Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 4 — talk to a Rabbit

Not just any rabbit. This rabbit: At the end of December 2002 Mister Rabbit drove me out to Sutherland… Mister Rabbit wondered whether I would be writing up our day in Sutherland (and Sans Souci) beyond what I had to say on the day… Mr Rabbit was 20 at the time, and had his say as well:

We passed my father’s old school, which has a great view (“The Catholics know how to buy land”), and the place of N’s early religion, which looked, I thought, not unlike a scout hall. And then an unexpected surprise: N’s childhood home, which he hadn’t been inside since 1952, was completely empty (on account of being ready for auction), and its front door was wide open. We ventured in and had a good look around. N pointed out the many structural changes, including the removal of fireplaces; thankfully, the house itself can’t be knocked down: built in c. 1913, it is heritage. It is, however, being encroached upon by medium density housing, of which there is much in Sutherland these days. But if I had a spare $400,000 in the bank, I’d buy the house tomorrow. N was glowing afterwards, and I was very happy too.

Only $400,000? You would need maybe THREE TIMES that these days, Rabbit!

Anyway, after an absence Rabbit has reappeared on Facebook. He is no longer 20 just as I am now much nearer 80! He is also a very experienced High School English teacher — indeed Head of English somewhere in the Blue Mountains, where he currently lives.

Our latest conversation was conducted via Facebook comments. I had posted a link to the following quite disturbing story in The Guardian, which certainly raises interesting ethical and aesthetic issues.

Björn Andrésen was just 15 when he walked straight into the lion’s den, being cast as Tadzio, the sailor-suited object of desire in Luchino Visconti’s film Death in Venice. Its release in 1971 made him not merely a star but an instant icon – the embodiment of pristine youthful beauty. Sitting alone in Stockholm today at the age of 66, he looks more like Gandalf with his white beard and his gaunt face framed by shoulder-length white locks. His eyes twinkle as alluringly as ever but he’s no pussycat. Asked what he would say to Visconti if he were here now, he doesn’t pause. “Fuck off,” he says.

No one who sees The Most Beautiful Boy in the World, a new documentary about Andrésen’s turbulent and tragic past, will be surprised by that answer. Visconti, he tells me, “didn’t give a fuck” about his feelings. He wasn’t alone in that. “I’ve never seen so many fascists and assholes as there are in film and theatre,” says Andrésen. “Luchino was the sort of cultural predator who would sacrifice anything or anyone for the work.”…

The Rabbit began:

Rabbit: haven’t seen the film but recently listened to the audiobook.

Neil James Whitfield: The book is very good.

Rabbit: It is. Shorter than I had realised too.
·
Neil James Whitfield: The movie is magnificent too — it is reading what it did to the boy playing Tadzio that gives me pause.

Rabbit: the Polish boy was played by a Swede?

At which point I posted the music from the movie.

Rabbit: well I think I will watch it during this lockdown

Neil James Whitfield: So I am rereading “Death in Venice” right now as it is in my eBook library.

Rabbit: The theme of pestilence seems relevant.

Neil James Whitfield: Parts of the last chapter seem very relevant. Yes, I have finished it now. That final paragraph really is something.

Rabbit: well I just watched the film. It’s quite something. They nailed the casting of Tadzio.

Neil James Whitfield: Yes, I was absolutely speechless when I first saw it — and I hadn’t read the book at that stage. The boy really IS Tadzio, and Dirk Bogarde is very good too. The cinematography, the music, everything — all so good. That’s why that Guardian article really does raise interesting questions.

Rabbit: visually such a beautiful film. [Referring to my comment.] Yes very true. I want to watch the new film about the boy actor and also other films with Bogarde who I don’t know much about.

Neil James Whitfield: Wikipedia as usual is a good intro — Bogarde was in some great films and had a very interesting life. What Wikipedia says about his sexuality is very true.

Rabbit: the film Victim is on YouTube and I’ll start with that.

Not all Facebook time is wasted!

Nor is listening to great music and viewing great movies a waste of time. Thanks, YouTube! Not so long ago we could not have had this pleasure.

