Archive for the ‘Popular Culture et al’ Category

Doppler Effect

Posted: October 19, 2014 in Popular Culture et al
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ambulance night

 

The sound of an ambulance

very late in the fetid night

closes, then closer, louder,

howling, cutting machete-like

through the traffic for the ER,

then leaving us, passing

away now, quieter,

and quieter. Just how you

entered my life, in a hurry,

and left it as suddenly.

 

All there is now to tell the tale?

A wreck, and a fading echo.

say what?Wellthisiswhatithink is somewhat well-known for our seemingly endless selection of F*** Ups. Advertising F*** Ups. PR F*** Ups. Packaging F*** Ups. Social Media F*** Ups. And so it goes on. And on. Our eagle-eyed correspondents can be relied upon to feed us through this week’s latest edition with staggering regularity.

Just stick F*** Up in the search box top left of this page and you’ll see what we mean.

Anyhow.

This here is a new, modern, abstract Christmas tree being, er, erected in the centre of Paris.

 

christmas tree

And that, Dear Reader, is precisely all we are saying on the subject. Mules, whips and chains (oo-er missus) will not drag further comment from us.

No. No … stop it. No, don’t say it.

We daren’t even call it an Art F*** Up for fear of being mis-interpreted.

 

Ebola in Liberia

Watching the world go into collective meltdown over the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is highly instructive for anyone who is interested in how the media works, how politics works, and how groupthink works.

The media are rubbing their collective hands with glee. Suddenly they have a new and potentially terrifying threat to wax lyrical about: ISIS terrorism is so last week, right?

Now a “deadly” virus that most people have never heard of, that’s escaped from the nasty, mucky, dark continent of Africa, and threatens us nice white people in our impeccably clean western societies, offers the media a chance for wall-to-wall coverage, most of it hysterical and uninformed.

Politicians now fall neatly into two camps. Those who give a shit about tackling the outbreak, and those who simply give a shit about blaming someone else, and always on the other side of the aisle.

And groupthink has merely descended into group terror. You can’t blame people for being scared, but the level of fear has reached ridiculously high proportions astonishingly quickly.

So here’s a few facts.

ebolavirusEbola can be and is deadly, (with morbidity rates as high as 70% in some of the countries currently under attack), but the vast majority of people infected (perhaps upwards of 90%) will survive IF they receive proper medical care, such as simple matters including rehydration.

This is actually higher than some other much more common severe illnesses.

The huge death numbers in West Africa are because the sanitation, medical and social systems there are completely inadequate to deal with the illness.

The strain of Ebola affecting Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia is not airborne. You HAVE to have an exchange of bodily fluids to catch it. The rapid transition rate in West Africa is because poor people are caring for sick relatives in their own homes, and avoiding contact with saliva, blood and bodily wastes (or surfaces contaminated with them) is extraordinarily difficult in those circumstances.

In reality, as you can see here, the spread rate of Ebola against other serious illnesses is very slow. This is partly, tragically, because in poor countries the sick don’t live long enough to pass the virus on to very many people. Ebola is actually a very inefficient virus. It kills its victims too quickly.

The solution to the Ebola crisis is very simple. By all means isolate the very few cases that will occur in advanced countries, and treat those people with all due care for the treating staff as well. The majority of infected people will recover, especially if they are treated early. Impose travel bans if you wish, though it would be much more sensible to implement heat screening of in-bound passengers, such as was used during the SARS crisis in China.

There is also evidence from previous outbreaks that educating the local community about how to handle patients and reduce infection-risk is an effective way to slow or end outbreaks. This is another area of activity that should be ramped up.

In the meantime, though, whatever else we do, we must DRAMATICALLY increase aid to West Africa. We should be FLOODING the area with capacity to deal with the crisis, AND to deal there with any aid workers from advanced countries who become infected, keeping them there instead of repatriating them to their home country. Although conditions in these countries are extremely difficult, it is not beyond the wit and wisdom of mankind to isolate and treat the virus there. What IS needed is willpower and decisive action and plenty of fast money.

If this was a war, an immediate and resolute response would be found.

Well, this is a war. A war to save potentially hundreds of thousands of poor victims worldwide. This is not a war to protect the West. It was and is and will be a war to protect countries in Africa (and possibly elsewhere) from being set back 25 years in their development, through the avoidable death of countless innocent people.

Rabbit caught in headlights? Pretty much.

Rabbit caught in headlights? Pretty much.

In this regard, the failure of the Australian government to yet send staff to the area is staggeringly weak and vacillating.

Health Minister Peter Dutton waffles on about not knowing where to treat any staff who contract the virus.

Well, here’s a question to answer, Mr Dutton. If Ebola gets into the slums of the poorer countries of Asia (such as especially the Philippines and Thailand) or the favelas of South America, it will then GENUINELY be too late to stop a worldwide humanitarian disaster. What will you do then?

If you are genuinely concerned about the safety of our aid workers or troops, (and not simply trying to save money and hope someone else does the heavy lifting) then explain the situation simply and clearly, and ask for volunteers.

Action, this day. Nothing else is acceptable.

PS Don’t expect to see the commonsense in this article reported in mainstream media, so feel free to share it.

 

putinshirtless“Look, I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin … you bet I am.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s fighting words about insisting Vladimir Putin face up to his complaints about the downing of MH 17 by Ukrainian rebels almost certainly sent the diplomats in the Russian Embassy rushing for their Australian slang dictionaries on Monday, not to mention Pravda’s opinion writers to bend over their sweaty typewriters in faux outrage.

Many Australian observers were also left scratching their heads at the evocative choice of words, which hails from the lexicon of Australian Rules football.

Ultimately Mr Abbott (or his media manager) may be the only one who truly knows what he plans to do during bilateral talks with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, at the G20 in Brisbane next month.

We wouldn’t have thought Mr Putin was the easiest person to shirtfront as he is so often without one.

So what exactly is a ‘shirtfront’? For those uncertain as to the niceties of Australian Rules Football, it goes something like this.

Shirtfront (Australian Rules) noun, “A fierce tackle, usually delivered by the shoulder to the chest of an opponent.” verb, “The act of delivering such a tackle.” – Oxford Australian Dictionary.

We do confess, Dear Reader, to occasionally being somewhat impatient with our feminist sisters.

Let’s be clear: we are totally on-side with equality of opportunity. Equal pay. Demolishing the glass ceiling. And freeing women from the need to constantly defend themselves from the appalling ingrained sexism that sees them the victim of unwelcome sexual advances, and worse.

And please note: fruit of one’s loins was sent to learn Taekwondo from the age of 11 to 18. Apart from the fact that Pop Pops will come after you with a machete, we doubt any male would survive assaulting her will leave the scene with their gonads intact.

But women shouldn’t have to become self-defence experts to protect themselves, and anyway, there are some attacks no one could defend themselves against.

 

Reshma before and after

Reshma before and after

 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-acid-attack-survivor-reshma

Like us, you may want to donate to help provide treatment for a much-loved 18 year old Indian girl hideously disfigured by an acid attack in Mumbai.

Her full story is here:

 

India's acid victims still suffer despite new rules

 

India’s acid victims still suffer despite new rules. The Indian teenager’s voice trembles as she recalls the day she lost her face when her brother-in-law and his friends pinned her down and doused her with acid.

Amid the horror of the attack, which followed a family dispute, Reshma Qureshi should have received swift state aid after India’s top court ruled that victims were entitled to 100,000 rupees ($1,600) within 15 days.

But, five months later, she is yet to receive a penny.

“One of my eyes is ruined, yet no help is coming,” the 18-year-old told AFP in her family’s cramped Mumbai tenement, as tears ran down her disfigured face, to which her mother applied cream to soothe the burning.

Acid attacks have long plagued India, often targeting women in public places as a form of revenge linked to dowry or land disputes or a man’s advances spurned.

 

Twenty-year-old Ritu was attacked by her cousin during a dispute over property about two years ago.

 

Those who survive the attacks face lifelong scars and social stigma. Reshma, once a pretty and outgoing commerce student, no longer socialises with friends but lies quietly on the family bed, saying and eating little.

