Modest Expectations – Christos Chelios 

Ever since Malthus theorised that growth of population was exponential while the food supply to feed the population was linear, consequent fear of worldwide famine has yet to occur. Malthus was proved wrong, but his concept may yield to a different mathematic equation.

Across the World where there has been continual war, there is famine, as brutality has no boundaries in space and time. Warrior mercenaries with the lethal toys attuned to their primitive minds lay waste to huge swathes of arable land. These actions, often in the name of religion, make a mockery of what Christ said:  Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

At the same time, we look from our comfortable sofas at these children -infants with shrivelled bodies and wide-opened eyes staring blankly into distraught mothers’ faces  because she has no food to feed her child. These are the children of marasmus. Just starved to death while the world with its chicken nuggets grazes on. On the other hand, kwashiorkor may not look like malnutrition because it causes swelling and bloating. No balanced diet – a total lack of protein as the child progress to become a fat-stained bag of salt water with articulated bones floating in  human soup.

So, what of the future when the modern Vandals have fished out our seas and rivers; and the crustacea from the bleached coral forest? And in this new World has anybody seen any kelp forest lately?

Meat becomes too dear to buy, and some may revert to our hunter-gatherer heritage seeking protein wherever we can get it. No longer truffles under chestnut trees; nor caviar from long gone sturgeon and as for pink champagne, the last bottle has exploded with our ingenuity able to produce drones the size of pinheads but now with capability of blowing up the world.

Then I awake from my reverie and yes, our gourmets are entering the world of reptile consumption. Yep, the taste of crocodile is a bit like rabbit. Python though is now on the menu of that “fine dining restaurant” with a soufflé of Yangtze soft shell turtle eggs.

The photo above shows a normal Asian market unfortunately selling a cheaper more pedestrian snake.

Cockroach sushi anyone?

And then delving into the world of insects – what about cockroach crunch and aspic of mosquito and hornet? At least the World has a great deal of protein to consume before reverting to my reverie in black.

Nutrition often seems less the reason for reptile consumption but seeking the perfect aphrodisiac. Pursuing the extinction of the species in search of the perfect orgasm. Is that what those Trump evangelicals call Rapture?

If it Quacks, maybe it is a Nutritionist

Discussing nutrition, there was this “whack job” who called herself a nutritionist, advocating the consumption of carrots to engender a tan. Having seen someone who consumed a bizarre number of carrots in order to get a tan and who found themselves turning orange with the colour concentrated in the skin creases, I find myself bemused.  If one wants to look like Donald Trump with his full peau d’orange look – pitted discoloured orange coloured skin – go ahead. If you do, it will be just another form of navel gazing.

Anybody can call themselves a “nutritionist”. There is no regulation unlike for dieticians. All dieticians have graduated with an accredited dietetics degree from an Australian university or studied overseas and are examined. In other words, they are a regulated health profession. The problem with the growth of unregulated quackery, it is aided and abetted by a lack of curiosity by some members of the general public.

It is about time to regulate nutritionists advocating a diet that may be carcinogenic. No brainer, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.


St Patrick’s Pub Saint Malo

Sitting in a bar in Saint Malo surrounded by the props of Irish culture, its flag, the schooner of Guinness, the voice of Sinead O’Connor. Yet, the bar is full of the French speakers with their red hair and blue eyes; not an Irish brogue between them. This is the bar of the Bretons.

In any event, when I asked whether they had any records of Alain Stivell, the Breton Celtic harpist, the patron shook his head and changed Sinead O’Connor to Clannad.

The wind outside had dragged the September rain into swirling masses. At times the sun glinted through the sheets of water as they twisted in the wind. Still reluctantly, I withdrew back from the rain-stained window and forced myself to order another beer.

The Breton seafood platter was full of shellfish I knew would make good fish bait – I think they were called cockles, whelks as well as small clams. These clams I recognised, plus a couple of unfamiliar oysters and spider crabs which I’ve always thought a waste of time. I left the platter unfinished.

Breton crepes called galettes, on the other hand, were food that I liked, given that it has its relative “wraps” eaten all over the world, like tacos, for instance. Galette crepes are made from buckwheat flour. Ham and cheese crepe is the commonest filling cooked in fluent Breton. But as long as it is savory with a umami flare lighting up my taste buds, then it is my typr of comfort food.

But Brittany is not just an exercise in eating.

Wandering the beach, the clouds sullen overheard indicative of the September rain, and ocean similarly steel blue, the hotels all boarded up for the oncoming winter, at least I had the beach to myself. There is an exhilaration I find in an empty beach, something about being close to nature

Likewise, I am wandering along the pink Granite Coast, where the cliffs were more terracotta than pink in the autumn sun, Again I found I was walking alone, revelling that only I was viewing a scene of a deep blue sea washing against these distinctive cliffs. Being alone means that, for an instant in time, I was unique in my cliff top belvedere. Only I could transfix that moment of solitude.

However, the reality is that my sojourn in Brittany is being in that part of France which owes its genetic pool to that of the Celts. It is too simple to say that the Bretons are Welsh who did not go home. There is no sign of a Breton separatist movement, but why should there be? Not all Celts want a fight.

The fact is that whether driving or going by fast train TGV to the port city of Brest, Brittany flashes by, the industrialised skyline prominent– every town along the railway line may have its scenic collection of houses and its fifteenth century churches but on the outskirts there is the evidence of conventional light industry and urban sprawl.

No longer was Brittany the caricature of little old ladies in Breton lace hats speaking their own Breton language while the menfolk went somewhere out in the Atlantic Ocean fishing for a living.

Still, I came to Brittany for several reasons to complete my tour of the Celtic nations – first, to say that I have been to all Celtic nations, tried the seafood and visited Mont St Michèle (actually in Normandy) and stood in the porch of a Breton Church – the porch so large that all the village could meet within its confines.

Pure curiosity in the end just drove me to visit these remnant Celtic civilisations, one that once dominated large swathes of Europe reaching its peak about 300 B.C. It was my Irish heritage speaking in my subconscious which drove this quest. I  can reasonably imitate into an Irish accent; yet I has found learning the language just too daunting – life is too short if you are not likely to live within the Gaeltact which covers Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry. (I remember it being spoken also on the islands of Aran).

Playing the gaita

Wales, Scotland, and Cornwall are  part of the Celtic nation – less known is that there were also Devonian Celts, which included one of my ancestral lines.  Since that visit, unbeknown to me at the time; and thinking I knew all the inglenooks of Celtic culture, I discovered I was wrong. I found another Celtic nation.  When I visited Santiago de Compostela in Galician Spain , I was coming around a corner when I saw two people – one male, one female playing the gaita – the local version of bagpipes – one of the symbols of Celtic heritage. Galicia is Celtic Iberia.

Still one Celtic area remains unvisited – the Isle of Man where Manx once was spoken. The last native speaker, a fisherman died in 1974. Manx was linked to Gaelic.

It is a long time since I went to Brittany, and much of my touring was wedged between other business I had to do. I did not have the luxury of a “month in Brittany, immersing myself in things Breton”. It’s just an anecdote in my life – just idly reminiscing, prompted by a handwritten scrap, my unfinished note, falling out of a book, where it was serving as a bookmark. It is a recurrent theme, leaving old plane tickets and other pieces of detritus in many of the books I have only partially read. But in this instance, I found what I had written interesting. You may not.


The rule of thumb was that the idiot son in the English aristocratic family was consigned to the Church. I thought of that generalisation when I read another pertinent (or impertinent) comment “In America, intelligent people go to technology, curious people go to science, creative people go to the Arts, greedy people to finance and the idiots go to work for the State Department.”

Witness, the USA representative explaining why the USA vetoed a UN motion supporting Statehood for Palestine “Our veto against Palestinian Statehood does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood”. One can only parse this as some infantile obfuscation.

Antony Blinken Fast Facts | CNN
Antony Blinken

Thus, if one accepts the premise of the standard of the State Department so clearly demonstrated in this sentence, then the Keeper of the Idiot Key is Antony Blinken. Now discounting that he is Jewish, he nevertheless must have some inner misgivings about the current situation of the World. At least, it is a hope, but let’s review his involvement with Julian Assange.

Despite his sad sack demeanour, behind the scenes he has promoted his views very strongly. One source described him as outspoken during the time he worked with both Obama and Biden in various capacities in the Secretariat of State and the White House.

As reported: He was {considered} highly influential in developing Biden’s approaches to Iraq and Afghanistan — including the post-surge drawdown of troops in Afghanistan — that were adopted by Obama. His frequent travel to Iraq and other geopolitically important areas, and a Rolodex of international contacts he had developed in the Clinton White House and at the Foreign Relations Committee, gave Blinken a firsthand feel for major issues facing the president.

And, while the decision to intervene militarily in Libya was often portrayed as one driven by a set of powerful women — Susan Rice, Samantha Power and Hillary Clinton — Blinken and Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, were among the vocal minority who argued it was in America’s interests to stop Muammar Qadhafi from slaughtering his own people.

Assange mocked Obama from the sanctuary of the Ecuador Embassy for defending free speech in the Arab world in an address to the United Nations, pointing to his own experience as evidence that Obama has “done more to criminalise free speech than any other U.S. President.

In mocking Obama, Assange was mocking Antony Blinken, the man behind the curtain; a man close to the ear of both Obama and Biden. No wonder he has scaled the heights, a man who I suspect does not have much of a sense of humour and a man of little forgiveness. An Old Testament belief in a vengeful God perhaps?

The background for this imbroglio occurred in 2010 when Chelsea Manning, then Bradley Manning, when as an intelligence analyst in the US military, blew the whistle on Assange and WikiLeaks about US war crimes.

