Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Despite colonial Van Demonian (oh yeah!) attempts to exterminate its aborigines in the 1820-30s, it seems that the extant Tasmanian aboriginal population is growing abnormally well. In the latest census Tassie’s resident population comprises 5.5% Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, compared to 3.3% nationally.

The data collection is through self-identification, with the latest figure up from 4.7% in the previous census, which prompts speculation. Perhaps ‘stolen generation’ cultural renewal is encouraging people to reclaim their previously suppressed aboriginal heritage. Maybe more aboriginal people are moving across Bass Strait, and/or ‘natural increase’ is occurring?

Aboriginal Land Council estimates around 20,000 aborigines in Tasmania, so Chairman Michael Mansell reckons the census figure of 28,537 is too high. Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre CEO Heather Sculthorpe says aboriginal numbers were reduced to a few hundred after the Black Wars and could not have grown through natural increase and immigration (from the mainland) to be the highest proportion in Australia.

So, something is going on in Tasmanian minds when they increasingly self-identify as aboriginal. Mansell says that some might be ‘mistaken’ and others ‘opportunistic’. But I reckon it’s much more positive than that: perhaps being aboriginal is the new cool, hip trend and Tasmanians are at the pioneering cutting edge, out on the fringe, so to speak.  Dare I say, the new black?

Imagine if more of us claim aboriginal heritage and we go way past apologies and reconciliation into a new nirvana of collective pride in our ancient land’s earliest culture. We latecomers could then be assigned honorary belonging to ‘country’ somewhere, maybe learn some local language and take care of that country?

* Thanks to Anne Mather (The Mercury, 09 Sept 2018) for her report and interviews, which prompted this reflection. Inflection?

fullsizeoutput_842

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The mind-bending Trumpian world, which operates in a bulletproof moral and factual vacuum, has made sarcasm and irony, my tools of trade, largely redundant there. So I’ve refrained from commentary on the Big Schlanger since his election.

However, his latest diplomatic sortie, meeting his mate Vladimir in Helsinki and his subsequent press conference is obviously redolent of Alice in Wonderland. The BS explained that when he said ‘would’ he meant ‘wouldn’t’ or v.v. This famous quote below from that literary masterpiece has probably come to mind for many of us.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

 

Humpty Trumpty

Read Full Post »

Tim Cope is an Australian adventurer who made a remarkable solo trip by horseback from Mongolia to Hungary over a three year period from 2004. His book ‘On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads’ is a fascinating record and tale of high adventure, replete with maps and photographs.

Cope’s story of survival on the remote fringes of the Eurasian Steppes and ex-Soviet Union, with his loyal horses and dogs, is well told. They suffer extreme temperatures, dry marginal landscapes and encounters with rough locals. And are welcomed and embraced by traditional hospitality, which saves his life often.

The expedition is truncated by Tim’s return to Australia and elsewhere for various reasons, and we share his life story over those years, with some romantic interludes and companions.

I found it all engrossing, and closely followed the expedition’s detailed movements over the maps provided. His insights into the histories of those frontier territories, and the thread of nomad traditions that runs for thousands of kilometres, is fascinating. A great read!

Mongolian steppe

Read Full Post »

My friend Clare gave me an endurance test with the gift of this 866 page novel about growing up in New York mid twentieth century. Well, I did falter half way through but got my second wind and sailed on to the end of this blockbuster (obligatory cliche).

Auster’s long sentences create a beguiling rhythm of thought and dialogue about growing up possibilities, as the lives (yes, plural) of young Archie Ferguson play out against the backdrop of post-war American society and events that shook the nation in the 60s, notably the war in Vietnam. The characters in his extended part-Jewish family clan and society are well drawn, and the portrayal of Archie’s childhood and intimate life convincing. The underlying goodness of the heroic Archie characters is less so.

However the device of parallel Archie lives is too contrived. The omniscient author tries to explain it all in the final pages by a what-if rationale about the fateful turns that Archie’s life could have taken and conflates him as author of this book. Too cute by far and unconvincing. Yeah, of course all lives are prone to random shocks and surprises, aka the fickle finger of fate. The title refers to disappearing Archies as Auster takes them out, but it’s actually just confusing.

A more traditional solo Archie narrative would have worked fine, and saved four hundred pages. Maybe Auster had too many storyline ideas and, with an indulgent editor, decided to chuck ‘em all in the one story. Pre-eminent novelists are often indulged (see my reviews of Winton and Flanagan).

Putting that major whinge aside, I enjoyed the ride and was both entertained and enchanted, which are two of three hallmarks of good writing identified by Nabokov. Auster’s insight into young minds and their struggles with post-war life ring true – forming childhood identities, the threat of the draft for young men, the mood of radical resistance in universities to conservative society at large and the war in Vietnam, their burgeoning sex lives, writing urges, and longing for legal tender.

If you can gird your loins, so to speak, you might enjoy the marathon ride too.

Columbia uni 68

 

Read Full Post »

(French, present participle of revenir, to return – when used in English curiously it is more dramatic, from the dead, like the recent film or book.)