Despite steps taken last year to help wipe out the scourge and improve financial aid for survivors, activists say little has changed.

“Still there’s no awareness on the issue,” said Alok Dixit of the New Delhi-based Stop Acid Attacks campaign group, accusing authorities of “buying time”.

The Supreme Court in July last year gave Indian states three months to enforce restrictions on the sale of acid, but campaigners say it remains easy to purchase.

The court also said victims should get 300,000 rupees in compensation, a third of it within 15 days of the assault.

Dixit said he knew of nobody who had received this initial sum so quickly, while only two in 100 cases had managed to win the full amount.

“People don’t know how to apply for compensation. The authorities don’t know,” he said.

Even if claims were successful, the figure is “not at all enough” for the costly and multiple plastic surgeries required, Dixit added.

 

Laxmi was 15 years old when she was attacked by her brother’s 32-year-old friend after she refused his marriage proposal.

 

Reshma, the adored youngest child of a taxi driver, was attacked in her family’s northern home state of Uttar Pradesh, and the fact that she lives in Mumbai complicates her claim.

Her relatives have clubbed together and taken out loans for her treatment, but doctors have said she may need up to 10 more operations.

Nothing will be alright.

“After that things will be better, but still nothing will be alright,” she said.

Relatives were in tears when the press visited the family home, reached by a steep ladder down a maze of alleyways.

Reshma’s elder sister Gulshan, whose estranged husband carried out the attack, witnessed the assault and suffered burns on her arms, but wishes she had been the main target.

The family believe Reshma was singled out because of her beauty and popularity.

“Reshma is very emotional and she wants to study,” Gulshan said.

While Gulshan’s husband was arrested and jailed, a juvenile in the gang has been freed on bail and two other accomplices remain at large, according to the family.

“The police don’t say anything, they don’t search anything,” said Reshma.

Last year, acid attacks were made a specific criminal offence in India punishable with at least a decade behind bars. But court cases can drag on for years.

Particularly in northern states, “police are not very cooperative and we have heard of cases where they try to get families to change their statement,” said Bhagirath Iyer, a member of the volunteer network “Make Love Not Scars”, which helps victims.

 

A fashion photo shoot featuring five acid attack victims is drawing wide attention in India, where open discussions about violence against woman are drawing attention to a long-ignored public scourge.

 

Crowd funding help

Frustrated with the lack of government aid, activists have meanwhile turned to online crowd funding to help raise funds for acid attack survivors.

“Make Love Not Scars” has set up a campaign on the website Indiegogo for Reshma, who returned to hospital for more treatment on Friday. The immediate target was $2,200, which has been passed, although her overall costs are expected to be much higher.

Iyer said donations usually came from wealthier Indians living abroad, but they were “bombarding” Indian celebrities on Twitter to spread their message.

“Crowdsourcing is possible but you have to market it really hard,” he said, adding that upper middle-class victims often won more attention in the Indian media than those from poorer social backgrounds.

Reshma, who describes her face today as “so scary”, is desperate to finish her treatment and hopeful that she will bring her attackers to justice.

“I want to tell them that they should not be able to do to other girls what they have done to me.”

The campaign site for Reshma can be found at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-acid-attack-survivor-reshma. Please donate; it takes a few seconds, and even a few dollars will make a huge difference to this poor girl and her family.

And to our feminist friends, let us say this. Yes, we know terrible attacks happen to women in Western countries too, but in less developed countries they are far more common, more culturally acceptable, and include, in some places, virtually no communal resistance to rape, lynching, spousal violence, casual murder, stoning, whipping, and more. They mean women cannot work for pay, are virtual slaves in their homes, cannot be educated and may be shot if they say they should be, may not leave home unaccompanied, are forced to wear uncomfortable and restrictive dress, are not allowed the same rights as men to a fair and independent trial, and are frequently jailed or executed for their “crime” of being raped and demanding justice.

The women of ALL the world need feminists from ALL OVER THE WORLD to campaign on their behalf. Now.

If you want to know why, watch this:

 

#itsagirlthing

 

Change is the only constant - Heraclitus.

Change is the only constant – Heraclitus.
Photo: Lincoln Harrison photographs star trails taken over 15 hours in Bendigo, Australia at scenic Lake Eppalock.

 

As we age, the brain plays curious tricks on us. Time, for one thing, seems to speed up, although it does not, of course. It is merely that our own understanding of the mutability of life becomes more acute. Our awareness of change, and the relentless pace of change, intensifies as we age.

When we are young, we have a seemingly endless amount of time stretching ahead of us. But as we enter middle age, and then old age, it is clear that our time is inevitably limited. And apart from the ever more rapid recurrence of landmark annual events (Wimbledon, a particular horse race, Proms concerts, 4th of July: we always know it is early May by the arrival of the FA Cup Final, for example) what seems to mark the clicking of the shears most often and most obviously is the endless round of the seasons, rolling on regardless of what we seek to make of our small and insignificant lives, and amply demonstrated in the world around us.

Our gardens. The landscape. Change is constant. Inevitable, inexorable.

Last night, we had a fierce wind squall. Just one. It lasted no more than a minute, and was, in its way, rather alarming. The suddenness, the roaring noise, the feeling of an invisible and irresistible force battering at the plate glass doors which bowed and complained.

What was most dramatic, though, was the effect of the wind on the magnificent ornamental cherry tree just outside our front door. For a few weeks now it has been literally groaning with the most exquisite light pink and white blossom, as it does every year, lending us joy and a sense of wonder every time we walk by it or look out.

In the last few days, a few of those blossoms have been fluttering to the ground, their work done. The tree has been a mine for our local bees, who have been harvesting it for all they’re worth before disappearing back to wherever their hive is, but they have been fewer in recent days, and now the slightest gust of wind brings petals down on our heads. It is a little like a shower made of flowers.

Suddenly, the leaves  break through.

Suddenly, the leaves break through.

When the squall hit in all its demanding force, the tree bent almost double, so we feared it might break. And in what seemed an instant, it released a waterfall of colour to the ground. After the wind Gods had passed on, it seemed suddenly somewhat denuded. Uncloaked. And in that instant, it seemed that soft and gentle Spring had come, and gone, and all that was left now was the aching, baking heat of summer. The ground looked like a hailstorm had passed, but the hail was flowers. It seemed terribly sad, and permanent, and like something was lost.

Goodbye until next year

Goodbye until next year

But that is only one way to view the event. Another way, entirely, is to celebrate the new look of the tree. Now one can perceive that it is newly dressed in bright green leaves that shimmer and shine in the morning sun, with their own pleasing beauty. Some blossoms still adhere to the tree, but now they drop pretty much constantly, eddying in the breezes.

But where each delicate flower falls now lives the possibility of a cherry, red and pretty and hopeful, like a young girl’s first experiment with lipstick.

And without the coming heat of summer, driving in on us now as it is with blind and careless certainty, no fruit would duly ripen on the tree. The gorgeous bird life that we are blessed with in all seasons would have nothing to squabble about as they flit from branch to branch just a yard or two from where we sip our cooling drinks, just as without the blossoms the bees would have nothing to do.

As far as nature is concerned, we are mere bystanders. Nature understands the cycle of change, the endless mutability, the replacing of one joy with another. And that’s the thing about change. Change is a way of remembering what was there before change occurred by sharpening our awareness of our life, making us more thoughtful, more “mindful”, in modern jargon. Change brings things into stark focus, as only loss can. But loss can be a beginning, not just an end.

Change is what we make it. We can either be confronted by it, or embrace it as unknowable, unavoidable, and inevitable. Seeking what comes after with the same enthusiasm with which we celebrated what went before. More than 2000 years ago, Socrates said “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.”

My mother, who was much taken with what she called her “little sayings”, often remarked, when change happened, that “It’s an ill-wind that blows no-one any good.”

The green leaves and the tiny cherries agree. Everything to its time, and then round we go again.

Photo: Maarten Van de Voort. Used with permission. See http://maartenvandevoort.nl/

Photo: Maarten Van de Voort. Used with permission.

