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Sunday, May 31, 2015

The last day of autumn

 

Today, the last day of autumn, we had a small get-together before the Big Freeze (well, maybe not-so-big freeze) sets in. The weather was warm, the beer cold, the company good, and the food plentiful.

 

from left to right: You-know-who, May, little Sarah

l-to-r: Little Sarah, Flora, May, Dave, Ria, you-know-who with Rover

 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Any resemblance between the main character in this clip and any person, living or dead, is a miracle

 

Let's face it, anyone resembling him is better off dead. In any case, I am a chartered accountant (im Ruhestand) ☺

 

Friday, May 29, 2015

"Here's my hope that we all find our Shangri-La"

 

Cigars had burned low, and we were beginning to sample the disillusionment that usually afflicts old school friends who have met again as men and found themselves with less in common that they had believed they had."

So begins the Prologue to James Hilton's Lost Horizon which is perhaps best remembered as the origin of Shangri-La, a fictional utopian lamasery high in the mountains of Tibet.

I first read the book after I had come down from Burma to Singapore in 1975 and stayed in the newly-opened Shangri-La Hotel on Orchard Road. There, on the bedside table in my deluxe room in the Garden Wing, was a complimentary copy with the hotel's inscription "Inspired by the legendary land featured in James Hilton's 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, the name Shangri-La encapsulates the serenity and service for which our hotels and resorts are renowned worldwide" on its cover.

"Lost Horizon" had been published in 1933, a year in which the world needed romance and adventure more than ever. As the dark clouds of another war gathered on the horizon, and as unemployment and near-starvation added to the gloom, Hilton's novel offered readers a welcome means of escape - escape into a sanctuary hidden from the cruel world. Shangri-La is not a retreat from the future men cannot endure; it is a shelter against conditions that already existed in 1932.

If Shangri-La is a utopia, it is smaller than most in both size and idealistic vision. Except for semi-immortality, it offers nothing that the world does not already possess. Happy natives provided food and clothing. The valley had its own gold mine, and the High Lama imported only carefully selected luxuries deemed truly beneficial to health and happiness. The monks had discovered the key to longevity, and devoted their extra years to the appreciation of life and the pursuit of wisdom. Rejecting the virtues of hard work and ambition, they adopted a philosophy of moderation in all things, "avoiding excess of all kinds - even excess of virtue itself".

Shangri-La is modelled on the classical Greek view of moderation, including moderation to immortality. Hilton realised that absolute immortality was unlikely to be believed by his readers. Instead, he wins them over with a more plausible dream: a long life, enhanced by good health, spent in quiet contentment. Conway, the main protagonist in the book, realises that, for all its allure, Shangri-La is a prison and he must choose between a long life as its supreme ruler and freedom at the risk of death.

Conway's dilemma is our dilemma because we all have the need for such a place, even if only in our imagination.

Here's my hope that we all find our Shangri-La!

 

P.S. The long-forgotten Lux Radio Theatre broadcast "Lost Horizon" and other radio-plays. It's what you get when you wash with Lux toilet soap ☺

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Day of the Jackal

 

Everyone has seen the movie The Day of the Jackal, based on a thriller novel by English writer Frederick Forsyth, about a professional assassin who is contracted by the OAS, a French dissident paramilitary organisation, to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France.

I watched the movie more than once, and also read the book, and, yes, the OAS did exist and both the book and the movie accurately depict the attempt on the life of President de Gaulle, but the subsequent plot is fiction. But there was a young Venezuelan known as "Carlos The Jackal", real name Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, who blithely lobbed a grenade into a crowded cafe in Paris, attempted to assassinate the President of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, seized the French Embassy in Holland, and launched two rocket attacks on planes at Orly airport. His crimes were apparently endless and he went on to kidnap several OPEC ministers in Vienna.