Ok, you’ve been afraid to ask, why has the strident voice from Kookynie been quelled since this time last year. Rumours that KC was bought out by Murdoch almost came true as we were very willing to sell out for a small consideration, but negotiations fell over when Rupert insisted we go quiet on his Jerry Hall liaison. I wonder what fine qualities he has to keep pulling these babes, huh?

Nah, we’ve been too busy realising the Great Orstralian Dream out here in the back of beyond. With no shortage of deserted blocks to snap up, we decided to DIY a new shack, thus expanding Kookynie’s housing stock by about 25%. So it’s done, home beautiful is extant. We’re here for the long-haul, mate, not speculation, unless of course a property developer offers a motza. Have a gander below and swing by when you’re next heading north from Coolgardie.

So time now for keeping you abreast of the latest wonderings, which brings us inevitably to today’s sacred rendez-vous with history, and the temptation to recycle last year’s Anzac Day diatribe. But I’ll resist it, and simply mention ‘Unnecessary Wars’ by Henry Reynolds, just released, which traces Australia’s ignominious tradition of uncritically joining in faraway imperialist or neo-colonial wars at the behest of our great and trusted allies. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s bound to add more grist to my over-full mill of anti-war resentment and resistance.

So instead of wallowing in the faux sentimentality and over-wrought nationalism of ‘remembrance’, I recommend that we do ourselves and future soldier generations a service, by reading Henry’s book. And think about what was actually achieved in those foreign lands where our boys made the supreme sacrifice. Yeah, that was think, not feel.

Have a trawl through KC’s archives on our most recent war in Afghanistan. Objective conclusions about Australia’s involvement are rarely discussed, and the lack of debate when we commit to war perplexing indeed. Henry may help to elucidate these blind-spots in the national psyche and political DNA.

IMG_4013

Read Full Post »

As governments gather metadata on our internet communications and try to force journalists to divulge their sources, in the name of a ubiquitous and open-ended war on terror, it’s apposite to read about an early champion of freedom of the press in Regency England.

The title refers to an interesting book by Ben Wilson about William Hone, whose name has slipped from memory, but who deserves to be better known for his unsung legacy of fighting hard for freedom of speech and the press. Charles Dickens was a friend and admirer of Hone, and attended his funeral.

William honed (sorry, irresistible!) his skills as a satirist in conjunction with illustrator George Cruikshank, publishing best-selling pamphlets and books sending up corrupt political life in the fetid atmosphere of turn-of-18/19th century London. Hone was also a bookseller and journalist, who survived on his wits, and managed to feed a family of nine children and his faithful wife Sarah.

Hone eventually fell foul of the corrupt Regent, later George IV, and his minions, including the Lord Justice and Secretaries of State. They had Hone tried for contempt after he published a clever and cutting religious satire of Prince George. Hone successfully defended himself over three days of trials before a packed court in the Guildhall. Arrayed against him were nasty, prejudiced Lord Justice Ellenborough and a stacked jury, but to popular acclaim Hone won by the force of his sustained oratory and legal argument.

The story is made for film, so I hope the script is in development. An actor like Philip Seymour Hoffman would’ve been ideal for the role, but alas! Meantime, the book is a must for those interested in the history of the press. Interestingly the French Revolution and Napoleon scared the bejesus out of the English ruling class who feared revolutionary ideas and anti-monarchism creeping into England and tried to stem their influence by censorship of Hone and his contemporaries.

Actually the book title should clearly be ‘The Triumph of Laughter’.

(Thanks also to Matt C. for recommending and sending me the book)

Unknown

Read Full Post »

It’s meant to describe a feeling of consumer overload of Anzac themed TV offerings crashing in the ratings. Commercialisation is an understatement in this era of hyper-marketing of our cultural markers. Appropriation of Anzac for supermarkets, burgers, you-name-it, has been extant for years and becoming more flagrant. It can offend devotees of this quasi-religious popular annual outpouring of sentimentality known as Anzac Day.

It’s all been said already and I don’t mind ‘learned nationalistic sentimentality’ as a description of what’s going on in this veritable orgy of commemoration and brainwashing around it. Apparently its themes too have been updated from heroism and mateship to sacrifice and service. It rolls off the tongue nicely.

If you want to discuss the lessons we’ve learnt about not repeating (military) history then you have to explain why we are again sending more troops to Iraq, That’s right: making a total 1,000 to help train the Iraqi army. We did such a good job there last time, and it worked brilliantly in Afghanistan during 14 years of military mission in that benighted country.

As always our troops head off at Uncle Sam’s bidding, without even a parliamentary debate of the merits, strategy and national interest for Australia in doing so. The ongoing vacuum of political discourse about our endless military adventures is shocking. And this latest escalation is even more scandalous under cover of an Anzac Day centenary extravaganza.

Australians really haven’t learnt a bloody thing in the last 100 years or more. Ignorance, conformity and militarism are a fatal (ahem!) trifecta in our national DNA, and it’s grown like a cancer since we first sent NSW troops to fight against the Maoris in Enzed in the 1860s.

Poor fellow my country indeed, to borrow Herbert’s famous book title. My anger has turned to resignation and sorrow at our unrepentant failings.

Another VB, mate?

You mean Villers-Bretonneux?

 

images

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: