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Number of posts: 68
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Posts by Frank Povah:
act of cultural vandalism
An open letter to my elected, so-called representatives: This present Australian Government is trotting dog-like down the path to destruction behind its conservative counterparts in the US and elsewhere, bent on transforming us into a society where the environment, the economy and the national social conscience are left to the tender mercies of the free market and corporate “self-regulation”.
rights vs. wrongs
The thoughts so well expressed by Mike Cox in Freeing Free Speech once again set me thinking about my own attitudes to this thorny issue. It’s a difficult one for me; on the one hand I’m pretty much against censorship and all for free speech, on the other I despise those who sneer at ‘political correctness’ for no other reason than that it curtails their right to be offensive to people who are different from them.
a land down under
Jeffrey Lee is an elder of the Djok, the clan whose land, Koongarra, was given to them in the Dreaming and is therefore held by the people in sacred trust. Jeffrey is its senior custodian, keeping strong and alive the rituals and ceremony needed to ensure its well-being until the end of time beyond time as it turns within the great cycle of its Dreaming.
It seems donkey’s years since I’ve put finger to keyboard to contribute, and I don’t really know why. Like The Dew is always a great read and just as I’ve enjoyed contributing, I’ve enjoyed the many and varied passions of its contributors. But these past few months I seem to have been visited by that come-and-go ennui that seems from time to time to plague anyone involved in creative pursuits, but the packers have been and gone and with them the mood that has prevailed over the past few months.
Boy, will I be happy when this election is over at last – though I use “happy” with qualifications. If Romney manages to crack it, I’ll be decidedly unhappy, if Obama wins I’ll be relieved more than joyful. Unless of course he at long last begins to assert himself and force the neo-reicht into revealing what they actually are: fascists in Christian hedge fund manager’s clothing, though that’s possibly a tautology.
To touch briefly on Monday night’s debate, I have to admire Governor Romney. His ability to stand in front of a nation and keep a straight face while contradicting just about every statement he has ever made is just awesome –Mitt the Oxymormon.
Save The Burrup
I’m going to tell you a little bit more about Australia and its peoples – good and bad – but first, as promised earlier, I want to list a few of the things that have been accomplished under the leadership of the much-maligned Julia Gillard. As I wrote last time, Ms Gillard is ridiculed in many quarters and from what I can see it’s simply because she doesn’t fit the mould, but under her gritty leadership the Labor government is now forging ahead with projects that her predecessors lacked the guts or vision, or both, to push through; notably:
You can blame Tom Ferguson for this one – in a response to my take on the Democratic Convention, he asked if I might consider giving a run-down on events in Australia, the land that shaped and nurtured me from the time of my conception. It’s probably not a bad idea, Australia is a mystery to most Americans – it still mystifies me sometimes – so I’ll give it a burl and see if I can’t occasionally give you the oil on what goes on in the Old Brown Land, politically, socially and culturally.
In a comment on one of my pieces, a reader opined that he or she suspected I may not be a fan of American Football. That reader was right, and I suppose I could have just admitted the fact and left it at that. But I didn’t, it’s not in me, and I’ve had to get off my bike and say so even at the risk of tarring and feathering and possible loss of my Green Card the application for which asked me if I was intending to overthrow the Government of the United States. If Mitt the Oxymormon gets to see this, I’m buggered.
Made for TeeVee
Well, I’ve now seen my second US political convention, live on HD teevee, and I’m still a little shell-shocked.
Before I go any further, let me say that in Australia I have always voted on the so-called left side of the political fence. From voting age till the 1990s I was a supporter of the Australian Labor Party (note the US spelling, it has an interesting history), until its stand on environmental and immigration issues and its gradual caving in to the demands of giant corporations gave my vote to the Australian Greens.
Good luck America
Most Dewbies probably know that I’m an Australian, so they may understand my bogglement upon viewing for the first time a teevee broadcast of a US political party’s convention. Well that’s not exactly the truth; back in Australia news broadcasts will be showing clips of the proceedings as part of the coverage of the US elections and no doubt Australians will be shaking their heads and muttering “Bloody hell – only in America.”
Off My Chest
We’d lost Dan by the time he was six; even at that age I reckon he’d already decided society really didn’t have much to offer a kid who had to wear an iron and leather calliper on one leg, and if he couldn’t keep up, then no-one was going to wait for him. Problem was, by the time he was three or four years old, Dan, like so many kids in his position, had already experienced enough pain and mental anguish to last a lifetime, though no one seemed to notice. Problem was, Dan’s Old Man, like so many others, had not long been back from five years in the “Big Stoush” – World War II – and had his own demons to fight.
Things get in the way. This morning I was going to write the second installment of a story begun last week but it wasn’t to be. On Friday last, the postie – that’s Australian for mailman or, in my case, mailwoman – delivered a piece of junk mail that saw Rabbie Burns’ Law kick in. The Great Scot’s ghost was still hovering about the house when I read a Dana Milbank (Washington Post) piece in the Opinion pages of Sunday’s Lexington Herald-Leader, and is looking over my shoulder today as I listen to UK’s public radio station WUKY. I was going to ignore it, but it’s just no good to try…
A Kit of Soaring Pigeons
Butler’s Swamp has gone. Confined, sanitized and renamed Lake Claremont, it has been incorporated into a ritzy housing subdivision with its own golf course.