David Yallop's book To the Ends of the Earth - The Hunt for the Jackal is a sprawling 575-page epic which takes you on a journey into the frightening world of terrorism, espionage and Middle Eastern politics. It should be required reading for anybody who saw the movie. I am reading it right now and I can hardly put it down.

 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The 4th of May

Source: Tax Freedom Day Report

 

The French have their Bastille Day on the 14th of July; the Americans have their Independence Day on the 4th of July; here in Australia we celebrate slightly earlier the 4th of May as our Tax Freedom Day.

In other words, every day from the 1st January up until the 4th May this year, we worked only to pay the government the taxes due. That’s the first 123 days of this year.

Think about THAT next time you vote for more government hand-outs! The 'free lunch' you have right now may choke you to death.

 

Never in a week of Sundays

 

Europe, or Europa, is the beautiful daughter of the King of Tyre (somewhere in today's Lebanon). Zeus, attracted by her great beauty, took the form of a white bull and lured her away from the Orient to the Western world, that is to say Crete. She later married the King of Crete and bore him a son, King Minos, who built the famous labyrinth.

This Greek myth sums it all up rather well: Europe's great beauty, its predisposition to abuse, its labyrinthine ways, its bureaucracy and the ambiguity of its Eastern borders. So if you had suggested to me fifty years ago that someday France and Germany would have the same currency, my reply would have been, "Oh, really? Which nation will have conquered which?"

Well, European integration - conceived as a way of 'waging peace' to reunite a war-torn continent - has progressed to a point which would have been unthinkable then, given the cultural and linguistic diversity.

Just as unthinkable as Greece leaving the European Union now. Not in a week of Sundays. In spite of what finance minister whatshisname Yanis Whatthefuckis is saying. Beware of Greeks accepting gifts!

Greek banks have been fitted out with new ATMs

 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Logic of Human Destiny

 

It's a little cold to get the brain cells moving but NONZERO - The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright is such an eye-opening, thought-provoking, spine-tingling, mind-boggling, wish-I-had-thought-of-that sort of science book that I'm all fired up.

Robert Wright explains "non-zero-sumness," a game-theory term describing how players with linked fortunes tend to cooperate for mutual benefit. This dynamic has guided our biological and cultural evolution, he says -- but our unwillingness to understand one another, as in the clash between the Muslim world and the West, will lead to all of us losing the "game". Once we recognise that life is a non-zero-sum game, in which we all must cooperate to succeed, it will force us to see that moral progress - a move toward empathy - is our only hope.

Though-provoking? You bet!

 

The Irish Vote

 

The Irish have just given the green light to same-sex marriage and immediately Australia's 'inability' to achieve marriage equality is branded as an 'international embarrassment'. I am not embarrassed - although I must admit every time a lesbian looks at me I get the feeling she thinks, "That's why I'm not a heterosexual" ☺

Anyway, Australia has far bigger problems - like stopping public servants from wearing ugg boots and onesies to work and exempting tampons from the GST -, so why all the fuss? (Of course, Australia's problems pale into total insignificance when compared to America's whose spineless president has just negotiated a 'historic agreement' with Iran over its nuclear program in which its Supreme Leader Khamenei has conceded to amend his cry of “Death to America” to “Death to America for research purposes only”)

So let's allow gays in the military! Anyone dumb enough to want to be in the military should be allowed in. And let them get married! Why shouldn't they be as miserable as the rest of us? ☺

End of story.

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Visits always give pleasure -- if not the arrival, then the departure

Parked outside Ian's office at Nambucca Heads
when I was on my way to Mt Isa in 1979

 

My neighbours knocked on my door this morning at 2:30! Can you believe that? 2:30 in the morning! Luckily I was still up playing my button accordion at full bore. But that's not all the news. I also just now received this email:

"Bought a small tent and been to RACQ and armed myself with all the camping sites in NSW. Now trying to build up the courage to head off. Steeling myself against the bloody winter elements. As far as I am concerned, winter can be inserted up somone's back passage. Mate, I AM not far off taking a deep breath and heading south. Drop you a line when I am on my way. Ian"

Ian and I were fellow-accountants on Bougainville in 1973, he for Arawa Enterprises, the operators of the Panguna and Arawa supermarkets, and I for the holding company PDF Holdings. We occupied adjoining cubicles in a large and windowless warehouse at Arawa. I had just come from a cushy job in the British Solomons - click here - , so when I saw my new workplace, the rhyming phrase 'clucking bell' sprang to mind.

