Archive for December, 2010

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The Present Drawers of Perception

December 24, 2010

You Can't Lay Down Your Memory, chest of drawers by Tejo Remy

Image Credit: Adaptive Reuse

A hilarious musing on Outgrowing Christmas and the definition of drawer present can be chortled over at Das Bloggen

I’m still ticked I never got a Mr Potato Head!

I can, however, push a straw through an uncooked potato. That makes me a magician.  As well as a reader of kid’s science and physics websites.  Golly, and people pay thousands to attend Mr Whitecloud’s Magician’s Way workshop to learn the same party trick. What the Dickens is that about?!?

God bless us, every one!

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I’m Dreaming of a Bush Christmas

December 24, 2010

 

“John Edward (Jack) Waugh was a prolific commercial artist and illustrator whose work appeared in many Australian publications.

He was one of the artistic mainstays of the K.G. Murray publishing group and his illustrations were a prominent feature in such titles as Man, Man Junior, Adam and Cavalcade.

His glorious double-page paintings – like those of fellow artist Phil Belbin – adorned the pages of Man through its heyday in the late 1940s and 50s to the end of the magazine’s life in the 1970s.

Perhaps his best-known single illustration, however, was painted for the Arnotts biscuit company in 1964 and appeared on the back page of the Australian Woman’s Weekly several times over a number of years. The picture showed Santa Claus pausing for a rest by a country wayside, sharing a billy of tea (and some biscuits) with a wiry Aussie drover. The drover was Waugh himself (he often modelled for his own pictures in a mirror) and the picture was such a hit with Arnotts and the public that instead of appearing once only it was republished year after year at Christmas time. Eventually Arnotts, in recognition of Waugh’s creation of a powerful and valuable image, paid him an extra cheque and thanked him for his inspiration. In a way, the outwardly tough but inwardly sentimental drover is a fitting symbol of the independent, self-reliant and outdoorsy ex-serviceman whose strongly masculine drawing style co-existed with a passion for nature, the bush and conservation.

~ information and image bushrangered from Kiama Local History

A detailed biography of John Edward (Jack) Waugh can be found at Collecting Books & Magazines. Jack placed himself in the above illustration as the drover!  What a delightful piece of Christmas trivia.

Bush Christmas

(Poem inspired by Jambaroo N.S.W. artist, Jack Waugh’s 1964 painting on the Arnotts biscuit tin lid of ‘Santa and the Drover’). Joye Dempsey c 1994 Sydney Australia

It was `Birdsville’ that I saw him, his foot resting on a log,
sort of leanin’ on his reindeer, first I thought it was his dog.
`Blue’, my own dog looked real puzzled, didn’t know quite what to do,
first he sniffed, then started growling and I said, “Hey, come here Blue!
Now, I think this fellers Santa and he must’ve lost his way –
it’s the red gear and the white beard sorta gives the game away.’

So I went up to this old cove and said “How’s she goin’ mate?”
He smiled a little ruefully, and said “I’m going to be late.
There’s a lot of little children who still believe in me
and I’ve got to get their presents on their beds or `round the tree!”
“Don’t worry Mate”, I sez to him, “it might not be so bad.”
“I’m afraid it is.” he answered …. “but thanks for asking …. lad.”

Now nobody had called me ‘lad’ in three-score years or more,
and it made me want to help him so much harder than before.
He told me he was travelling, just past the Southern Star,
and it quite took his attention, when he found he’d gone too far.
Well, I’ve done that more than once meself, when drovin’ was me lurk,
that’s why I’m living in the sticks, past Birdsville like a burk.

It seemed that poor old Santa on coming down to land,
had dropped the list and map of ‘Oz’, he was holding in his hand.
He said, “I’ve looked all over for it”. (I could’ve sworn I saw a tear).
“My faithful reindeer, Rudolf, said he thought it landed here.”

“Don’t worry, she’ll be right mate”, I said, bright as can be,
“I’ve got the best blue cattle dog, that’s in the whole country!”
I whistled soft, and out he came, I whispered in his ear,
“If you find this bloomin’ list matey, I’ll treat you to a beer!”

Blue sniffed around poor Rudolph, he gave his tail a shake,
and looked at me as if to say, ‘better make that top grade steak’.
Then off he went, and old Rudolf was trotting close behind,
as the night was quickly falling, there’s not much twilight here you’ll find.

With Rudolph’s nose a shining and old Blue’s nose a’twitch,
it wasn’t long before they came back carrying that list.
But they’d had some help in finding it, and as down the hill they wove,
I said, “Santa, take a look at this!’ Santa laughed and said “By Jove!”