I first fell in love when I was 10 years and 11 months old. She was 10 something, too. It was 1967. Early June. A day trip to Brownsea Island. There was me, my Mum, and my best mate Ian Sinclair. Ian was from Glasgow. Lord knows what his family was doing living in suburban Bournemouth on the genteel South Coast of England – Costa Geriatrica they call it – but he was incredibly exotic and attractive, with his rough Glaswegian accent, short, nuggety frame, tousled brown curls, and impish good looks. I think every girl in school was mad about him, not to mention a few older girls who had already gone ahead to big school, but with whom we shared the local bus service and cafes. Ian was, naturally, going out with the prettiest girl in school, Helen. I was going out with the next prettiest, her twin sister Julie. Both girls were exceptionally attractive, awesomely tall, slender, played a demon game of netball, and were kindness personified. But whereas at nearly eleven Helen and Ian were already a little more “advanced” than might have been quite proper with their affections, neither Julie and I really had a clue what we were doing, apart from snatching the occasional mis-managed kiss and giggling inanely. She used to draw a lot of cartoon horses heads, too, and delighted in drawing them kissing each other, which was, she explained, a cipher for our affections, and much easier than both of us trying to surreptitiously watch the more skilled Ian and Helen and work out what we were doing wrong. At the time, this compromise satisfied my emotional requirements from a girlfriend entirely, and we were great friends. But then, one fateful day, on Brownsea Island, Ian and I rounded a corner, having left my mother reading the early edition of the Bournemouth Evening Echo on the sun-kissed grassy lawns, and walked into Erin. Erin was the same height as me. Her lustrous hair, cut into a fringe behind which a pony tail tumbled and bounded around her shoulders (think Olivia Newton-John in the early scenes of Grease, but with light brown hair) shone – literally shone – and her face seemed almost to have a halo around it. She wore a simple summer dress, and across the bridge of her upturned nose lay a spray of tiny freckles. Above that, a pair of laughing, humourous brown eyes twinkled challengingly. I swear I stopped stone dead. Transfixed. She was, without question, the most beautiful creature I had ever clapped eyes on. Despite her holding my gaze, and swinging her body invitingly from side to side, I simply couldn’t speak. Ian laughed: “This is my best friend, Steve. I’m going over there, you talk.” And with that, he left. Wise beyond his years, to a fault, was our Ian. In retrospect, she did all the work. couple handsShe asked where I was from, explained she was from a village nearby, told me her life history, (which basically consisted of which school subjects she liked), and generally tried to put me at my ease. She was smiling constantly, as if in possession of a secret I did not share. Before long she had enough of talking, and her innately wild spirit took over. She insisted we wander the more isolated part of the island, and soon enough, hand in hand, that is what we did. She was not my first kiss. But she was the first that happened spontaneously. Sneaky games of spin the bottle didn’t count, even if I had been introduced to the joys of kissing “properly” by Rick’s big sister Anna, who when the bottle slowly ground to a halt in front of me took me into the hall and proceeded to inculcate in me a joy of necking that stood me in good stead in years to come. With a rather tired and world-weary air, the 13 year old took me under her wing, almost as a social service. It was great. But my goodness, it was not as great as kissing Erin. Our lips met, without warning, and it was perfect. It wasn’t forced, or scary. I felt a rush of emotions that were mainly composed of testosterone and adrenalin, and it was altogether wonderful. When I pulled back, she stood there with her arms around my waist, and leaned back, gauging, I think, the reaction in my face. Obviously satisfied, she kissed me again. We walked a bit, mostly in silence, punctuated by laughter. She told me what she liked about me. At that moment, nothing was wrong, or could be wrong. Then we ran. Ran as if the wild winds of the world were snapping at our heels. We ran for what seemed like hours, but it can only have been only a few minutes, maybe thirty, running with complete abandon, but always hand in hand. Our hands were clasped as if to let go would be to bring the world to an abrupt end. We ran through tree branches and bushes and down tracks and up hills and over the endless fields of purple heather and nothing could stop us; at that moment, I think I could have gladly run forever and never needed to breathe. Until, of course, we ran into Ian, just before we reached the lawn, and the ferry that would take us and the Triumph Herald back to the mainland, and the inevitable goodbye, and the hilarity in Ian’s face punctured the moment, and Erin kissed me briefly just once more, and wrote down her phone number, and I went home. Somewhere a peacock cried its lamentation to the skies. As I left, she got smaller and smaller, but it looked like she didn’t take her eyes off the ferry, until we had bumped off the other end, and turned left along the Sandbanks sand-dunes, and she was hidden from view. And when Mum asked us in the car what we were talking about, she told me in no uncertain terms that I was too young to be getting a bus to another village to see a girl the same age, and goodness me, what would her mother think, for Heaven’s sake, and no, I couldn’t ring, and give me that piece of paper, and that, emphatically and finally, was that. I’ve had a thing for freckles ever since. And girls called Erin. I never even got to say sorry. She must have thought I didn’t care.

There is a persistent belief that the Sport of Kings is only open to those with very deep pockets. Oil sheiks. Bankers. Mafioso. Captains of Industry. And, er … Kings. Well nowadays that’s simply not true.

 

Khutulun belts home at Sandown. Photo courtesy Sarah Ebbett at Victoriy Media.

Khutulun belts home at Sandown. Photo courtesy of Sarah Ebbett at Victory Media.

 

With the growth of syndication – where ownership of a horse is split up between a bunch of like-minded owners – the tinker, the tailor, the soldier and the sailor is getting into it more and more. Not to mention, ahem, the occasional writer.

As an old Uncle of ours once remarked, “Nice to have an interest, boyo. Don’t need to own the whole thing – that’s a big black hole that you throw fivers into. Buy a nose and hopes it gets it in front now and then.”

Wise advice. So about 18 months back, La Famille Wellthisiswhatithink invested in just 5% of a pretty filly called Khutulun. Our five per cent cost us just a thousand bucks, plus a promise to pay about another $1000 a year. That’s it. Virtually all the horse’s costs would be covered by that investment for a whole year. And we could bale out if money suddenly became an issue. And although a couple of grand isn’t nothing, well, it’s also not a lot to turn a lifelong dream of owning a “nag” into a reality. Not when a top restaurant can be $2-300 a couple for dinner nowadays. We’d rather have sausages at home and feed the horse.

Khutulun. Well, she wasn’t called anything at that point, actually, she was just a big, ornery filly with a large arse and a bad attitude. Both things endeared her to us. The large arse because coupled with a big set of lungs they make up the best combination any racehorse can have. Of course, we were guessing on her lungs, but there were “stayers” all down the Dam side of her pedigree, so we hoped we’d picked well. And we loved her ornery attitude, which everyone associated with her was quick to mention. Some people worry about such things, but horses take time to mature, and with a filly, especially – who will race in fillies races and mare’s races, to be sure, but will also have to take on the bigger, stronger even ornier boys sometimes – a little bit of “attitood” never goes amiss. She had plenty of vim and vigour about her – plenty of “you know who I am? – so we took a plunge.

She was born at the wrong time of the year to do much in Springtime, so her first “preparation” was in autumn last year. Everyone was full of doubts. She didn’t like her work, loved lying down, was a bit flighty, and didn’t seem to learn. One thing was noticeable, though. She ate everything offered to her like a trencherman on steroids, (she still does), and she never seemed puffed after a run. Some wanted to bail out of her. We hung in, convinced we had chosen well, even when those who are paid to know these things had their doubts.

A warrior nature. That made sense.

A warrior nature. That made sense.

Why Khutulun? The world’s most mis-pronounced name for a horse – think “Kutlin”, Kutulin” “Kootoolin” – it’s actually Koo-Too-Lun, if anyone cares – was a desperate final attempt to find something, anything, that combined it’s Sire’s name (Soldier’s Tale) with it’s Dam (Great Tradition). Perhaps fifty names were knocked back as already in use.

Eventually Khutulun – a warrior princess from Mongolia, daughter of Kublai Khan, famous horsewoman – got up.

Cue press releases hopelessly trying to persuade race callers to pronounce her name correctly. The owners didn’t care: it was just one more “us against the world” feature of the whole exercise. We knew how to say her name, that’s all that mattered.