In 2013, Manning was convicted of seventeen serious criminal charges and sentenced to 35 years maximum security imprisonment. During that time in prison, Bradley became Chelsea after gender assignment surgery. Four years later, the Government acknowledged the wrong in imprisoning her and her sentence was commuted by US President Obama and she was released from prison in 2017.

Since 2010 when the US named Assange as effectively an enemy of the state and, in 2019, when charged with multiple breaches of the US Espionage Act which carried a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison, the whole matter seemed excessive. Why ever since evicted from the UK Ecuador Embassy, Assange has been held in solitary detention in a UK maximum security prison, awaiting extradition to the US?

In a matter of Public Importance in the Australian Senate on 2 August last year, Senator Shoebridge asked the question “What was Julian’s crime? Telling the truth and telling this history. He told the truth and the reality about the US-Australia relationship. The real reason Julian Assange is still in jail is that, whether it’s Prime Minister Albanese or Prime Minister Morrison, Australian leaders are willing to trade a citizen’s liberty, their right to speak truth to power, for a close and unquestioning bear hug from a US president. They say truth is the first victim of war and, in the case of Julian Assange, that’s a truth the whole world is seeing… what is happening to Julian Assange is an outrageous attack on journalism and on the truth…. This included thousands of documents that exposed the brutal reality of US led wars. One of those was the deeply distressing video of cold-blooded murder by a US Apache helicopter of Iraqi citizens that included two Reuters journalists.

Days before that speech, in Brisbane, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken launched an attack on Assange. He alleged in Australia that Assange had not only engaged in serious criminal conduct but had risked harm to US national security. All the while, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Wong, stood by mutely, not defending Assange against Blinken’s diatribe. Obviously, Blinken was testing whether he would generate any backlash from this country. Once it was clear that any response from his Australian counterpart was non-existent, he knew that his intransigency had prevailed.

Blinken probably assessed that in Australia Assange did not much excite the  community, despite the Shoebridge speech in the Senate. The perception that Assange was arrogant, a “smart-arse” who thought he could outmanoeuvre the forces of vengeance was the initial view and did not generate much sympathy especially as he seemed to wallow in the notoriety. His judgement was appalling, instead of coming back to Australia, he preferred to play on the international stage. If he had come back to Australia in 2010, Australian nationalism and resentment of American bullying would have kicked in. But he didn’t. Hubris has its problems with such an uncompromising flint as Blinken.

If Australia wants to get Biden to stop fidgeting about Assange, it is important to single Blinken out as the block.

How can one excuse the limp pressure our Government has applied against Assange’s outrageous imprisonment in the United Kingdom for the past five years. Australia is a nation born of unjust British law, and thus it should be natural that this nation unequivocally and vocally call out for Assange’s release, even if it does involve chilling a few cocktail parties in Washington and London. Assange, for all his personality flaws, is a political prisoner, no different from one being a held in Russia or China.

Blinken is no idiot, as the generalisation of the one about recruits into the US State Department above would suggest. Yet remember that all generalisations are untrue, and this is a generalisation.

And one word for Blinken’s ongoing actions in relation to Assange – contempt. Oh, I forgot another word – “alleged”.

Mouse Whisper

I could not miss hearing the President of Columbia University, Minouche Shafik, a very distinguished economist, who has contributed her undoubted expertise to the current stability of the world monetary system and now has found a well-earned sanctuary in that particular New York University where the previous President earned a measly $4.6m annually.

I stood in awe while she robustly criticised the anti-Israel protests within her own University, but then this woman, a Dame or Baroness, whichever prenominal you wish to attach to her, has some reason for her views.

She was born in Alexandria, presumably her family Coptic as it had to flee soon after she was born. The Coptic population in that City is about 500,000, a minority under stress in a Muslim country, no matter how avowedly secular the country overlords may profess to be. She now has two passports, British and American.

As my Uncle Muscarine told me: “Your attitudes, your biases are formed very early in life, when the effects of socialisation are more strongly imbedded than many realise just like ourselves where we had escaped from the Norwegian Rats to our promised land, Chedda.”

Minouche Shafik

Modest Expectations – Nandyal

My elder son is called Paul.

He was named after St Paul. It caused some consternation on one side of the family. Where did that name come from? “Bit Catholic” was one typical comment. Belying this comment, in Sydney there are 10 Anglican St Paul’s in addition to the Anglican St Paul’s College at the University of Sydney and only three Roman Catholic St Paul’s. In addition, there are two Lutheran Churches of that name, and shared names with St Anthony in the Coptic Church and with St Peter in the Russian Orthodox Church. Thus, recognition of St Paul is eclectic, but strongly Anglican in the Diocese of Sydney. I’m sure he would be bemused about the naming rights.

To me, St Paul was integral to the propagation of the Christian faith – the original missionary. But he is also the traditional convert who become far more wedded to the Christian cause as he did because of the fateful episode that the then Saul, a violent Anti-Christian, had that one day on the road to Damascus. I recognise that converts are often weird and fanatical but driven. In St Paul’s case, his conversion was so completely a positive event for the Church which his subsequent actions confirmed. Yet Paul did not work alone. He had supportive people by his side, for instance, Barnabas and Silas, when he made his three major tours through the Mediterranean countries. Even St Luke was present to witness his travels. St Paul attests to that in his second letter to Timothy, where Luke seems to be Paul’s only companion.

He was “a bloke” – so far from some of the modern Church ministers of religion, where raiment and the arcane trumps everything. No, he would have eschewed such frippery, despite him being painted as some balding bearded man in flowing robes. He was the archetype worker priest. He was plainspoken and yet some of his words have been so often repeated that their force is lost as a cliché.

How many times has “Through a glass darkly” been quoted; but what an image such words provoke!

St Paul was undoubtedly authoritarian – always telling the people to whom he wrote his letters what to do – probably inciting dread in the early Christian community. “Paul is coming next month. We better clean the house.

He was a misogynist, but in his defence, it reflected the mores current at the time. In other words, he was not some alien person, who floated round the Mediterranean as some ethereal figure without sin.

That was the great quality of this Man – a person driven by a desire to change the world by word not sword. He projected a powerful message; and as I have always said I define my own ideal companion as a person whom I can trust but not necessarily a person who will always agree with me. Those I suspect, because if one can be as disagreeable as St Paul was on occasion, one must generate animosity even if, as can be detected in the Pauline writing, there is compassion underpinning his interpersonal relationships.

My reaction to this restless man is not unique. Other authors have noted his missionary zeal. Essentially these words in his Letter to the Philippians reveal a man, who has a firm moral code, to which he can be called to account.

Finally, brethren whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there to be any praise, think on these things.

Preceding this call for meditation are those words which have become the conventional benediction for many Christians.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

And that about says it all, except to mention that recently I prayed to St Paul for his intervention, and my prayers were answered. I have always found comfort in the above words which I whispered to myself on this occasion.

I Must Report

My grandfather may have described himself as a mercer rather than working in schmutter aka “the rag trade”. Notwithstanding one must call it as it is – a man in a bowler hat, detachable wing collar, handmade shirts and suit, bow tie, waistcoat with fob watch and of course spats.  (Memoirs of a watcher over a Toorak stuccoed stone fence)

There are two meals that stick in my memory. Given that I have regularly devoted parts of my blog to personal observation, I thought it important for me for me to write up these two meals. They did not occur overlooking the sea or high on mountain tops; nor were these meals in elegant places with silver service and the light glinting on crystal glasses.

Strathmerton 1940s

The first was sometime in the 1940s when there was still rationing in place. As I have written about my father’s nomadic need to travel before, once he had a car, he would often try to get away for a weekend with my mother and myself. There were no motels and therefore we depended on the availability of local hotels to have a bed.  Towns had the Railway Hotel and the Commercial hotels to reflect where they were built and who inhabited them during the week. And Strathmerton did not disappoint – there was a low-slung Railway Hotel.  Strathmerton was a small dairying town just south of the Murray River on the edge of the Goulburn Valley.

Remember, this was a time before credit cards, and payment was restricted to cash or cheque.

Now why do I remember this place. In the morning, the breakfast was something I had never experienced: sausages, steak and eggs, and the bacon. I still can picture those rashers of bacon. The toast was thick, warm and buttery.

This was a time when rationing of some food items was still in place, meat and tea. Eggs, milk and particularly butter were in restricted supply – sugar was removed from rationing in 1947. I had only experienced brown sugar, so white sugar was a novelty. Chocolate was non-existent, except in Laxettes.

None of these restrictions meant much because, until I was six, I had never lived in a country not at war. When I stayed in the country then with my aunts there were eggs and milk. I did not like milk anyway. But eggs … and Marmite; that was something else.

This breakfast was so different – a full on delicious Australian breakfast. I have always enjoyed big breakfasts since, but unfortunately in growing older self-rationing becomes de rigeur. 

The second memorable meal came in the second year after graduation. It was the first time we had a car. I was married and our first child was on his way; yet we had no car. I had a job at Geelong Hospital, but my wife was working as a post-graduate research scholar at the University of Melbourne. My mate, Don Edgar had been recently ordained and he had a locum posting in Tallangatta in North-east Victoria.

We had not seen him for a while, and he invited us up to stay with him. But we could not have chosen a worse night to drive. It was a time when a car may have had a heater but was not air conditioned, where the car did not have the safety features of the modern cars, and the Hume Highway was still mostly two-lane. The weather was bitterly cold, it was winter, and at times we encountered sleet.

I remember bringing a bottle of Moyston claret to drink with Don if and when we got there. In a time before mobile phones, and a disinclination to venture out into the weather to ring him from a phone box, we pressed on.

Tallangatta is a village on the shores of the Hume Weir, which had been rebuilt once the original township was sacrificed to be swallowed when the Murray River was dammed.

