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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

What a helluva (hmm!) fuss Rugby player Israel (perfect first name) Folau stirred up with his damnation by Instagram of sinners to hell! It’s amazing how punters take this medieval idea seriously. Okay, I get that some gay people (no initials here) are unhappy about it, but only if they accept this ridiculous clap-trap.

But what about the other sinners mentioned? This caper needs auditing, at least apropos of Orstralia. At the top of his list were Drunks. Is that permanently inebriated folk, or those of us who have occasionally over-tippled? If the former then most people are unaffected, but otherwise it covers 90+% of Australians.

Homosexuals were apparently the most offended by the damnation call-out. But they’ve had plenty of coverage, so let’s look at the other categories.

Thirdly, Adulterers, which means sex outside marriage. Don’t worry, the rest of you come up later. Surveys show that 10% of spouses admit to cheating, which based on latest population estimates amounts to 915,000 people (cheating rate for men is 12% and women 7%). That’s a shite load of adulterers.

Liars is massive. Is that professional liars like politicians, or even us occasional liars (white lies only of course)? Potentially that covers 100% of Australians! And hey, what about Israel himself – he promised not to bring the game of rugby into disrepute, and then he takes Rugby Australia to court. That was a lie.

Okay, here’s a biggie: Fornicators.  Don’t reach for the dictionary – it means sex outside marriage. So the rest of you having sex are fornicators. I’m pretty sure the bible did not recognise defacto marriage, so you lot are included too. I dunno how to estimate the total number of fornicators in Oz but it’s way huge.

Full time Thieves is probably not a huge number, but if you nicked some flowers from a neighbouring park you could be a borderline sinner. Let’s just say several hundred thousand thieves in Australia to cover all options.

Then my personal favourite: Atheists. By definition we should be the least concerned with Folau’s folly of phantasmagorical punishment. And we make up 10% of the Australian population, that is 2,473,000 clear thinkers. So Israel: sticks and stones….

Last but definitely not least come Idolaters, which is where it gets interesting. Despite my atheist theology, I’ve done plenty of church tourism, particularly in Europe where they built some great temples to idolatry. Yep, lots of Virgin Mary statues, Jesus statues, not to mention assorted saints, religious relics, etc. Catholics are idolaters – they constitute 22.6% of the Australian population, and if we add say half of the 13.3% Anglicans, it makes a grand total of 7,246,000 Australian idolators, ignoring Buddhists or other minority groups.

When you crunch all those sinner group numbers, you have roughly 90-100% of the Australian population going off to Hell sooner or later. I hope the Devil has enough accommodation for his Australian congregation, so to speak, preferably with river views (no oceans in hell?) and Tuesday night pasta specials at the local club. To give us all a warm welcome! 

And come to think of it, is that why we’re Down Under? Thanks Israel for bringing it to our attention. The Devil’s in the detail.

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Born in 1888 and raised in South Australia, George Hubert Wilkins is unknown to most Australians. Simon Nasht’s well-documented book ‘The Last Explorer: Hubert Wilkins, Australia’s Unsung Hero’ recounts the literally incredible story of the twentieth century’s greatest explorer – pioneer photographer, pioneer aviator, genuine war hero, reporter, writer, scientist and spy. 

As an unarmed frontline photographer in World War I, he took the first ever film of battle and moving images from an aircraft. Wounded nine times, he was twice awarded the Military Cross for bravery, helping wounded men and leading a leaderless contingent of Australian troops in a safe retreat. Monash said he was the bravest soldier in his army. 

Intrigued by both polar regions, Wilkins led expeditions by sea and by air, including the first flight over the uncharted Arctic Ocean, and in 1928 the first flight across the Arctic from America to Europe (‘the greatest flight in history’ – NYT). Awarded a knighthood by King George and humbled by the honour, Wilkins requested use of his middle name, and when His Majesty asked ‘Well George, why Hubert?, he mumbled something about presuming to use the king’s name, and henceforward it was Sir Hubert.

A gifted amateur naturalist he conducted a survey of the tropical north of Australia for the Natural History Museum in London. For two and a half years from 1921 he trekked thousands of kilometres, often on foot and alone, and compiled a detailed report on the ecological and aboriginal calamity. He later published it as a book ‘Unknown Australia’, which received a cool reception amongst his countrymen.

From an early age George was fascinated by meteorology, and as a scientist way ahead of his time, tried to organise a global weather monitoring system through the Royal Meteorology Society – to help mankind predict weather trends for agricultural and other purposes.

In 1930, to prove airship capability Wilkins captained an amazing first-ever round world flight of the famous Graf Zeppelin in 21 days. Sir Hubert was also famous around the world.

He had an exceptionally charmed life. He travelled through every continent, survived crashes and disasters, firing squads and sabotage, living long enough to be honoured by kings, presidents and dictators.

His Arctic exploration took on a new dimension when he led the first attempts at taking primitive submarines below the ice for science and navigation. In his later years he did work for the US military and intelligence, and in 1958 was buried at sea at the North Pole by the US Navy.

I’ve only touched on some of his achievements – for more about Wilkins’ exceptional character, driven personality and much more, the book is highly recommended. 

I agree with Dick Smith, that every Australian should know about Sir (George) Hubert Wilkins.

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Louis de Bernières’s book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin sold well in the day and prompted a movie with Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz, which I haven’t seen. Set on the Greek island of Cephalonia, the over-tragic love story deals with its wartime occupation by German and Italian forces, and the subsequent Greek civil war.

