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Category Archives: events

For friends of South Sydney

10am is not compulsory. 😉

CelComm09

 
 

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Support appeals for natural disaster relief

The region to our north and north-west continues to be hit by earthquakes and typhoons. Take time out to help. Most readers will know what organisations to contact to make donations. Some are listed in this article. The Uniting Church offers a direct donation facility here.

 
 

What a week!

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2009 in environment, events, humanity

 

It’s back

But not nearly as photogenic as the storm earlier this week.

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That’s one from the Sydney Morning Herald gallery – linked to the image.

As a matter of interest, the “normal” situation may be guessed from this map from the University of Bristol’s Dirtmap.

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See It’s back: second dust storm sweeps Sydney.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2009 in Australia, environment, events

 

Yes, yesterday was amazing if not entirely unique

You have to go back to 1942 to find similar visibility issues at Sydney Airport.

Annex Across the Pacific (link on pic) was apparently a hit at the time. It was the year before I was born.

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald has some facts and figures.

EIGHT years of drought, and record temperatures that have baked outback soils dry, were blamed for yesterday’ s dust storm that turned Sydney’s sky red, and the sun blue.

Scientists estimated 75,000 tonnes of dust were being blown across NSW every hour in what may have been the most severe dust storm Sydney has seen since the droughts of the 1940s.

NSW, said John Leys, a scientist with the Department of Environment and Climate Change, was now experiencing ”something like 10 times more dust storms than normal”.

”In the last two months we have been getting a major dust storm once a week,” said the scientist who helps manage DustWatch, which has a network of 32 monitoring stations across the state. ”We have been getting more and more of them [dust storms] over the last seven years.”

Dr Leys was reluctant to say it was the result of climate change. But he noted, ”we are getting the hottest summers we have ever had. We have had droughts for eight years.” …

The Other Andrew has some great shots. Here’s one.

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Can you see the Opera House?

See also: Sally: here and here; Julie.

Update

In a comment on yesterday’s post Kevin from Louisiana congratulates me on not attributing the dust storm to climate change. There is a good reason not to: no individual event can be attributed to or not attributed to climate change with any confidence. It is only as a pattern of unusual events emerges that one might start extrapolating. That is pretty much what Dr Leys says above.

However, Herald cartoonist Alan Moir did make the leap today, and fair enough to make a point about possibility – it is possible, after all, that yesterday’s event is of the order that we might anticipate if the majority of scientists who accept the idea of anthropogenic climate change are right – and as you would know from my side bar note I am inclined to go with that majority.

moirillo600x400-600x400One stat that appeals to me is that what passed over Sydney yesterday was the equivalent of 25% of Uluru (Ayers Rock) ground up into powder!

It goes from what I said that it is also rather presumptuous to be sure that yesterday had no relation at all to climate change. Piers Akerman, as is no surprise, is of course convinced on no scientific grounds whatsoever that it is not and proceeds to make the usual arguments against doing anything, though there is room for discussion – though possibly it is a luxury we will live to regret – about whether what the government has proposed is well considered or not. Trouble is though that climate change as such really is not a matter of politics; if indeed it is a natural process in train as we dither, and if indeed the hypothesis so widely accepted that this time round our impact has been both considerable and measurable is proven, it won’t really matter what political position we adhere to. We will end up resembling old King Canute giving orders to the tide.

 

Sydney turns red: dust storm blankets city

See The Sydney Morning Herald. I have never seen anything like it here in my lifetime. And that’s 66 years…

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See also ABC on this — and the comments.

Update: You can see how my coachee (Year 9) saw it at The day the weather went crazy….

This isn’t mine, but it gives a really good idea of the morning:

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2009 in Australia, events, weirdness

 

About last night — the video

This was taken at interval and is totally noir. 😉 At one point a shadowy Sirdan may be seen — or intuited…

Enjoy.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2009 in Australia and Australian, events, personal, Sirdan

 

About last night

You may have guessed from the previous post that Sirdan took me to the Opera House last night to see Aida.

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Excellent it was too. The Pharaoh was played by David Parkin, winner of Operatunity Oz at age 27. Rosario La Spina was extremely good in the role of Radames. Claire Rutter played Aida, and Elizabeth Campbell was Amneris. I was taken by Warwick Fyfe as the King of Ethiopia.

It was often said that it would be impossible to mount Aida at the Opera House as the interior was so compromised when the bureaucrats took over the project mid-stream – a situation that apparently is to be corrected. We ended up with a shoe box instead of a grand opera stage, you see, as the planned concert hall morphed in a moment of bean counting into the Opera Theatre it was never intended to be. Nonetheless, Graeme Murphy has done the impossible with his usual flair, and even if large parts of the cast occasionally sang from somewhere off stage in the mass spectacles the result was spectacular still. There may even be a plus: the “smaller” moments were thereby highlighted. Come to think of it, I’m not sure a cast of thousands and live elephants pissing all over the place would really have added much.

