Way back in the distant days of about 5 years ago, the premier social networking site was MySpace.

So Bill Gates decided to put up his own alternative to it — called Spaces Live. I managed to make some sense of it so I established a presence there. In particular, I used its blogging facility to put up a backup site for my personal blog.

And was such a pathetic thing that China didn’t even bother blocking it. That suited me as I have a couple of friends in China who could use it to check out my personal blog once in a while.

Inevitably, however, Bill Gates has now pulled the plug on and migrated all its blogs to WordPress. So I have now acquired this site as a backup for my personal blog.

WordPress blogs are however blocked in China so this site is not very useful. I have therefore put up a special China-evading version of my personal blog here — meaning that this present site is now pretty redundant.

So I will not be updating this site for the foreseeable future. So to access the latest entries on my personal blog go either to the primary site or the China version.

The China version contains all the posts for the year on one page — which may be convenient for some non-Chinese readers also

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The traveller returns

Anne has just arrived safely back from Germany. She came straight to my place from the airport and was wound up like a top — but who wouldn’t be after witnessing the magnificent spectacle at Oberammergau and seeing one of the great Mozart operas at the Bayerische Staatsoper?

I gather that the performance Anne saw closely replicated the original performance of Cosi fan tutti conducted by Mozart himself — so that is hard to beat. I absolutely HATE it when some producer is arrogant enough to think that he can “modernize” a classical play or opera.

Germany/Austria is of course the home of the passion for Originalinstrumenten — the view that the exact sounds originally intended by the great composers should be respected — and I wholeheartedly agree with that. If that makes me a dinosaur so be it — but that would also make the home of music (the Germans-speaking lands) dinosaurs. And I don’t think that proposition is remotely sustainable.

Anne was very impressed by the quality of the music at Oberammergau. It was originally written in the early 19th century — and subsequent changes and additions have remained true to the Romantic style. So it is very easily assimilable. Anne brought back a CD of it and I must say I am impressed too. Some of the chorales are as good as any chorale in the classical repertoire, in my opinion.

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The Oberammergau passion play (about the crucifixion of Jesus) is the last of the Medieval passion plays. They were once common but even in Oberammergau the play is now put on only once every ten years. So it is of course a great and famous cultural event.

And 2010 is one of the years that it is performed. And knowing how much Anne likes such things, I would not have been able to rest easily on my deathbed if I had not sent Anne to see it this year. I wrote her a cheque that made it possible.

Below is her comment on what she saw:

“What a magnificent show! Perfectly done and just the grandest occasion. A large choir, orchestra, wonderful props and costuming and a great story. I just loved it… Thank you so much. I have bought a book and a CD which I think you will enjoy. 400 in the audience and not a spare seat. And they came from all over the world. I followed the English translation all the way using my trusty torch for the last 3 hour session. The weather has been great and even though I took lots of warm clothes to wear only 2 layers were needed.”

While Anne was in Bayern (“Bavaria” to the English) she also saw Neuschwanstein and Cosi fan tutti (by Mozart) at the Bayerische Staatsoper so she made good use of her time in Germany.

Her comment on what she saw at the Staatsoper:

“The opera was great. I went in early to find the place as I have found finding the entrance to these places can be tricky. I had dinner and a beer over the road…. traditionally Bavarian of course and then wandered over. I had read the full libretto in the morning and just took the synopsis with me. Was a beautiful opera with all the cast having great voices. Female conductor who also played the harpsichord. The venue was just magnificent….. similar in the theatre to the one in Paris. I was impressed with the velvet on the hand rails.”

Seeing one of Mozart’s most marvellous operas in Muenchen was actually an unusually good opportunity. Bavarians and Austrians are quite closely related and speak much the same Southern German dialect so Mozart’s thinking would have been very easily followed there.

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A small anecdote and some reflections on race and culture

A few days ago I went in to a private hospital to get my hearing tested and a hearing-aid prescribed. I’ve already got one plastic eye lens so a computerized ear comes next! That’s aging for you.

Greenslopes private hospital does however have one of those murderous automated car-parks. You have to deal with a machine to get in and out. And it is not easy. I got so frazzled trying to get the machine to let me out that I left all the documentation from the audiologist on top of the machine concerned and ended up driving home without it.

It was only when I got home that I realized that I did not have my receipt etc. So what did I do? One thing I was NOT going to do was negotiate that accursed car-park machine again. So I just thought to myself that some kind person would find my documentation and take it to the audiologists — who would return it to me. And that is exactly what happened. I received it in the mail today.

Now isn’t that nice to live in a largeish city and still get treated with village courtesy? But it is no coincidence. I find that my fellow Anglo/European-Australians are generally like that: Good kind people.

And that largely happens because the Australian population is still overwhelmingly white. You would have to go to Eastern Europe to find a whiter country. The most recent figures I can find show that Australians are 70% Anglo-Celtic, 18% European and 5% East Asian, with most of the latter being Han Chinese racially. The balance are mainly Indians Pakistanis and Arabs, with Africans less than 1%.

Now it does of course sound racially bigoted to attribute Australia’s friendly civility to race but it is in fact mainstream sociology. Robert Putnam in particular is known for his studies of racial homogeneity. Sociologists are almost universally Left-leaning and Putnam is too — but he was man enough to publish his findings (after some hesitation) even though they did not suit him ideologically.

