Monday, August 31, 2020

A Proper Blog September 2020 - Neighbour Gatherings, Books, Music, Politics.


Ok. The standard Blog, because I want to remember these rains when the fires come later in the year.    I want to remember a week of rain filled windy nights, trees soughing like a mad sea. Dams on Cooleman Ridge are full. Brilliant. The last time they were full was in 2014. Beanies, gloves and thermal for my morning walk against the snow sharp winds. Exhilarating!

Meanwhile Aussie fire fighters are off to California to assist with the fight over there. A reciprocal arrangement which sadly resulted in the death of two from the USA earlier this year when their water bomber crashed.

How are we coping with the pandemic? So far ok. It's very frustrating not to able to visit our daughter and family in Bali or our son and partner in Melbourne. But hopefully things will change once a vaccine is available. Well the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney has 'ethical concerns' with the Oxford vaccine because of its development using an aborted fetus. You think a new 'enlightened' Pope might make a difference, but nope, it's the same old Middle Age's hidebound beliefs. You might think the Archbishop would have ethical concerns about putting so many Catholics at risk. This is an organisation which enjoys tax free status, which is worth at least 30 BILLION dollars HERE in Australia. An organisation which fought tooth and nail by paying for the best legal bazookas, in order to minimise sexual abuse compensation payments. Ethical concerns?? Business is booming.,taxation%2C%20and%20minimal%20public%20accountability.

Here in Upper Holder aka Number 9 Place we have been having regular gatherings of our neighbours which has helped us cope with the restrictions of COVID 19. On average it has been about one night every three weeks. Some nights have been chilly mid Winter weather but this has been alleviated by a converted heater shell belonging to good neighbour Geordie in which the wood burns like a cracker. A wine or two further insulates against the elements. Another wine or two and you don't feel anything really except love for your neighbour. Yes, we've become biblical. May the chat and laughter continue, it has brought the neighbourhood closer.

At last night's meeting we had a new heater courtesy of good neighbour Bryn who converted an old heater provided by Denise and I. Denise spotted it outside a house in Heysen St and we zoomed over and relieved them of it. Midnight Heaters. Oh, also last night we enjoyed Bryn's slow roasted pork, pork knuckle and chicken. Beautiful. Denise provided rolls and a salad of cabbage, mint, apple, shallot with a dressing of sour cream, lemon and olive oil. A perfect accompaniment.


I just finished Dissolution by C.J. Sansome, the first in his Shardlake series. A hunchback lawyer who solves crimes in Tudor times, the time of dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. It was engrossing and of course begs comparison with the Cromwell books by Hilary Mantel, particularly as one reviewer rated Sansome as the better writer. He isn't, Mantel is poetic, she bedazzles and draws you into her warmth, but he is very good. I'm just about to start The Mirror and The Light, the third and final in the series.

Also by Sansome was his reconstruction of WW2 whereby England surrendered to Hitler. Called Dominion I found it a fascinating and compelling read.

Haruki Murakami is a Japanese novelist who is an institution in his own country. He is described by The Times as 'one of the most important contemporary novelists.' All of his books have been translated and are readily available – Harry Hartog's in Woden has a selection, or your local library. I have found some at Canty's in Fyshwick.

The novels are compelling in plot, well written and almost casual in style, but allegorical perhaps, existential questions loom. He uses magic realism in some, and things may not be as they seem.  Aphorisms pop up here and there, hidden truths to assist you in your journey. Delving into Murakami will take you on a unique journey quite unlike anything you have read previously.

My introduction was his 2014 Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which followed Tsukuru in his quest to find the reason for his friends' dismissal of his friendship. A good place to start but if you want to dive full on into prime Murakami, the novels IQ84, or The Wind Up Bird Chronicle will get you there. The three books of IQ84 are available in a single volume at Harry Hartog for $20. The library has the separate books.

