Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Here we are on Christmas Eve eve. In Melbourne it is a cool night after several days of hot weather, so at least we will be able to sleep tonight.

Anyway, all that is beside the point. I scanned the photo above last night. It is from my childhood and reminds me of Christmas in the place we were living at the time because my brother's Christmas present is depicted in the photo.

We were given odd things as presents. One year we were all given pith helmets. Mine was powder blue, my brothers helmets were a sort of khaki colour. We loved them and wore them everywhere.

The year of the photo above, my younger brother was given an American Indian tepee and headdress. The present came from my mother's twin brother Uncle D. That was exotica to us. I think I was given a scarab bracelet from Egypt that year which no doubt mollified the desire I may have felt to have my little brother's present.

The photo was taken obviously by my older brother (he isn't in the picture) and shows my younger brother (in headdress) sitting in front of his tepee, surrounded by kids from the mining community up the road. The place is Woods Point, a small mining town in North East Victoria. We lived at the hospital where our mother was the local medico. The Morning Star mine was still in operation those days and the miners and their families lived in a small housing sector slightly out of the main township which was called White City owing to the houses all being painted white.

The photo setting is the side of the hospital. It looks alarmingly overgrown, tall grass everywhere. I'm the big blonde kid standing on the right next to the tree. I appear to be wearing winter clothes, though the other kids are less heavily clad.

The photo was taken with some old brownie box camera which produced little tiny photos, so the quality leaves a lot to be desired. However it does capture an afternoon of long ago, an afternoon drenched in summer sunshine.

Woods Point has been much in my mind of late because of the bush fires. We had rain last night, the first decent fall for weeks, so the threat has now lessened, but has not completely gone away.

As I am unlikely to post again before Christmas - I wish the readers of this blog a very happy and safe festive season.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Dog Days of 2006

Well I’ve been pretty remiss on updating the blog of late, so here’s an update on the state of Cat Politics in these dog days of 2006.

Despite having a bit of a cold a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been kind of busy brushing up on a few courses I attended early in December. One covered the basic essentials of html. You might suppose that as I run several web sites I would be au fait with the basic coding of web pages. Not so, as I use Dreamweaver as a web editor and it requires little knowledge of html. Of course I do understand html quite well, but every code I look up only stays in my head for as long as I need it then disappears. With this in mind, and because at work one is obliged to attend training courses as a part of one’s work performance, I decided to attend one on html.

It was fun and I must admit served the purpose of putting html in context and has given me the confidence to write it. I find it quite an elegant code and armed with this new skill I can now be confident of producing clean code in my web pages.

The other course I attended was for Microsoft Publisher. I am quite experienced in that program, but needed some things clarified after being thrown into the deep end with Basement Discs hiring me to create magazine ads, flyers, posters etc. for their shop. So it was another useful course in terms of my private pursuits, but could also serve at work when such things are required.

I like being creative and find occupying myself in this way absorbing.

There have been no musical treats this month, but January promises some class acts, particularly Mary Gauthier and Steve Young. Mary Gauthier (pronounced go-shay) is an American singer songwriter of remarkable power. I love her songs; they’re so vividly pictorial. As an example here’s two verses from her song “Falling Out Of Love”

It's a cheap hotel, the heat pipes hiss
The bathroom's down the hall, and it smells like piss
It's another night in another town
And I'm another blues traveler headed down

Falling out of love is a dangerous thing
With its slippery slopes and its weighted wings
With its birds of prey circling overhead
Casting vulture shadows on barren beds
Let me out, set me free
Let me out, set me free
Of course you really have to hear Mary sing it in her world-weary voice for it to come alive.

Steve Young is the writer of one of my all time favorite songs “ Seven Bridges Road” and has been around for a very long time. He rarely comes to Australia so it will be wonderful to see him live. Both he and Mary Gauthier are on the same bill at the Northcote Social Club in January.

Naturally I have been reading as much as ever. I whip through a couple of books a week, so it’s hard to remember just what I have been reading. Over the past two weeks I have read Julian Barnes’ “Arthur and George” – a truly beautifully written study of character; “The Evolution Man” by Roy Lewis, a book plucked off my bookshelf when at a loss as to what to read next. It’s an old Penguin book with the typical fantastic cover art that Penguin paperbacks used have back in the 60s, 70s & 80s “The Evolution Man” is an odd book, a sort of primer on the evolution of man told from the point of view of an evolving humanoid. It’s a comical and clever book and I found it an entertaining read. I’ve also whizzed through George Saunders’ “The Brief & Frightening Reign of Phil” and “The Sidmouth Letters” by Jane Gardam. I’ve now started “Riddley Walker” sent me by Clare Dudman as my prize for winning her BAFAB competition. So far, so good, I’ve gradually got the hang of the dialect and am finding it easier to read than at first expected.

