Friday, February 29, 2008

The sun is out. Light breeze. Coolth. Birds frolic, lawnmowers gambol. Issue nine of Otoliths is filling up nicely even though publication date is still two months away. I’m trying to come to grips with this extra day, wondering why February should get it. Kon Ichikawa has died. In this year of the Olympic Games I remember a movie of the 1964 Tokyo Games, a compilation of shorts made by eight of the leading Japanese directors of the time. Unfortunately, Akira Kurosawa was not amongst them. He was still considered too Western, &, anyway, Mifune wasn’t competing. But Ichikawa’s contribution was the running of the final of the 100 metres, shot in slomo. An amazing piece. In the garden, subtle glimpses of the bird’s-eye chillies amongst the green. The race goes on, flexing tendon by flexing tendon. I fear thee, Ancient Mariner......

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I cannot remember ever having felt so hemmed in by the natural landscape.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Genji Monogatari XIII: The Safflower

Her florets had
turned gray, other-
wise dressed in
festive attire, his
mother, when
she came to visit. Contra-
diction, something about
a particular lifestyle
associated with the thin
layer of cells at the
back of her neck. She
spent very little time
with him & that
limited his own
field of vision. “Stop
eating grains” she said.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

life in the tortoise lane

Living in a place where there’s next to no creative activity, where fishing, prejudice, bad driving & assaults on humans & animals seem to be the way of life for much of the populace, I found that, after the initial new place attraction wore off & familiarity crept, too rapidly, in, the only way I could seek solace &, sometimes, stimulation was to take off driving around the countryside, the hinterland.

Lots of little things to see, to discover, much unexpected. The wildlife — wallabies & kangaroos grazing by the side of the road, cautious, watching, as was I who usually only saw them as roadkill, run over by some long haultruck charging through the early morning, dusk; brolgas dancing; a jabiru balanced gracefully in a lagoon; small birds rising up like dust from the grass at the side of the road. The not so nice — an ostrich farm neglected to the extent that there were ostrich carcasses in the yards, with crows feeding on them. The delicate — pools of water lilies. The commercial — salt pans stretching out, the stockyards, the meatworks. The humorous — coming across stretches of sealed road a kilometre each side of the entrance to the properties of someone who had some clout in the local shire. The landscape seen from different points of view, refreshing it.

Now that I’ve re-retired, I was looking forward to retracing my steps. But it’s been raining &/or flooded for most of the two months since I stopped working, & most of the roads are unsealed, & my little two litre hatchback isn’t designed for that sort of thing. So I’ve been pretty much housebound, & I’m going stircrazy. Can’t open the house up because of the smell of rotting vegetation from the flood, can’t potter around in the garden because it’s so bloody humid that you have to change T-shirts after every time you go out because they’re drenched within minutes with the sweat of doing nothing, don’t feel like writing, don’t know if I even could if I could bring myself to sit down & try.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Après moi, le déluge

The monsoon trough dipped south again early this morning, & dumped over 160 millimetres of rain — about 6 inches — in around two hours. We’ve spent the time since then mopping up downstairs, dumping a couple of mats, putting things out to dry, There was just too much water for the drains to cope, so some of it snuck in under the doors & probably came up through the floor in some parts. It’s a bit hard to exactly plot its path. It’s hasn’t flooded downstairs, more just made its presence felt.

The river had peaked yesterday afternoon at 7.75 metres in the current flood, the second in 17 days — the major one before that was 17 years ago — but this morning’s downpour pushed it up over eight metres, & water is again flowing, not into, but through the lagoon at the bottom of the street. It’s now a quite large lake, many kilometres long & about a kilometre wide, following a past bed of the Fitzroy River, which has changed to its current course over the millenia.

& there’s a much-used-of-late word that I hope never to hear again. Inundate. As in:
major arterial roads including Gladstone Road and Musgrave Street had been either cut or inundated with water.

Flash flooding has inundated parts of of central Queensland., including the Rockhampton region in the last 24-hours.

Residents in the central Queensland town of Rockhampton have been inundated by floodwaters for the second time in a month.

Up to one metre of water inundated homes this morning and local roads in low-lying areas were cut off
Time for an updated thesaurus, news people. There are other words.....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I get up & think
           that it’s an
                        Irving Berlin
                             day. & then
                               I think Who
                                 the fuck these
                                   days would
                                 know who
                               Irving Berlin
                             is? So I just go
                           off & do my daily
                         bit singing Blue
     at me &
     back in

Monday, February 18, 2008

Here we go again

“Based on the observed Tartrus peak of about 15.7 metres during Sunday evening, the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton is expected to peak at about 7.7 metres on Sunday 24th February.”