NOTE: I am replacing the final video I had earlier as I see its maker has produced something even better, and more relevant to The Guardian article.

Eastern and other inspiration

I posted these items over the past several days on Facebook, where they are seen by select friends and relations. Now I share them here because all and sundry can read this blog!

Oh yes! A classic. Browsing among my now 2,729 eBooks on my Calibre Reader I came upon this in Arthur Waley’s “A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems” (1918):

ON THE BIRTH OF HIS SON

By Su Tung-p’o (1036-1101)

Families, when a child is born

Want it to be intelligent.

I, through intelligence,

Having wrecked my whole life,

Only hope the baby will prove

Ignorant and stupid.

Then he will crown a tranquil life

By becoming a Cabinet Minister.

— Su Shi, aka Su Zishan and Su Dongbo. And a magnificent portrait!

And perhaps you know “The Red Cockatoo” by Po Chu-i (Bai Juyi 白居易; 772–846).

THE RED COCKATOO

Sent as a present from Annam—

A red cockatoo.

Coloured like the peach-tree blossom,

Speaking with the speech of men.

And they did to it what is always done

To the learned and eloquent.

They took a cage with stout bars

And shut it up inside.

Bai Juyi 白居易

Then in searching through my humble YouTube channel I found a video I had forgotten, made on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Not ashamed of it though now I see it again. And only 19 views to date! No taste, some people. And everything you see is in my unit in West Wollongong.

And that’s 24 views now!

eBook time — ANU Historical Journal II 2019 and 2020. And Trump.

I can hardly do a thorough review of these two eBooks as I downloaded 2020 just yesterday and 2019 just now — because I searched my Calibre library and found I had not collected it before! (So that makes 2676 books now!)

There are various ways to read these two journals, as you will see on the ANU Press site.

I like the range of often very interesting articles and reviews in these journals — or I at least have found much that I look forward to reading. Today I focus on Number 2 (2020) for one item in particular: Professor David Farber, University of Kansas: ANU Allan Martin Lecture 2019—”Trump’s Republic: An American History.” You can read it alone online. In good lecture fashion Professor Farber outlines his argument thus:

In thinking about Trump’s republic and its antecedents within the United States, I want to consider three interrelated American histories. First, I will give a brief historical outline of the cultural underpinnings of the modern American conservative movement—a dynamic, fractious political culture that Trump has fully embraced and refashioned for the contemporary political moment. Second, I will more briefly examine a linked, overlapping but not congruent political formation, right-wing populism, that Donald Trump championed most visibly during his 2016 campaign and that he continues to foreground in his presidential rallies, Twitter feed, and in his general contempt for such constitutionally protected institutions as Congress and the free press. Finally—and very much linked to the performance of Trump’s right-wing populism—I will ponder the history of humbuggery and spectacle both in American culture and in American politics, and consider how and why in contemporary times Trump has been able to use such venerable tools of democratic and market culture to such powerful effect.

I urge you to read the whole thing. Fascinating, and much that I had only known imperfectly before about the nature of conservatism and populism in America. Underscores too the fact that much about the USA really is alien to us here in Oz, with our still British-framed constitutional monarchy — which I must say old age is making me respect rather more than I did when I voted for a republic in 1999 or whenever that was!

“Humbuggery and spectacle” — indeed, indeed. Now it is no secret that I have come to admire Donald Trump less and less as time has gone on. I now see him as America’s self-inflicted wound, her dreadful mistake, a curse on world order. And I know while many of my regulars here and my Facebook friends will agree with all that, some won’t. But wherever you are on that spectrum I think you will learn from, even enjoy, Professor Farber’s lecture.

One more snippet:

Donald Trump, who had long made his living humbugging investors, bankers, customers, contractors and anyone else within his wobbly orbit, saw in this chaotic cultural realm an opportunity to reach for the political stars. Not unlike P. T. Barnum and other spectacular flim-flam men then and now, he had an advantage over most, though not all, people who sought public office—he was without shame or conscience. Trump was the demagogic figure of ‘low arts’ that the founding fathers feared. He was also the demotic figure that the authors of America’s constitution believed they had fenced in: Congress, the Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights were all aimed at checking and balancing the power of an unhinged demagogue….