I suppose calling this entry “Dog Days” is a bit of a misnomer in that Melbourne has only had the occasional hot day since summer officially began. Nevertheless, the visible haze and smell of smoke from the bushfires raging out of control in the North and East of the State, adds to that summer feel.

The bush fires are rather worrying. I for one am glad I don’t live in the bush. One of the towns threatened is Woods Point where I spent five happy years in my childhood. At that time the shadow of the 1939 fires still haunted the town. It was wiped out then.
I remember worrying about how I would save my cat from the flames. It used to torment me. It is a very quaint little town with unique architecture, so it would be an awful shame if it were destroyed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oh Frabjous Day

There was good news on the political front today with the election of Kevin Rudd to lead the Labour Party into the next election. All of a sudden there is an optimistic light shining out from the doom and gloom of our recent expectations.

Kevin Rudd as leader represents a fresh approach from the Opposition, which hopefully will succeed in toppling Howard at the next election. I had quite resigned myself to seeing that lying rat staying in power forever. Every election in the past 10 years has been excruciating in this regard, our hopes of a Labour victory being dashed over and over again.

Mr Howard as well as being a consummate liar is a very canny politician. He gets away with telling whoppers, deceiving the Australian people in ways that smack of a 1984 disinformation campaign where everyone knows he’s lying, but it seems as if it doesn’t matter. He bribes the electorate to forget and actively encourages distrust and racism within the community. It’s high time he was tossed out, before Australia becomes a pariah on the world stage, if it isn’t
one already.

Kevin Rudd’s deputy is Julia Gillard, a young politician whose career I have followed with interest. She has stood up to the worst the Federal Government can throw at her and has acquitted herself well against the likes of head kickers such as Tony Abbot. She has the potential to become Australia’s first woman Prime Minister.

We can finally live in hope again, for as I have mentioned before, I despaired of Labour ever winning under Kim Beasley.

That's not to say that I don't feel for Kim Beasley losing after trying so hard for all these years. It was doubly distressing for him that his younger brother died, which he only learned after the spill. What an awful day for him!

Friday, December 01, 2006

National Day of Action Revisited

Yesterday I got out of bed at 6.30am in order to make it to the rally at the MCG to protest the Howard Government’s draconian industrial laws. I got to the arena in good time and endured waiting for the show to begin in the freezing cold of the morning.

It was a pretty good turnout, I thought. They didn’t actually fill the “G” but more than half filled it. Above is a photo of part of the crowd near where I was sitting, colourful as ever.

We were entertained and harangued by a variety of politicians, trade union bosses, comedians etc. Unfortunately, the sound was so bad you couldn’t hear a word that was said. However, the atmosphere was enthusiastic and the crowd biddable.

After the scheduled show, which terminated with famous Aussie rocker Jimmy Barnes singing a few songs, one of them naturally “Working Class Man”, we all marched to Federation Square for more haranguing and entertainment.

Of course the Federal Government belittled the rally, sneering at the supposedly small numbers who took part. Actually there were about 50,000 + participating, so if I was Howard I wouldn’t sneer too openly. It could represent a backlash against his Government, which would throw it from power. I got a cool “Howard Hater” badge from the Socialists.

CD Launch at Manchester Lane

Well, I was disappointed to find, Manchester Lane is not like the Continental. It’s a classy joint, but not really my cup of tea as far as venues go. For a start it was extremely noisy in terms of chatter. The sound from the stage was too low so the chatter was all the more distracting. I foolishly assumed that people went there for the music. Obviously not. I’d prefer to go to the Northcote Social Club any day.

Despite these setbacks, Sunshine Harvester’s launch was good fun and Moana was in fine fettle as well as her ace little band, which was enhanced by the addition of a string bass and a banjo, played respectively by two very talented young local musicians.

I could go on, but as I appear to have succumbed to some sort of fluish lurgy, I feel a bit dopy and disinclined to elaborate. You’ll just have to settle for a picture of the band.