Moments in my eBook Library — 14 —  more random choices

Do note that thanks to the tag eBook moments you can see this series as a separate chain of posts.

The first takes us back again to World War 1 and Australia in a lavishly illustrated book that would have sold well back in 1919 I’m sure.

Indeed there is more to this book than I had realised: “Many contributors, includes a record of the ‘achievements the horsemen of Australia, and of the Flying Corps, and the Anzac Section of the Imperial Camel Corps.  These books were given as gifts by Australian Light Horse soldiers and are now quite rare and sought after. Includes 2 folding panoramas of the fields of battle for Richon le Zion, and Beersheba.”

Preface
“Australia in Palestine” should prove of great interest to the people of Australia, and especially to those whose lives have been spent outside the great cities, for it includes a record of the achievements of their “very own”—the horsemen of Australia, and of the Flying Corps and the Anzac Section of the Imperial Camel Corps, which were recruited from them, and co-operated with them in the greatest war yet known to history.

The Australian Light Horseman—and under this name I include the Field and Signal Engineers and Medical Services connected with him, who come from the same stock—is of a type peculiarly his own and has no counterpart that I know of except in his New Zealand brother. His fearlessness, initiative and endurance, and his adaptability to almost any task, are due to the adventurous life he leads in his own country, where he has been accustomed to long hours in the saddle, day and night, and to facing danger of all sorts from his earliest youth. Perhaps these qualities are inherited from his pioneer parents. His invariable good humour under the most adverse conditions comes from the good-fellowship and camaraderie which exists in the free and open life of the Australian Bush. His chivalry comes from the same source, and it is one of his strongest points. In other words, the life he has been accustomed to lead has fitted him to become, with training and discipline, second to no cavalry soldier in the world.

As far as Australia is concerned, the Palestine Campaign may be said to have commenced with the crossing of the Suez Canal by the Anzac Mounted Division at Kantara on the 23rd April, 1916, to re-occupy Romani and the western end of the Katia Oasis Area. The mounted troops of Australia and New Zealand had already proved their extraordinary adaptability to circumstances as infantrymen in the hard school of Gallipoli, but it yet remained for them to show their value as cavalry. The occupation of Romani was followed by long and trying marches in the Desert of Sinai, during the hottest summer known in Egypt for many years, after an elusive enemy who did not appear in any force until July, 1916, when he advanced on Romani preparatory to his second attack on the Suez Canal. The disastrous defeat inflicted on the Turkish arms at Romani, and the pursuit which followed, not only demonstrated the inestimable value of the horsemen of Australasia as cavalrymen, but opened the way for the advance to the Eastern Frontier of Egypt which ended the enemy’s menace to Egypt. The systematic advance of the British Force from Romani to the Egyptian Border was covered by Australian and New Zealand horsemen, British Yeomanry and the Imperial Camel Corps, ably assisted by the reconnaissance of the R.F.C. and Australian Flying Corps. The victories of Magdhaba and Rafa completely cleared the enemy from Egyptian territory and opened the way for our advance into Palestine. The operations which began with the capture of Beersheba and concluded with the capture of Damascus and Aleppo, and eventually led to the complete surrender of the Turkish Forces, are dealt with in this volume, and I will say no more of them than that the brilliant part in those operations played by the Australian and New Zealand mounted troops has more than upheld the reputation they established on the battlefield of Romani.

The splendid record of the 1st Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps speaks for itself. It was formed in Egypt and has grown with the campaign to a state of efficiency which places it second to none of the same arm.

The casualties in action in this campaign have been light compared with the results achieved. In a very large measure this was due to the dash of the troops, which saved heavy losses on many occasions; but many brave fellows have given their lives through diseases contracted in areas which the exigencies of the service required to be occupied and fought in.

Before concluding, I would like to say a word for the Medical Services, which have endured the same hardships as the combatant arms, and always performed their duties cheerfully and efficiently under the most adverse conditions.

The great re-enactment of Beersheba filmed in 1940 in the Cronulla sand hills! Directed by Charles Chauvel, the nephew of General Sir Harry Chauvel who led the Australian Light Horse Brigade.

History of other eras may be found in the next two random books.

That name intrigued me!

That Short History of Scotland is by a writer very famous in his day, Andrew Lang, whose work is still well worth looking at. There is web site devoted to him.