As for my record, see blog posts tagged Donald Trump!

Quotes: 2020: “But it is nothing compared with yesterday, when I took on Donald Trump’s oft-repeated claims to be a “stable genius” who “aced” an intelligence test — actually a dementia diagnosis instrument. This is no mere eccentricity — Trump’s behaviour in this is a clear sign of personality disorder, in my inexpert opinion….” Or in 2017:

“Mind you his performances sometimes suggest he might have been smoking something. Take just one example:  Trump Goes to CIA to Attack Media, Lie About Crowd Size, and Suggest Stealing Iraq’s Oil. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!

“I love you. I respect you,” said the president, who ten days earlier likened U.S. spies to Nazi Germany for their role in publicizing an intel dossier packed with allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising information on him.

“There is nobody who feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump,” Trump said, speaking before the wall at CIA headquarters engraved with black stars for the officers who died in the agency’s service. “You’re going to get so much backing that you’re going to say, ‘Please don’t give us so much backing.”

The substance of Trump’s speech focused on the fight against what he called “radical Islamic terrorism,” echoing his inaugural line that it be “eradicated off the face of the earth.” While Trump did not offer any details on how he would do that, he hinted at a more aggressive approach in prosecuting the war on terrorism….

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer used his first press statement Saturday to deliver an angry broadside against the media and reports of the inaugural crowd size. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong,” he said.

Trump claimed between 1 and 1.5 million attended the inauguration; estimates put it closer to 250,000 attendees.

“I have a running war with the media,” Trump said. “They are among the most dishonest human beings.”…

“God help us if this is the garbage we can expect for four more years! “

Well, turns out we have been living through that kind of garbage for the past four years, over and over and over again.

No, I am not a fan.

Blogging the 2010s — 111 — November 2017 — we vote YES!

As indicated above, this was an exciting month. But I begin here with the classics.

Gatsby, Huck and another American classic

I have been reading a lot of free eBooks lately, including three American classics. The one I had not read before is Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1935), which also exists as a stage play. It is impossible to read it today without thinking of Donald Trump. as this review of a recent stage performance notes.

As if the current political climate weren’t worrisome enough for many people, Foothill Theatre Arts presents “It Can’t Happen Here.”

It chronicles the rise of a populist presidential candidate who promises better times, wins the office and then oversees the country’s rapid demise into fascism and repression.

Sinclair Lewis wrote his prescient novel in 1935 when rabble-rousing Huey Long was running for president (he was assassinated before being nominated) against Franklin Roosevelt and Hitler’s Nazi regime was rising in Europe.

But it is also very much of the 1930s, so don’t expect too close a parallel. Worth noting nonetheless.

I reread with undiminished pleasure The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald. A few years ago I posted Gatsby revisited. My recent reading is rather more positive than that post. I just relished every sentence!

Finally, after what must be almost forty years I have reread Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. I find myself agreeing with those who find the final chapter annoying. Without Tom Sawyer the novel had up to that point had passages of utter brilliance. For example:

CHAPTER XIX.

TWO or three days and nights went by; I reckon I might say they swum by, they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely.  Here is the way we put in the time.  It was a monstrous big river down there—sometimes a mile and a half wide; we run nights, and laid up and hid daytimes; soon as night was most gone we stopped navigating and tied up—nearly always in the dead water under a towhead; and then cut young cottonwoods and willows, and hid the raft with them.  Then we set out the lines.  Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshen up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee deep, and watched the daylight come.  Not a sound anywheres—perfectly still—just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe.  The first thing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line—that was the woods on t’other side; you couldn’t make nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness spreading around; then the river softened up away off, and warn’t black any more, but gray; you could see little dark spots drifting along ever so far away—trading scows, and such things; and long black streaks—rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking; or jumbled up voices, it was so still, and sounds come so far; and by and by you could see a streak on the water which you know by the look of the streak that there’s a snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log-cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t’other side of the river, being a woodyard, likely, and piled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nice breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they’ve left dead fish laying around, gars and such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you’ve got the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the song-birds just going it!

