reality of the story. The musical finishes the show with only hope for Billy’s future, and no real hope for anyone else. It is much more realistic for older children and adults. Then the musical cheers up the emotionally drained audience with the “Company Celebration” (Finale). Hall and Daldry corrected a major flaw with this change…

What I posted one year ago

Posted on August 25, 2016 by Neil

You’ll have to go to the original to see what this was about:

Random Friday memory 26: naked in The Shire

Posted on August 28, 2015 by Neil

Oh yes. Well, once at least when I was maybe ten years old…


It was all down to my classmate CT who was a bit of a junior nudist…