I bought Paul Kelly's Love Is Strong As Death, his choice of poetry. I just love compilations. You can always find a gem in there. Paul Kelly is very well read, as you'd expect for such a prolific song writer. Almost everyone is within, from The Bible, Sappho, Homer, Shakespeare to Blake, Whitman, Plath, Hughes, but no D.H. Lawrence. All the major Aussies. Everyone you might expect. No Lawrence! He did live a couple of months at Thirroul down in The Gong and we've claimed him, as you do. D.H. Lawrence from The Gong.

I found Sharon Olds, now 77, ripper. Very good, sexual and sensuous with humour and bite. And Hera Lindsay Bird, the young New Zealand poet with her raunchy 'Keats Is Dead So Fuck Me From Behind.' Seize the day indeed...

Another poetry collection I bought is Poems That Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony and Ben Holden. The second one of the 100 listed was 'Elegy' by Tidiock Tichborne which was written in 1586 on the eve of the poet's execution. I was astounded. The poem is perfect, and I wondered how he could produce such a gem and be so reflective in the face of the morrow's coming brutality? More than that, it opened so many questions, but principally how a person who was surrounded by the love of his wife and his five sisters and the love for his young child could risk everything to murder another woman, his monarch? I will put up a blog about this soon. The poem also appears in the Paul Kelly book.

Our U3A short story group has been tasked with compiling a list of our ten most memorable books. Now that is a task I will enjoy! I'll add them to this post once I've worked it out. Or maybe the following one.

Music on the speakers.

A variety, it depends on the mood and whether listening in the car or on the home speakers. At home I enjoy classical and jazz, Bach's violin concertos with their deep cello sounds, Miles Davis – I found a remastered version of Bitches Brew recently, such a mighty album. Any of Patricia Barber's albums. I'm surprised she's not more well known. A great composer, pianist and vocalist who uses poetic lyrics and a fusion of jazz and rock, and chooses the best accompanists – she deserves more acclaim.

I've always admired Malian Rokia Traore and found her album Beautiful Africa at the last Lifeline bookfair – a happy find, it's up with her best. Great composer, sublime singer and good guitarist who incorporates Malian sounds with rock - though note that there are many styles in Mali.

Nick Cave's recent Ghosteen follows on from Skeleton Tree as a meditation on the tragic death of his son. An amazing album and is possibly to rock music what Ulysses was to literature. Achingly beautiful, it's not background music. I'm hoping for a return to raw rock, maybe a stripped down Seeds in the form of a third Grinderman album.

Simple raw rock is what you get with the now finally released Creedence Clearwater Rivival Live At Woodstock. John Fogarty initially opposed the release – he wasn't happy with it for some reason, but it's prime CCR with tracks from the first three albums including fabulous extended versions of I Put A Spell On You, Chooglin' and Suzie Q.

The tragic death of Justin Townes Earle last week lead me to check out his last album, The Saint Of Lost Causes. It is a knockout for my taste. He has eight albums I think of which I've heard maybe three others. I need to check out more. He was here at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in 2010 and 2012. 

There's a photo in the 2012 blog of old pal Len with Justin.


We're stuffed.

We have a government that has no real climate change policy, that discourages alternative energy, that even now is proposing to build coal fired power stations, that has done nothing to encourage electric vehicles, that supports fossil fuel to the hilt, all this despite the recent fires which are of course a state responsibility... oh yes, blame it on the states, along with Corona virus health care, aged care, the Murray Darling etc.

LNP government is responsible to a large extent for the aged care crisis and associated deaths, the careless robo debt debacle (and associated deaths...), the under powered NBN, the cuts to our national broadcaster, work choices and associated breakdown of salaries and conditions, the sports rort corruption, the wreck that is the Murray Darling river system, among other incompetencies.

When our family arrived in this country we were welcomed. Australia was known as a friendly, welcoming country. Not so much now. We lock up bone fide refugees in concentration camps for years. Lately Commandant Dutton has sought to take away their mobile phones, lifelines to their families. It is cruel and inhumane. Like his treatment of the Sri Lankan family who lived in Biloela, Queensland and were supported by that community. Their two girls were born in Australia. They have been moved to Christmas Island, the sole detainees.