Beautiful!

On whether the last chapter is a let-down, see Ending of Huck Finn and Is Huckleberry Finn’s ending really lacking?

Here is something else I noticed in my rereading.

Soon as it was night out we shoved; when we got her out to about the middle we let her alone, and let her float wherever the current wanted her to; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, and talked about all kinds of things—we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitoes would let us—the new clothes Buck’s folks made for me was too good to be comfortable, and besides I didn’t go much on clothes, nohow.

And:

The waves most washed me off the raft sometimes, but I hadn’t any clothes on, and didn’t mind.

Here is a recent controversy deriving from that: ‘Huck and Jim’ Sculpture Too Nude For New York Debuts at Art Institute .

extralarge

What do you think?

Years ago there was a common view that Mark Twain was “henpecked” and that his work, including Huckleberry Finn, was censored by his wife. See this 1992 article which also objects to the theory.

When Resa Willis decided to study Olivia Langdon Clemens, the wife of Samuel L. Clemens (aka Mark Twain), she turned to previous biographies. She discovered that none existed.

How curious that the wife of Mark Twain, America’s best-known writer, should elude biographers until now, while the spouses and lovers of lesser lights have become cottage industries for academics and publishing houses. It is all part of the Twain mythology. We don’t want to know about Livy (Olivia’s nickname) because she was this typically repressive Victorian uber-mama who tried (with some success, according to this theory) to suffocate his fragile genius…

Willis asserts that Livy tried to “civilize” Clemens by trying to curb his swearing, drinking and smoking, but she makes it clear that Livy soon accustomed herself to her husband’s habits. And although during their courtship she planned to turn Clemens into a Christian, she instead followed her husband and fell away from regularly observing the Sabbath during their marriage.

As to Livy’s editing, Twain credited her with significantly improving his works. Willis notes that Howells wanted to cut out two “dirty” scenes in “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” that Livy hadn’t touched. She had not objected to the use of the word “hell,” even though Twain himself was troubled by it afterward…

See also on another controversy Censoring Mark Twain’s ‘n-words’ is unacceptable .

A new edition of Huckleberry Finn expunges its repeated use of ‘nigger’ for understandable reasons, but betrays a great anti-racist novel in the process…

Language counts here. As Twain himself said: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” I respect the motivation of Alan Gribben, the senior Twain scholar who is responsible for the new edition, and who wishes to bring the book back into easy classroom use, believing “that a significant number of school teachers, college instructors, and general readers will welcome the option of an edition of Twain’s … novels that spares the reader from a racial slur that never seems to lose its vitriol.”

But it’s exactly that vitriol and its unacceptable nature that Twain intended to capture in the book as it stands. Perhaps this is not a book for younger readers. Perhaps it is a book that needs careful handling by teachers at high school and even university level as they put it in its larger discursive context, explain how the irony works, and the enormous harm that racist language can do. But to tamper with the author’s words because of the sensibilities of present-day readers is unacceptable. The minute you do this, the minute this stops being the book that Twain wrote.

Absolutely. Do read an unbowdlerised Huckleberry Finn!

For more on Mark Twain, go to History.com.

Postal survey: almost zero hour

Nine minutes to go!

While we’re waiting, look back over my posts tagged Vote Yes!

The Chicken Littles are doing their best to spike the result, should it be YES! Their case really has been utter nonsense. As I wrote in September:

First, just to make it plain, I do not believe that every opponent of same-sex marriage is a homophobe. Indeed there are examples of same-sex couples who will themselves choose NO in the current Postal Survey. Nor do I think that Israel Folau has no right to his views compared with David Pocock, to confine ourselves to Rugby players for the moment. Naturally, though, I do hope that there are many more David Pococks in the Postal Survey!

Second, I commend careful reading of Legal Eagle’s thoroughly thoughtful post.

But when it comes to the NO case as it now so often appears, I still cannot but see it as other than rampant Chicken Little. Or slippery slope-ism. That the question is essentially a simple one seems to get lost.