I once covered every square foot of that old swamp in a tin canoe, exploring its reed beds and mud-bars, looking for water rats and reed-warblers’ nests and hoping against hope to encounter a norn – a black tiger snake – lying in wait for some unsuspecting frog. At dusk, squadron upon squadron of little black and little pied cormorants flew in from the Swan River to roost in the paperbarks and drowned gums.
Last Saturday night I found myself watching the farcical teevee extravaganza euphemistically titled the GOP Nominees’ Debate – or something like that anyway; it’s difficult to remember the title thanks to the breathtakingly inept performances by everyone concerned, not least the producer, who obviously has no idea of what a debate actually is.
As an aside, I viewed this revelation of political thought and process at the home of some good friends. Australian Americans and fellow devotees of Spike Milligan and the Goon Show, they saw this presentation in the same light as I did – lacking the pathos-tinged humor and intelligence of Milligan but equally close to sliding over the edge into lunacy. Am I alone in thinking that no one in their right mind could possibly take any of them as suitable candidates to lead the nation at a time when humanity is facing possibly its greatest challenges ever?
Lived to Write About It
It’s becoming clearer, so I can probably write about it now. Not for any particular reason, other perhaps than to get it straight in my own mind and to bring some sort of mental order to what is still a confusing nine days.
It all began with what was to have been routine laparoscopic surgery. After months of going round the houses, a specialist had diagnosed a bad case of gallstones – a diagnosis confirmed by an ultrasound examination – and I was booked into our local hospital to have my gall bladder removed. … Then it got weird – weird and terrifying.
Today, Wednesday September 14, is the fourth day I have been without a telephone service of any description. It appears that the service began to fail intermittently from about Friday 9th until the morning of Monday 12th, when it became permanently inoperable.
Have any of your organization’s administrators attempted to navigate the AT&T website to lodge a repair request for a land-line telephone service? I suspect not. Neatly laid out it may be, but the typeface chosen for the introductory page is an obscure one and on my computer … is rendered so small and so pixelated as to be unreadable …
Once again a not-uncommon natural phenomenon has demonstrated that the only sensible place for electricity transmission lines is underground. Perhaps not the giant feeder lines rated in thousands of kiloVolts (why not Megavolts I wonder), but certainly those ubiquitous pole hangers that for a hundred years and more have teeter-tottered for mile after mile through suburb and farmland alike.
The utility companies argue that to bury the lines would be prohibitively expensive and the knock-on cost crippling to the customer, and put that way, it’s a pretty scary argument – the hip-pocket nerve is very sensitive after all – but how much does this antiquated delivery system, virtually unchanged since Edison’s day, cost the consumer now?
When first we arrived in the US, we stayed with family in the Northern Wastes where we had to a fair bit of driving around so that the other half could catch up with friends and sort out the 1001 little things that had cropped up during her time in the Old Brown Land.
It was during these excursions that I came across the billboard that led to this story. I don’t know the name of the company it advertised because it was always the catchline that grabbed my attention: “90,000 Brides Serviced”…
Since calling to cancel my satellite teevee/internet connection I’ve been contacted by the company’s “customer satisfaction” person who has offered to lower the cost of my plans and give me a free service call to see if there’s a problem with my dish (I’ve been complaining for 18 months to no avail).
Several minutes later a “rival” ISP called to tell me that a government subsidy, aimed at people like me, allows his company to offer free installation and no rental fee for its equipment. He told me, when asked, that this plan has been in effect since October. “Why didn’t they tell me this last week when I enquired about the plans on offer?” I wanted to know.
It’s a wonder anyone in Kentucky, or the US for that matter, bothers with a satellite internet connection – anyone living more than 10 minutes from a town of any reasonable size, that is. Not only are the available options painfully slow – though the satellite ISPs tout their wares with superlatives such as “blisteringly fast” – they are expensive and many of the “service providers” (their words, not mine) employ somewhat suspect tactics to keep you in their talons once they have you signed up.
I’m in awe of Rand Paul; the man must have the hide of a rhinoceros. He was sent to Washington after convincing the voters of Kentucky that he believed in the same god that they did – though he seems less fearful of divine retribution – and was going to spend his time there to force the Career Politicians to Cut Spending, Balance The Budget and return the country to the Golden Days, those presumably being whenever it was that the Clan Paul consolidated its position. He also railed against Vested Interests and Taxation and politicians who Weren’t Doing what they were Elected To Do.
So what’s the lad doing now? Well for one, he’s touring the country to promote his new book, The Tea Party Goes To Washington. Apparently he’s already got things in the capital so well organized that he doesn’t need to be there all the time …
Writing about my last Povah, I explained my reasons for keeping my award recipients to myself and I see no reason to change that policy. However, as happened on that occasion, sometimes something comes along that’s just too good to be left alone.