The LNP, principally Dutton supported by Morrison, reopened Christmas Island at a cost of tens of millions. One estimation was 130 million. Then 30 million since reopening. They put 130 Serco employees on the island initially, now down to 104, in expectation of an influx, but in reality to guard the family of four.

This is a bloody minded mean spirited vindictive government. The ex ASIS whistle blower Witness K has pleaded guilty to spilling the beans on a deed which was illegal, unethical and an act of pure bastardy on a poor, friendly neighbour. His lawyer Bernard Collaery is to be prosecuted. These two are regarded as heroes in Timor-Leste. Howard and Downer should hang their heads in shame for approving the bugging of the offices of the Timor-Leste government. They should be prosecuted for bringing the reputation of Australia into disrepute.

Recently PM Morrison blindly acceded to a request from the US President Trump to blame the Chinese for the virus. Note that the virus could have started anywhere, the Chinese didn't manufacture it, and they put in immediate measures to contain it which have worked well domestically. Regardless, it is not Australia's place to criticise, nor to blindly follow a faulty wired President who may be ousted soon. I mean seriously, why would you criticise  when so much of our economy relies on Chinese trade? It shows an appalling lack of foresight. It was amazingly ill judged, even for the LNP. And where are the National Party, champions of the farmers? You'd think they would be honking like the geese they are. Too busy dining with mining giants you think?

Australia was one of the first friends of China thanks to Goff Whitlam. Both Morrison and Trump will soon be gone, sluiced down the 'S' bend of history where they belong. Goff Whitlam is, and will continue to be remembered as a PM with vision, courage and integrity, both here and in China. 

Monday, December 30, 2019


Catch me and fly or the moment
will die. I am Kairos and
I surmount everything.

I have wings on my feet, I am
quicker than the wind, I am
forever in a hurry, catch me

see me flash by in a moment,
I die in a flash, you must seize
the hair on my forehead

or lose your opportunity
to grasp your chance, I have
no hair at the back of my head

and if I overfly, you will
never catch me again, no
matter how much you call.

I am Kairos, I surmount
everything. Forget me
at your peril. I am a moral to all.

I have adapted these lines from those of the poet Posidippos, 3rd Century B.C.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

John The Baptist in the Temple of Augustus, Pula, Croatia

When we visited the port town of Pula, Croatia this year, we came upon the Temple of Augustus which had been built between 2BC and 14AD during the Emperor's lifetime. Surprisingly it had survived until 1944 when it was hit by a bomb. Rebuilt in 1947 it is now intactus once again. A large statue of John the Baptist by famous Croatian artist Ivan Mestrovic had been placed inside. I saw this as being somewhat ironic and imagined a conversation between the Emperor and the Baptist.

These walls are cold, the wind howls outside.
Voices indecipherable whistle around this chamber
ritual chant, some moan, weep.

An insistent murmur becomes louder
Baptist, Baptist! Did you enjoy your locusts and honey?
Why are you here? You, a Jew. A vagrant

in my temple. You are no God. I am a God,
you an impostor. Well speak! Speak to me...
Speak to your Emperor! I can't stand this silence.

This silence, deathly silence of centuries
the clicking of insects... at times
I thought I heard birds calling...

Lately my temple was blown apart.
We were rebuilt. There are times I wish it
had remained rubble. A god's life is a lonely one.
I command you to speak.

What would you have me say Augustus?

Emperor, Emperor! I am due that respect!
At least. I am a God. A God. You are
a peasant, a Jewish peasant

placed here in my temple like a god
your hand in gesture as though you hold
the meaning of the universe!

Let us see prophet what became of you.
I can conjure it up now, you see Salome dancing
your life away, an entrancing sight..?

So charmed was Herod that he granted her wish.
Now we find your severed head on a silver platter,
Ha – see the the needles in your tongue,

an artistic touch, some might say barbaric..?
But tell me, what did you give to your people to
deserve this honour? Speak!

What would you have me say Augustus?
That I am a thief being here? I was no thief.
I am no god. Nor Messiah. I gave my people hope.

Hope in the vengeance and mercy of Jehovah.
This, in the tyranny, sword thrust and
blood lust of Roman occupation. When all was despair

they had that sweet swell of hope within
to sup upon, that one day we would rise again.
We did. But we lost our belief in Jehovah.