Five minutes to go!

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South Sydney Uniting Church

And here is another of my September posts: Reject Chicken Little!

Two minutes!

One minute!

Australia says YES!

The Australian people have voted. Same-sex marriage will be legalised in Australia by Christmas if the Turnbull Government sticks to its promise.
The official results are emphatic: 61.6 per cent of all Australians voted to change the law. Every state and territory voted Yes.
Only 17 electorates in the whole country voted No.

More from the same-sex marriage survey

There is a lot of interest in the details of the poll. While it is delicious that Tony Abbott proved so out of touch with his electorate that three out of four voted for YES, despite his vigorous Chicken Little-ing for NO, the truly remarkable thing — at first glance — is the very strong NO vote in Labor electorates in Western Sydney.

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Why was this so? Obviously there is a degree of social conservatism there that must give Labor pause. Matthew da Silva did a good post Who voted ‘No’? which features this summary:

who-voted-no-tablea

I have truncated that for readability: go to Matthew’s post for the full version. While there is a fairly obvious conclusion one could draw from this, compare Same-sex marriage: The multicultural communities that voted ‘yes’.

Western Sydney might have voted “no”, but multicultural Australia voted “yes”.

An analysis of electorates where more than 40 per cent of the population was born overseas shows they overwhelmingly backed same-sex marriage outside the Western Sydney ring.

From Moreton in Queensland through Reid in NSW to Gellibrand in Victoria, a clear majority of electorates with large Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese and Arabic-speaking communities got behind the move to change the definition of marriage.

In the top 10 electorates in NSW and Victoria where the overseas-born population is 40 per cent or more outside of western Sydney and the two “no” voting Victorian electorates of Bruce and Calwell, nine recorded a yes vote above 60 per cent….

And see My conservative Vietnamese family from western Sydney voted ‘yes’ – stop blaming migrants.

When my dad sent me a text on Wednesday morning after the result of the marriage equality postal survey was announced, I laughed. And then I cried a little.

His message read as follows: “Congrats to you guys and myself: it’s a decisive win! Abbott, shit yourself bastard!”

It’s funny because there was a time, once, where I didn’t think I could really be myself with him. I couldn’t even be myself with me.

My parents are in their sixties. They grew up in conservative Vietnam, and raised me with those values. We have gay family members, but growing up, we either didn’t talk about it, or did only in whispers….

Blogging the 2010s — 83 — August 2019

So reaching the end of another decade of months….

20,000 years from my window

Another pic from the set in my last post — from my window:

CIMG4769

Last week I revisited ANU Press and downloaded for free several essays/chapters and seven comlplete books or journals. Some of the books have a China/Asia theme, one on recent Australian politics, and four relate to Indigenous Australians. Of the last set one is of considerable local interest, Julie Dibden, Drawing on the Land — Rock Art in the Upper Nepean Sydney Basin, NSW (Canberra, ANU Press, 2019).

rockartcover

Much of the book is highly technical, but much is more immediate for the interested lay person. I have to admit I was not sure exactly where “Upper Nepean” might be, thinking it a little further west than it is, for it turns out I see it from my window here in West Wollongong every day — the eastern portion at least.

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I didn’t know this, but the Upper Nepean catchment has approximately 810 known archaeological sites. Some are rock shelters, many with markings, others are areas with grinding grooves — I recall seeing such things in the Royal National Park when I was younger.

rockart

How old? “…the south coastal hinterland and adjacent coast were first occupied before 19,000 years BP, and that early occupation of the hinterland ‘appears not to have been intensive’. Throughout the Holocene, occupation levels fluctuated with sites being temporarily or permanently abandoned at different times, and the intensity of occupation varied between sites.” The art pictured above may be as recent as 2-300 years old. Little survives from the earliest period. Keep in mind that there is now general agreement that Aboriginal Australia dates back 60,000 years.