There was a Wombat and a Platypus, hopping beside Blue,
and with a Joey in its pouch was a bonza Kangaroo.
A Kookaburra, sat upon the reindeer’s rear end,
and a Cockie screaming `Got it!’ nearly drove me round the bend.

Then Blue stood on his haunches sauntering to where I stood,
and said `How about that beer now mate, and I think you really should
shout the whole darn lot of us!’ Poor old Santa gave a gasp.
Blue said ‘Santa, would you like one too?’ “Santa said. “I thought you’d never ask!”

It seemed the dingo told the emu, it wasn’t on the Darling Downs,
whilst a tiny duck-billed platypus had searched the waters all around.
Blue told us in a gravel growl, the trouble that they’d had,
`It got stuck in a blue gum, and if it wasn’t for the lad,’
he pointed at the Joey, `I don’t know what we would’ve done.’
The mother kangaroo beamed back, and patted her young son.

“Oh it was really nothing”, the small marsupial said,
“I woke my friend, a cute Koala, had to get her out of bed.
I told her if she got it, there’s a years supply of eucalypt! “
The Kookaburra laughed and the Joey’s mother said, `Tch, tch, tch.’

So we waved `bye `bye to Santa, my old blue and me
and we went home to tell the missus feeling pleased as pleased could be.
But the old Sheila don’t believe me, so I sez `Go tell her Blue’.
“Now’ the missus said’I know for sure you’ve had a drink or two!”

`Not yet, me love, I haven’t, but if yer gonna shout,
you might as well go get me a dozen bottles out.”
“How many!” Mother turned bright red, I sez “Yer right love let me think,
better just make it eleven `cause the baby `roo don’t drink.’

Mother, “wasn’t in the mood for joviality” she said,
“It’s Christmas Eve for your information when decent people are in bed,
instead of gallivanting, and gettin’ yourself full,
and as for helping Santa, well who’s leg `yer tryin to pull?”

So I went outside where it was cool by the Jacaranda tree,
and tried as try I might, to get old blue to talk to me.
I wonder was I dreaming? The wife said that I’m bewitched.
Old Blue just looked at me and winked – I could’ve sworn he said

`Tch! Tch! Tch! 
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Christmas Blooms All Year Round

December 24, 2010

Christmas in Melbourne Australia is mercurial. It can be stinking hot or winter-deep cold. Snow has been known to fall in the Victorian Alps and on the hills within 20km of Melbourne at Christmas.

For me, Christmas means hydrangeas.  You can keep your poinsettias, your hollies and evergreen boughs that drape over your mantles.

Give me hydrangeas and a flowering jacaranda.  I loved these flowers before I even heard of Flower Essences; and the green life you loved as a child, are the essences that have supported you into maturity.

Yes, Virginia, vibrational medicine is that simple and accessible.

Hydrangea Flower Essence

Jacaranda Flower Essence

 

I will not have internet access until Wednesday 29 December (my home PC is still punked with a virus); so I wish you all

Merry Everything!

Happy Always!

And thank you for the comments from my regular readerships, and thank you to the folks who dew-drop-in every now and then.

I know you are out there;

I can hear you breathing.

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The Magnificant “M”

December 23, 2010

Lady and Cat by Michal David

The Tabby in the Manger

Another wonderful legend about the origin of the “M” tells about Mary and the tabby cat in the manger. It seems that the baby Jesus was cold and fussing, and Mary asked the manger animals to move in closer to warm him. The manger was simply too small to accomplish that, but a little tabby cat came in and nestled next to the baby, and cosseted Him with purring and warmth. Mary was so grateful, she bestowed her own initial, “M” on the cat’s forehead.

Read More? The Glorious Tabby

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Where are we going?

December 23, 2010

The Umbrellas by Renoir

 

And why am I in this handbasket?

Meaning

To be ‘going to hell in a handbasket’ is to be rapidly deteriorating – on course for disaster.

Origin

It isn’t at all obvious why ‘handbasket’ was chosen as the preferred vehicle to convey people to hell. One theory on the origin of the phrase is that derives from the use of handbaskets in the guillotining method of capital punishment. If Hollywood films are to be believed, the decapitated heads were caught in baskets – the casualty presumably going straight to hell, without passing Go. The first version of ‘in a handbasket’ in print does in fact relate to an imaginary decapitated head. In Samuel Sewall’s Diary, 1714, we find:

“A committee brought in something about Piscataqua. Govr said he would give his head in a Handbasket as soon as he would pass it.”