Although the plot is over-wrought and the characters over-drawn, the book has a hidden gem worth mentioning. Chapter 35 “A Pamphlet Distributed on the Island, Entitled with the Fascist Slogan ‘Believe, Fight, and Obey’” is a funny, sarcastic and hyperbolic take on Mussolini’s life and rise to power in Italy, in seven pages.

“Italians! Let us celebrate together the life and achievements of Benita Amilcare Mussolini, Who from unpromising beginnings has led us to perdition.

In His infancy He was thought to be dumb, but later proved to be incorrigibly garrulous and more full of wind than all the cows that browse the pastures of the Alps. As a boy He blinded captive birds with pins, plucked the feathers of chickens, was deemed uncontrollable, and pinched little girls in school in order to make them cry. He led gangs, started fights, sought quarrels without provocation, and refused to pay up on the bets that He lost. At the age of ten he stabbed a boy at supper, and then stabbed someone else shortly after….”

That covers just the formative years, followed by ever-increasing levels of violence, political manipulation and eye-popping transgressions. I’m not familiar with the history of the Mussolini years, but I presume the author hasn’t invented something so fantastically obscene?

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Recently in Hawaii your eagle-eyed correspondent discovered on a wall in a humble abode this ironic (iconic?) reference to a famous all-male supper, which may have taken place on 01 April many years ago. That’s what we call juxtaposition!

Hawaiian last supper

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Peter Carey conjures up a racy ethos and mood in early 1950s suburban Melbourne in his recent novel ‘A Long Way From Home’, featuring his birth-place Bacchus Marsh, and a car rally that captivated the nation. 

Reminiscent of ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, Carey charges full speed into this story, with characters, ideas and narratives bouncing off each other, until it settles down to a manageable rhythm. Probably an apt metaphor as the real hero of the story is the amazing Redex Round Australia Reliability Trial of 1954 (second of three). 

Among the larger-than-life central characters he even manages to invent a blond, German background, part aboriginal man, and reflects on our inglorious 20th century indigenous history.

Regular KC readers might recall my father John (Jack) in Berlin 36 Redux. Well, he’s also in the background of this story, as he competed in this 15,400 kms trial, driving a Chevrolet (car 36) for Christey’s Motor Auctions. Only 120 out of 263 entrants managed to finish the punishing event, with points lost for late arrivals and replaced parts. Dad’s car finished 97th.

His mate, legendary Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray won in a Ford V8, incredibly with no points lost, and Carey draws on his character. My childhood memories include calling in to Murray’s Bondi garage with my father for a chin wag with Jack later on.

If you want to know more about him, get ‘Gelignite Jack Murray, An Aussie Larrikin Legend’ by his son Phil Murray – it’s not literature, but lots of photos and cars, and O’Hara too.

The Christey’s crew learned a few tricks, as in 1955 they entered the Trial again, with a longer 16,900 kms route round the country: their Ford Customline (car 76) came a very creditable 20th out of 54 finishers and 276 starters! 

I reckon Carey captures the hardships of the Trial and devil-may-care attitude of the self-reliant bunch of individuals who threw themselves into this ‘adventure of a lifetime’ – overall, a rollicking good read, as the cliche goes. Highly recommended.

1954 redex 1

1954 redex 2

1954 redex 3

 

 

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A best seller by Israeli historian Yuval Harari, which has sold 10 million copies, been translated into 50 languages, it’s unequivocally a must-read. Written in plain, unadorned English (translated from Hebrew, so presumably like the original edition), it traces human evolution from the earliest skirmishes with our Neanderthal cousins down through the ages, to finish with the meaning of life!

If you join the fan club you won’t be disappointed, as he simply explains, or explains simply, the overall arrangements in our shared world – particularly through the powerful interaction of evolutionary biology and the multitude of cultures and associated artefacts that we sapiens have created. 

We developed speech to start gossiping, says Yuval, more or less, and it’s what we fundamentally like doing best and most. As an unalloyed atheist, I particularly liked his confirmation of my long-held explanation of religious belief as a manifestation of our innate ability for myth creation and story-telling over the millennia. 

You’ll have to read it to discover the meaning of life, as I ain’t telling you here. 

IMG_4111

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So, the ‘iconic’ (obligatory adjective) Sydney Opera House is our biggest billboard, so sayeth PM Scott Morrison aka ScoMo, endorsing NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s approval of advertising on the famous roof sails of this UNESCO Heritage-listed building, to promote a horse-racing event. 

It’s a quintessential Sydney story, where Shock Jock Supremo Jones pulls the strings on Our Gladys, and we then learn that his business partners have nags running in the race – a redolent whiff of his ‘cash for comment’ era. 

I’m not sure that’s what UNESCO had in mind, but maybe it’s the epitome of OzCulture for crass gambling promotion to prevail over aesthetic considerations in a display of rampant philistinism (a word to put back into common usage). To cap it off, ingenuous ScoMo doesn’t get what all the fuss is about. I believe him.

The Pentecostal PM evinces a daggy soccer dad image, and as self-styled marketing guru who in a previous gig at the Australian Tourist Commission oversaw the cringeworthy ‘where the bloody hell are you’ advertising campaign, he has a track record as Chief Philistine. And is Our Glad channelling Edna Everage?

The horse racing event is called The Everest, so how the image of that word on the Opera House will promote tourism here is a mystery only explained by bluster and bullshit. And make no mistake, the Sport of Kings is for gambling, and certainly not for the benefit of exercising the poor nags and jockeys.

Cultural cringe at being Australian is the only response to this travesty, at least amongst us elitists, but it’s not a comfortable feeling. Optimists thought we had left fundamental philistinism behind us in the maligned 1950s, but it’s in our DNA!

ducks in a row

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