Once we arrived in Tallangatta it took us time to find where Don was living. Eventually, we saw the light in the window, and there was Don at the door, appropriately rugged up.

He ushered us inside, where he had built a roaring fire. The residence was basic but coming in after such a stressful drive it was a palace. The claret was warmed; the soup was robust, and the bread rolls were fine. This was almost biblical, but fish was not on the menu.

A Forgotten Observer 


They were familiar not only with the grass seed they so laboriously gathered and ground into flour, but with many bulbs and herbs and underground nuts and tubers also, the native carrot and native onion, the edible yam, which is so like our floury potatoes and a much sought-after food all over the continent. The quandong, too, sometimes called the wild peach, which is good eating when raw and makes a tasty jam – how easily could a tribe have planted practically unlimited number of such fruit-trees! Yet these things they never once thought of growing and cultivating during all the thousands of years they have been struggling for life in this country. And yet they carefully explain to their baby daughters all about the yam-vine from its “beginning” to its “end”, the soils the different varieties grow in, and the conditions and seasons necessary for its growth. They even explain that a few must always be left, so that with the next rain others may grow up. Yet apparently, they have never thought of planting one. 

In the coastal and more favoured areas of the continent, if they had thought of such a thing they might have said, “Everything grows in plenty for us here, in a good season anyway, then why should we toil to grow it?” But over the far greater area of the continent, with its recurring harsh times, that they never thought to improve their food supply by growing edible seeds and plants and fruits is a puzzle in the progress of human life. 

Trooper Idriess

Ion Idriess was a prolific author, writing 50 novels about this country of ours. He has lost the popularity he once had, but for a man born in Sydney in 1889 and dying 90 years later in Sydney in the intervening years he was very busy. There was an extraordinary litany of achievements through various occupations – opal, tin, gold miner, buffalo and dingo shooter, shearer, boundary rider – in diverse parts of Northern Australia. He encountered many Indigenous people, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

His perspective in the above has, to my mind, never been introduced into the confused debate of whether the Aboriginal people ever embraced the agricultural revolution.

His writing at times makes one react as if he was scratching his fingernail across a blackboard. The use of “Stone Age” as a description is not acceptable, because clearly the Aboriginal people are not. The use of inappropriate language in one context does not destroy the validity of his interpretation of some of his observations. In the face of these observations what sophistry would Bruce Pascoe use to justify his thesis? What I have found irritating in all this debate, given all the literature available, is how much has been ignored, such as that of Idriess.

Idriess, because of his times and his language in relation to Aboriginal contact, might jar. Nevertheless he had a clear eye, and in days before the taboos were well articulated said he was able to “bribe a ‘witch doctor’ ” into showing his sacred objects. Again, the Aboriginal “witch doctor” may have double-crossed him about the nature of what he revealed, but the observation may have been just as valid.

It is just that I once was given the privilege of seeing sacred objects, which only men are allowed to see. His observations did not tally with mine. However, the diversity of these individual tribes should never be underestimated, and every time I look at my collection of paintings and other artefacts, it just reinforces the diversity among these Aboriginal mobs. Idriess travelled extensively and that is why his descriptions ring true. He was an observer, admittedly culturally insensitive, but nevertheless historically valuable in being able to describe situations that now are hidden by cultural taboos, whether confected or not.

One of Idriess’ strengths was that he effortlessly mingled with Aboriginal people, but never “went native”. Like me, he did not have the genes which had been coursing through Aboriginal people for thousands of years. I retain the ultimate regard for the heritage of Aboriginal people.

If there were to be an honest appraisal of the actual achievements not the constant blame as if it were totally one-sided; the persistent talk without action (so-called “conversations” in different exotically attractive venues across the continent, also a form of expensive, diversional therapy for whitefellas able to afford the entry and travel costs or paid courtesy of the government), then I would without question vote “Yes”.

There is so much humbug floating around.

The Tanami Track

Try a “conversation” in the Tanami desert in January, Prime Minister. 

Malevich – Remarkable Painter

The Athletes also concerns the artist’s own metaphysics, which are quite distinct from that of the stablished church. He has erased all particular detail in order to bring to the fore his vision of humanity’s connection to the cosmos …The removal of facial features and the lowering and flattening of the horizon graphically emphasise the figures’ tenuous connection with the earth. Their feet on the coloured ground, their heads in the infinite white heavens – their half-white heads – all express the dualistic nature of natural beings and their evolving destiny.

I was sorry that we were unable to visit the Vermeer exhibition this year in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Vermeer, together with Magritte and Malevich, are the three painters whose exhibitions, in normal circumstances, I would have made every effort to travel anywhere to see.

We did so in 1998 for the exhibition in Brussels to celebrate the centenary of Magritte’s birth. I have written about the hoops we had to jump through to gain entry into that exhibition. This escapade has stuck in my memory; it was a good story, especially as it ended up in the “happily ever after” box.

But what of Malevich, the third of “my must see” painters?

I stare hard at the figurine of one of the Athletes in the painting by Kazimir Malevich. I purchased the figurine as a memento of the Malevich exhibition. It was the one with half the head coloured red the other side white. The rest of the figurine is a mixture of red and black. It doesn’t look like an Athlete, but I read the explanation, with which I headed this piece. I also have a coffee table book which shows most of his paintings, as well as a set of Malevich postcards and a large poster titled The Carpenter, which was painted and reflects very much the style he used in The Athletes.

Kazimir Malevich, the man born near Kiev in 1878, spent most of his life in Russia. His professional career was counterpointed by the 1917 October Revolution and the growth of the Soviet Union. He died in the then Leningrad in 1935. Only on two occasions did he leave Russia, having been given permission to go to Poland and Germany in the 20s. Most of his works therefore are retained in Russian Galleries, but there was an exhibition of his paintings a decade ago at the Tate Gallery in London.

He was the central figure in the Supremacist movement and there is a great force in his paintings – notably in his originality in style. He is the one painter, whose work I could gaze at for hours. For most galleries I just breeze around absorbing image after image without stopping for long in front of each work. Yes, I admit Guernica, Picasso’s painting makes me want to sit and have a longer look. Otherwise, Picasso does not provoke the same level of interest as Malevich; Picasso had this great facility to dash off a figure with an almost impeccable facility, but they do not connect emotionally.

But Malevich, with his ability to break form down to component and colour, appropriately and deftly lays a beautiful tableau.  Even the definition of the principles of Suprematism to reject any form of realism and paint simple shapes such as the circle, square and triangles forces one to recast your view of the world. They also used these shapes as vessels to explain and communicate themselves to the public or the viewer without any use of words or typography. There was limited use of colour in the palette with only basic colours such as red, yellow, blue and green, in addition to white and black.

This colour minimalism is shown by a series of diagrammatic paintings, with anonymous numbering of most of them. What I find fascinating is they seem to be architectural drawings if viewed casually, perfectly outlined rectangles, circles, squares – the architect of the cosmos. The juxtaposition of the components seems to be in harmony; I frankly don’t know why and thus if I try to articulate what they mean I’ll end up in a tangle of words.  There is one of these Supremacist works which he links to an aeroplane taking off. The reference point to this are several red lines – he would deny that the red line was the horizon, just a guide to his black and yellow rectangles and oblongs, the plane about to fly off the page.

The solid black painting is the signature of the Supremacist movement – just a pure Black Square. As though in a dark place we are seeing a lunar eclipse at the time when the Moon is closest to the earth (perigee), but paradoxically The Black Square is boxed in by a frame, and it is always hung in a corner of the gallery where normally in the Russian household an icon is hung. I can see what Malevich is trying to do, but that painting is easily mocked by others, including the Australian painter who replicated the Black Square by inserting a combination lock into his version of the Black Square. It brought contemplation of this Malevich work back to Earth.

On Malevich’s gravestone there is a Black Square, with a generous white concrete border.

Malevich went through post-impressionist, cubism, fauvism phases. After his Supremacist period, he reverted to folk artist primitivism, which persisted up to his death. Given how uncertain life was under Stalin, in a period where purges had continued that Russian propensity for pogroms, Malevich may have gone back to folk art as a Survival phase, but he did not live to the Great Terror of 1937. Yet one of the enigmas surrounding Malevich is his sudden cessation of Supremacist painting and reversion to folk art. Why? Perhaps he could not progress his ideas any further.

In the end, if you asked why I so am attracted to Malevich that once I was prepared to travel across the world to see a retrospective, it is his unique representation of the level of affinity and appreciation of what are essentially spatial juxtapositions, so clinical and technical; yet so original … and so difficult to articulate.

Mouse Whisper

Wrestling with concept of Suprematism?

A plane of painted colour hung on a white sheet of canvas imparts a strong sensation of space directly to our consciousness. It transports me into an endless emptiness, where all around you sense the creative nodes of the Universe.” – Kazimir Malevich.

To be read in conjunction with “Untitled (Suprematist Painting) painted in 1915 now hanging in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

Modest Expectations – San Xavier del Bac

We spent three days talking about the language of the NATO communique. I couldn’t think of something less consequential to the result of the counteroffensive — and the most important goal: winning the war. Josh Rogin, Washington Post

The charade in Lithuania has come to an end.  NATO met and decided to let the Ukrainians continue to take the brunt of Putin’s madness.

The American playbook is that of before. Let the Russians exhaust themselves against an American surrogate foe that, once balanced and fed sufficient arms, will never surrender their homeland. An independent Ukrainian homeland was once a fiction, just as under the reign of Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus is once again a satrap of Russia. But not Ukraine.