Sewall was born in England but emigrated to America when he was nine, and this citation reinforces the widely held opinion that the phrase is of US origin. That is almost certainly the case and, even now, ‘hell in a handbasket’ isn’t often used outside the USA. The expression probably had English parentage though. The English preacher Thomas Adams referred to ‘going to heaven in a wheelbarrow’ in Gods Bounty on Proverbs, 1618:

Oh, this oppressor [i.e. one who was wealthy but gave little to the church] must needs go to heaven! What shall hinder him? But it will be, as the byword is, in a wheelbarrow: the fiends, and not the angels, will take hold on him.

‘Going to heaven in a wheelbarrow’ was a euphemistic way of saying ‘going to hell’. The notion of sinners being literally wheeled to hell in barrows or carts is certainly very old. The mediaeval stained glass windows of Fairford Church in Gloucestershire contain an image of a woman being carried off to purgatory in a wheelbarrow pushed by a blue devil. The thought behind the phrase is 17th century, but the precise wording ‘going to hell in a handbasket’ and its alternative form ‘going to hell in a handcart’ originated in the US around the middle of the 19th century. The ‘handbasket’ version is now the more common.’Going to hell in a handbasket’ seems to be just a colourful version of ‘going to hell’, in the same sense as ‘going to the dogs’. ‘In a handbasket’ is an alliterative intensifier which gives the expression a catchy ring. There doesn’t appear to be any particular significance to ‘handbasket’ apart from the alliteration – any other conveyance beginning with ‘H’ would have done just as well. The similar earlier phrases ‘hell in a basket’ and ‘hell in a wheelbarrow’, not having the same catchiness, have now disappeared from common use. Let’s launch ‘going to hell in a hovercraft’ and see if that flies, so to speak.The first example of ‘hell in a hand basket’ that I have found in print comes in I. Winslow Ayer’s account of events of the American Civil War The Great North-Western Conspiracy, 1865. A very similar but slightly fuller report of Morris’s comments was printed in the House Documents of the U.S. Congress, in 1867:

Speaking of men who had been arrested he [Judge Morris] said, “Some of our very best, and thousands of brave men, at this very moment in Camp Douglas, are our friends; who, if they were once at liberty, would send the abolitionists to hell in a hand-basket.”

‘Hell in a handcart’ is found in print before ‘hell in a handbasket’. The earliest citation I can find for that is in Elbridge Paige’s book of Short Patent Sermons, 1841:

[Those people] who would rather ride to hell in a hand-cart than walk to heaven supported by the staff of industry.

~ article purloined from The Phrase Finder

Image Credit: Melanoma, Life, and other CRAZY Stuff

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To undertake the journey without understanding the destination….

December 22, 2010

Pilgrim Tall Ship, Balitimore Quilt pattern

Image Credit: The Lyn Brown Quilt Blog

God help us to change.
To change ourselves and to change the world.
To know the need for it.
To deal with the pain of it.
To feel the joy of it.
To undertake the journey without understanding the destination.
The art of gentle revolution.
Amen.
–Michael Leunig

Ramallah - Flickr image by farfuglinnLet’s call a spade a spade. People who are doing it tough are considered fair game. Why else would we find it politically insignificant that since 1996 the unemployment benefit has fallen from around 54 per cent to 45 per cent of the after-tax minimum wage. As Peter Whiteford, from the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre writes:

… the latest OECD Economic Survey of Australia had declared that Australia’s unemployment benefits are too low. I can’t recall the OECD ever before saying that a country’s unemployment benefits weren’t generous enough — and I worked there for eight years … In fact, for a single person at the average wage losing their job, Australian benefits are about the lowest in the OECD.

Instead of addressing the fundamentals of income adequacy, successive federal governments have focused on the construct of individual inadequacy.

The implication is that people on the fringes of the economy are morally wayward and/or wanting in capacity. The answer is said to lie in fixing the problems in people’s lives from above. Hence paternalistic policies such as compulsory income management rather than income adequacy or equitable access to essentials such as housing or education and training.

The source of personal disadvantage and exclusion, however, is the growth of inequality.

Many of us working for social change are challenging the myths of ‘welfare dependency’ as part of the ‘view from above’ that completely misses the guts of the problem. It is time to build a new political vision based on the view from below.

The personal is political. These words went from being the title of Carol Hanisch’s 1969 essay to being one of the most important insights not only for feminism but for all who are committed to progressive social justice and social change.

Changing the world is as deeply personal as it is broadly collective. I have had the joy of knowing many women and men who engage in the daily practice of learning the ‘art of gentle revolution’, to use Leunig’s beautiful coinage. I love listening to their stories and watching them at work on the project of building a new society.