On the way I was distracted…

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As we left an old SBHS colleague Dallas Watts joined us. Turns out he was in Aida. Amazingly quick change back into civvies!

 

Australian Opera: Aida

Why? I’ll tell you later…

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2009 in events, music

 

Friday poem 15 & For the fifty million dead — 2: W H Auden

It has to be at this time seventy years later: W H Auden’sSeptember 1 1939”.

Auden and Isherwood sailed to New York in January 1939, entering on temporary visas. Their departure from Britain was later seen by many there as a betrayal and Auden’s reputation suffered. In April 1939 Isherwood moved to California, and he and Auden saw each other only intermittently in later years. Around this time, Auden met the poet Chester Kallman, who became his lover for the next two years (Auden described their relation as a "marriage" that began with a cross-country "honeymoon" journey). In 1941 Kallman ended their sexual relations because he could not accept Auden’s insistence on a mutual faithful relationship, but he and Auden remained companions for the rest of Auden’s life, sharing houses and apartments from 1953 until Auden’s death. Auden dedicated both editions of his collected poetry (1945/50 and 1966) to Isherwood and Kallman.

Here are the first and last three stanzas:

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
***
From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
 
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Posted by on September 4, 2009 in British, Europe, events, poets and poetry, writers

 

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For the fifty million dead — 1

Seventy years ago today World War II was declared.

I am strictly speaking not a baby boomer as I was born during World War II and even have a memory of the end of the war. Looking back, there is no doubt World War II profoundly affected all of us for years to come.

Take two men: my father, and a neighbour of ours in Wollongong in the 1970s.

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That is my father on the left, but the person on the right is not our neighbour Willy, but rather a person – and curiously a Chinese person which Willy, a Prussian, was not – in the uniform of a lieutenant of the Wehrmacht. However, Willy was a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht and such a picture sat on the dresser in Tilly and Willy’s bedroom. Willy was on the Russian Front. Of 1,000 nine (including Willy) got back home. “It was all stupid”, Willy would say to my father as they sat together swapping war memories. Willy’s war was certainly rougher than my father’s, as my father served most of it in Richmond, Melbourne and Cootamundra, only getting to Papua in the last year or two of the war and then just in Port Moresby where he was on RAAF ground crew.

How we were all caught up in this!

As my mother wrote about thirty years after the war:

The night was still. The stars and the moon shone brightly on a troubled world. War in Europe; the second time in a quarter of a century. France was again echoing to the sound of German guns and the rest of the world paused waiting–for what? In an Australian city the young woman was waiting also–for the commonplace, the everyday miracle–the coming of a wanted child.

The curtains stirred as the wind whispered gently and everything seemed poised listening. The child in the womb stirred, waking the sleeping woman. The whispers grew stronger and she knew this day her babe would be born. What did life hold for this child already loved? What lay ahead, not in the dim distant future, but in the now–the immediate, with this world so shatteringly troubled. The mother trembled and prayed for peace in this babe’s time and a better world for the young to live and grow in bodily and in spirit… Of all the miracles of science in this twentieth century none can surpass the miracle of begetting and the birth of a wanted child…

That day in 1940 the child was born–a girl–bringing with her all the tenderness of love that one small babe has brought over so many hundreds of years.

Shortly after, the father in the full flush of manhood with hundreds of others became a number in the R.A.A.F. The next six years held strife and fear, home-comings and leavings, waiting, hoping, praying while free peoples everywhere struggled to regain seemingly lost power and prestige against overwhelming odds. He, the father, served his country faithfully and well through the long dreary years. At home his small daughter grew, and, as it is with children, accepted the world around her. Mummy, Grandpa, Grandma, her big brother, and the baby brother who came later, and the father who appeared sometimes.

Sadly that girl was to die just six and a half years after the war ended.

raaf

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2009 in events, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing

 

Second Rugby League post in 24 hours!

Very uncharacteristic!

But first the local good news: the South Sydney Rabbitohs beat the premiership favourites 41-6 on Saturday. Sirdan was pleased.

Now the news with wider import: Hazem el Masri’s final day for the Canterbury Bulldogs.

After yesterday's game

After yesterday's game

More pics at Zimbio.

We won’t talk about the Cronulla Sharks – out of sympathy with my grand-nephews who are very sad today.