The next book is also by someone famous in his day — Sir Walter Besant. There is a memorial to him in St Paul’s Cathedral.

There are many magazines and journals to be found on Project Gutenberg which often publishes individual items of note. From this 1926 magazine they chose a D H Lawrence story.

THE LAST LAUGH
by D. H. Lawrence
Author of “Women in Love”

There was a little snow on the ground, and the church clock had just struck midnight. Hampstead in the night of winter for once was looking pretty, with clean, white earth and lamps for moon, and dark sky above the lamps.

A confused little sound of voices, a gleam of hidden yellow light. And then the garden door of a tall, dark Georgian house suddenly opened, and three people confusedly emerged. A girl in a dark-blue coat and fur turban, very erect; a fellow with a little dispatch case, slouching; a thin man with a red beard, bareheaded, peering out of the gateway down the hill that swung in a curve downward toward London.

“Look at it! A new world!” cried the man in the beard ironically, as he stood on the step and peered out.

“No, Lorenzo! It’s only whitewash!” cried the young man in the overcoat. His voice was handsome, resonant, plangent, with a weary, sardonic touch.

As he turned back, his face was dark in shadow.

The girl with the erect, alert head, like a bird, turned back to the two men.

“What was that?” she asked, in her quick, quiet voice….

Finally a writer very popular in the early to mid 20th century: W Somerset Maugham.

Blogging the 2010s — 30 — March 2017

From my archive. A mixed bag….

Recalling the Shellharbour that was…

Last night I had a chat via Facebook Messenger with one of my Shellharbour cousins, who no longer lives there. I had not seen or spoken with this cousin for decades! I mentioned how different Shellharbour is today. She agreed, saying she couldn’t live there any more…

Here is how it was when my parents were young in the early to mid 1930s:

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And here Shellharbour township c 1948, in my own early childhood.

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And today, all suburbia…

Shellharbour-ocean-swim-

See also My 1947: ShellharbourShellharbour: very nostalgicMore “Neil’s Decades” –6: Heimat/Shellharbour.

London

Cannot be avoided this morning: London terrorist attack turned tourist landmark into scene of horror and from a fellow-blogger, Stephen Liddell in London.

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Happening to the day on the first anniversary of Brussels. Terrible, but London has survived much worse, and I think it is fair to say the authorities there have been very capable and measured in their response thus far.

Attacks like this are highly unpredictable but also highly likely. While the imminent elimination of ISIS also seems likely, the ideology it represents continues and will continue. And here we must be very specific and take the trouble to transcend blanket judgments about an entire religion and a quarter of the world’s population.

My reading lately has assisted me in getting better at that. First came Gabriele Marranci’s cool anthropological take in Wars of Terror (2016). Marranci is Australian — Macquarie University in fact. You can get a feel for his work in posts like Indefinite detention for advocating jihadi violence (2015).

Next is my current Wollongong Library borrowing, Graeme Wood, The Way of Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State (2017). It is a good read too, which helps, and I am finding it rings true with my own past encounters with the theology of advocates of what some would label extremism, in my case posted in 2004-2006 for example: Wolves in sheep’s clothing on an extremist Islamic mission.

See this Council on Foreign Relations launch of ‘The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State’.

ROSE: Explain for a second what a caliphate is.

WOOD: And a caliphate—a caliphate is a—it is a resurrection of an institution that most people think was—has been extinct since 1924 when the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished by the republican Turks. But it is a Muslim state that is led by one person, who is a caliph, which—a word which literally means a successor, successor usually considered to the prophet Muhammad as the political leader of Muslims all coming together.

So what ISIS—what they did by declaring a caliphate, for many of the people I spoke to, was—it’s as if they switched a light on. There was suddenly an entity that required the allegiance of all Muslims, caused them to be required, obliged individually to come to fight under the direction of the caliph.

ROSE: So, like, they send out a big bat signal, and now everybody has to come?

WOOD: It’s the ultimate jihadist bat sign, that’s right. And sure enough, you know, that’s what we observed from 2013 and then really in force once the declaration happened in 2014 up until the point where the bat sign turned out to be too dangerous to heed. Like, the Islamic State actually said, if you follow the bat sign, apparently you’re going to get killed, stopped, arrested; we’d rather you ignore it and then just attack where you are.