What distinguishes these people from those who seek to impose solutions from above? They see themselves as perpetual students. Many read voraciously. All make it their habit to listen to, and learn from, the people in our midst who are crushed by the structures of inequality. They listen, and reflect together on how the political emerges in the heart of the personal.

It is a two-way movement though. The political is at the base of the concrete conditions in which a person lives. Their lives are bound by economic, social and legislative structures. But the analysis of these conditions gives rise to a personal commitment to change them.

This all sounds very simple. It is! It is simpler to tackle the social problems than to try to manage them in an attempt to salvage a crumbling status quo.

This is a radical agenda.

As radical as the Incarnation! In the language of the Gospel of John, God has pitched a tent among us. This incredible reality, reflected in the image of the vulnerable Christ-child born on the edges of Bethlehem, is a whisper from the edge that another kind of world is possible.

Not far from Bethlehem is the city of Ramallah (pictured). Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti wrote a memoir, I Saw Ramallah, about his return visit there from exile. It is described by the late Edward Said as ‘one of the finest existential accounts of Palestinian displacement we now have’.

What I loved about this tender recollection is the poet’s view from below, his unmistakable love for, and desire to be educated by, the oppressed people on the ground.

He is given the rock-star treatment accorded poets in Palestine when they are able to crystallise the collective experience in their poetry. But his eyes are on the people. At one stage he is asked: ‘What is the most beautiful thing you saw since you returned to the homeland?’ He replies: ‘Your faces.’

Similarly, Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet and Nobel prize-winner, describes in his memoir the period in the 1940s when he was writing his monumental Canto General and reading his poems to mass meetings of workers throughout his country:

My reward is the momentous occasion when, from the depths of the Lora coal mine, a man came up out of the tunnel into the full sunlight on the fiery nitrate field, as if rising out of hell, his face disfigured by his terrible work, his eyes inflamed by the dust, and stretching his rough hand out to me, a hand whose calluses and lines trace the map of the pampas, he said to me, his eyes shining: ‘I have known you for a long time, my brother.’ That is the laurel crown for my poetry.

I have known you for a long time, my brother. These words, spoken by the unnamed miner, turn the dominant logic on its head. Instead of focusing on what the powerful see from above, it tells, with grace and simplicity, what is seen from below.

In both stories we see echoes of the Incarnation. We hear the whispers from the edge that another kind of world is possible. More than this, we get a feel for how this whole thing works. As Dylan Thomas wrote: ‘A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe.’

In a sense, our ‘good poem’ is precisely the listening to, and learning from, the people on the margins. They are the Christ-child we go before in humility.

But it will only be a ‘good poem’ if these whispers from the edge are translated into collective action for social justice and social change. Then the personal does indeed become political and the political becomes intensely personal. Our relentless critique of existing reality is not an academic exercise but an activity of love, an audacious building of a new society.

We are called to hope against all hope in joining in this mission. We know what we’re up against but we also know we are utterly compelled to do something. We’re up to our elbows, up to our principles, in sadness and love.

It is time to stop managing social problems instead of genuinely solving them. As Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day’s comrade-in-arms, put it: ‘The future will be different if we make the present different.’

Let’s return to the example of income inadequacy; an example that clearly cries out for justice. Peter Whiteford argues:

This problem is not going to go away, and it is not going to resolve itself on its own. Current policies are simply going to make the problem more difficult to deal with if decisions are postponed. It is worthwhile remembering that following its election in March 1983, one of the first initiatives of the Hawke Government was to increase the rate of unemployment benefits, recognising that lack of consistent indexation had made these payments inadequate. It’s time the current government recognised that unemployment payments need to be increased.

Members of my organisation, the St Vincent de Paul Society, tell me they are coming face to face with the reality of this unaddressed problem every day. Everyone knows that we, and many other NGOs, will always be around to help ameliorate the effects of bad public policy. The truth of the matter, however, is that, as Whiteford says, this problem is not going to go away.

Radical change is required if we are to address the causes of structural inequality and disadvantage. A new politics from below is the only vehicle for this. And the story of the Christ-child born on the edges of Bethlehem reminds us how we can build a new political vision based on the view from below.

God help us to change.
To change ourselves and to change the world.
To know the need for it.
To deal with the pain of it.
To feel the joy of it.
To undertake the journey without understanding the destination.
The art of gentle revolution.
Amen!


John FalzonDr John Falzon is a sociologist, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia, and a member of the Australian Social Inclusion Board. He has written and spoken widely on the structural causes of marginalisation and inequality in Australia and has long been involved in advocacy campaigns for a fairer and more equitable society.