The inconvenient fact that the Ukrainians must face is that Crimea was handed over to the Ukrainian SSR in a fit of pique by Khrushchev.  Then it did not matter. Russia had absorbed the Ukraine in the early nineteenth century, and Crimea was very Russian, especially given what Stalin had done to the Crimean Tatars and other minorities.

The three Baltic states, even though they have been squeezed into NATO, continue to be nervous. In the case of the Estonian Boot, a road connecting two parts of Estonia goes through Russia, and there have been strict rules for Estonian usage, which could be revoked.

South is Latvia, where a significant part of the population is Russian speaking; when I visited four years ago, our driver was particularly stressed when I asked him to stop so we could photograph the Russian embassy.

The third Baltic country is Lithuania. As we were sitting out in the sun in Vilnius having coffee, the Lithuanian High Command cars parked in front of us and drifted into our hotel for a meeting. At that time coincidentally, Belarus had loosened requirements for flights into Minsk. The land border between Lithuania and Belarus was still a pain in the backside, restricting the crossings in true Russian bureaucratic tradition, but accessible. No longer.


One of the problems with this part of the world is the constant presence of socio-geographical anomalies. After the Treaty of Versailles, it was the Polish Corridor, and the free port of Danzig. Then there was the sliver of land called Memel, between Lithuania and East Prussia. All of these added to the combustible nature of the region between the two World Wars.

Kaliningrad, once the Eastern Prussian city of Königsberg, remains. It is an exclave of Russia, where it stores its Baltic fleet during winter and which bristles with all the hacking devices that Putin can stuff into this former part of East Prussia. NATO could occupy it tomorrow, but the nuclear threats from Putin inspire fear among all the NATO crowd not to do so.

It is fascinating to watch this assortment of European governments, always under the American flag, (or in the case of Korea the UN) willing to pick a fight with the brown and yellow – first Korea, then Vietnam and finally Iraq and Afghanistan. Australian governments like the faithful drover’s dog keeps running alongside the Americans wanting to be rewarded for our faithfulness. It’s a form of “look at me”, and then we participate in Wars that the Americans do not win.

With one exception, in which Australia did not participate, and that was the “shadow” war that drove the Russians from Afghanistan – at a cost. America provided sufficient weaponry and logistic advice for it to be used against them when the Taliban shifted from being ally to enemy.

Now it is clear that Zelensky was not expected to be the strong man that he has become, given his various predecessors’ weakness in being susceptible to Russian interference. The pathetic responses of some of the NATO members saying that the Ukranians should be more grateful. For what? Hissy fits do not help – just shows a whiny weakness.

I believe NATO should be thankful for Zelensky because it is the ultimate ceasefire, if not peace, which will need a strong and canny leader. Ukraine will be in ruins and much of its youth dead or maimed. Whether the outcome will advantage Ukraine and move the Russians back beyond the borders will be difficult, given the rules of the game, devised probably by “those smart ugly Americans”, whose simulacra lost the Vietnam War.

Zelensky will keep requesting the weapons to defeat the Russians or to forge a stalemate. There is no doubt as to that because he has not been given the aircraft he needs to challenge the air superiority afforded to the Russians. Drones are cheap, and increasingly sophisticated in avoiding detection and killing people. What must be most galling for Zelensky is the attempts to make him a puppet, to do what the ossified brains want, these bureaucracies like NATO, where the original intent had been lost in a whirl of paper and high living by “the braided bunch”.

War was the last thing NATO want or expected, because the threat of a nuclear holocaust was sufficient deterrent for the Cold War to be anything but a giant charade. So they thought.  Unfortunately, Putin came along, with all the mythology which seems to be entwined in Russian Orthodoxy with delusions of Peter the Great. This is Putin the Great – and greatness comes out of conquest.

The commentator in The Washington Post makes prophetic sense in attempting to define the end game

That line is going to have to be on Ukraine’s 1991 internationally recognized borders. I don’t think anything short of that is going to be sustainable in the long term. Although I would put an asterisk on Crimea. I think that there is a potential for a deal on Crimea if the Ukrainians can take back Donbas and the rest of the Russian-occupied territory. They could say, “We’re not going to recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea, but we’re going to live with it for now.”

A solution canvassed is the so-called armistice arrangement as pertains to North and South Korea with the line drawn at the 38th parallel. Given that it is almost seventy years since these arrangements were set in place, a line drawn across Crimea delineating Russia territory from Ukraine may provide a solution. The Dnipro River may have been such a line, but the Ukrainians have allegedly crossed it, even though the Kharkova dam destruction must have altered the geography to some extent, probably enough to encourage the generals to draw new lines.

Aftermath of the destruction of Kharkova Dam

Peace will inevitably come in some form or another, but for Zelensky this will pose problems. Here I assume he will be still in charge of the country, when that time comes, and assuming the Americans continue to provide enough resources to prevent any successful Russian counterattack. However, wartime leaders in democracies have a tendency to be voted out at the end of hostilities – and unless Zelensky is superhuman, the adrenalin will drain away – and he will be looking for a place to sleep. Yet I admit my comment is totally speculative, like backing a nag in a horse race. Even worse – not knowing the odds.

There will be at least two major challenges to win the peace before the bureaucracy proceeds quickly enough for Ukraine to be incorporated into NATO.

The first is to make the fertile plains, where the war has been waged in Eastern Ukraine, safe. Russia and Ukraine contribute over 25 per cent of the world wheat exports, the largest amount shipped by Russia. Ukraine contributes seven per cent, a greater amount than Australia exports. One notable fact is that in 2001, Russian export of wheat was one per cent of world exports. In the intervening period, Russian exports have risen to provide a critical amount of an essential part of food security. The Ukraine contribution is also significant.

Therefore, there awaits a huge potential cost of removal of mines and unexploded bombs, which will be made worse if cluster bombing is introduced. Talk about Killing Plains!

Another problem for Zelensky is to rid the country of the endemic corruption, which slinks just below the surface. As reported the Ukrainian oligarchs are sitting out the War in places like Monaco, plotting and planning how to exploit the chaos of a truce, armistice, surrender, whatever. Hopefully, Zelensky has their measure.

Overall, Ukraine will need a Marshall Plan assistance, not only to restore the damage, but also to ensure the Ukrainian identity and cultural independence, which the War has shown are so important. As one example, whether the Ukrainians dump the Cyrillic script, as some other Slavonic countries have done, would be one consideration for the Ukrainians to emphasise their difference from Russia. Then there is the whole debate about religious differences.

Also, there is a need to assure stability in the nuclear energy industry. The War has shown how vulnerable these facilities are, and how madmen try to insert them as pieces on the Wargame Board. Chernobyl lies within Ukraine, testimony to nuclear disaster turning the power station into a concrete bunker surrounded by a wasteland, a scenario in full sight. Thus, given the Chernobyl experience, it makes sense for nuclear facilities to be supervised by an international organisation especially in the case of the Zaporizhzhia power plant, currently under Russian control and ten times bigger than Chernobyl.

I am sure that Zelensky views the whole mess into which his country has been placed with the satirical edge of the comedian.  Maybe his insights into the frailties of the human condition will be just the quality needed to survive the peace.

Unless Trump is again unleashed on the World in 2025.

Does a Stone Skip or Bounce?

In an article in a 2002 issue of the New Scientist there is an analysis of stone skimming. Here, this pastime of stone skimming has been reduced to a mathematical formula. At that time the world record for stone skimming was 38 skips on the Texan Blanco River by one Jordane Coleman McGhee. Since then, in 2013, Kurt Steiner set the Guinness World Record for “most consecutive skips of a stone” with 88 skips. The record was achieved at Red Bridge, near Kane, Pennsylvania. For someone such as myself, who reckons five skips is not bad, what a difference!

A French physicist, Lydéric Bocquet, was intrigued with the physics of this phenomenon while watching his son. So as the article said, “he tinkered with some simple equations describing a stone bouncing on water in terms of radius, speed and spin and taking account of gravity and water drag.”

It was unsurprising that theoretically the faster the spinning stone, the more it will bounce. Maintaining the spin prevents the stone from tipping over into the water. He then took the current world record at that time and he predicted the stone would be travelling at 40 km/hr and spinning at 14 rotations per second.

The current world champion, Kurt Steiner, has relied on empiricism and, believe it or not, he has collected more than 10,000 “quality rocks” and has sorted each according to its type, to prepare for the best possible throw. He looks for stones “that weigh between 85 and 230 gm, are very smooth (they don’t have to be perfectly round), flat bottoms and are between 6-8 mms in thickness.” It sounds as if he does not have much of a life in Kane, which is a small township in northern Pennsylvania. But what wrist strength this guy must have as compensation.

Bocquet added that he was just re-discovering a piece of history. Barnes Wallis must have done the same sort of mathematics and experiments when designing the “bouncing bomb” for the Dambusters squadron during World War II. 

Culinary Dystopia

In the wonderful quest for new experiences, I have three where this initial experience, if not completely horrendous, verged on gustatory nightmare.

I was reminded of the first by this long article in The Guardian about borscht. I advisedly spell it the Yiddish way because it was presented to us one Friday night at Shabbat. As I understand it, heating the food for Shabbat is not done, so when we sat down we were presented with this blood red beetroot cold soup. For those of us not used to such soup, including myself, I felt as I sipped it, my stomach immediately rejecting it and that going down was met by that coming up. I was not alone. There is no etiquette for vomiting at the dinner table, especially when presented with a signature dish. There was a certain embarrassment, but the gefilte fish attracted more positive comments. I must say that I have eaten borscht since, but always warm – not that I have a phobia about cold soup. Iced gazpacho on a hot day is a magnificent culinary antidote on such a day.