And as soon as Miss Ornery of Caulfield hit a racetrack – in cheerful, charming, rural Kyneton – she proceeded to cause a shock. Because she romped home to win it. All over the park, a little bit to the left, then heading right, belting on down the straight when the race was already well won, apprentice jockey clinging to her back for all he was worth. And she pulled up looking ready to go round again. Cue raised eyebrows all round.

 

"I got this."

“I got this.”

 

A series of races at Sandown and Caulfield city tracks followed.

For many racehorse owners, just getting to a city track is as good as having a winner. That wasn’t what Khutulun was about, though.

She never ran worse than fourth, grabbed a third, a fighting second to the horse that later won the Queensland Derby, (after having been baulked 200 metres out, too), and bagged another win. She quickly amassed $100,000 in prize money, and she still didn’t run like a racehorse. She just shook her head up and down and side to side and ran. And ran and ran and ran. Clearly didn’t like the idea of any other horse getting to the line in front of her – ornery, see?

Her season ended with a creditable performance beaten maybe three lengths in the Queensland Oaks when she started from the widest possible barrier and threw a shoe off halfway round. She was cheered on by a bunch of owners who had flown in from all round the country. A horse that cost us just $1,000 each, running in a Group One race in the sunshine in Brisbane. A horse no one thought would ever do anything, from a Sire that was recently retired because nothing ever won from it.

Dream come true? You betcha.

And along the way, something rather lovely happened: the 20 owners became friends, and turning up at the races became like one big party each time. A more disparate bunch you couldn’t imagine – a Council worker, handful of tradies, a writer, couple of public servants, a pair of real estate experts. More than a few tubes of amber throat-charmer lubricated the delightful swapping of life stories, everyone enthusing ever more delightedly about “our girl”.

Luke Oliver ... quietly spoken, a shy, ready smile, and a headful of bloody clever.

Luke Oliver … quietly spoken, a shy, ready smile, and a headful of bloody clever.

We got to know the trainer, Luke Oliver, and his racing manager Steve Leonie.

A nicer pair of blokes you could not imagine.

Not only were they and their team turning our no-hoper into something resembling a champion, but they never showed a moment’s ennui while answering our endless (and usually ignorant) questions without giggling at us even once.

Luke’s the quiet pragmatic type. Steve Leonie cares so much about each of the horses they train he frequently can’t stand to watch the actual race, heading for a quiet spot in the cafe for a fortifying coffee. Or to the bar for a fortifying something stronger. They both have passion in bucketloads.

Steve kindly arranges lessons in racecourse ettiquette. Because that’s the other great joy of being an owner, of course. On arrival at the track there’s free parking and the man at the gate in the blazer who waves you through with a cheery “Good luck, Sir … Madam.” Then they immediately usher you into your own private area for a free drink, or at the posh courses, a free lunch. Well, not so much free. You have to buy a horse to get in. But you see what we mean.You don’t have to be royalty, you just feel like it.

And wonder of all wonders, you get entry to the mounting yard before and after the race, where you stand around frowning intelligently as the trainer first tells the jockey what he wants him to do, using all sorts of riding jargon that means the best part of bugger all to those of us standing around nodding for all we’re worth, but that’s OK because what we’re really doing is impressing the pants off our friends who are left back in the stands, because this is the the most “we made it” moment of all moments imaginable.

And ten minutes later we’re there again, smiling and taking photos with the jockey and a sweaty successful horse, trying to shake the jockey’s hand only to be told – again with exquisite politeness – that this is, of course, against the rules, and whooping and a-hollering, and generally behaving like six year olds on an extra dose of Ritalin. And all around us stand solemn rich people whose hugely expensive horseflesh we have just made to look like it was rooted to the spot, all mildly discomforted by the council workers and tradies and public servants and retail experts and writers who miraculously now find themselves calculating their share of another winners cheque. And sod them, too, suffer in yer jocks, buddy, because we’re The Khutulun Crew, and that’s all ya need to know.

And then there was the team from the syndicator, Grand Syndicates, Sam Lyons and Peter and Karen Morley. An email or voicemail every week kept us up to speed with every gulp, fart, hiccup and snort the horse gave out, helping us all to feel genuinely part of the loop, even tangentially involved in the training decisions and where to race her. When we got to Queensland the Grand Syndicates crew even threw a few bob over the bar and we all drank free for the afternoon. And some of us drank a little too much. Ah well, what happens in Vegas, etc.

Peter Morley of Grand Syndicates. "Have I got an 'orse for you, my son? Have I ever!"

Peter Morley of Grand Syndicates. “Have I got an ‘orse for you, my son? Have I ever!”

They didn’t have to do that. Nicely done, right there. And once again, they were always endlessly patient with the inevitable barrage of questions from the over-excited owners.

And so now we’re here in October 2014. Now the blossom is on the trees, and the wind has switched from the West to the North, the grey skies have flown away and it’s all “on again, for man and boy”, as they say over here in Oz. And for daughters, and wives, and friends.

After winter standing around eating her paddock down to bare earth, Khutulun’s “preparation” number two is underway, Spring is here in all it’s glory and The Khut (we’re in Australia, of course she has to have a nickname) is back in the lists.

So in the watery Spring sunshine, Khutulun goes to Sandown last Saturday, just for a little jump out, you understand? Looking like a right trollop, with half her winter coat still on her.

“We’ll let her run on her merits, sure, but she’s still fat and happy from her winter spell, so don’t expect too much.” “Keep your money in your pocket.” “Look, always hopeful, but really, it’s quite a tough race and she’s not fit yet.” Everyone nods sagely. “She’ll be better for the run.”

Fair enough, then, we’ll have a quiet beer or three and just enjoy the sunshine.

No one told the horse, of course. Five hundred metres out, and plumb last except for one other nag, she looked up, and just set off. Jockey Ben Melham, feeling the fire in her belly, smartly eased her out into clear air and told her to go. And as surely as day follows night, and one by one, she picked off the entire field like they were from some other species of lesser beings. As she went past the post, one could swear she was winking. “Oh ye of little faith. Don’t you know who I am?”

Bang. A winner. Again. Ornery. Always put your money on ornery.

To find out more about going racing with nice people and without breaking the budget, head to:

grandsyndicates.com.au

lukeoliverracing.com.au

You don’t have to be rich, just rich of heart. Go on, you know you want to. See you at the track. Next stop, Cranbourne Cup Day next Sunday. Total winnings now up to nearly $170,000 and counting. We’re buying the beers …

British aid worker Alan Henning who is threatened with death

British aid worker Alan Henning who is threatened with death

With great anger and sadness, we regret to report that it has been reported today that Alan Henning has been murdered. We will not be commenting further out of respect for the Henning family, to whom we send our deepest sympathies.

Original story begins: The wife of a British aid worker being held by Islamic State insurgents has made a renewed appeal for his release, a week after receiving an audio message from her husband.

Alan Henning, 47, was part of an aid convoy taking medical supplies to a hospital in northwest Syria in December last year when it was stopped by gunmen and he was abducted.

He appeared in a video released by IS earlier this month, which showed the murder of another Briton, David Haines. In it, a masked man said Henning would also be killed if British Prime Minister David Cameron kept supporting the fight against IS.

Last week Britain’s parliament approved air strikes against IS insurgents in Iraq.

“We are at a loss why those leading Islamic State cannot open their hearts and minds to the truth about Alan’s humanitarian motives for going to Syria,” Barbara Henning said in a televised statement.

Barbara Henning’s courage and dignity beggars belief.

She said she had not had any contact from IS since she was sent an audio message last week of Alan pleading for his life. She pointed out that Muslims around the world have called for his release, and that Alan was working “with his Muslim friends”.

“Surely those who wish to be seen as a state will act in a statesman-like way by showing mercy and providing clemency. I ask again, supported by the voices across the world, for Islamic State to spare Alan’s life.”

We agree, and appeal from the bottom of our hearts to IS to spare this man’s life and to release him. What can be achieved by killing a man whose mission was to help the very people you seek to represent?

Readers, we urge you to post this story to your Facebook page, to your own blog, to tweet it, and so on. Perhaps if enough of the world speaks up, IS may listen. The life of a good man whose only crime was to try and get supplies to a hospital is at stake.