Baptist you were the fool. Humans are flawed.
The common herd requires direction,
requires a whip crack across the back

a sword at the throat to keep them
in line, to make them obey. I gave them this.
My gift. Thus we marry order to duty.

I also prescribed law and made government.
I built their cities, their roads, their tunnels
bridges and canals, their aqueducts. Yes, their prisons too.
I conquered and slaughtered their enemies.

I gave them their triumphs. I fed them, housed them
I built arenas for their entertainment
trained the gladiators, starved the beasts

so that they would crack the bones, tear
the flesh and spray the blood, of those who
would ruffle the robes of our Holy Mother Roma.
The herd loves to see blood seep into the sand.

It's cathartic. And you Baptist? I ask you again.
What did you do to deserve this place in my temple?
You baptised the so called Son of God?

Yeshua was no more god than you Augustus.
Jehovah was his god. He was a good man.
He lived by our Torah. He brought

hope and food for the soul to the poor,
the hungry, the sick, the destitute. When
they had nothing he gave them joy and the Holy Spirit.

But Baptist, he was no god. We know that now.
He didn't die, I know that. The one instance
we have of crucifixion failing. He died

when we found him later and made certain
he would never rise again. Of course
Tiberius kept it quiet, we failed in our execution.

He expected it all to dissipate with time.
Now there's a god, my son Tiberius.
A cruel god, eh? No one prays to him now.

But those stories persisted. And Yeshua
became Jesus Christus. Temples everywhere.
The most grand in Holy Mother Rome. A travesty!

Augustus, figuratively, it was no lie.
He rose again in his teachings. But they
were tailored to Saul's vision.

Some excised some inserted, three hundred
years of shaping the garment, to fit the plot
to clothe the narrative.

He would have been horrified had he known.

Baptist, I still don't know why you are here!
These walls are as cold as fate
 the wind howls outside.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Haiku From The Far East

Sea swell Osaka
liquid lead and white
Suddenly the sun

Tokyo. Tokyo yo
So many minted faces
One could never know

Canals in Suzhou
Gliding fresh concubines to
Light the royal wick

Japan to Shanghai
Sea skin smooth as mercury
Belly full of fish

Tokyo dolly bird
I smile lift my camera
She turns her head away

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Professor Bebe Hopo. Hat Fitz and Cara. C.W. Stoneking.

I have decided to republish some of my reviews and publish new reviews. The corporate websites
which published them originally cannot be relied upon to maintain them on the increasingly over populated web. The first republished review, Malian diva Oumou Sangare's Seya can be found at
Also, I wish to thank my fellow music blogger in Paris, Professor Bebe Hopo,
for publishing my review of Aussie blues performer C.W. Stoneking and my photos of Hat Fitz and Cara on his generous website.

Check it out. Do yourself a favour!! The Professor's website which some might describe as zany – who uses 'zany' these days? – ok idiosyncratic and some might say weird – promotes mainly American, British and French roots music ie rockabilly, rock n roll, soul, jazz, r'n b, blues etc etc. It is a rabbit warren, some might say treasure trove, of information, musical opinion, and links to the professor's playlists of rare and obscure tracks.

My recent April 2019 post on Facebook:

A great night during the week at the Harmonie German Club, 'Home of the Famous Pork Knuckle', to see Hat Fitz and his partner Cara Robinson. I remember Hat from his early days at the Byron Bay Bluesfest playing in the packed, sweaty Juke Joint, bellowing like some old 20's bluesman searching for his soul, Son House, Charlie Patton, some Blind Willie raging against his fate. He and C.W. Stoneking were the real deal. Check out the early risque Yo Yo Blues with Itchy on percussion
recorded at The Pot Belly in Canberra.

Now, with Irish partner Cara Robinson, the sounds are more sophisticated, some soul, gospel, Celtic and still some blues, with power. Check out the version below from their first album of Blind Willie McTell's Deliah. Quite fabulous. Much better than Bob Dylan's version.