ROSE: You said that this is Islamic, but it’s a kind of oddball or extreme or not universally accepted operationalization of some strands of Islam. Is that basically correct?

WOOD: Yeah, it—

ROSE: And how would you gloss that?

WOOD: It’s not just that I say it. That’s what ISIS itself says, that they recognize that their interpretation is an extreme minority among Muslims. And they say that that interpretation, that means that most Muslims who have actively rejected them—which is most Muslims—are no longer Muslims. So they—

ROSE: So by definition, if you’re a Muslim but don’t agree that this is the new caliphate, you are an apostate?

WOOD: They’ve got a long list of things that they say would nullify your Islam. And these include voting in an election, any kind of worship of a grave or a saint. These—it—the list just goes on and on and on. But yeah, being persnickety about these questions is really their favorite sport, and they practice it pretty avidly.

See also the NPR interview In ‘Way Of The Strangers,’ Wood Explores Why Young People Embrace ISIS.

WOOD: Yeah. John Georgelas came from a military family. And I think there was still a sense that the way to succeed was by succeeding in a kind of American military sort of way. And so when the parents saw their kid go off in a jihadist direction, they thought of him as a follower. And yet all the Islamic State supporters I had been in touch with thought of him as their leader. So to have this impressionable kid really find his footing and become the leader of a sect within a terrorist group I think is truly inconceivable for the parents to see.

MARTIN: Yeah, a horrible kind of position for a parent to be in. You write in the book that part of the West’s misunderstanding of ISIS is a kind of refusal to acknowledge its religious roots, that there is a theology behind all of the violence.

WOOD: Yes. I think that there is a strong urge to say that Islam has nothing to do with religion, that ISIS is a bunch of psychopaths, people with blades cutting off heads wantonly. Unfortunately that’s just not true. ISIS has looked into Islamic history with historical accuracy, with intellectual rigor. And that’s part of what has produced that group as well as its Muslim opponents.

MARTIN: How do they justify the violence?

WOOD: You’ll find some who will say the violence is temporary. We are Muslims who are reviving the faith and we have to do this in a fallen world, so we’ll cut off the hands of thieves right now. But once the Islamic State is stronger and people realize this is the punishment, we won’t have to cut off hands.

MARTIN: The violence is a way to peace?

WOOD: Yes. That’s what you find with the nicer ones. The less nice ones just say this is a wonderful thing. The violence is not something that needs to be explained except to say that our scripture says it must be so. And so when it happens, we should celebrate it.

I think Wood’s book is excellent. A site he commends has connections with scholars from Princeton, among others: it is Jihadica. Well worth a look.

Jihadica is a clearinghouse for materials related to militant, transnational Sunni Islamism, commonly known as Jihadism. At the moment, much of this material is diffuse, known only to a few specialists, and inaccessible to the public and policymakers unless they pay a fee. Jihadica provides this material for free and keeps a daily record of its dissemination that can be easily searched and studied. These records are accompanied by the expert commentary of people who have the requisite language training to understand the primary source material and advanced degrees in relevant fields.

Oh and please ignore groups such as our self-appointed “patriots” and One Nation. I recently unfriended someone on Facebook after he serially commended “patriot” gatherings and the latest anti-Muslim hysteria. I really don’t need to see that stuff when there is so much better out there. Serious knowledge we need, blanket Islamophobia we surely can do without.

Update:

I do not resile from this for one moment and never will, having seen the utterly useless response of the Revenant of Oz. On Facebook I have just posted “Pauline Hanson is a useless, ignorant, egomaniacal and counterproductive heap of shit. To put it mildly!” As I said, ignore One Nation!

Next day:  If anything I was too kind to this malignant carbuncle on the Australian body politic!

On the Revenant of Oz inoculating us against common sense…

The Revenant is back in form.

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The latest:

Senator Hanson had made the comments earlier today while defending her social media post urging Australians to pray for a Muslim ban after yesterday’s London attack.

“Let me put it this way, we have a disease, we vaccinate ourself against it,” she said.

“Islam is a disease we need to vaccinate ourself against that.”

The response from government and others has been swift, as it should be:

The Deputy Prime Minister slammed Senator Hanson’s comments as “bat-poo crazy stuff” and “plain dumb”.