In the very recent past, Dear Reader, we have been vocal about the right of Muslim women to wear whatever they want. And to be free from abuse or violence for doing so.

This is in recognition of the facts of basic civil liberties, and of religious respect.

We don’t abuse Jews for wearing the kippah, do we? Many religions that originated in the middle east proffer wearing a head covering as a mark of respect to God, the idea being that something then separates man or woman from God – a physical barrier signifying a spiritual relationship. Within living memory, women typically wore a hat when attending Church. Many Christian groups … the Amish, for example, or various eastern European orthodox groups … wear hats habitually, and/or headscarves for women that look pretty much exactly the same as the hijab of Muslim women.

We are not entirely sure why historically men didn’t used to wear hats in Christian Churches, although we can guess. Patriarchy is a powerful and persistent force in society. It co-opts any excuse to place women in a slightly different position to men, and usually inferior.

 

Note this graphic is called "Muslim headgear" and then goes on to say that the religion doesn't mandate some of it. A classic example of the confusion surrounding this issue. In any event, this is a helpful graphic for those wanting to understand the names of the various pieces of clothing.

Note this graphic is called “Muslim headgear” and then goes on to say (with the Chador, for example) that the religion actually doesn’t mandate it. A classic example of the confusion surrounding this issue. In any event, this is a helpful graphic for those wanting to understand the names of the various pieces of clothing being discussed in the media.

 

The key point being that it is not only religion that dictates the clothing issue, it is culture. Religion is frequently co-opted to justify cultural norms. In fact, the religious norm that is frequently promoted is that somehow a woman’s eyes, face or body are inherently sinful, and likely to excite men to behave inappropriately. Or in other words, blaming half the species for the other half of the species’s inability to control itself.

The same logic used to lead the Victorians to cover the legs of grand pianos with cloths because they were too reminiscent of – horror! – womens’ shapely legs.

What we cannot understand is why so many on the left of politics will not tackle the issue of the burqa – the all body and head covering where the woman must look out from behind a grill or flap of cloth that emanates from Afghanistan – which has NOTHING to do with religion.

But it has everything to do we male patriarchy and bullying. If you doubt that assertion, try being an uncovered woman walking the streets of “liberated” Afghanistan if you agree. You might get away with it in parts of Kabul, in the rest of the country you will be abused, beaten or worse. The same is due of some areas (mainly in the country) in other states.

 

We think demanding women wear particular clothing in public is morally wrong, wherever the demand comes from. In Islamabad, for example, any woman attending the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca must now wear the burqua. Are we racists for saying we don't think women should be forced to wear a particular item of clothing to be allowed to be seen in public? We don't think so.

We think insisting that women wear particular clothing in public is morally wrong, wherever the demand comes from. It is the INSISTENCE we think is wrong, not the wearing of the item, whatever we may think of it. In Islamabad, for example, any woman attending the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca must now wear the burqua. Are we racists or culturally insensitive for saying we don’t think women should be forced to wear a particular item of clothing to be allowed to be seen in public? We don’t think so.

 

Here’s the question: in order to be “accepting” of people’s freedoms, why do we in the West (or in secular Muslim countries in the Middle East or Asia, for that matter) have to accept all cultural constructs as equally valid?

As an extreme example to make a point, we wouldn’t accept the right of some isolated rainforest tribe to continue with cannibalism after they came in contact with modern society … would we?

The burqa is medieval, and inappropriate in any society, let alone a pluralist Western one. We should be making that case strongly and sincerely to men (in particular) in our communities that originate in that area, and we should be encouraging women to speak up for themselves if they do not wish to wear it, if they can do so safely. The very fact that we have to add “if they can do so safely” makes the point, does it not?

Meanwhile, bleeding heart liberals and ignorant commentators continue to conflate religion and culture as if they were the same thing. They are not. We should be doing everything in our power to convince everyone in the world that our modern, feminist view of the role and presentation of women is the right model for women and for society as a whole.

Remember the same patriarchal cultural constructs that lead to the burqa in Afghanistan also result in the disgrace of honour killings (which are, by the way, most emphatically not limited to Muslims), to stonings of women accused of adultery (frequently as a way to get rid of an unwanted wife), to a persistent likelihood of being raped (or worse) merely for walking outside unaccompanied by a male, and also the savagery of female circumcision. Or as it should be called, female genital mutilation.

And yes: what should also be said is that virtually no women in Australia wear the burqa, and relatively few in Europe or America, too, although it is seen in pockets of cities with large numbers of immigrants from the areas where it is de rigeur. And yes, therefore, talking about it endlessly nowadays is part of a generalised distrust of “the other”, and at the moment, the “other” that concerns us most is Muslims, sadly.

But as we’re talking about it, we may as well talk about it. Or perhaps we approve of societies where women are banned from driving? That’s not in the Holy Koran, either.

 

Jenie Yolland glass art table centrepiece

Everyone always loves them – do you want one for YOUR table centrepiece this Christmas?

 

We provide a link below to a fascinating article by Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink explaining how she makes her magnificent gum-leaf cheese boards. People simply love them, she can never make enough – they also look sensational with cold meats and shellfish at Christmastime.

Don’t wait till mid-December to order them, they take a lot of work and they ALWAYS sell out :-) You can ring Mrs W direct in Australia on 0409 89 99 00. Note: they must be picked up from her studio in Richmond, Melbourne, it’s just not practical to ship them anywhere, although smaller versions can possibly be shipped interstate and overseas. Click the link now!

Cheese anyone?

Plus: you can checkout more of her work here: https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/jensstudio or if you’re around Melbourne this weekend (Sat 4th October) just come along to lovely Warrandyte market in Stiggants Reserve by the Yarra River and have a browse.

Current weather forecast is 25 and mostly sunny. Yay!

sleepy pilotWhen we first arrived in Australia some 25 plus years ago, our first experience of flying inside the country was from a small airport in Cairns, when we were heading to the very pretty Dunk Island for a few days unashamed luxury.

A small bunch of us sat and sat, and sat, and sat some more, until in the end they actually paged the flight crew. They duly wandered out of the bar. As one of our fellow passengers commented, “Well, they might have been drinking orange juice.” He didn’t look convinced, though.

It was a very small plane. Our communal confidence was not increased when the co-pilot (who was flying) asked the pilot which way to go. The pilot scrabbled through his maps for a minute, before admitting he’d left the maps behind. “Look out of the window, follow the road” was his advice to the co-pilot. Which is exactly what the co-pilot did: opened the window and stuck his head out. As you do.

Anyhow, an ex airline pilot wrote an interesting article on Yahoo about the stuff that goes on in the cockpit that passengers really don’t want to know about. This segment of article jumped out at us, especially the last bit (in bold). Seems like good advice to us:

Prior to 1978, each airline worked out schedules with its pilots to accommodate the routes the airline flew while protecting the pilots from undue fatigue. But after 1978’s deregulation, all that changed. Competition between airlines became so fierce that pilots were forced to fly more hours with less rest. Fatigue led to accidents. At the beginning of this year, new rules established by the FAA and supposedly based on scientific study, went into effect which gave pilots a reasonable amount of uninterrupted rest between days of flying, but increased the number of hours a two-pilot crew could fly per day from eight to nine hours!

Under these new pseudoscientific rules, a pilot who reports for duty at 7am can be on duty for 14 hours. That may sound reasonable until you consider that being at work at 7am may mean getting up at 3am, leaving home at 4am, and driving two hours to the airport. That allows only 20 minutes for traffic and 40 minutes to catch the bus from crew parking to the terminal. Your pilot can be forced to work until 9pm, 18 hours after waking up — if lucky — from five to six hours of sleep.

According to research done in Australia, a person who has driven more than eight hours has the same ability to function as a person with a blood-alcohol level of .05. The research also showed a person who has been awake for 18 hours function like a person with a blood alcohol of .05. What does that say about your pilot who is landing the plane after flying nine hours or being up 18 hours?

Pilots are stuck with the new rules, and no matter how fatigued a pilot may be, refusing to fly means big trouble. As a pilot, you don’t fly fatigued, you can’t keep your job. Don’t expect things to get better.

So, if you want a pilot who is fully awake after a full night’s sleep, don’t fly earlier than 10am.