 

From another guest at Danny’s party

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See also Sirdan’s birthday party — Rosebery.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2009 in Australia, events, M, photography, Sirdan

 

Norm, Ahmed, Shafana, Aunt Sarrinah, radicalisation and Australia

The first of the Things to look forward to is now done. It was the world premiere of Alana Valentine’s Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah and a revival of Alex Buzo’s 1969 classic Norm and Ahmed.

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Left: “Ahmed” takes “Norm” to a Pakistani Restaurant

Right: the opening scene of Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah

Pics from the Alex Buzo Company blog linked above.

Of her new play Alana Valentine writes:

I hope Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah will surprise audiences with its portrait of Afghani Muslim women, who are articulate, highly educated, deeply spiritual and enraged by the way Australian and global media paint them as oppressed, meek and silent. To be part of a project where Buzo’s theme and concerns might be reignited through a new work…is genuinely exciting. In effect, it allows the ‘conversation’ to move into a third dimension: not just Buzo speaking anew to the 21st Century, but Buzo reflected and responded to through the voice of a contemporary playwright. It’s a vision of Australian theatre as a historical continuum…

Alana’s plays are always grounded in in depth research and interviews with the groups she is representing; that depth came through in last night’s performance which both Sirdan and I found very thought-provoking. The issue is whether or not Shafana should wear hijab. She eventually decides she will, even if Aunt Sarrinah, whom she dearly loves, is somewhat appalled by that decision. The play takes us beyond our often mind-numbingly dreadful understanding (if that is the right word) of the issues Australian Muslim women face and that we face in our response to them. A valuable exercise well dramatised, if, I thought, just a bit slow off the mark at the beginning.

As for Norm and Ahmed I agree with the woman sitting next to me in the theatre: “the more things change the more they stay the same.”  Sirdan was born in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at the time) but could well relate to Norm and Ahmed – for him it was, unlike for me, as new as Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah. He agreed that the contemporary relevance of this forty-year-old play was quite amazing.

A thoroughly good night out.

By coincidence, my mind still on Alana’s play especially, I read a truly excellent article in this morning’s Australian: From a human to a terrorist by Sally Neighbour.

… The perplexing question is: Why? How does a seemingly ordinary young man come to embrace violent extremism? Its corollary, the question that confounds counter-terrorism experts worldwide, is: how can we stop them?

The rapidly morphing nature of global terrorism demands an evolving response. Since 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida has diminished but its ideology has flourished, spawning hundreds of like-minded groups and cells across the world. US terrorism specialist Marc Sageman describes this new phenomenon as a "violent Islamist born-again social movement" straddling the globe. Its fragmented and anarchic nature makes it arguably a bigger threat than al-Qa’ida, according to Britain’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, unveiled in March this year. Unlike the once highly centralised al-Qa’ida, the new grassroots terrorism cannot be fought with border protection measures or military strikes, but must be tackled at its roots.

This reality has spawned a new buzzword in the anti-terrorism fraternity: counter-radicalisation. Its aim, in Sageman’s words, is to "stop the process of radicalisation before it reaches its violent end"…

Sageman, the pre-eminent expert on radicalisation theory, is a former CIA mujaheddin handler in Pakistan, now a psychologist and author of two books, Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad. After studying 165 jihadists, Sageman is adamant that terrorists are not born but made. There is no psychological profile of a terrorist and Sageman believes "root causes" such as socioeconomic deprivation are overrated. The most common factor in the making of a terrorist is alienation. Of the jihadists Sageman studied, he found that "a remarkable 78 per cent were cut off from their cultural and social origins". He concludes "this absence of connection is a necessary condition for a network of people to join the global jihad"…

Sageman adds they are not violent psychopaths but "generally idealistic young people seeking dreams of glory fighting for justice and fairness"…

Much better in its analysis that most of the rants you see. The dynamics of that alienation, though not in a form likely to lead to terrorism, are also seen in Alana Valentine’s play.

Oh – and a footnote. I have always thought taking the French path and “outlawing” the hijab in Australia would be really stupid. Fortunately both John Howard and Kevin Rudd have not been tempted.

* Special thanks to Emma Buzo. 🙂

Update

See the The Australian Stage review.

[On Alana’s play] …This is a powerful night at theatre and a welcome, bold, essential addition to the culturally homogeneous theatre one can expect to see in some of the larger venues around town. I believe this to be an extraordinarily brave and bold double bill containing four very fine performers. Actors who embrace the challenge of new work, with new perspectives are worth their weight in effusive praise and I feel compelled to mention the spectacular performances by Camilla Ah Kin and Sheridan Harbridge who confront this subject with tenderness, fierceness and great compassion – to the extent that I felt stunned and broken by the time the lights dimmed.