Bureau of Meteorology flood warning, 2/18/08

Barely three weeks after the last flood, it looks like we’re in for another one, of approximately the same level—the last one peaked at 7.55 metres. The flood plain has been exactly that for the last four weeks, & whatever evaporation & seepage there has been is counterbalanced by about 250mm — 10 inches — of rain over the last week. So there’s still water everywhere, still some roads closed.

But about four hundred kilometres north, the catchment area of several of the tributaries that flow into the Fitzroy, they’ve had something over a metre of rain in the last week. The monsoon trough, the annual meteorological event that causes the wet season in northern Australia, has moved much further south than it has done for many, many years. 80% of the land area of Queensland is now eligible for flood relief, & there’s still more rain to come.The amount of rain that fell on Mackay has been described as a once in at least a century event. 1200 mm, about 50 inches, of rain, & half of it in one six hour period.

& all that runoff is now moving downstream, to spread even more water across the plain.

point counterpoint

Occam's Razor—All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.

Occam's Eraser—The simplest solution is bound to have something wrong with it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Antoine a une adolescence turbulente. Il ment à ses parents indifférents à son sort, vole, fugue. Son seul réconfort, il fait les quatre cents coups avec son ami René. Un jour, la police s'en mêle.
More rain.
Still more rain—

how a lagoon
becomes a

Thursday, February 14, 2008

In / chief the / sun in splendour

The discipline of
quantum mechanics
is based upon a
summation of such
subjective definitions
as disordered eating,
the use of horror language,
the fetishization of
certain body parts. We
still don't know what
it is really telling us
about the world, only
that the viewer is the
ultimate voyeur, a
willing participant, stroking
some inbuilt image of
the body & feeling no
need for secrecy, no guilt.

hoovering the house

November 27, 1935

Mr. A. G. Walker,
State Penitentiary,
Florence, Arizona.

My dear Superintendent:

Reference is made to the case of William Lawrence, your #6621. A notation appears in the record of this person on file in the Bureau to the effect that this subject was to be hanged on June 12, 1925, for the crime of murder.

The Bureau will be pleased to receive your advice as to whether this subject is now deceased in order that the record of this individual may be placed in the dead files, which, under the filing system maintained in this Bureau, are segregated from the active files.

With the assurance of my desire to cooperate with you in all matters of mutual interest and obligation, I am

Sincerely yours,

John Edgar Hoover,
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The formal apology finally arrives

Under the White Australia and assimilation policies, Indigenous people who were ‘not of full blood’ were encouraged to become assimilated into the broader society so that eventually there would be no more Aboriginal people left. At the time Aboriginal people were seen as an inferior race.

Between 1910 and 1970 up to 100,000 Aboriginal children were taken forcibly or under duress from their families by police or welfare officers .

Most were under 5 years old. There was rarely any judicial process. To be Aboriginal was enough. They are known as the Stolen Generations.

They were taken because it was Federal and State Government policy that Aboriginal children - especially those of mixed Aboriginal and European descent - should be removed from their parents.
Between 10 and 30% of all Aboriginal children were removed, and in some places these policies continued into the 1970s.
The main motive was to ‘assimilate’ Aboriginal children into European society over one or two generations by denying and destroying their Aboriginality.
Speaking their languages and practising their ceremonies was forbidden
They were taken miles from their country, some overseas
Parents were not told where their children were and could not trace them
Children were told that they were orphans
Family visits were discouraged or forbidden; letters were destroyed. Most were raised in Church or state institutions. Some were fostered or adopted by white parents.
Many suffered physical and sexual abuse. Food and living conditions were poor.
They received little education, and were expected to go into low grade domestic and farming work.

The following is the historic formal apology given to the Aboriginal people of Australia by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on behalf of its parliament and government.
"Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia."

Friday, February 08, 2008

Today the
postman brought
me a plan
for immediate
world domination. I
wasn’t home & the
parcel was too
big to fit in
the letter-box. Now
I have to pick it
up from the
Post Office
some time after
9 a.m. on Monday.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

On a day too hot for trousers

      He learnt how
    to read sheep’s
  vertebrae as if
they were
paintings. I-
  dentified the
    stylistic attributes,
      named them after
        reptiles. Now it
          seems he’s working
      time I saw him he
    told me how the
  painterly qualities
in Poussin’s Et in
Arcadia Ego
can be
  summarised using
    only three lizards
      & a carpet snake.