The second disastrous introduction was to the avocado. One night, we had been invited to a dinner party. It was sometime in the early 1960s. The hostess produced this unfamiliar green fruit, which vaguely resembled a pebbled-skin pear. However, nobody had told her that they had to be ripe to eat. Hence, we struggled with the yellowish flesh surrounding the central seed. Unripe avocado flesh, as we found out, was like concrete, and after hacking pieces of this flesh, it proved completely inedible. Nobody had thought to read anything about the fact that avocados had to ripen – and as we were already well lubricated, the avocados were swiftly destined for the rubbish bin.

Several years passed before the avocado was revisited. The first avocados attacked were probably Haas, but the one I purchased from a barrow in central Sydney changed my whole notion of avocado. It was a smooth skinned variety, plump rather than lean like the Haas. Its flesh was ripe, closer to orange than yellow. It was the best avocado I have ever eaten, but I’ve never seen another one like it again, presumably because this variety ripens too quickly or lacks the commercial resilience of the Haas variety, which seems to dominate the avocados on sale.

With familiarity comes the elegance of shoving the unripe avocado into a brown paper bag with a banana, the ethylene emitted from it accelerating the avocado ripening.

The third disastrous introduction was to the persimmon. There are two varieties of persimmon – those that are astringent when not perfectly ripe and those which are not. This time the particular hostess proudly presented us with persimmons as a treat at the end of the meal. Unfortunately, they were the astringent types, and I referred to my mouth after eating a sliver as being like having an Axminster carpet lining my mouth, so great was the astringency.

Nothing since has created this buccal environment to such an extent. Since then, most persimmons on sale have been of the non-astringent variety, until last week when the Chinese greengrocer chuckled his warning that my wife had purchased the “old ones”. We immediately knew what he meant, and let the persimmon ripen until it was so ripe as to be soggy. Persimmons in this state are very pleasant, but best eaten over the sink.

In the end, it demonstrates the adage, you live and learn – so long as the offering is not poisonous rather than just inedible. One wonders with so much cooking material published across all forms of media, that the ignorance we showed then would occur to-day.

Just One Invasion Day 

It has become fashionable among some of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters to classify us whitefellas as invaders. But we are an essentially homogeneous “mob” of colonisers – the only invaders who stayed. We are British with a Celtic spine.  Australia had just one single coloniser, despite being originally known as New Holland and the name of the Island to the South, Tasmania.

Explorers from other European countries came, saw the Australian coastline and did not remain. The colonisation of Australia was neither Africa nor Asia or for that matter the Americas. It was essentially monochromatic – British imperial red.  We Australians of Anglo-Celtic descent did not have to either fight other colonial powers or buy part of the Continent from another European coloniser.

Too hostile an environment …

It is ironic that Australia, now a popular tourist destination with magnificent beaches, was rejected by these early European explorers who saw it as too hostile an environment to colonise.

I would have said that the Aboriginals just invaded some time before when land bridges made movement easier. It is interesting that the original mob came without animals, in particular they lacked horses – and also the wheel.

The dingo was brought by the Macassar traders about 4,000 years ago. The trade between these Sulawesans and the local Aboriginals in sea cucumber existed until the early years of 20th century.  They came down to fish but not to stay, taking their catch back when the winds changed and blew them back home where they sold the dried sea cucumber product to the Chinese.

Yet the Torres Strait Islanders are a potpourri of Melanesians and Polynesians admixed with Aboriginal people. I have witnessed the discrimination of Horn Aboriginal islanders by their Torres Strait Islander neighbours even though they all have been recognised as part of the Australian indigenes. Yet the Torres Strait Islanders have never moved southwards to settle on Cape York Peninsula nor the islands in the Gulf.Luis Torres, himself was a Portuguese in command of a Spanish ship, sailed through the eponymous Strait in 1606, without stopping (that we know of), on his way to Espiritu Santo in what is now Vanuatu.

However, in all the Voice debate, it is to a heterogeneous world of multiple Aboriginal mobs who, in the long term, only needed to deal with one European power – us British with Celtic overlay, who have facilitated a debate about the Voice rather than a conglomerate of the Voix, Stem, Rолос or Voz. Imagine getting a world of multiple colonisers to agree on what it means – would the Aboriginals thus be so lucky as to have to deal with only one set of “invaders”.

Ourselves to Know

Then I won’t pursue the subject, but you believe that a painter is restricted by three dimensions? Those of his canvas and the third one, imaginary, his fear of his mediocrity?”

“I didn’t say mediocrity! A man can be first-rate and still have that fear. Oh, indeed! The great ones have it earlier and later than the fourth-raters, they always have it. Their greatness is in going on and on until they know they’ve gone as far as they can, then they still go on doing their best work, sometimes for a year, sometimes for ten years. Then, if they’re lucky, they die. If they’re easily frightened, they kill themselves while they’re still able to do their best work, with some left undone.”

“Would you ever commit suicide?”

“How could I? I don’t care that much about anything. And I’ve protected myself by engaging in a large assortment of activities, so that if one thing ceases to interest me, I have others that will.”

“I don’t believe you. I think you care very deeply about some things.” 

“Then that’s the most intelligent observation you’ve ever made about me,” said Chester Calthorp. “I care greatly about a great many things. Have you always known that?” 

“I guess so.” 

John O’Hara

John O’Hara is now not the most fashionable of American novelists. He wrote “Ourselves to Know” which was first published in 1960, to much acclaim. The dust jacket echoed this regard when there was written about this book: “… at the height of his powers John O’Hara has produced a masterly study of a man and his destiny.”

This above exchange is between two young men when they were in Paris – Robert Millhouser (later convicted of uxoricide as the book tells us) and Chester Calthorp (who is revealed as homosexual), both affluent. What seems weird to me is how much I understand what this exchange is about while not knowing whether my interpretation has coincided with the author’s intent.

Most of us are pedestrian but we struggle under the delusion we can do or become better. Some do claw their way to the top of whatever pile they have seen from the valley of ambition and want to scale. Then, wherever one is on the slope, there is always the doubt, the failure, the suicide of compensation. To guard against that we should diversify our ambition in order to combat obsession with just one goal, but only if one has the capacity to care, which O’Hara writes lifts one to a higher plane. Metaphorically, look around and see if you are alone. If so, then you will never have the capacity to care.

This is my interpretation, and I wish I could express it as well as O’Hara. But at least I recognised something which is embedded deeply in my psyche. After all, the novel is long, and I am not the type of person who reads every word. But this passage has stuck in my mind.

Mouse Whisper

John O’Hara wrote the book for the musical Pal Joey, which was set to music by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart. The book came from a series of short stories in New Yorker about a con man and night club performer, Joey Evans.

The lead role in this 1940 musical first performed at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York was Gene Kelly, then little known.

To say it received “mixed” reviews would be somewhat kind. But probably one of the most famous quotes came from Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times: “Although it is expertly done, can you draw sweet water from a foul well?”

Modest Expectations – Lionel Messi

The recent visit of the Prime Minister to Makassar in the Sulawesi, reminded us of the links of the Makassan traders with the northern Aboriginal people well before European discovery. It is a neglected area in the study of the cultural influence of these people.  Thus, I thought it interesting to reproduce below a bark painting which I bought some years ago on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. You be the judge of the cultural influences at play in this painting. 

In a tortuous vein

I had a pleasant surprise the other day. This is a lesson in clinging onto a view of what you think you know, and what is in fact reality. You may be dying, but you think tomorrow you will be better. I was reminded of the time leading up to the diagnosis of my underlying disease nine years ago. There was a delay in instituting therapy, and I was largely to blame – but not totally.

This time, my legs have been beset by increasing peripheral oedema, two swollen angry red calves and feet, compounded by the sub-fascial swelling on the soles of my feet.

Overnight, the swelling has always decreased, but the level of that reduction in oedema has slowed since the start of the pandemic because of weight increase and closure of hydrotherapy facilities. I dislike exercise especially if it is painful. Hydrotherapy provided a relief from the pain. My legs began to become more and more oedematous. Nobody offered the panacea I was looking for.

Over this period, there had been mention of vascular specialists and compression stockings but, as I now realise, I need for those who advise me to be assertive and not be ambivalent. The latter gives me an excuse for inaction.

I visit a plastic surgeon, who regularly checks me for skin lesions. I mentioned my legs; and once he saw how bad my legs apparently were, he said he had a vascular surgeon colleague whom I should see urgently.

Nearly ten years ago, it was an orthopaedic surgeon who looked at me, ordered tests, and by the next Monday, due to a fortuitous cancellation, I was able to see a consultant rheumatologist, who immediately confirmed the diagnosis the orthopaedic surgeon had considered, but which had been missed by a variety of other doctors. I might add I had seen another orthopaedic surgeon a week or so before and he offered to replace my knee joint almost immediately without any tests. That is the danger of being referred to a specialist, who may be technically brilliant but would have most certainly have ensured a very stormy post-operative passage for myself.

On this second occasion, it was a Thursday afternoon, and by Monday morning first thing, I had an appointment to see the vascular surgeon.

Now this vascular surgeon is young. He shares a clinic with three others. To the best of my knowledge he is not owned by an American hedge fund. He is actually into the business of helping people, not trading a commodity for financial gain.

Vascular ultrasound image

Under one roof, I had an ultrasound of my lower limbs’ vascular system, a consultation where the specialist did not expect to sit across a desk in a consulting room – inspected, interacted with the allied health professionals, recommended compression stockings. These and the applicator were on hand and my wife was taught the optimal way the stockings should be applied. As she said, looking at me meaningfully, she did read the instructions and watched the video in addition to the initial demonstration.

All in less than two hours – a one-stop shop. We had the compression stockings and the applicator.

Here was a local product where any Medicare benefits paid remained onshore, able to be reinvested. How different to those diagnostic imaging and pathology companies allegedly repatriating Medicare payments overseas.

