Daily Archives: January 13, 2009

Is my blog changing direction?

I want it to, as I intimated a little while ago. If you go to the page 2009 month by month you will find a neat list, which I offer here without links in order to make a point.

On Floating Life

1 January: Floating Life and English/ESL in 2008. 2 January: Mendelssohn Bicentenary; Last 2008 in review post: my also-rans… Goodbye, Journalspace!; A whiff of sanity on Israel and Palestine. 3 January: WP stats and my latest; Yes, it’s on again; I hereby ban the word “fascist” from this blog…. 4 January: Hmmm… Been blogging for way too long…; Rationalising resources; Just a quiet Sunday afternoon in Surry Hills… 1; Just a quiet Sunday afternoon in Surry Hills… 2.

5 January: Joshua to Gaza 2009; My blog wordled, and Quote of the Week #1. 6 January: Radio National Poetry special: Five Bells by Kenneth Slessor; It’s hot, but so’s the cricket. 7 January: New Year blogging resolutions; 2009 book notes: 1; Yesterday’s crisis; What an amazing Test Match! 8 January: Breaking the silence on my English/ESL blog!; Two from regulars to this blog; Fascinating blogging and cultural phenomenon; A rabbi on Gaza; I’ve been writing an HSC English essay! 9 January: You can tell Thomas is on holidays…; Friday intellectual spot 1; Behind the news: Rosemeadow NSW. 10 January: DO ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS FIT YOU?; Five more from regulars to this blog; Reconciling cybercondoms with a low end computer; What’s new: Sunday 11 January to Saturday 17 January. 11 January: Sunday is music day 1; Sunday Floating Life photo 1.

12 January: Only the demons are dancing…; Quote of the week: Week 2 2009; Coming up on the photoblog. 13 January: Transamerica — SBS last Saturday night ****; More top viewing, and the pity of war.

More to come.

The first post tomorrow is sitting on schedule. It’s a “100 best novels” post.

Looking over that list you will see a number of entries about Gaza; I did these because I wanted to clarify some issues for myself. I also wanted to make a stand for some things, and against others — particularly against the kind of demonisation I was seeing in so many other places, and against virulent antisemitism and anti-Americanism, though God knows I am no fan of the policies of either Israel or the USA in recent times, and I am certainly not impressed with the Hamas Charter either — a particularly virulent, even insane, document. I can’t imagine anyone on the left honestly endorsing it. And there is an element of truth in the proposition that Hamas have brought on themselves, and worse on the people of Gaza, the consequences of being in a state of war, essentially. War does cost. Before you scream at me, I suggest you look at what I have tried to say: that there is a back story here that includes many lost opportunities, much corruption, many wrong choices, morphing into a victory for the least righteous on both sides, in my opinion. One can only hope that something can be saved when all is done, but I am not holding my breath. I am also well aware that my posts are very tentative, but I do hope they have resonated with some out there. The little feedback I’ve had suggests they may have.*

OK, that out of the way you will see I have actually ranted very little. If you take the whole picture and include the photoblog I have even retreated from words themselves. And that is what I wanted to do.

So here is a poll, pointless except as a kind of feedback:

You can choose more than one answer.


*Jon Taplin this morning has asked a very fair question; there’s nothing antisemitic or crazy conspiratorial about it either: Who Runs U.S. Mid-East Policy?.


Posted by on January 13, 2009 in blogging, Israel, Middle East, personal, site news


More top viewing, and the pity of war

I am sure you get the Wilfred Owen allusion there.

ABC1 is running documentaries of various vintages in the Monday 8.30 slot usually occupied by Four Corners. Last night we had the 2005 docudrama The Somme, using similar methods — biographies + personal documents + archival footage + reenactments — to those used in The First Australians. Done well it is an effective way to bring history to life.

World War 1’s Battle of the Somme, fought from 1 July to 18 November 1916, was a turning point in history. It was a modern battle of such prehistoric brutality that its horror is hard to comprehend. Brave patriotic men eagerly volunteered to fight for what they saw as a great and honourable cause, only to find themselves used as cannon fodder by their military and political leaders. Whole villages and communities marched to their deaths.