This week’s award deservedly belongs to one of NBC’s seemingly inexhaustable supply of “news analysts”, one-time FBI profiler and now security savant, Dr Clint Van Zandt. Dr Van Zandt was allegedly explaining for our benefit the mental processes of a man arrested and charged in England for the abduction, murder by crossbow and possible cannibalising of several women.
Please forgive me if I come across as a little smug, but I’m a proud Australian today – to the point of being insufferable – and, with all due humility, I contend that the USA could do much worse than be guided by what is now afoot in the land of my birth.
Australian telecommunications services were once wholly owned by the taxpayers of that country. In 1995 the company providing them – known as Telstra – employed almost 87,000 people and provided telephone services over the entire continent. Even the most remote of Aboriginal communities could boast a public telephone connecting it to the outside world.
I’m experiencing another bout of cultural malaria, that recurring melancholia that can be triggered by sights, sounds or even things that don’t register on our conscious mind. For the second – no, the third – time since arriving in the USA, I feel like a stranger in an unfamiliar land, and it’s Christmas that’s to blame or, strictly speaking, the season in which it has arrived.
Perhaps it’s a tinge of homesickness or maybe because I haven’t had a sight of real sunshine for weeks now, for whatever the reason I looked at the weather data for south-western Australia this morning. In Gingin, the town we left to come to the USA, it’s around 11:00 pm as I write this and the [farenheit] temperature is just breathing down the neck of 70°, falling from a high of 100. Pretty well normal for this time of year.
As I said up there, I’ve got nothing against Mickey Mouse. Well, that’s not quite true, I can’t stand his voice; but that’s uncharitable, one shouldn’t judge others by their physical or mental shortcomings and in any case, it’s not his fault, Walt Disney gave it to him. Neither do I bear any ill will towards Walt Disney himself, not personally anyway. Even though my mother enjoyed telling all who would listen that for six weeks I had nightmares over the bushfire sequences in Bambi after Bernie Jamieson took me to see it back in the ’40s, I bear him no grudge. None whatsoever.
No, none of that matters. It’s what he – or his studio, and I’ll get the two confused here, I know – has done to children’s literature that gets up my nose.
I don’t make a habit of making my award public because I make a lot of mistakes myself and in any case I only hand it out privately so I can feel smug, but I just couldn’t let this go.
Writing in Kentucky News Review, Lu-Ann Farrar tells us that Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University…now let’s just hold it there for a second while I try to work out where to start. To make things a bit clearer, I’ll italicise Lu-Ann’s words, at least the ones I think are hers.
Got that? Now, Ms Farrar writes that the professor told the Detroit Free Press that paramilitary troups [sic.] are being used more often in police situations. Now right there I’m puzzled.
I watched a so-called teevee debate between a couple of aspirants to political office a couple of nights ago, and my reaction was akin to nothing so much as that of your archetypal stunned mullet. So you can blame the teevee, the candidates, the university and the panel for what you are about to receive – or not, depending on your attention span.
First up, I’d like to lay my cards on the table. My opinions are born of life experiences outside the ken of many Australians – especially those born in the boom years, and later in those gray decades of gray conservatism where nostalgia for an imaginary past and place colors political thought at the expense of progress – so it follows they are also outside the ken of many Americans.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
My friend and co-author, Robert Clark, and I long planned to give readers a look at the Southland and its abundant beauty, unusual charms, and fascinating stories. We came up with “Closed Wednesdays” but never got it off the ground. Too much traveling, too many book-related events, and life’s way of throwing detours in our path got in the way. We stepped back and thought things over and decided to offer readers something a bit shorter. Seems today’s hectic pace discourages many from reading long pieces. Robert’s idea, “The Photo of the Week,” resulted and so far it is getting a good recept Read on →
Sure, it can be fun. Dede, for instance, is a terrific hater. Her favorite verb is “hate.” I hate winter. I hate the Falcons (not just this year). I hate this sink. I hate all the fiction in The New Yorker. But none of this hating amounts to anything. It’s just her vivacious way of expressing herself. My guess is that most of us take our hating a little more seriously, a little more warily. We’ve seen the power and the glory, you might say. I hated a guy I was in graduate school with. No reason. I just did. And I mean Read on →
I arrived in Beijing on an old Boeing 707 China Air flight in November 1978 after a week in Japan. The entry formalities at Beijing Airport were slow but considerably quicker than the Shenzhen Railway Station where I had previously entered China from Hong Kong. I caught a taxi from the airport to the Beijing Hotel on Dongchangan Jie. Taxis were a new experience for me in China, previously it was the “foreigners bus”. The Beijing Hotel had a long and fascinating history. It was built as a five-story brick building in 1915 and two years later a seven-story French sty Read on →
We left Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport for Guangzhou where we spent three days before flying on a small CAAC Ilyushin 14 aircraft to Guilin in the Guanxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The airplane was noisy, basic transportation and typical of Russian-built commercial aircraft. We nicknamed it the Friendshipski because of its similarity to the Dutch-built Fokker Friendship commonly used by airlines for service to small airports. The view as we approached the Guilin area was spectacular. Perfectly shaped limestone mountains rose straight out of the countryside, providing an eerie landscape and seeming to almost touch the wheels of the airplane. While I t Read on →