If you want to be sure your pilot’s performance is better than a drunk driver, steer clear of short flights after 7pm.

Longer domestic flights and international flights that depart after 7pm are not a problem in this regard because on such flights pilots are usually beginning their work day.

Red HijabThe nightmare of a terrorist attack on innocent Australians?

No. That has started already. It has been going on for years, and it will go on for years. It may never end. As long as some marginalised nutter can find a knife, a bomb or a gun, innocent people here and overseas will always be at risk.

No: what we face now is the nightmare of random abusive attacks on entirely innocent people just because of their dress, or their religion. Victims of the hysteria whipped up around IS and other groups, not least by our own government – for shame – and certainly by the media, and the Murdoch tabloid media especially.

In Melbourne last week a Muslim woman was bashed and pushed from a moving train in a vicious racist attack.

Police say the 26-year-old victim was standing near the door on an Upfield line train when a woman approached her and started making racist remarks.

The culprit then allegedly grabbed the victim by the neck and hair and repeatedly slammed her head into the wall of the carriage.

She then pushed the victim off the train as it pulled into Batman railway station, police said.

Police are hoping to speak to two men who approached the woman to offer help after the attack last Thursday.

Police do have a description of the attacker.

She has unusual light-coloured eye brows, short dark hair and a heavy build.

She was wearing baggy jeans, a puffy hooded top and runners.

The incident was captured on CCTV and police are now in the process of reviewing the footage.

We sincerely trust a severe example is made of this scum, who behaves as if 200 years of civilised decency had not produced, in Australia, a country which is uniquely racially content, even in today’s fraught climate.

We are a decent people – our country was built on immigration and always will be. Here, we do not judge people by who they are but by what they are – by the efforts they contribute to wrest a living from this challenging country. We welcome people from anywhere and everywhere.

Yes, there is naked racism in Australia. We are not naive. There is in every country on the face of the planet. But it is much less persistent or obvious than in most other places, and certainly in equivalent Western countries.

Let us make an example of this attacker – as a community, we say “no further”. Stop this insanity before it starts. Women all over the country are reporting abuse and worse as they walk the streets.

Not here. Not in our name. Not in Australia.

 

 

The world is a big, funny place. Practices and activities that are perfectly normal in one country might be verboten in another.

Even in countries that have had a stable government for centuries, some absolutely archaic laws still stand, even though legislators and citizens alike know that they’re ridiculous.

Try not to break any of these wacky laws on your next trip abroad.

Not in Thailand you don't girl.

Not in Thailand you don’t girl.

Don’t go commando in Thailand

In Thailand, it’s illegal to leave one’s domicile if not wearing underwear. Letting the fresh air sweep round your fundament is a no-go!

A Western mind immediately wonders, “How would the police know?”

But let’s be frank, visible panty lines are preferable to Thai jail.

Please don’t infringe on the property of elves

In Iceland, modern road developments may not encroach on the traditional homes of, er, magical creatures. Actually this is still to be ruled on by Iceland’s Supreme Court.

However, in 2013, an elf advocacy group called Friends of Lava halted the construction of a major highway project due to fears about disturbing the elf habitat.

We kid you not.

Save space for the aliens

Brazil has had its share of bizarre laws. There is a municipal law on the books in the state of Mato Grosso that sets aside land in the town of Barra do Garças for an alien airport.

Just in case, you know, the little green men come calling.

Listen to the ladies

Women make the laws in the all-female town Noiva do Cordeiro, located in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.

This made international headlines last month when the town issued a public invitation for suitable men to meet and hopefully marry some of the single female population. The important caveat is, men need to abide by the women’s rules.

This makes a lot of sense, considering that Noiva do Cordeiro was founded by a woman who was excommunicated after leaving a forced marriage in the late 19th century, and populated over the generations by women who had nowhere else to go under some of Brazil’s more conservative and chauvinist family laws.

Leave your medication at home

Don’t bring your medication to Japan.

Visitors to Japan may not bring Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks, or asthma “inhalers” into the country. Check your toiletries bag! Nothing with pseudoephedrine or codeine shall pass!

(This is one we have broken personally lol)

Get your pet a passport

In the EU, circus animals need passports to travel between member states. Circus mice can travel under a collective passport. It’s up to the veterinarian in the member state of departure to verify that all animals’ passports are up-to-date.

We imagine that getting stuck behind a travelling circus at airport passport control could be the worst. Especially if the elephants have eaten recently.

Put a nappy on your donkey

In Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Brazil, a peculiar piece of legislation requires that horses and burros wear nappies.

Don’t chew gum in Singapore

Pretty much everyone knows about the chewing gum ban in Singapore. (And its concomitantly gum-free streets.) It’s illegal to import it, sell it, or bring it into the country for personal use. Doubtful they’ll jail you for accidentally having a few sticks in your handbag, but better to just leave the bubblegum at home when you travel here.

Leave your suit of armour at home

It is illegal to wear a suit of armour into the Houses of Parliament in London. Presumably in case you are about to launch an armed insurrection.

Don’t eat mince pies at Christmas – phew, this one’s a myth.

In England, it is often claimed to be illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas. This went on the books in the Oliver Cromwell era, is broken en masse by British citizenry every holiday season, and placed near the top of a recent poll of “most ludicrous laws in the UK”. In fact, it’s a nonsense. There is no such law, it was repealed by Charles II after the Restoration. Munch away with gay abandon.

Leave the pink hot pants at home

That's gotta put a man off grilling his shrimp.

That’s gotta put a man off grilling his shrimp.

Visiting us in the Wellthisiswhatithink locale? Allegedly, women may not wear pink hot pants any time afternoon on a Sunday in Victoria, Australia. So as one website said, “Yes, wear those fuchsia Daisy Dukes to church on Sunday morning, but put on something more modest for your afternoon barbecue.”

Except we are sorry to disappoint you, again we can’t find reference to the law anywhere, other than it keeps getting repeated on websites around the world.

If you were to turn up in pink hot pants at an Aussie barbie we’d reckon you’d get chucked in the pool. You have been warned.

Next week: states in the USA that still consider it illegal to engage in oral sex.

I very rarely reproduce internet memes (usually found on Facebook) but this one actually made me larf out loud. So I thought I would share it, and see if it matches your experience of Literature. And teaching. And school generally. And, for that matter, art generally.

meaning

Which brings us straightway, of course, to the very obvious point that Literature is art, and therefore open to interpretation, as is all art.

We have always believed in the adage (with something approaching fanaticism) that “art means whatever it means to you”, irregardless of the supposedly “correct” or merely generally-accepted explanation of what it’s supposed to mean.

As one of the commentators on this meme on FB so aptly put it:

Art professor commenting on a painting I did: “Your repeated use of eye and mouth imagery in your artwork symbolises how the eyes interpret reality while the mouth manipulates said reality.” My response: “I just thought eyes, lips and teeth looked cool.”

Sometimes, they're just eyes and mouths. Deal with it ...

Sometimes, they’re just eyes and mouths. Deal with it …

Indeed.

One of the more interesting experiences in our life has been writing poems that we think mean one thing and then discovering that the people listening think they mean something else.

But what is truly bizarre is when someone else reads one of the poems and interprets it quite differently from what was intended – we mean interprets in terms of balance, flow, pausing, emPHAsis and so on.

Initially, we were horrified, Dear Reader, until (with a certain impressive maturity, we thought) we realised that what was actually being created was not a replacement art form, but an additional one.

It’s very much the same when one writes a TV/film script and then passes it over to a Director. What eventually ends up on screen is often wildly different from how it appeared in one’s mind’s eyes. And sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes it isn’t.

The point is, once an item of art has left one’s bosom, it inevitably belongs to the world, not to you any more.

And it may or may not have any intrinsic or inherent value. After all, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, surely artistic value is too?

great-wall-of-vagina-exhibitionWe are on record, for example, as being a fan of James McCartney’s “Great Wall of Vagina”, where 400 intimately detailed casts of womens’ vulvas are displayed in ten panels both to encourage women to get more in touch and comfortable with their own body, and to campaign against the concept of plastic surgery to “normalise” womens’ vaginas.