So many nuggets in this book. “It seems to follow that one cannot make full sense of the development of European life in Australia without reference to the structure of racial relations and the persistent indifference to the fate of the Aborigines; in short, without an analysis of the Australian conscience. Part of such a study would be the apologetic element in the writing of Australian history, an element that sticks out like a foot from a shallow grave… The occupation and settlement of New South Wales by the British in 1788, and during the colonial period, was predicated on ‘two quite opposite and irreconcilable requirements … one the need to assure settlers their legal rights to possess land (and dispossess the Aborigines); and the other the moral requirement that the Aborigines should be treated well and their rights as human beings protected’ (Plomley 1990–1991:1)…. Given that the Upper Nepean catchment was largely unoccupied by European settlers, it can be considered to have been located actually beyond, or on the far side of the frontier (cf. McNiven and Russell 2002). Historical records are scanty in regard to Aboriginal use of this land during the colonial period; however, there is evidence that indicates people did retreat to the Woronora Plateau to recover from introduced disease. It is possible, if not probable, that some rock art present in the Upper Nepean was produced at this time.”

Smallpox. “The most obvious and immediate impact following the arrival of the First Fleet was the introduction of disease, the most lethal of which was smallpox (Butlin 1983). Three major smallpox epidemics were recorded in Australia: in 1789, one year after European settlement, in 1829 and in 1866 (Curson 1985). The 1789 epidemic had a devastating effect on the local Aboriginal people living close to the British settlement at Port Jackson, and it was reported that the region was evacuated until the disease had disappeared (Bell 1959:345). At the end of the 1789 epidemic, when Aboriginal people began returning to the shores of Port Jackson, it was estimated by Governor Phillip that smallpox had claimed at least 50 per cent of the population (Butlin 1983). In the years immediately after the epidemic, its effects were observed in locations well outside the 1789 European frontier.”

And this I found quite fascinating, given Wellington is a place I visited quite often in the 60s and 70s, having relatives in the district. “From the late nineteenth-century accounts, the dominant belief at that time in the south-east was in an All-Father being known by various names, including Baiame and Daramulan (Attenbrow 2002:128). These two beings are in some places the one, but with different names, while in others, Daramulan is the son or half-brother of Baiame (Knight 2001:59; Attenbrow 2002:128). In the late nineteenth century, Howitt emphasises the heaven-dominated cosmology that is central to the Baiame/Daramulan belief, and which is described by Swain (1993:203) as a utopian tradition, whereby humans and ancestral spirits are removed to a sky realm…. There is no mention of the All-Father Baiame in the accounts of the earliest commentators in the Sydney region. Swain (1993:145) argues that the earliest mention of Baiame dates to the 1830s, in the Wellington Valley mission, in central western New South Wales, and that Baiame was introduced to that area from closer to the Sydney frontier. Carey and Roberts (2002:822–823) examine in detail the records (many of which have previously been overlooked) from the Wellington Valley mission, and argue that Baiame, and an associated dance ritual, waganna, was a phenomenon linked to the aftermath of smallpox. Their research is also concerned with exploring the intellectual and cultural response to the impacts of disease and death. At Wellington, Baiame was associated with an adversary, Tharrawiirgal, who was believed responsible for the bringing of smallpox because of his wrath due to his loss of a tomahawk (Carey & Roberts 2002:830–831). Smallpox reached the Wellington Valley in 1830, and was particularly severe. It has been estimated that a third of the population died (Carey & Roberts 2002:827, 829). The Wiradjuri, via a range of Indigenous and/or borrowed natural and/or magical explanatory frameworks, began to search for an explanation and possibly control of ‘so virulent a misfortune’ (Carey & Roberts 2002:831). They argue that, from 1830, there is evidence that suggests that one cultural response was the creation of new dance rituals and mourning ceremonies, and that, by c. 1833, these responses had been elaborated into a waganna, or dance ritual….”

You may download a PDF of the chapter that comes from here. The last quote continues:

Missionaries recorded that some dance rituals were held at this time specifically in regard to smallpox (Carey & Roberts 2002:832). Over a period of time they were performed on a regular basis and with increasing intensity and ritual elaboration. By 1835, there was also a shift in focus from smallpox to the issue of sexual access by white men to Aboriginal women and children, and an insistence on the traditional practice of nose piercing (Carey & Roberts 2002:833, 837–838). Between 1833 and 1[8]35 it was also strongly believed, as Swain (1993) similarly documents, that the end of the world was a possibility, and specifically that the world was to be destroyed by flood.