Over 20 years ago, the Australia Institute in a discussion paper analysed the growth of corporate medicine foreshadowing the decline in standards as the profit motive became the prime driver in health care.

As the growth of corporate medicine grew so did Medicare become the ATM, not only for private entrepreneurs but also for the States, which were up to their filing cabinets in cost-shifting. As many of the purchasers were underwritten by overseas investors, the consequence increasingly will be that Medicare funding, which should remain in Australia, ends up in overseas tax havens.

The problem is that the medical profession has ceded control and hence independence to its corporate masters. As somebody who was involved in the various Inquiries in the regulation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule, I have always regretted that the AMA gave up this privilege, which meant that there was not any regular mechanism to alter the Medicare benefit, which was constantly misrepresented as a fee rather than a financial patient benefit the government provided for payment to the doctor.

During my time at the AMA, the discrepancy between the Medibank (then Medicare) benefit and the fee charged was symbolised by the AMA annual recommended list of medical fees. This was a guide, not an instruction by the AMA. Nevertheless, it maintained a relevance, which has only persisted after the introduction of gap insurance when the private health funds, initially prohibited, were able to re-enter the medical insurance market.

John Deeble, Medicare pioneer

After 1984, when the AMA abandoned the regular fee for Medicare benefit Inquiries, it became a matter for every medical specialty to negotiate for themselves. The problem for some of the medical specialties was a function of what happened following the Nimmo Inquiry in 1969 into health insurance which was that benefit relativities were based on what were the fees charged by each specialty; and these relativities naturally created distortions in the market as technology made a number of items of service much cheaper to perform. In 1977 it was clear that technology advances with automaton replacing manual testing was enabling pathologists to make a bonanza from Medicare payments. This Inquiry into the Pathology Medibank Benefits was the first instance of government intervention into these relativities.

The AMA, through the Inquiries, had effectively maintained control over relativities. It provided a form of “flawed order” even though some of the Medicare benefits were well in excess of the underlying cost of the service while some other areas of the profession had done badly.

Thus, from an exercise where the AMA and the Government were in an edgy if not directly confrontational relationship, then there was none.

As I found out henceforth from the AMA relinquishing its position, it became a matter of having a good cost accountant to negotiate with government. With the growth of technology, while the value of the professional component of the medical service remained important, in some areas of the service there were both a substantial technical and a capital component. The “technical” component includes the cost of the scientists, the technicians, the allied health professionals including nurses required to provide services which were not medical, and “capital”, such as the cost of linear accelerators, MRI facilities and so forth.

Not all capital costs are covered. For instance, disposables were inherent in the delivery of the professional component, and not differentiated into any of the other Medicare benefit components. In fact, most of the cost of these has been borne by the hospital. Even now re-usable devices and prostheses lie outside the cost of the service.

Enter the world of the entrepreneurs, more interested in cash flows and profit rather than patient care. Some of the first were medical graduates, like the criminal, the late Geoffrey Edelsten, who gave the whole area a bad name; but it is the multinational companies that have moved behind a wall of cost accounting to dissect the Medicare schedule to exact the greatest profits, and in so doing, to enable Medicare funding to be sent to tax havens overseas.

Some may say how outrageous such a comment is; but the easiest way to deal with Medicare funding is to prohibit any profits that those companies who benefit in any way from exporting those profits.

This vascular surgeon, whose expertise spreads far wider that just advising on varicosities, demonstrated the one-stop shop advantages, which I frankly did not expect, and another fact – you don’t need to run late if you are a doctor.  And you do not need to be a multinational corporation; his rooms were modern and located within a religious hospital.  Good God, on second thoughts, located in a multinational corporation!

Such a thought in no way diminished my satisfaction with the service.

I, the Cryptosexton

I read about this complicated thing called Cryptocurrency. After riding the Algorithm Hobbyhorse around in my Virtual Nursery, I realised that cryptocurrency must be like a bit of barter behind the tog room at school. Hidden from the authority, a packet of Senior Service for two packets of brown Capstan; but not requiring the electrical power requirements of a small city to accompany the transaction.

But this cryptocurrency surely must be more complicated than that, and thus have more benefits.

Apart from plugging cryptocurrency into the cyptocharger, I decided to call it Tulipcoin. I was tempted to use “Lillionarcissus-coin”, which was the name for “tulip” before this Turkish corruption of a Persian word for “turban” was adopted. But that name was too long, would use too much power.

I thought by calling my cryptocurrency after such a famous flower, irrespective of the corruption implicit in the name, I would honour a previous occasion which may have arisen in a crypt.

Jan Breughel the Younger’s view of tulipomania

The whole saga of the tulip bubble was well expressed years ago in the 1999 book “Tulipomania”. The basic cause of the exorbitant prices which the tulip bulb reached in sixteenth century Netherlands was somewhat eccentric. A Flemish merchant found tulip bulbs in a cargo of cloth from Istanbul, thought they were onions, ate most of them and planted the rest.

The resultant blooms were overwhelmingly beautiful and attracted the eye of wealthy Dutch burghers.

The tulip is thus the most captivating of flowers, and like so many products of the Levant, this was the favourite flower of Süleyman the Great, who not only cultivated the wild variety but also initiated the science of breeding hybrids.

Thus when the tulips bloomed, the Dutch, who had the time and were a very wealthy nation due to their trade in the East (the Dutch had a monopoly on nutmeg for instance), were intoxicated by the flower; and the tulip became the signature of these prosperous people.

As was written in Tulipomania: “In 1633, the flowers served no economic purpose other than relieve the cold wet spring with petals that promised a change from the grey mist”.

Initially they were not only desirable but scarce. They attracted gardeners and the few connoisseurs, where scarcity was compounded by the search for perfection. At one stage when a skilled worker could expect 250 guilders in a year, a single tulip bulb was traded for over 5,000 guilders. A small basket was worth more than an Amsterdam mansion. It took three years for the bubble to burst, which it did in a spectacular fashion in 1637.

One of the reasons for this was that many of the tulips had been infected with a virus, which did not necessarily diminish the spectacular colours but certainly lessened the life of each infected bulb. What’s more by that time trading in bulbs had spread throughout the community into every tavern across the country. One of the supposed benefits of cryptocurrency is to be able to bypass “stodgy banks”. Just like being able to buy a cheap TV at the local pub.  But here it was the tulip bulb.

The value of the bulb during this hectic three period provided a way to extricate oneself from, if not poverty, at least to being able to afford a decent house -only if you sold early.  However, given where many of the transactions took place as the author of Tulipomania wrote: “The trade was conducted for the most part in a haze of inebriation.

How appropriate! My Tulipcoin placed into such a market – drunk with power but where the mist has yet to lift?


I wrote the following italicised in my blog on 15 January 2021 in a vain attempt to promote Craig Reucassel to stand against Falinski. My sentiments yet have been reflected in the deserved dumping of this Morrison sycophant, despite all the protestations.  Subtly, my choice reveals my deep-seated prejudice, born of over 80 years in a male-dominant world. I suggested that a high-profile male with a formidable record in climate change and waste management should mount the challenge. I discounted the fact that he lived far away in the Sydney inner west.

Dr Sophie Scamps MP

I congratulate Dr Scamps (pronounced Scomps), who has been a high-achieving, very well qualified general practitioner who both lived and practised in the electorate, before successfully challenging Mr Falinski in the recent Federal election. My sense of his vulnerability was correct, but I got the gender of the new Member for MacKellar wrong.

I would suggest one of the New South Wales’ seats held by one of the Trump neophytes would be perfect for him, given that upending Abbott showed the way to do it. Maybe Falinski, whose seat is MacKellar, would be the way to go. Falinski is the typical Liberal Party hack toeing the party line.

As Falinski said in his maiden speech full of the pieties expected:

And so a politician is accountable to their community – I am accountable to you.

Mr Jason Falinski

Wrong, he is beholden to his masters, never voted against any government.  He has a voting record which would please Donald Trump – he should be vulnerable to somebody with the Reucassel values. I would love to see them debate why, for instance, Falinski has inter alia disagreed recently with the proposition:

“The Prime Minister to attend the House by 2 pm Tuesday 8 December to make a statement to advise the House whether Australia is speaking at the Climate Ambition Summit and table any correspondence with the summit organisers relating to whether Australia is speaking at the summit.”

This is but one example, but Falinski’s voting record is reprehensible to any person who is genuinely Liberal.

Reucassel is genuinely concerned with climate change and the world becoming a rubbish dump. He should be elected to Parliament to pursue this goal and hold the government to account.  Falinski seems unwilling to do so. Is it Mitch* Falinski, or is that your second name?

*Mitch stands for that annoying Kentucky Senator, who pleads propriety but unquestionably has supported Trump. Dr Scamps reminded the electorate of the false nature of the so-called moderate Falinski’s voting record.

Janus was an EU Politician with the head of Boris Johnson

As an impotent observer of world affairs, I fret over the ambivalent attitudes of politicians over the fate of Ukraine. Angela Merkel defends her legacy in stalling the entry of Ukraine into NATO by saying that, at the time in 2008, the Ukraine was controlled by a pro-Soviet Government.

The root problem was that most governments wanted Zelensky to disappear into some hedonist exile, and he has proved to be very inconvenient.  He wanted to defend the sovereignty of his nation. Suddenly, the Ukrainians had a leader, an uncompromising charismatic leader who, in a matter of 100 days, has differentiated a country from the neighbouring Russians. The ferocity with which the Ukrainians have responded to the Russian invasion contrasts with the bloodless coup where Russia took Crimea back from the Ukraine eight years ago, and have defined a country, which no matter the outcome will never again be just a “Little Russia”.