Is it art? Well, we think so. You may not. And we’re comfortable to disagree.

It is most definitely an important piece of agit-prop, which has always gone hand in hand with high art. We actually find it strangely soothing, and not in the least erotic. Which is an interesting outcome.

The music, words or art that becomes favourited or valuable are not necessarily any good, it is just stuff which has acquired cachet, renown, infamy or superficial value. We have seen more brilliant art from people who have never sold a canvass, been paid to sing a song or for an article or a piece of anything else artistique than we have from those whose music, canvasses, books or whatevs sell for millions. Let us remember that Van Gogh never sold a painting to anyone (other than his long-suffering bro Theo) before he died. Unless giving away little paintings for a glass of absinthe and a plate of beed stew counts.

Is it art? You be the judge,

Is it art? You be the judge.

So if you feel inclined to write something, or paint it, or sculpt it, or crochet it, or blow it or slump it or stick it together with glue or create a pop song or a symphony, be true to yourself, but don’t necessarily seek approval, and even less, seek understanding.

The art has its own value.

To you.

If it has a value to anyone else, that’s a bonus. It is so vanishingly unlikely that you will ever earn a living as an artist as to be more improbable than a very improbable thing on Planet Improbabability on Inter-Galactic Improbability Day, so above all do the work you love, and hang the critics.

If it sells, double bonus.

Anyhow, should you feel the need to create your own art wank, to pre-empt the crap thought or written by others, I recommend this little website, called Arty Bollocks. It allows you to instantly generate your own arty bollocks for gallery descriptions, articles, and criticism of any type. Just click on “Generate Bollocks”.

That allows us to easily share with you, Dear Reader, the deep rationale behind our recent works poetical.

Our work explores the relationship between multiculturalism and midlife subcultures.

With influences as diverse as Caravaggio and Joni Mitchell, new insights are created from both constructed and discovered textures.

Ever since I was a student I have been fascinated by the theoretical limits of meaning. What starts out as contemplation soon becomes debased into a manifesto of distress, leaving only a sense of unreality and the prospect of a new order.

As wavering forms become frozen through emergent and academic practice, the listener is left with a testament to the outposts of our future.

keep calm“The outposts of our future.”

That’s what it’s all about.

So there.

Other reading: Is art wank? http://www.fearfuladventurer.com/archives/4677

You’ve heard of glass-bottomed boats. Now make way for the glass-bottomed kayak!

 

 

Seattle-based company Clear Blue Hawaii is marketing a new transparent kayak called the Molokini. It’s made from the same polycarbonate material used in bulletproof glass and fighter jet canopies. It looks so good, we reckon it’s a fashion accessory as much as a great way to explore.

 

The company markets the two-seater kayak as an ideal way to view marine life (the company says in ideal situations, you can see up to 75 feet down). If you’re lucky, you might even see a dolphin or two or a turtle swimming below you.

 

 

Plus it has the added benefit of making you look like you’re floating on top of the water.

The boat sells for just under US$2,700. For what we think would be the experience of a lifetime, we reckon that’s cheap. Might be time to break open the piggybank before the Great Barrier Reef is destroyed by a combination of sunlight, acidification, and waste dumping. We just hope the hole in the top is big enough for us to get in it, or a little judicious dieting might be required!

 

If stories like this don't explain to the knuckle-heads why gay marriage is right, then nothing will. Gay people don't want to be "partnered", they want the right to be married.

If stories like this don’t explain to the knuckle-heads why gay marriage – we prefer the term “marriage equality” – is right, then nothing will. Gay people don’t want to be “partnered”, they want the right to be married, like everyone else.

 

What a beautiful story. Life affirming. Heart warming. Gentle.

More than seven decades after beginning their relationship, Vivian Boyack and Alice “Nonie” Dubes have been married. Boyack, 91, and Dubes, 90, sat next to each other during Saturday’s ceremony.

old hands“This is a celebration of something that should have happened a very long time ago,” the Rev. Linda Hunsaker told the small group of close friends and family who attended.

The women met in their hometown of Yale, Iowa, while growing up. Then they moved to Davenport in 1947 where Boyack was a teacher and Dubes a book-keeper.

Dubes said the two have enjoyed their life together and over the years they have traveled to all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada, and to England twice. “We’ve had a good time,” she said. Boyack said it takes a lot of love and work to keep a relationship going for 72 years.

Longtime friend Jerry Yeast, 73, said he got to know the couple when he worked in their yard as a teenager.

“I’ve known these two women all my life, and I can tell you, they are special,” Yeast said.

Iowa began allowing gay marriage in 2009. The two women say it is never too late for a new chapter in life.

Amen.

One of the more interesting things about the current debate in Scotland over the referendum on independence (which is becoming closer, although we still predict, at this stage, that the Yes vote will just fail – but watch this space) is the confusion about what will happen to the currency if Scotland votes yes. Coletta Smith at the Beeb wrote an interesting article laying out the options, which we provide a briefly edited version of below.

Begins: 

As the people of Scotland weigh up how to vote in the independence referendum, they are asking questions on a range of topics from the economy to welfare.

The Scottish government says it will continue to use the pound post-Yes, but the UK government, supported by the other Unionist parties, says it cannot. They say a “currency union” will no longer be acceptable.

So what is a currency union?

People shaking hands

It’s when countries with different political systems decide to share a currency. The Euro is the biggest example of this, but it’s perhaps not the best comparison as so many countries were involved with widely different types of economy. Greek’s rural islands are a long-way from Germany’s industrial powerhouses. Scotland and the rest of the UK’s economies are much more alike. So what are the pros and cons of sharing the pound?

Paper with interest rate sign on it

There is an understanding when you join a currency union that you give up some of your economic power. Scotland wouldn’t be able to change its interest rate, even if the economic picture in Scotland was different to the rest of the UK. It also means that limits may be placed on the amount it can spend in its budgets – that’s to help prevent situations like the Eurozone crisis.

Currency Unions can also fall apart if people feel that one country is much stronger than the other, as we saw in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

On the plus side it would make life easier for citizens of Scotland not to have to change currency; it would make life easier for businesses on both sides of the border who would only have to operate in one currency, and it would mean the Bank of England would still be the lender of last resort.

That would mean that Scotland’s large financial services sector of banks, insurance and life assurance companies would still be supported by an organisation with much bigger resources than the Scottish government.

But will Scotland be able to use the pound? The foundation of disagreement can be found by going back to February this year when the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats made a joint statement saying that if Scotland votes for independence, they would not be able to still use sterling – whichever party was running the UK.

The Chancellor George Osborne believed that would be the end of the issue, and called on the Scottish government to announce a Plan B for the currency.

However, the response came back that the statements were “bluff and bluster” and that if a Yes vote happened a more practical decision would be reached.

There is simply no way of knowing whether that is true or not. It is possible that after negotiation the UK may agree to share the pound. But for now, this central issue of the referendum is the one with the least clarity for voters.

So what are the other options?

The Unicorn coins

If it turns out that Scotland isn’t able to use the pound in a formal currency union, there are a few other options. They include;

  1. Keep the pound – Countries across the world do this with the dollar, like Hong Kong and Panama. They call it “dollarization”, so this option has become known as “sterlingization”. It has all the advantages of simplicity, but would mean Scotland having no control at all over interest rates and other monetary policy decisions. It would be a little like being on a roller coaster, you’re in for the ride even though you don’t have any access to the controls.
  2. New currency – Way back in history Scotland used to have its own currency. It would mean the Scottish government would have total control, but would be a huge change and an unknown quantity so it might not be trusted. There is a fear that people might pull their money out of the new Scottish currency and move it into the rest of the UK, which would be seen as a safer bet. Scotland would also be totally responsible for bailing out its own banks and savers should anything go wrong. Some pro-Yes backers, including Jim Sillars and Dennis Canavan are in favour of a Scottish currency.
  3. Different currency – Could it be the the Euro or even the dollar? The Euro might not be all that popular these days, but once-upon-a-time Alex Salmond was keen for Scotland to join the Euro, describing Sterling as a “millstone around Scotland’s neck”. Although the Euro has weakened dramatically in recent years, it’s unlikely to stay that way forever. Others suggest Scotland should use the dollar, and become a petro-economy. That’s because a big chunk of Scotland’s economy depends on oil and gas – an industry which operates in US dollars – and that it might not be the wildest idea in the world to adopt the dollar as its currency.