 Above article swiped from Eureka Street.com

It's a god-cuddles-dog unkinda world: homelessness & disability

 

 

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Joyeux Noel

December 21, 2010

 

 

At Christmas, 1914, there occurred several informal truces at various points along the trench-lines of Northern France and Belgium. It may well be that there were other places where truces took place, but our precise knowledge of events is limited by the amount of direct, eyewitness testimony which has so far been discovered. Nevertheless, there are enough trustworthy reports (and even a few photographs) to convince us that something extraordinary happened that first Christmas of the war, and that it was not entirely an isolated happening.

The image of opposing soldiers, shaking hands with each other on one day and then deliberately trying to kill each other the next, is a powerful one, and one which is part and parcel of remembrance of the Great War. It was, perhaps, a last example of open-handed chivalry before the squalor and horror of the next three years changed the old world for ever.

Further reading: The Christmas Truce at First World War.com

 

“At 8.30 a.m. I was looking out and saw four Germans leave their trenches and come towards us. I told two of my men to go and meet them, unarmed, as the Germans were unarmed, and to see that they did not pass the half-way line. We were 350 – 400 yards apart at this point. My fellows were not very keen, not knowing what was up, so I went out alone and met Barry, one of our ensigns, also coming out from another part of the line. By the time we got to them, they were three-quarters of the way over, and much too near our barbed wire, so I moved them back. They were three private soldiers and a stretcher-bearer, and their spokesman started off by saying that he thought it only right to come over and wish us a Happy Christmas, and trusted us implicitly to keep the truce.

He came from Suffolk, where he had left his best girl and a three-and-a-half horsepower motor-bike. He told me that he could not get a letter to the girl, and wanted to send one through me. I made him write out a post card, in English, in front of me, and I sent it off that night. I told him that she probably would not be a bit keen to see him again.

We then entered on a long discussion on every sort of thing. I was dressed in an old stocking-cap and a man’s overcoat, and they took me for a corporal, a thing which I did not discourage, as I had an eye to going as near their lines as possible. I asked them what orders they had from their officers as to coming over to us, and they said none; they had just come over out of goodwill.

I kept it up for half-an-hour and then escorted them back as far as their barbed wire, having a jolly good look round all the time, and picking up various little bits of information which I had not had an opportunity of doing under fire.

I left instructions with them that if any of them came out later they must not come over the half-way line, and appointed a ditch as the meeting-place. We parted after an exchange of Albany cigarettes and German cigars, and I went straight to HQ to report.

On my return at 10.00 a.m. I was surprised to hear a hell of a din going on, and not a single man in my trenches; they were completely denuded (against my orders) and nothing lived. I head strains of “Tipperary” floating down the breeze, swiftly follwed by a tremendous burst of “Deutschland Uber Alles,” and, as I got to my own Company HQ dugout, I saw, to my amazement, not only a crowd of about 150 British and Germans, at the halfway house which I had appointed opposite my lines, but six or seven such crowds, all the way down our lines, extending towards the 8th Division on our right.

I hustled out and asked if there were any German officers in my crowd, and the noise died down. (At this time I was myself in my own cap and badges of rank.)

I found two, but had to speak to them through an interpreter, as they could talk neither English nor French. I explained to them that strict orders must be maintained as to meeting half-way, and everyone unarmed; and we both agreed not to fire until the other did, thereby creating a complete deadlock and armistice (if strictly observed.)

Meanwhile, Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged, addresses given and received, photos of families shown etc. One of our fellow offered a German a cigarette; the German said, “Virginian?” Our fellow said, “Aye, straight-cut.” The German said, “No thanks, I only smoke Turkish!” (Sort of 10 shillings a hundred man, me. It gave us all a good laugh.) The Border Regiment was occupying this section on Christmas Day and Giles Loder, our Adjutant, went down there with a party that morning on hearing of the friendly demonstrations in front of my Company, to see if he could come to an agreement about our dead, who were still lying out between the trenches. The trenches are so close at this point, that of course each side had to be far stricter. Well, he found an extremely pleasant and superior stamp of German officer who arranged to bring all our dead to the half-way line. We took them over there, and buried 29 exactly half-way between the two lines. Giles collected all personal effects, pay-books and identity discs, but was stopped by the Germans when he told some men to bring in the rifles; all rifles lying on their side they had kept carefully.

They apparently treated our prisoners well, and did all they could for our wounded. this officer kept on pointing to our dead and saying, “Les braves, c’est bien dommage.”

When George heard of it he went down to that section and talked to the nice officer and gave him a scarf. That same evening a German orderly came to the half-way line, and brought a pair of warm, wooly gloves as a present in return for George.”

~ Captain Sir Edward Hulse, Bart., 2nd Scots Guards