“You can’t say stuff like that, you just can’t. It’s mad,” Mr Joyce said.

After London — inspiring and not so inspiring

How great that the concert in Manchester was such a success!

Not so great — all but one of Donald Trump’s post-London tweets. One was presidential:

Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!

But alas he can’t help himself, as CNN reports. Correctly too:

After a night’s sleep, Trump woke up Sunday morning and, around 8 a.m., fired off three more tweets.
“We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse,” Trump started.
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!,” he continued.
“Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!,” he ended.
Of those five, one is the sort of thing you can imagine a president not named Donald Trump saying in the wake of a major terrorism event like the one in London; that’s the second one Saurday night in which he pledges to help London in whatever way they need it and insists America stands with them.
The other four tweets are pure Trump — and the exact opposite of what we have long considered “presidential.”
In one — the first he sends out — he uses the just-breaking terror attacks as a way to make the case for his travel ban, which continues to be hung up in the courts.
In another, he suggests political correctness is responsible for the attack, a common Trump refrain during the campaign.
In a third, he takes on those pushing gun control — noting that they are silent because these attacks didn’t involve guns.
And, finally and most Trumpian, he attacks the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, for allegedly insisting that the people of London have “no reason to be alarmed.”
As is often the case with Trump, he has taken that comment from Khan heavily out of context. In a statement, Khan said: “Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed. One of the things the police and all of us need to do is ensure that we’re as safe as we possibly can be.”
Khan is clearly referring not to the threat from terrorists but to the increased police presence when he uses the words “no reason to be alarmed.” Trump chooses to misunderstand him for political purposes.
Trump tweeting things to forward his own agenda in the wake of terrorist attacks is nothing new. Following shootings in an Orlando nightclub that left 53 people dead, Trump offered this: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” After an incident of a knife-wielding man at the Louvre Museum in Paris, Trump tweeted: “A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.”
In short, the tweetstorm following the London attacks isn’t the exception, it’s the rule for Trump. Using these attacks to prove his political point is his default position not a one-time popping off.
Trump’s responses are the latest example of how he is radically altering the idea of what it means to be “presidential.”

Sad!

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Literary map of London

With London having been on our minds lately, I thought I would share this.

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This map is both a snapshot of London’s literary history and beautiful in its own right.

More than 250 novels were mined in order to make the Literary London Map, taken from the Literary London Art Collection.

It was created by graphic artist Dex in collaboration with interior designer Anna Burles.

See also This literature map of the world is simply brilliant.

London

Cannot be avoided this morning: London terrorist attack turned tourist landmark into scene of horror and from a fellow-blogger, Stephen Liddell in London.

8378610-3x2-700x467

Happening to the day on the first anniversary of Brussels. Terrible, but London has survived much worse, and I think it is fair to say the authorities there have been very capable and measured in their response thus far.

Attacks like this are highly unpredictable but also highly likely. While the imminent elimination of ISIS also seems likely, the ideology it represents continues and will continue. And here we must be very specific and take the trouble to transcend blanket judgments about an entire religion and a quarter of the world’s population.

My reading lately has assisted me in getting better at that. First came Gabriele Marranci’s cool anthropological take in Wars of Terror (2016). Marranci is Australian — Macquarie University in fact. You can get a feel for his work in posts like Indefinite detention for advocating jihadi violence (2015).

Next is my current Wollongong Library borrowing, Graeme Wood, The Way of Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State (2017). It is a good read too, which helps, and I am finding it rings true with my own past encounters with the theology of advocates of what some would label extremism, in my case posted in 2004-2006 for example: Wolves in sheep’s clothing on an extremist Islamic mission.

See this Council on Foreign Relations launch of ‘The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State’.

ROSE: Explain for a second what a caliphate is.

WOOD: And a caliphate—a caliphate is a—it is a resurrection of an institution that most people think was—has been extinct since 1924 when the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished by the republican Turks. But it is a Muslim state that is led by one person, who is a caliph, which—a word which literally means a successor, successor usually considered to the prophet Muhammad as the political leader of Muslims all coming together.

So what ISIS—what they did by declaring a caliphate, for many of the people I spoke to, was—it’s as if they switched a light on. There was suddenly an entity that required the allegiance of all Muslims, caused them to be required, obliged individually to come to fight under the direction of the caliph.

ROSE: So, like, they send out a big bat signal, and now everybody has to come?

WOOD: It’s the ultimate jihadist bat sign, that’s right. And sure enough, you know, that’s what we observed from 2013 and then really in force once the declaration happened in 2014 up until the point where the bat sign turned out to be too dangerous to heed. Like, the Islamic State actually said, if you follow the bat sign, apparently you’re going to get killed, stopped, arrested; we’d rather you ignore it and then just attack where you are.

ROSE: You said that this is Islamic, but it’s a kind of oddball or extreme or not universally accepted operationalization of some strands of Islam. Is that basically correct?

WOOD: Yeah, it—

ROSE: And how would you gloss that?

WOOD: It’s not just that I say it. That’s what ISIS itself says, that they recognize that their interpretation is an extreme minority among Muslims. And they say that that interpretation, that means that most Muslims who have actively rejected them—which is most Muslims—are no longer Muslims. So they—

ROSE: So by definition, if you’re a Muslim but don’t agree that this is the new caliphate, you are an apostate?

WOOD: They’ve got a long list of things that they say would nullify your Islam. And these include voting in an election, any kind of worship of a grave or a saint. These—it—the list just goes on and on and on. But yeah, being persnickety about these questions is really their favorite sport, and they practice it pretty avidly.

See also the NPR interview In ‘Way Of The Strangers,’ Wood Explores Why Young People Embrace ISIS.

WOOD: Yeah. John Georgelas came from a military family. And I think there was still a sense that the way to succeed was by succeeding in a kind of American military sort of way. And so when the parents saw their kid go off in a jihadist direction, they thought of him as a follower. And yet all the Islamic State supporters I had been in touch with thought of him as their leader. So to have this impressionable kid really find his footing and become the leader of a sect within a terrorist group I think is truly inconceivable for the parents to see.

MARTIN: Yeah, a horrible kind of position for a parent to be in. You write in the book that part of the West’s misunderstanding of ISIS is a kind of refusal to acknowledge its religious roots, that there is a theology behind all of the violence.

WOOD: Yes. I think that there is a strong urge to say that Islam has nothing to do with religion, that ISIS is a bunch of psychopaths, people with blades cutting off heads wantonly. Unfortunately that’s just not true. ISIS has looked into Islamic history with historical accuracy, with intellectual rigor. And that’s part of what has produced that group as well as its Muslim opponents.

MARTIN: How do they justify the violence?

WOOD: You’ll find some who will say the violence is temporary. We are Muslims who are reviving the faith and we have to do this in a fallen world, so we’ll cut off the hands of thieves right now. But once the Islamic State is stronger and people realize this is the punishment, we won’t have to cut off hands.

MARTIN: The violence is a way to peace?

WOOD: Yes. That’s what you find with the nicer ones. The less nice ones just say this is a wonderful thing. The violence is not something that needs to be explained except to say that our scripture says it must be so. And so when it happens, we should celebrate it.

I think Wood’s book is excellent. A site he commends has connections with scholars from Princeton, among others: it is Jihadica. Well worth a look.

Jihadica is a clearinghouse for materials related to militant, transnational Sunni Islamism, commonly known as Jihadism. At the moment, much of this material is diffuse, known only to a few specialists, and inaccessible to the public and policymakers unless they pay a fee. Jihadica provides this material for free and keeps a daily record of its dissemination that can be easily searched and studied. These records are accompanied by the expert commentary of people who have the requisite language training to understand the primary source material and advanced degrees in relevant fields.

Oh and please ignore groups such as our self-appointed “patriots” and One Nation. I recently unfriended someone on Facebook after he serially commended “patriot” gatherings and the latest anti-Muslim hysteria. I really don’t need to see that stuff when there is so much better out there. Serious knowledge we need, blanket Islamophobia we surely can do without.

Update:

I do not resile from this for one moment and never will, having seen the utterly useless response of the Revenant of Oz. On Facebook I have just posted “Pauline Hanson is a useless, ignorant, egomaniacal and counterproductive heap of shit. To put it mildly!” As I said, ignore One Nation!

Next day:  If anything I was too kind to this malignant carbuncle on the Australian body politic!