They now write their own material and here is their current single, the soulful Hold On.

C.W. Stoneking performed at the ANU here in Canberra a few weeks back, unfortunately when we were in China (although the China trip was great). Here is my review of the first album King Hokum from C.W. Stoneking which can also be seen at the Professor Beeb Hopo link above. C.W. has had two releases since King Hokum, Gon' Boogaloo and Jungle Blues, both well received.

Here in Australia we are blessed with some fine blues musicians, some surprisingly in the raw, primitive, rootsy style. Three artists stand out for me, Hat Fitz, the group Collard, Greens and Gravy and the inimitable C.W.Stoneking. How does Oz produce living anachronisms like Fitz and Stoneking when the genre emerged almost a century back in the U.S.A. born out of the black experience? Well there may be similarities in the culture apart from Australia’s natural propensity to produce quirky offspring.

C.W. Stoneking spent his early years way out of the Alice on an aboriginal settlement, so the bio says. His West Virginian father was a teacher there. The parents split up, his mother returned to the U.S. Who knows, the bio may be Stoneking’s story to flavour his art, much as Bob Zimmerman concocted his bio in the early years.

In fact there are many similarities between early Dylan and C.W. Stoneking. Both excellent songwriters, interpreters, singers, musicians, appreciators and appropriators of roots music, entertainers. Dylan with his Chaplinesque comedy on stage and C.W muttering away between songs in a rustic black American/aboriginal patois which requires subtitles and some tangential imagination to follow. Both artists steeped in the form, in its many guises. Both artists with a touch of sly wit, put on, hokum.

King Hokum is an extraordinary album. C.W. Stoneking is a deceptively fine guitarist and banjo player, not flash but subtle, spare and gutsy. The years of solo performing bear fruit. The addition of the Primitive Horn Orchestra on several tracks provides superb backdrop which finds you immersed in a New Orleans saloon in the late 1920s. The production by J. Walker is marvellously empathic; a warm atmosphere where less is more – a lesser producer with a modern brush could easily have ruined the album. Various ambient noises, the caw of a crow, toll of a bell, bustle of a bar add to the atmosphere.

Musical highlights are many. Mike Andrews’ piano, particularly on the boogie piece ‘Goin The Country’, Chris Tanner’s clarinet on ‘Rich Man’s Blues’, Kirsty Fraser’s sassy vocals on the vaudeville blues pieces, the rich, loose punctuation of the Primitive Horn Orchestra, but above all C.W.’s vocals and playing. His voice is tough and ragged, loud and languid. You hear echoes of Son House, Charlie Patton, Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Willie McTell and in ‘Bad Luck Everywhere You Go’ the screech of the Memphis recorded Howlin’ Wolf – used also by Tom Waits, if memory serves me. In the guitar work you can hear Robert Johnson, Lonnie Johnson and Memphis Minnie.

His dialogue intros depict a rare understanding of the form and are witty and droll. There is a danger of pastiche but C.W. is too clever or honest for that. In the 20's style the double entendre and sexual metaphor is present, however it will fly over the heads of any teenagers listening. Unless you laugh. In which case you may have to explain why Willie’s long necked lizard went limp or why she wanted a cockatoo!!

Each track is a gem, delivering more with further listening. Such conviction and artistry would lead lesser bluesmen to the crossroads. C.W. Stoneking is in his early thirties. We can look forward to further expression of his art. In the meantime, give praise.

This is Stoneking's unique recording of Seven Nation Army, recorded for the Triple J 'Like A Version' series.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Elegy For An Honoured Guest

Our blue bowl beauty cracks under the sun;
it groans, and constricts before our eyes
scientists warn that its time has come,
yet Keith 'Riff'' Richards is still alive.

The Rosella turns brown beneath this heat
the bees diminish and lose their direction
the ants have retreated beneath the ground
and old Keith still gets no satisfaction.

Our rivers are stagnant the fish are upended
heaving and gasping one eye to the sky
in dark green pools of still putrid waters
once fresh and flowing, now somewhere to die.