The Baiame waganna cult at Wellington lasted for two years only, and during this time missionaries recorded what Carey and Roberts (2002:843) describe as the formation and transformation of the Baiame travelling cult. They observed major changes in the prophecies. The concern with smallpox shifted to the issue of the sexual abuse of women and children by white men and a focus on the instigation of traditional practices. The cosmology saw a decline in the acknowledgement of Tharrawiirgal, who was regularly replaced by Daramulan, and to a ‘magnification of the authority of Baiame’ (Carey & Roberts 2002:843). The evidence from Wellington is testament of dramatic and swift change in Aboriginal people’s beliefs and concerns, which could take place in a very brief period to time.

It is inconceivable that the Aboriginal people from the Upper Nepean catchment and environs did not also adapt their world view and conceptions of existence to meet the demands of life within the colonial milieu.

I will share more from my ANU trove later, just adding that the slogan “world’s oldest continuing civilisation” often, and not totally wrongly, applied to our First Australians masks a much more dynamic picture, in fact doesn’t necessarily do First Australians a favour. They were not preserved in aspic for 60,000 years after all.

Not really about NAPLAN….

Best thing to do with all that chest beating about NAPLAN results? Ignore it. Best thing to do with NAPLAN? Scrap it. Especially the so-called literacy/writing tests.

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Now I have that off my chest, I’ll tell you a bit — I can never recall all anyway — about what I dreamed last night. This book, over 50 years old, is part of it. That was our poetry text in English I at the University of Sydney in 1960. I read every word of it, and some things stay with me still, though the copy I am holding here is one I bought second-hand some years later. My original copy I lost, or it fell to pieces — not sure which. Oh, the dream? It was (of all things) about poetry, about Andrew Marvell in particular. My friend Chris T was in it for some reason, and my former neighbour Persian Danny, last I heard in Germany. But what they were doing in the dream I can’t recall.

Somewhere in the dream I was back in the Wallace Theatre in 1960 listening to (later Professor) Gerry Wilkes reading from Louis MacNeice’s “Bagpipe Music”. It isn’t in that Penguin Book of English Verse, though “August” is.

It’s no go, the Yogi-Man, it’s no go, Blavatsky
All we want is a bank balance and a bit of skirt in a taxi.

Rather different is Andrew Marvell (1621-1678). The Penguin has quite a good selection: “Bermudas”, “To His Coy Mistress”, “The Definition of Love”, “The Garden”, and an extract from “Upon Appleton House”. I recall “The Garden” being discussed in my tutorial group in 1960, though I didn’t quite know what to make of it at age 16. Later at 20-21 under the tuition of Professor Sam Goldberg and with my little group of women — I was the only male in that Honours group — it made more sense. Goldberg was rather inspiring on the Metaphysical Poets — though the Lit Crit of the day was alarmingly narrow in general.

Now of course I am of an age where the dark turn of “To His Coy Mistress” — the wit betrays an anxiety beyond its surface intention– rather speaks to the heart. I am a bit past the “carpe diem” stage though. And do you also think that final stanza seems a bit desperate? Mind you, that generation lived through the Plague, after all. And a Civil War — Marvell was close to the Commonwealth General Lord Fairfax, and indeed one of his greater poems is “An Horatian Ode Upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland (1650).” That poem is interesting in its ambivalence about power:

THE forward youth that would appear,
Must now forsake his Muses dear,
Nor in the shadows sing
His numbers languishing.

’Tis time to leave the books in dust,
And oil the unused armour’s rust,
Removing from the wall
The corslet of the hall.

So restless Cromwell could not cease
In the inglorious arts of peace,
But through adventurous war
Urgèd his active star:

And like the three-fork’d lightning, first
Breaking the clouds where it was nurst,
Did thorough his own Side
His fiery way divide…

Now the last two stanzas of “To His Coy Mistress”:

But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv’d virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am’rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp’d power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.