Zelensky has thus created that which most Ukrainians have always believed; and that is Ukraine as an independent nation. He has ensured this affirmation occurred in the full glare of the World spotlight.

Putin has been revealed as a primitive hominid intent on destroying the world’s energy and food supply as he dresses up as Peter the Great, an absurd travesty of the human condition.

The New York Review of Books provide a comparison of sorts in critiquing yet another book about Anne Frank. The contention is that if only the same courage epitomised by Zelensky had been on display during the time leading up to Anne Frank’s death in a Nazi concentration camp, she may have survived. As has been pointed out, because of the lack of any ongoing focus on Dutch Jews in particular, she was always in peril.

Anne and her Diary

As part of the analysis, a harsh judgement was made about Queen Wilhelmina in that she failed to stand up to the Nazis and fled to Great Britain. She had maintained Dutch neutrality during WW1; but the only indication of her attitude to the plight of Jews was she insisted a Jewish refugee camp prior to WWII be moved further away from her summer palace than it was originally planned.

The American Government declined to give the Frank family a visa to travel to New York via Cuba in 1941. It provides an unsettling view of a country, with a quick trigger for invading non-European countries, and yet basically ambivalent against European aggressors. President Biden’s halting support of Ukraine could be the USA in early 1941. The Allies did not bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz. A matter of unimportance in the scheme of things!

Russia seemed to have infiltrated the top levels of government, politically, socially, financially, corruptly – a passage facilitated by Trump and scattered within the Conservative Party, those that worship the Infantis Johnson. However, there would not be a country in Europe where the malign Putin influence has not infiltrated.

As a result, maybe NATO could imprint the head of Janus as an emblem in acknowledgement of this influence given the way they have responded to the Russo-Ukrainian War.

Mouse Whisper

I was on a field visit when I heard a regional ABC reporter talking to a local farmer about the cost of a box of cauliflowers. He was selling them for $80 a box.

“What was the usual cost?” she asked.

“About $20 a box.”

“Oh, they’re double the cost then.”

Good to see the ABC is maintaining its standards.

Great value at twice the price, or is that four times?

Modest Expectation – Land across the Water

I am a pilgrim with a P/C, a bag of hessian straggling along the cyber pathway, lined by an array of “punitive cybresses”.

So many blogs – such a cacophony of blogs, one may ruminate surveying the clouds of opinions hanging low.

Why write a blog then?  Because I want you to know what I think too, and I may have less time along this pathway strewn with birds twittering and on the horizon a musk fragrance which may soon overwhelm.

I love the metaphor.  Pushing it to extremes.

Take Parliament. Some may say it is more like an 18th century bareknuckle fight that went to the 80th round, as two bare-chested blokes bashed each other to pulp for the edification of a crowd inured to cockfighting, bearbaiting, and an afternoon watching a melange of hanging, drawing and quartering.

But rather than a “cacophony of blogs”, I prefer to engage in orchestral imagery. The imagery of brutality is overdone in politics because the image creators often are obsessed with such imagery.

Here I invoke the music makers – whether composing, conducting or playing an instrument – as a more civilised metaphor, (although to my knowledge nobody has invoked it) the orchestra as a metaphor for Parliament.

I envy music makers since I have not a jot of a score in my brain. These composers are accustomed to transposing noise into a melody, which can resonate, which has a recognisable pitch and can be played in the policy orchestras which are currently tuning up for a major concert this month.

The problem for policy songwriters is whether the orchestras can go beyond that tuning phase or will the conductors be more concerned with ensuring that the only instrument that plays is the loudest and most discordant, and the baton used in a frenzied assault on other conductors who refuse to play the same tune, whether the lyrics are a version of ours or most probably not.

The end point of an orchestra is working in unison for the best outcome. Seems trite, but have you ever seen an orchestra behaving like politicians when they actually play.

On another level, there is an elegant metaphor for politics in the various houses of parliament to be courteous – gavottes or quadrilles in the pattern of an eighteenth-century drawing room. Cerebral serenades across a Molonglo terrace – but it does not happen. Politics will never be a cultured room of perukes and perfume, the musical metaphor remains as it was at the start, even though hypocrisy is rife.

The problem is that life is full of mixed metaphors. Politicians fall foul of the three donkeys of the apocalypse – sleeplessness, isolation and boredom.

Donkeys are associated with a serenade by a faux-Mexican and “Donkey Riding”, a Canadian traditional work song, was sung by sailors as they loaded timber onto ships, perhaps because the loading was assisted by the donkey engine. The donkey metaphor is not refinement.

However, when in relation to “donkeys of the apocalypse” I am invoking policy music, past, present and future for those who never learn and for whom the “donkey” is a more fitting metaphor.  They are stubborn; they don’t learn; they sleep for 3 hours in 24. What an entry to the dysfunctional habits of politicians.

Defining the physiological consequences of the politician swiftly descends into consideration of pathology due to lack of sleep.  Such lack is intrinsically assumed to be pervasive, but like so much in politics it is ignored. Lack of sleep does not enhance anything, yet the herd instinct of always being awake is a sign of toughness of leadership in what one writer once ironically stated: “To spend a third of one’s life in unproductive idleness seems a demented waste to some people and now they decide the slothful practice for evermore. No one has yet succeeded.” Margaret Thatcher gave it a good shot, always telling people how little sleep she needed. She ended up demented.

By contrast, it was remarkable how refreshed Albanese appeared after a week “off”. Normally, the media would be berating a leader if he took a week off during an election campaign, but COVID infection is akin to a sacred time of true isolation and being able to relax and sleep, without an equally sleepless media badgering one for being a slacker.

When I first wrote about this matter, I was fond of quoting from The Goshawk” by T.H.White:

“…in teaching a hawk it was useless to bludgeon the creature into submission…so the old hawk masters had invented a method of training them which offered no visible cruelty and whose secret cruelty had to be borne by the trainer as well as by the bird. They kept the bird awake. Not by nudging it or by mechanical means but by walking about with their (the falcon’s) pupil on their fist and staying awake themselves. The hawk was “watched”, as deprived of sleep by a sleepless man, day and night, for the space of two, three or as much as nine nights together. It was the stupid teachers who could go as far as nine nights; the genius could do with two, and the average man, three.”

As I wrote then, “Falconry obviously has a lesson for practitioners of politics.”

And as a postscript, the other donkeys, Isolation and Boredom, remain untethered and I shall continue the discussion of the pathophysiology of these apocalyptic beasts. Yet the practitioners in the political arts do not want to know about them.

Worried. Not me. Just a silly little cough…

This article in the Washington Post, slightly edited, epitomises so eloquently the fears I have about venturing out into crowds, or situations where one is forced into “cocktail party” contact. Even though I have been double boosted and inoculated against influenza, I have memories of my last bout of influenza, which was highly unpleasant and took months of recovery time.

Frankly I find masks uncomfortable, but given a bout of upper respiratory infection where breathing becomes difficult and coughing does nothing but aggravate the chest pain, there is no alternative. Nevertheless, there are three areas of hygiene to observe. Social distancing means avoiding crowds and venues which are poorly ventilated. Oh, do I remember the low ceilings of the jazz clubs and the atmosphere of cigarette smoke, and how such scenes were twisted into those of romance and elegance. Remember, Casablanca – the imagery of Bogart and Bergman and Rick’s Bar!

I find it very interesting how resistant people are to handwashing, even though as a child I was socialised into washing my hands before meals and after going to the toilet. Often the hand sanitiser is completely ignored – a lonely sentinel mocked by the pervasive Virus as its victims pass by, failing to use it. It is all very strange.  What grubs we are – particularly men!

Now to the Washington Post take on the subject of the end of mask wearing as mandated by Trump appointee Kimball Mizelle to a Florida District Court. Rated as “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Nevertheless, this lawyer at the age of 33 has a lifetime ahead of her to wreak further havoc. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is appealing her decision , but the horse seems to have bolted, because the intrinsic American way is to look after numero uno, not the Public Good – it is called Freedom apparently.

After a Federal judge’s April 18 decision to overturn the transportation mask mandate, a JetBlue flight attendant celebrated mid-flight, holding up her mask and chanting over the public address system, “Wave ’em in the air like you just don’t care.”

When I saw that clip — and other videos of airline passengers gleefully discarding their masks — I couldn’t help thinking of the people on those planes who had counted on general masking to reduce the risk of travel. “Just don’t care” seemed an apt description of the way their neighbours were behaving — the way Americans are behaving in general.

Yes, people have expressed concern about the sudden and seemingly arbitrary lifting of the mask mandate.

For almost two years, the right wing has framed the mask issue as one of personal liberty. And many of the rest of us think of masking in terms of personal risk: If we’re not at risk, we’re thrilled to dispense with the discomfort and inconvenience of an N95. 

Either way, we’re thinking of masking as something we do for ourselves, rather than as something we do for the common good. 

It wasn’t always this way. The common good was why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first told us not to wear masks — out of fear that first responders wouldn’t have enough. And when the agency changed course, in July 2020, the common good was how it framed its first masking recommendation: “CDC calls on Americans to wear masks to prevent covid-19 spread.”

Now, it appears the agency is more likely to tell people to mask to protect themselves. Today, it says, “Wear a mask with the best fit, protection and comfort for you.”

You have no idea who’s on a plane.

You have no idea whether you’re carrying the virus. You could be pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. You could be symptomatic and not recognize the symptoms.

That’s what happened to me. I had a stomach ache and, after a bad night of sleep, went out the next day swearing off red wine once again. But the next day, a rapid test showed that the offending varietal was, in fact, covid.

I reported my case to the county and took to my bedroom. Three days later, five days after the start of (what I now knew to be) my covid symptoms, I received a call from the health department officially releasing me from quarantine.

“But I’m still coughing!” I said to the staffer. “I’m still testing positive!” She said, if I wanted, I could request to have my quarantine officially extended.

She declined to answer the question I thought should have mattered most, with local cases up and nearly a million Americans dead: Am I a danger to others or am I not?

A month before I got Covid, I wrote that Covid was over for me. Because I was vaccinated and boosted and my mother had gotten covid to little effect, I would no longer organize my life around fear of catching the virus. But I still planned to wear a mask while covid circulated in my community because I was afraid of spreading the virus to vulnerable people. Surely we can personally be “done” with this pandemic while respecting the fact that others are not. 

When I told the health official who released me from quarantine that I was worried about my potential to infect others, she sighed and said, “Use your conscience.” I wish I didn’t have to. But without a mandate to make us act out of concern for others, conscience is all we’ve got.


The discussion on the Swedish fermented fish – surströmming – Atlantic salmon, continues. The fish is allowed to ferment for six months with enough added salt to prevent rotting. Notwithstanding this, it produces a variety of compounds which have an offensive odour, including hydrogen sulphide.

Apparently it is popular in the north especially among older folk. The can must be opened under water, and you can smell it when you drive past. Cans are known to explode and hence it cannot be sold at airports any longer, and there used to be a law which marked out what time of the year cans could be opened.

One of my friends has a daughter living in Sweden, who tried it once, swallowed a small piece and then started dry retching. She seemed to have overcome the challenge of not vomiting before you taste it.

She described as like eating dog poo, which is a curious response where we confuse smell with taste. I am sure that she had not eaten dog’s poo, but it is a common reaction to compare taste with something it is highly unlikely we have eaten. But to other senses the comparison is revolting enough to bear comparison.

She did make another comparison that is more within the realms of a rational comparison. Her comment was “imagine the stinkiest cheese you can eat and multiply that 100-fold!” Not quite what John Lennon would have sung, but I tried to think about what is the aforementioned cheese, my taste buds have not stored a taste that I could imagine 100-fold. Again, such cheeses are compared to the worst of smelly socks.  I have never sat down to a meal of socks, even though the bacterium used to ripen these particular cheeses is the same as can be found between toes.

The only time when I experienced gastric reflux from ingesting something that met the next gulp coming down was when, at a dinner party, cold beetroot borsch was served. The commotion caused was somewhat comical if viewed as one waiting on table, but not for the consumer.  I have safely consumed borsch since, but only when warm. Ice cold beetroot borsch is too much of a shock to the unwary stomach.

It is extraordinary how adaptable taste buds are. Those who were not brought up on Vegemite have similar reaction I understand, but I have never heard of a Vegemite container exploding despite the fact that it is a yeast extract.

Smell is one cranial nerve, a short nerve that goes only a short distance before it reaches the brain. As I once wrote, taste is a trinity of three cranial nerves. Yet the inter-relationship is much more complex. Taste signals travel first to the base of the brain where some signals are processed. Signals are then sent along to higher brain areas. Some signals go to the ventral forebrain where they may trigger areas that control emotions and memories. Other signals go the dorsal region, the relayed sensory signals that cause you to crave certain flavours. In the reverse situation, for years I avoided satay because I got bad food poisoning after eating a meal of satay; and even the smell acted as an emetic for a while. I could not eat it for years. Yet the last time I had a severe bout of food poisoning was in Cuba, and the memory of the fish hung around for a short while, and for me allergy is a different response. It is pain in the gut; not pain in the perception.

If you assume offal as the periphery of acceptable food, I once ate heart in Riga at a posh nouvelle cuisine restaurant. It was OK, so cutely prepared how could I not satisfy my curiosity?

Lung, I have never tried; tripe – only once, enjoyed it; sweetbreads – avoided them but must try; brain I won’t eat (afraid of slow viruses, although at my age somewhat academic); and I love kidneys and lamb’s fry.

But prejudice has funny twists. Even though I consider myself omnivorous, I would not touch mussels until I had them thrust upon me in a wonderful family restaurant in Cesenatico on the Italian Adriatic coast; similarly resisted scallops, until I was presented with large succulent ones in South Carolina from the Gay Fish Company. Refusal to eat them was just a silly illogical fad. To complete my culinary idiosyncrasies, I am allergic to crayfish (acquired) but not Atlantic lobster; also some deep sea white fish (particularly swordfish).

The worst food I have eaten is seal in Newfoundland. It was like eating rubber; and as with the dog poo above, I have never been guilty of chewing on a tyre. It is just one of the instinctive analogies in which more than one of senses is involves when trying to articulate “taste”.

Finally drum roll; food that I want to taste: witchety grub.

Wonderful in these latter years, there are always questions about dietary idiosyncrasies wherever you are invited out. When one was young, you ate what you were given – swedes, watery marrow and overcooked pork forever irrigated through my memory.

A worry.

What Australia needs at this point in time is a Savonarola who thinks like Macchiavelli. A national cleanser who has a fine feel for the dorsal stiletto.

Suddenly Bill Shorten has been let loose – at least to some degree – on the campaign. Shorten is a hater; and according to many of his contemporaries, a nasty piece of work. Nevertheless, he gives Australia hope that if the vanilla Albanese is elected, there is a far more formidable force to wreak vengeance on those who have been gorging on government largesse at the expense of the “Powerless Australians” – those who cannot ring up their local politician and do a deal – maximising the personal gain at the expense of the rest of us.

Having been there I know the game. Some years ago, while I was being eulogised by several politicians publicly, some guy sidled up to me and said: “I have never heard of you. You must be important.” I was not sure whether that was a question or a statement. I replied, saying that I had had my place in the sun at various times, but inevitably if one pokes one’s head above the parapet, the greater the exposure and the more likely you will be to becoming a target – the inverse relationship of autonomy of action to controversy generated. Thus, I was destined to fall from grace – it was inevitable.

Some aggressive people like Shorten who have the equivalent of a rotten borough (or is it more truly burrow?) have a longer “shelf life” to ply their trade. The current government has left an incredible trail of corruption, some criminal but mostly moral – with the consequence that Australia is on the cusp of kleptocracy.

Purity of motive thus becomes one of relativity. Shorten, the scholarship boy from Murrumbeena, married first into the Melbourne establishment, then married under Vice-Regal patronage and, as he clambered up the holy mountain of Canberra, had the backing of Dick Pratt; therefore to some of his erstwhile colleagues he had enough political strikes against him to be consigned to the Maribyrnong Anabranch until it runs dry. But that is his strength.

One of my concerns is that Albanese is intrinsically a weak individual who looks for the soft option and shies away from personal confrontation. For instance, the Murdochs. They can be charming just like the ‘Ndrangheta, but when you do get in their way, beware. Having experienced the latter when charm in the smile is combined with menace in the eyes, it is important for Australia to minimise the pervasive influence of the Rupert Legacy, no matter how ambrosia and nectar ridden the boardroom lunch may be.

I suspect that Shorten is now approaching the same level of hatred which burns within Murdoch, because significant fortitude is required to prosecute the scoundrels who have profited during the Morrison reign and before. However, the Labor Party have form and for the National Party which begat the Queensland bush defiler, Joh Bjelke Petersen, it is often considered the norm by some in this Party. Not many political parties have two former Health Ministers in prison at the one time.  Then there are the outliers, the rock wallaby bandits, who seduce the Microcosm to elect them to the Senate.

Let us see, if Labor gets elected, whether it is prepared to follow through with the promise of an anti-corruption body. Bill Shorten awaits.

Scarry’s Law

I love this reference in The Economist to Scarry’s Law:

Scarry’s Law, formulated over a decade ago by this newspaper and named after Richard Scarry, a children’s illustrator, states that politicians mess at their peril with groups that feature in children’s books—farmers, fishermen, train drivers, and suchlike.

The implication of the Law devised by this American, who wrote 300 children’s books and illustrated many of them was that if you denigrated any of these people, the populace at large would take a dim view.

Yet none of these jobs appear on the list of respected professionals where medical practitioners are rated first, lawyers 21st and politicians and journalists the two last at 29 and 30.  Doctors closely followed by nurses and paramedics had received a boost because of the pandemic. In the list, firefighters and police rated in the top six.

These polls are extremely subjective and one suspects so is the wonderfully named Scarry Law. Nevertheless, the warning contains a more subtle message, which at a time when “change” is a word increasingly used to associate with climate and hence is of deep concern to farmers and fishermen. These are deeply conservative people, rather than reactionary. They will adopt change not because of political popularity, but only if they see it as a means of improving their livelihood and hence income.

The level of rural subsidies has always been a major concern – shoring up ancient practices without regard to actual environmental change. I always like hearing about farmer driven innovation, where conservatism is overcome by a realisation that the change is beneficial. It is a slow process, but undoubtedly miners would be sheltering on the Scarry list.

Mouse Whisper

Everybody in the blogs seems to be into odours, and cheese is where odour and taste are dissociated. We mice are very particular about the cheese we eat. Now, a few cheeses use the same bacteria which thrive in the salty sweaty environment found between the human toes, hence the association in the smell with the use of the same bacteria in the ripening process, as was mentioned earlier. We mice have to negotiate human socks casually strewn around the floor, and these do affect our appreciation of cheeses we have heard of, but never tasted.

But everybody talks about smelly cheeses as though it is a matter of pride to have cheeses with a putrid smell.

As for us mice, the worst cheese that can fall from the table is an old cheap Camembert cheese, which has become a cesspit of ammonia and the associated vapours. But they say some humans will still eat it. It is literally the worst of cheese, and that for a mouse who is used to whispering, SOMETHING!