Narrated by Tilda Swinton, The Somme is a docu-drama which follows a group of young men through the first day of battle – a day when a whistle blow sent British and French soldiers ‘over the top’ and towards an almost certain death. Through reconstruction and historical records, the fates of several genuine officers and nurses who fought or served at the Battle of the Somme are followed. This was a battle fought by civilians on unfamiliar territory.

Private Cyril Jose, at the age of only fifteen, had lied on his conscription papers to join the swelling ranks of young men sent off to fight for their country. American heiress, Mary Borden, had left Chicago at the start of the Great War to work for the Red Cross, and by 1916 she had selflessly set up her own field hospital behind the British lines on the Somme. Captain Charlie May was only too aware of the impending slaughter and wrote a letter of farewell to his wife and baby just before going over the top. The planning of the battle was left to British General Rawlinson – a plan that would send thousands of men marching straight into the German machine gun posts.

Through the friendships and the fear, this moving film is told through the diaries and letters of men in the field – many of whom would never be reunited.

Jose survived and, we were told at the end, became a communist after the war. Not mentioned in the ABC summary above was the famous economic historian R H Tawney, whose story is also told: “During World War One, Tawney served as a Sergeant in the 22nd Manchester Regiment. He turned down an offer of a commission as an officer as a result of his political beliefs. He served at the Battle of the Somme, where he was wounded twice on the first day and had to lie in a field until the next day for evacuation. He was transported to a French field hospital and later evacuated to England.”

It is impossible to exaggerate how long a shadow was cast by World War I. You could say we are witnessing it right now in Gaza, since our current Middle East is entirely the product of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of that war, and of the arrangements made by the victors in its wake.

Personally, I recall visiting some maiden ladies in Shellharbour NSW in 1959 with my parents and grandfather, who that year was in Shellharbour participating as the then oldest surviving headmaster in the school’s centenary celebrations. The sitting room in that house was kept in darkness, and on the mantel were memorabilia of a brother killed in World War I. In the mid 1970s I had occasion to attend the Lady Davidson Home in Sydney, a veterans’ facility. There I saw men who had been institutionalised during World War I and were still there.

The pity of war indeed.

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Posted by on January 13, 2009 in 1950s, best viewing 2009, History, TV


Transamerica — SBS last Saturday night ****

Probably I was under a rock at the time, but I hadn’t registered Transamerica at all; certainly I must have missed Margaret and David in February 2006:

Review by Margaret Pomeranz

It’s no accident that so many Oscar-nominated films are finding their way into cinemas at the moment. Felicity Huffman’s performance in Transamerica has had a nod and this intelligent actress, known to Australian viewers through her character in Desperate Housewives, is so convincing as Bree – a transsexual who’s just about to have the final operation to become a woman…

Transamerica is the first film from Duncan Tucker and what’s really terrific about his film is that he’s makes it very clear that being a transsexual en-route to gender transformation is a painful thing, and yet there’s a lot of humour in Bree, she’s no tragic figure. And she’s not someone to laugh at either. Felicity Huffman rightly deserves the attention she’s getting for playing Bree. A woman playing a man trying to be a woman?

But the film isn’t really about people on the edge of society, it’s about what all of us are about, sorting out who we are and who we love, and the role that family plays in our lives. It possibly would have been easy to make this as a quirky comedy. But Duncan Tucker is after something real, thank goodness….

Margaret gave it ****, while David (who found it “prosaic”) gave it ***1/2. You can see I agree with Margaret. Felicity Huffman won a Golden Globe for it, and she is brilliant; her son in the movie was played by Canadian actor Kevin Zegers. He’s very good too, and certainly not unattractive — and you do see rather a lot of him.

The script is very intelligent indeed. Oddly, I found it a profoundly Christian movie! No, I don’t think Fred Nile would agree, but it is all about reconciliation, love, understanding, inclusiveness, and all those terrific values. Kind of a prodigal son parable really — or perhaps better, offspring. Two of them, as it happens. It is also very understanding about transsexuality, without being over earnest; I thought of my church friend norrie. But it is adult fare. It’s one of the best movies I have seen on TV for a while.

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Posted by on January 13, 2009 in best viewing 2009, Gay and Lesbian, gay issues, humanity, movies, TV