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Well, it wasn’t rocket surgery for KC to correctly predict the PM’s imminent demise.

The political circus act in the big top tent in Canberra had its inevitable denouement yesterday with the elevation, so to speak, of the egregious ScoMo to the top job, after all semblances of personal loyalty and party unity were rudely trashed in a week of bald-faced lying and treachery amongst thieves.

Amongst the many Brutus look-alikes the Big Belgian aka Mathias ranked highly in his treasonous volte-face: one day standing photogenically alongside our erstwhile PM Malcolm of Point Piper, and the next day embracing the assassin’s cabal.

It’s another sad day for Australian politics, when once again personal enmities and hard-nosed ideologues behead their own leader in an orgy of self-destruction. The three As choir boys Abbott, Abetz and Andrews, all inspired by Christian self-righteousness and revenge, got their man. But they over-reached when their anointed Trojan horse Dutton went down to ScoMo, who of course is another bible-basher – is something Machiavellian going on there?  

Malcolm’s valedictory speech predictably also, was full of self-congratulations for a PM job well-done. He looked like he’d won the lottery instead of unceremoniously chucked out on his ear. That man’s ego is bullet-proof. An insincere opportunist, who will disappear into the ever-growing dustbin of minor prime ministerial figures who strutted and fretted their time on the political stage and signified nothing. 

A threnody to the disappearing Australian body politic, may it not rest in peace!

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Shorten Sweet

Since this yummy headline appeared over a Paddy Manning article in The Monthly on 30 July, I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to recycle it, shamelessly. Regular KC readers know already that we favour and savour two-word ‘rhyming’ captions, and this one is a beauty: it’s short and sweet!

Manning was looking at the results of the ‘Super Saturday’ Federal elections, where Labor scooped four of the five electorates contested that day. Alternative PM Bill Shorten’s prospects of continuing as Labor leader and prevailing at the next election got a sugar hit indeed.

Well, today that recycling opportunity arrived, as PM Malcolm of Point Piper was metaphorically wounded (mortally?) in his own party room while staving off a leadership challenge from arch-conservative Peter Dutton. I agree with the pundits that Malcolm will not survive as PM, and the coup de grace may even come later this week.

Political soothsaying may be a sucker’s game, so to speak, but I reckon Shorten’s odds of electoral success just shortened again, and he’s definitely looking very sweet for the upcoming elections, not to mention the rest of his party in general.

The proverbial drover’s dog would also be looking pretty sweet against the motley Coalition crew running around like a mob of sheep in ever-diminishing circles, or is that lambs to the slaughter. Dutton is on the nose, outside a few supporters in the Shallow Deep North just up from Brizzie, so another feckless challenger may eventually claim the Titanic captain’s guernsey and get to re-arrange the deck chairs. Plus ça change!

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Humpty Trumpty

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

Neil MacGregor’s book is a real tour de force, to use an expression from south of the Rhine. Ex-director of the National Gallery in London and the British Museum, he has produced a unique and brilliant history of Germany, through close study of its monuments, landmarks, buildings, artworks and cultural artefacts.

I agree with (who wouldn’t?) R.J.W Evans of the New York Review of Books: it’s a ‘necklace of burnished cameos, witty and cunning, intricately constructed, but highly readable’. Each chapter offers an original and deep insight into the German universe and deserves to be digested slowly, with breaks between them to allow the ideas to settle. 

For example, MacGregor looks at the fascinating collection of ‘emergency’ banknotes (called Notgeld) produced by each German town towards the end of WWI as the central bank faltered, through the hyper-inflationary period of the Weimar Republic and Nazi use of them for their propaganda.

The book’s excellent photos do much more than illustrate his themes, they give it another cultural dimension, as a brilliant artefact itself. It was published in conjunction with a BBC 4 Radio program and 2014 exhibition at the British museum. 

As you can see, I was mightily impressed by this brief history of Germany. Apparently it’s also been translated into German and become a trending best-seller there! Finally, I also agree with Antony Beevor: ‘Anyone who wants to understand Germany should read this’.   

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Vale Miss Breville!

Today is sad, as my humble and loyal hairdresser has passed away. She had trimmed my golden locks every coupla weeks for the last eighteen years, without stress or fuss. No appointment at her salon, just walk right in and take a seat. And no annoying prattle about the weather, shopping trends or her late husbands…..just the sound of her motor!

Yes, Ms Breville (Maxum model) was purchased in the year 2000 A.D., probably from a purveyor of household-electricals, B Lee or H Norman – the memory has faded and the receipt is long gone. Ms B was a basic hair clipper with cutting attachments, comb and scissors, all neatly packed in her zip bag, and wire & plug (no batteries).

She had just completed my usual no.1 cut, tidying up scruffy body hair, when she gave a few short coughs (and stop/starts), which had never happened before. So I took off the cutting blades, cleaned her head and switched her back on, but she coughed again and then stopped (accompanied by a burning smell). For good, meaning eternally – she had passed on, karked it.

Just as modestly as she had taken care of my hirsute noggin all these years, without complaint, she had finished her last assignment to the last hair before taking her last breath! What an inspiration, a lifetime of selfless service, of truly Anzackian dimensions. 

Although of agnostic persuasion Ms B’s spirit will no doubt be recycled as her body is laid to rest on council E-waste day coming up soon.

Vale Ms B, dear Maxum, old friend, may your recycled bits be of service to another lucky human bean in your reincarnated new life. Bless you!

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Coping with Tim

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

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

 

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