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Archive for November, 2012

How to be German

In the multicultural Wide Brown Land we are of course accustomed to all sorts of New Orstralians refreshing our narrow gene pool, including those of the Germanic persuasion. As one of the Olde Worlde’s founding tribes they’ve brought us lots of energy and ideas, particularly early in the Barossa valley growing grapes and making wine. Cultural mingling has also enriched the lives of those experiencing close-up the charming customs of this unique people. And back in the fatherland, the expat anglo (saxon?) has an acute opportunity to reflect on what is involved in being German, and here is an excellent guide. For those oblivious to Germanity, you may prefer the preceding story about Chinese peccadilloes. KC’s non-discrimination editorial policy means that we pick on everybody.

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Our major trading partner has special vices. Naturally I’m thrilled that we export masses of coal and iron ore to China, so they can make steel and stuff to send back to our clever country. That’s what economists call comparative advantage, which drives world trade, and that’s what you get when China does manufacturing much cheaper than us (generating heaps of greenhouse gases too). And, selling Cubbie Station, our biggest agricultural property, with a huge appetite for water for cotton growing at the headwaters of the Murray-Darling basin, to Chinese state-owned corporations makes perfect sense too. Particularly as Federal and State governments finally agree to rehabilitate our main river system. We are compliant partners indeed of Chinese trade and investment.

The drastic environmental impacts of China’s industrialisation were canvassed by Ross Gittins recently in a review of the government’s white paper on the Asian Century. The burgeoning affluence of its vast, emerging middle class also poses serious threats to wild animal populations. Decoration and so-called traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are dramatically depleting them world-wide for use in objects or concoctions. TCM uses 1,000 plants and 36 animal species, including  endangered tiger, rhinoceros, giant salamander (world’s largest amphibian). Asiatic bear and Saiga antelope are used in herbal tea, and rhino horns to treat fevers & delirium. Black bear bile is harvested to make cures for liver ailments & headaches.

Ivory now has a street value of $1000 per pound in Beijing, and China is the epicentre of demand, without which it would dry up. The tusks of a single elephant are equivalent to ten times annual income in many African countries. Seizures of illegal ivory in 2011 totalled 39 tons, or 4000 dead elephants. Garamba National Park in north-east Congo (DRC) once had an elephant herd of 20,000, reduced to 2,800 in 2011 and maybe 2,400 this year. The rare northern white rhino horn is now worth $30,000 per pound, more than gold, so imagine its inevitable fate. Rhinos number less than 3,000 in Africa and 2,000 in India & Indonesia

The world’s oceans are also plundered, from common sea cucumbers (beche de mer), shark fins and endangered sea horse to giant manta rays. The ray’s gill rakers are thin filaments that filter food from water, and are believed by TCM users to boost immune systems, cure chickenpox and even cancer. They fetch $250 per kg. The global population of manta rays has declined 30% and is vulnerable to extinction.

Against this background it’s grossly ironic that we now have scientific evidence about the ingredients of TCM concoctions, which shows that they are also laced with toxins and heavy metals, along with endangered species. A heady Chinese cocktail indeed! The rapacious pillaging of our remaining wildlife for dubious ends makes it doubly tragic. Chinese concupiscence combines several deadly sins, and will end badly for humans and wild animals alike.

Thinking global and acting local, Kookynie is fighting back. To safeguard the world’s sting rays, after the inevitable extinction of manta rays, Kookynie Aquarium has instituted a ground-breaking conservation program. Yeah, we had to dig out the creek a bit, and add some salt to the water to make it more oceanic, but the little rays have grown big and healthy. Naturally KC is a major sponsor, and the editor helps with feeding. No exports to China here!

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Eruv erectors are on the job again in Bondi, ostentatiously occupying prime real estate in the 16th annual Sculptures by the Sea on the coastal walk to nearby Tamarama. As readers would recall from last year’s Eruv special report, the erections are about easing the inconvenience of Shabbat for Jewish punters by re-defining their domicile, so that they can fudge the rules of religious observance. Anyway, it appears that Mark’s Park on the headland between the two beaches has been eruved to facilitate closer appreciation of the sculptures in the park. And this eruv extension is very tall and indiscreet. I’m unsure of the message sub-text, but as it says alongside, ‘Life is short’, so maybe they are cleverly juxtaposed. Presumably the big eruv will be short-lived too, as a temporary measure?

This year Sculptures hasn’t produced an amusing controversy like three years ago when prudery flared up and a naked boy sculpture was temporarily censored. But there are plenty of favourites, including this crocodile made from ghost nets retrieved by indigenous rangers in remote northern Australia.

And the Mengenang (Indonesian for memory) installation of 222 bamboo ‘bird scarers’ tuned to D-minor, to reflect on the lives lost in the Bali bombing. Strong winds really got it humming!

Gratitude & special thanks to JJ for use of her photos, as always.

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The Fatty O’Barrell government is really scraping the bottom thereof, with its latest genuflection to the Evil (Packer-Gambler) Empire. By changing State planning approval processes and then giving the nod to a new casino in the dress circle of the Barangaroo development. No competitive tender or independent assessment needed, as it falls within the Orwellian category of ‘unsolicited proposal’ and therefore at the government’s discretion.

Apparently said proposal is ‘unique’ because of Crown’s expertise in casino management. Look at what a great job they did colonising riverside Melbourne. Puh-lease! And the Labor so-called Opposition has pre-emptively rolled over too. Nothing has changed since Askin’s heyday in charge of the glorious premier state. In fact we can trace dodgy government business from the earliest days of the colony with the Rum Corps, Macarthur, Wentworth et al, but I digress.

An ‘unsolicited proposal’ sounds like foreplay for consensual relations. We just need to firmly say no, so that Sydney doesn’t get shafted with another casino. It’s starting to feel like a gang-bang of the Emerald City. But maybe she was really asking for it – sorry, I got carried away! Anyway it’s all ok because the casino will have ‘high roller’ invitation-only rooms for the much-loved Asian market. And regulations will never change in the future to allow local commoners or pokies. Heaven forbid.

Our ex PM and Architectural Godfather-in-Chief of Barangaroo Paul Keating seems to think the lovely new hotel casino could easily add another 20 levels to the current plan. He suggests a Brancusi-style design, which would indeed mark a useful exclamation mark over the whole sorry site. Methinks that a more appropriate inspiration would be Barcelona’s Torre Agbar skyscraper, designed by Jean Nouvel, and known as ‘el supositorio’ by the locals.

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