The White Paper reminds voters that even if a formal currency union was created between Scotland and the rest of the UK “it would of course, be open to people in Scotland to choose a different arrangement in future”. Ends …

Fascinating stuff. The Wellthisiswhatithink crew think that if – big “if” – Scotland votes yes, then the right thing for the Scots and the rest of Britain would be for them to have their own currency, linked to their own economic policies. That seems only fair to the Scots, as well as the English, the Northern Irish, and the Welsh.

black and whiteWhich leaves the fun opportunity to name it.

Our vote would be to call it the Scottie, and have a pair of little terriers on the reverse face like the Black and White whisky label. They’re so cuuuuuute! Then again, we are not entirely engaged in the matter and cannot honestly say we have given the matter exhaustive thought.

What do you think a new currency should be called?

Send us your suggestions and we’ll see they’re passed on.

We are reminded the Irish named their independent pound the “Punt”.

Apparently, they wanted it to rhyme with the colloquial term for “Bank Manager”.

Thanks to an interesting article published by Ancestry.com, we now know that many of us have surnames passed down to us from ancestors in Britain.

Apparently, last names weren’t widely used until after the Norman conquest of England and Wales in 1066, but as the country’s population grew, people found it necessary to be more specific when they were talking about somebody else. Thus arose descriptions like Thomas the Baker, Norman son of Richard, Henry the Whitehead, Elizabeth of the Field, and Joan of York that, ultimately, led to many of our current surnames.

“Come and see the violence inherent in the system!”

They still name people after their profession in Wales. Our long lost but much loved cousin Roger, who started a life as the owner of a footwear business, was known universally as Roger the Shoe. Until he sold the shops and took up a smallholding, at which time he became, proudly, Roger the Pig.

Apparently there are perhaps 45,000 different English surnames, but most had their origins as one of these seven types.

Occupational

Occupational names identified people based on their job or position in society.

Calling a man “Thomas Carpenter” indicated that he worked with wood for a living, while someone named Knight bore a sword.

Other occupational names include Archer, Baker, Brewer, Butcher, Carter, Clark, Cooper, Cook, Dyer, Farmer, Faulkner, Fisher, Fuller, Gardener, Glover, Head, Hunt or Hunter, Judge, Mason, Page, Parker, Potter, Sawyer, Slater, Smith, Taylor, Thatcher, Turner, Weaver, Woodman, and Wright (or variations such as Cartwright and Wainwright) — and there are many more.

This kind of name also gave a clue about whom a servant worked for. Just adding an S to a name indicated a feudal relationship with someone else. So someone named Vickers might have been a servant to Mr. Vicker, and someone named Williams might either have served a William or been adopted by him.

From the obscure fact department: in medieval England, before the time of professional theater, craft guilds put on “mystery plays” (“mystery” meaning “miracle”), which told Bible stories and had a call-and-response style of singing. A participant’s surname — such as King, Lord, Virgin, or Death — may have reflected his or her role, which some people played for their whole life and then passed down to their eldest son.

Describing a personal characteristic

Some names, often adjectives, were based on nicknames that described a person. They may have described a person’s size (Short, Long, Little), coloring (Black, White, Green, or Red, which could also have evolved into “Reed”), or another character trait (Stern, Strong, Swift). Someone named Peacock might have been considered vain, and so on.

From an English place name

A last name may have pointed to where a person was born, lived, worked, or owned land. It might be from the name of a house, farm, hamlet, town, or county. Some examples: Bedford, Burton, Hamilton, Hampshire, Sutton. Writer Jack London’s ancestor, for example, probably hailed from London.

From the name of an estate

Those descended from landowners may have taken as their surname the name of their holdings, castle, manor, or estate, such as Ernle or Staunton. Windsor is a famous example — it was the surname George V adopted for the British royal family to replace their original German name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha during World War I, because they had a home at Windsor Castle. Another Royal anglicised his name from Battenberg (a small town in Germany) to Mountbatten for the same reason. The Queen’s current husband, Prince Philip, also adopted the name Mounbatten, even though he was originally Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. Quite a mouthful.

From a geographical feature of the landscape

Some examples are Bridge, Brooks, Bush, Camp, Fields, Forest, Greenwood, Grove, Hill, Knolles, Lake, Moore, Perry, Stone, Wold, Wood, and Woodruff. Author Margaret Atwood, for example, is probably descended from someone who lived “at the wood.”

Patronymic, matronymic, or ancestral

Patronymic surnames (those that come from a male given name) include Benson (“the son of Ben”), Davis, Dawson, Evans, Harris, Harrison, Jackson, Jones (which is Welsh for John), Nicholson, Richardson, Robinson, Rogers, Simpson, Stephenson, Thompson, Watson, and Wilson.

Matronymic ones, surnames derived from a female given name, include Molson (from Moll, for Mary), Madison (from Maud), Emmott (from Emma), and Marriott (from Mary).

Scottish clan names make up one distinct set of ancestral surnames. These include Armstrong, Cameron, Campbell, Crawford, Douglas, Forbes, Grant, Henderson, Hunter, MacDonald, and Stewart. Anyone with these names has Scottish heritage hiding in their history somewhere.

Signifying patronage

Some surnames honored a patron. Hickman was, literally, Hick’s man (Hick being a nickname for Richard). Kilpatrick was a follower of Patrick.

We have a coat of arms. Ner. Mind you, like "namign a star", we suspect everyone can have a coat of arms if they hunt on Google long enough ...

We have a coat of arms. Nyah nyah. It’s three eagle’s heads rampant, or something or other. Mind you, like “naming a star”, we suspect everyone can have a coat of arms if they hunt on Google long enough … We know more than a few people who own one square foot of Scotland and thus have a legal right to call themselves Laird. Which isn’t far from Lord. Which is only one step away from being bumped up to business class on international flights. Yes, we’re onto you.

And how the hell did we end up with the unusual name Yolland, Dear Reader, which we have been patiently spelling to people over the phone for half a lifetime?

Well, originally this was a West Country Saxon name something like “Attenoldelande” which means “lives at or nearby the cultivated land”. There is some record of a family seat in Lancashire, and there is a Yolland Wood in Devon, near Plymouth. And that’s about it.

So once upon a time, all the Yollands, Yoldelondes, Yelands, Yolandes, Yealands, Yellands, Yeolands, Yallands, Yellens and all the rest were … well, serfs, basically.

Although they may have been free tenant farmers under a Saxon lord. But more likely serfs.

Anyway, before we launch into more quotes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, we simply note that our lineage has been around a very long time, and we have mud under our fingernails.

So there.

 

 

So, if you’ve going to Germany to experience Oktoberfest for beer and sausages this European autumn, chances are you might want to stay away from the wild boar while you’re there: sausages and stews made from which are a delicacy in the forested areas of Europe.

A new study from the German government, reported by The Telegraph, shows that more than one in three wild boar killed by hunters in the region are too radioactive to be safe for humans to eat.

Since 2012, hunters in the Saxony region of Germany have had to get any wild boar they kill tested for radiation. In one year, the state reports that 297 of 752 boar tested contained more than the safe limit of 600 becquerels of radioactive material caesium-137 per kilogram for human consumption. Some boar tested had radiation levels dozens of times higher than the safe limit.

Saxony is 700 miles from Chernobyl, where a 1986 explosion at a nuclear plant sent radioactive material into the atmosphere.Subsquent rain and wind carried the radioactive material far and wide across Europe.

It’s thought that boar are more susceptible to radiation contamination because their diet consists of mushrooms and truffles that are buried in the ground and hold radiation longer than other vegetation. As a result of the contaminated meat, the German government has paid out thousands of euros in compensation to hunters, which have to destroy anything that tests as unsafe and cannot sell it for profit.

Even though it has been 28 years since the Chernobyl disaster – we remember it like it was yesterday – The Telegraph points out that experts say the radiation could be around in unsafe levels for another 50 years. Yummy.


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