The loony deniers still dance their denial
of science, in greed and gormless myth.
It's said that Keith smoked his old man's ashes
just one more swaggering rock and roll riff.

Is that what we're doing with our inaction,
smoking the ashes of a wonderful world?
Is this the gift we pass down to our children;
a danse macabre: a disaster in twirl?

Whose world transfigures through our excesses?
We've fired the leaves, fouled water and air
no gods will warn us, scorn us or save us
we reap what we sow: no less than despair.

This Earth will receive an honoured guest
When Keith 'Riff' Richards is laid out to rest.

Note: The final two lines are reworked from WH Auden's elegy for WB Yeats.
Keith Richards is a member of the Rolling Stones rock band. He was infamous for his dissolute lifestyle, apart from his music. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Absolution: Cardinal George Pell and the Pontiff

Absolution is the conclusion
of the sacrament of Penance,
a jewel of the seven sacraments.

If a Cardinal lies to a Pontiff...
a minor misrepresentation perhaps..,
or all that his memory provides...
We are nothing if not imperfect beings.
If he lies for the Church? A venial sin surely..?
The Pontiff senses the existential crises.

The reputation of all that was blessed
is shredded by special commissions laying
bare the beasts within, those who succumbed
to the works and pomps of The Devil
those who entertained their base nature
those who made the little children suffer,
the innocents who should have been sheltered
and were horribly violated.

You must return and clear your name,
if you are certain as you claim,
that you are snared in political folly,
a victim of those who would harm our Church?

I am, Your Holiness. But despite
my innocence, the rumours and the press
have painted me guilty. It is impossible
to receive a fair trial now. It is quite possible
that I would be imprisoned, probable
in fact, the scales are tipped against me.
And I am old now, my health is ragged
Your Holiness, it deteriorates rapidly.
A pacemaker regulates my heartbeat.

There are popes and there are popes. This one
is too moderate... too holy perhaps.
If only Ratzinger were still here, he would say
let them rattle their cages,
let them stack their faggots,
let them howl for blood, you are here within
the bosom of Mother Church; rest easy, within.

For some reason an image of that girl,
the one mother made me take to the final
primary year dance, appears now.
She wrote as an 'old friend with a word of advice'.
The rumours have embarrassed her;
if only I would return and clear my name.
God was with me, God will care for His own.

Priests are lonely people, and some more than others.
Some, like Ridsdale are weak. Everybody
has his Achilles Heel. I kept it under
control, mostly. An occasional lapse.

I despised the weak. Man up! I said to him.
Say a decade of the rosary and ask
for the grace to overcome temptation.
It was in his nature and I forgave him.
A priest's life is a lonely one.

But George, he said, there's no one else here.
I am afflicted, why did He make me like this?
I told him, I said, During the sacrament
of confession you will address me as 'Father'.

I was hard on the weak in the confessional.
Mine was the Voice of God. That girl, the one
made pregnant by her father, so she said.
I told her. If you have an abortion
I cannot forgive you. So I will go
to Hell? She asked. You will receive your just
punishment. But what can I do? She asked.

These are simple folk. The flock ha. Humanity.
Beer, footy and a root on a Saturday.
They need to know where sin lies. You sin,
and you risk damnation for eternity.
My God is to be feared. He is not a loving god.

All that Vatican 11 kumbaya skippy stuff.
Not for My God. That's why we are where we are.
The rabble needs rules, a stiff rod.
In essence they are stupid. But they can lynch you.
The pack mentality. I hear them now,
they slaver and howl.

Cardinal, our flocks diminish, our shepherds die.
You must return, for your sake and for the
sake of Holy Mother Church. Say a decade
of the rosary and ask for God's mercy
understanding and blessing in your future trials.
Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat...

So, that's it. It has come to this. Me...
The Sacrificial Lamb. Such heavenly irony.

Well, my lawyers will see about that one.
I will be Pontiff one day. The Church needs
my guiding hand. My God knows it. 

A Proper Blog September 2020 - Neighbour Gatherings, Books, Music, Politics.

  Ok. The standard Blog, because I want to remember these rains when the fires come later in the year.    I want to remember a week of rai...