Scientific whale killing

"The Australian Government says it has legal evidence to back its fight to stop Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus today declared the Australian Customs monitoring of the whaling a success, and also announced it would be extended for an unspecified period of time.

A Customs crew aboard the Oceanic Viking has been monitoring the whaling and collecting photographs of the catch.

One of the Government's photographs, apparently of a mother minke whale and its calf being hauled aboard a Japanese whaler, was released to Australian media today."


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

slow rise / fast fall

the dog
for a talk

Monday, February 04, 2008


Imagine if you were a sparrow & this suddenly appeared amongst your young. Actually, it wouldn’t be a sparrow because their nests aren’t large enough; but the koel, like most cuckoos, is what’s called a brood parasite & chooses a nest with eggs somewhat like their own to avoid parental duties.

For this is a young koel. Not so much unafraid of humans; more not knowing what to do when they approach. The koel has two types of call, the one that gives it its name—ko-el—& the other a kind of swanee whistle sound, rising in pitch, circular, turning & turning in the gyre but upwards, not down, which I think is its mating call. This one gave out a loud, repetitive chirp, calling for its parents, not knowing that they’d abandoned it long ago, & its foster parents didn’t want a bar of it. We heard it, went out to see what it was because it sounded unusual, & found it slowly bopping around in a chilli bush before it jumped up onto the pool fence. Stayed there for many minutes, long enough for us to go & get the camera & for Lauren to photograph it up close & personal from several angles.

It’s one of the redeeming features of this place, the bird life. As I’ve written before, it’s about the only place in Australia where the two varieties of kookaburra co-exist. There are water-birds & raptors galore, galahs & other varieties of parrot, little birds whose song is a thousand-fold bigger than their bodies &, of course, the pelicans without whom, etc. Most live here all year round, but the koel is a visitor, coming south from Papua New Guinea in September, heading back north around April, spending long enough here to go through at least two breeding seasons.

It’s sexually dimorphic, that is, there is a difference in form between the genders of the same species. The male is quite dark, with only a bit of mottle in its tail. The female is mottled & barred all over, like the bird photographed, except it will acquire some more black around its head & throat as it ages. &, needless to say, it’s the male that makes all the noise.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Today the
postman brought
me The Tell-
tale Heart. I’ve
hidden it under
the floorboards.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lock down the toilets, the shit’s escaping

In my “Floods, personal experiences of” file, there are now two entries. This one, & one sixty years ago, in Hokitika, the small town on the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand where I was born.

My memories, naturally, are limited. The river streaming, swollen from the heavy rain that was endemic in those parts coupled with the Spring melt of snow from the Southern Alps that defined one horizon. Up over the wharves, mixing with the rainwater that had pooled from the downpour.

But rivers in NZ are structured by their flooding & tend to be able to contain it. On the other side of the Island, on the Canterbury Plains, a train trip took you across viaducts that spanned what seemed like a kilometers-wide stretch of gravel, in the middle of which was a small stream, a few meters across. Come the thaw, however, & those streams would turn into rivers, running bank to bank, entirely filling the space.

Between then & now, I have only experienced floods vicariously, via whatever forms of media were dominant at the time—print & radio, add, first, film & then television to that, delete radio, delete film, put television in caps, add the internet, delete print.

The immediacy of television, the expanse of it, brings you close to flooding anywhere in the world. & because of the sound/sight bite aspect, the range is wide; New Orleans, Indonesia, China, Europe—any or all can be seen in a 30 minute news show. & though we now see less of more because there are cameras everywhere & everyone is a news reporter, I believe there are also more floods, more often, more severe, just as there are more forest fires & areas of drought. Pity this busy monster, man unkind, not.

This time round, television & the web have been supplemented by actuality, going down to the river bank & watching that gradual rise, driving around & seeing areas beginning to gather water, streets getting closed off, heading down the back driveway to go up to the shops to find the lagoon is lapping at the bottom of the street a hundred meters away.

& the actuality adds another dimension to floods that I hadn’t been really aware of, & until they invent smellevision—now that’s a contradiction; let’s instead call it television with olifactory settings—it’s an aspect that will continue to be under-appreciated. The stench is horrific; think rotting vegetation, agricultural chemical runoff, disturbed mud, dead animals, the litter of a hundred fast food outlets & then add megaliters of raw sewerage from a broken pipe at the local treatment plant. All flowing into areas with no natural outlets, just spreading across the countryside, pooling there, fermenting in the sun.