What he found was that people who live in racially mixed neighbourhoods (he is American so that means neighbourhoods with a lot of blacks or Hispanics in addition to whites) were much more likely to keep to themselves. They stayed home at night a lot more, for instance. Racial admixture killed community feeling, to put it bluntly.

Fortunately Australia has largely escaped that. Until recently our population had ancestry that was almost exclusively from Europe or the British Isles. And regardless of whether your origins were Lithuanian, Irish, Italian, German or English, we all saw one another as simply Australian. Ancestry made no difference in most cases.

In more recent years, however, Australia HAS acquired one largeish “minority”: East Asians, mostly Han Chinese — now about 5% of our population. But the Han are admirable people. They are in general quiet, peaceful, patient, intelligent, hard-working people who strive to get on well with everybody. So they fit in very well and do nothing to cause anyone to stay home at night. So even though they have disrupted Australia’s racial homogeneity, they have, if anything, enhanced its social harmony.

So it was no accident that some kind person returned my papers. It is what happens in a society where people are in general kind to one another because they can identify with one another and sympathize with one another.

But all silver linings have a dark cloud and Australia has recently acquired one of those too. Australia has in recent years accepted a considerable number of African “refugees” and they already figure prominently in crime . Sad that they may destroy the remarkable and valuable harmony that Australia still has.

Mind you, Australia’s native blacks — Aborigines — are not bad people. They often live in appalling squalor but they mostly keep to themselves and are undoubtedly one of the most polite populations on earth. They also have an excellent sense of humour and some perceptual abilities that are quite eerie at times. But alcohol is their great downfall. The lady in my life — Anne — knows them particularly well and has great affection for them — something that I understand.

They are actually extraordinarily sociable people — which is why it is so effective when they “sing” transgressors among them. The transgressor dies of grief.

Much to learn of human diversity. And shrieks of “racism” when it is discussed come only from fools or the ill-intentioned.

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Travellers night

I put on a small discussion night last night for the recently returned travellers,  Paul Susan and Ken.  Jenny also joined us.  The idea was to add a bit of background to things that the travellers had seen.

I shouted curry and champagne for the gathering and Susan brought along  her latest creation  — a torte that even a Yiddisher Momma would have found entirely acceptable for her Kaffee Klatsch.

I talked initially about the UK being in fact a DISunited Kingdom and the conversation went on from there.  Nobody knew what a Cockney really was and the West Lothian question was also a mystery.  I dispelled both mysteries, remarking along the way that the people born within earshot of the bells of St. Mary le Bow are in fact most likely to be of Bangladeshi or Pakistani origin these days.

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A small memorial to “Bluey” Ray

My father's real name was Frank Edward Ray but only my mother and his kids called him "Frank". To everyone else he was "Blue" or "Bluey" — because he had red hair — a feat of logic that you may have to be British or Australian to understand.

His religion was work — hard manual work — and he did that throughout his life. He started out cutting down forest trees for the sawmills — with an AXE and crosscut saw — long before chainsaws were heard of. And he also was a cane-cutter in his younger days. He would come home "as black as a n*gger" from that work — as sugarcane was burnt before harvesting in those days,

But in his later years be worked in the tallow rendering section of the Queerah meatworks outside Cairns. He used his very developed biceps to move around 44 gallon of drums of tallow — a job in which he seemed to be much appreciated by his employers. And if you have ever tried to move a 44 gallon drum of anything (usually motor fuel) you will know how heavy they are. And when filled with a dense material like tallow (rendered-down animal fat) they are REALLY heavy. But he would have enjoyed that challenge.

I also remember him while I was just a kid sharpening and "setting" his crosscut saws — something that was part of his trade as a "timber feller" (lumberjack). He would be out in the bush during the week and come home for the weekend. And that was saw sharpening time.

He also had an old .22 rifle. He said that where he was camped out in the bush he could hear crocodiles roaring — so he was definitely wary of them. What good a .22 would do in an encounter with a croc I do not know. If you were a good shot it might help, I suppose. But I remember him buying bullets off "Thompson" (the Stratford store keeper) as a prelude to a trip.

My brother still has the .22 concerned. If I ever had to deal with crocs, I would want a .50 cal sniper rifle for the purpose — though I suppose an old .303 might also be useful enough (and a lot more available).

And, as I think I have mentioned before, Frank was a "king hitter". The biceps developed through many years working as an axeman were very handy for flattening anybody who disrespected him. He once hit a man so hard that he broke his hand. He did have a short temper. I remember his flashing blue eyes when he was annoyed. Though he never laid a finger on any of his family and was a real gentleman unless provoked. How can eyes flash? I don't know. But his did somehow.

I am sad that my father is no longer among us. He was a man of his time but was perhaps the better man for that.

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Red hair

There is a lighthearted article in the Emerald City rag about red hair.  The female writer says being a redhead is only a minor bother to her but some redheads get a bit disgruntled.  Excerpt:

"I think I have suffered enough for my colouring," wrote one woman, who noted she had occasionally been asked if the carpet matched the drapes. "I don’t think my own government should contribute to the belittling of a minority."

The carpet DOES match the drapes in my experience!

I have brown hair (now grey) but I claim associate membership of the red hair club on the basis that my father had red hair and my son has a red beard.  My first girlfriend was a redhead,  the first lady I lived with was a redhead and I have twice married redheaded ladies!  So I am comfortably ensconced in my genetic niche, it would seem.  I am always delighted to see redheaded children about the place.

England would seem to be the only place where there is actual prejudice against redheads,  probably because they associate it with the Irish and the Scots.  Old enmities linger on.

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