Ian seemed like the archetypal accountant with a wife, mortgage and 2.3 kids (well, two cute little daughters and one son, actually) who stayed in that windowless cubicle for four long years whereas I stayed just long enough to undergo an urgent appendectomy at Arawa Hospital before moving on to Port Moresby, then Lae, and then Rangoon in Burma.

Back in Australia, I met Ian again in 1979 at Nambucca Heads where he had opened an accounting practice and in the eight years he was there spent more time helping out-of-work cow cockies fill out Centrelink forms than doing actual accounting work. We lost contact again until a couple of years ago when he wrote, "Mate, I could not drag myself away from your web site the other night - you put so much thought and work into it and deserve the praise you received from all around the world. Bougainville did leave an indelible impact on everyone." Read more ...

In reply to his self-invitation to come to Riverbend in the depth of winter I simply emailed, "Make sure your tent has an inbuilt heater!"

Of course, we'll accommodate him in the luxury of "Riverbend Cottage", free of charge and with all the trimmings. I mean, flattening out a nice little spot for his tent is far too much work ☺

Only time will tell if it was the worst decision since someone said, "Yeah, let's take that suspiciously large wooden horse into Troy".

 

A Rolls-Royce for the price of a Lexus


More photos

 

This ad was set up by the vendor himself who knows nothing about creating websites, taking glamorous photos, or selling real estate. All he knows is that his property is so unique and so well-priced that it just about sells itself so why pay someone in a shiny suit tens of thousands of dollars in commission?

A bigger and "brickier" house than all the others set in parkland larger than all the other waterfront properties COMBINED, this is Sproxton Lane's Rolls Royce property and it is for sale at the price of a Lexus! This truly unique property consists of eight parcels of land, totalling some seven acres, large enough for a man and his loving wife to have a stimulating argument at the top of their lungs without invading the nervous systems of their neighbours.

The eight parcels of land are on eight separate freehold titles and for sale as one lot. The smallest block is 3313m² and the largest 3700m². The blocks are strung out like a necklace along the banks of the Clyde River with a huge 400 metre water frontage. Absolute waterfrontage - no public access! Enjoy sailing, swimming, and fishing at your doorstep! The land is mostly level and takes in an entire bend of the river. Located at the end of a very quiet cul-de-sac, the sense of peace and tranquillity is absolute: no traffic, no noise, no neighbours, and never to be built out!

Interested? Click here.

 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

FOMO

 

The modern world makes sure we know at all times just how much we’re missing. It is a culture in which intense and painful doses of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) are almost inevitable.

Well, if you're not subscribing to The School of Life, you're really missing something! Do it now! It's free!

 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A sheer work of (f)art from Australia's 'Butthoven'


In order to keep your sanity, please do not watch this clip more than once a fartnight

 

Posting under the username lozzobear on Reddit, Laurence, who is from Australia (of course!), describes the events leading up to what he calls his 'Magnum Anus': “My brother moved away from town, and I was missing him. So I started texting him farts to let him know I love him. This would have been in the first dozen or so, but the second it came out I knew it was special”.

This act of primitive sibling communication has turned into a sheer work of (f)art which, in just two days, has had more than 1.6 million views - or should I say 'listens'? - on YouTube, with around 20 thousand 'likes' compared to less than a thousand 'dislikes'.

Who said Australia is a (f)artless society?

 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Greetings to little Sarah

Move your mouse - or mouth ☺ - over the broken image

Finished bobo-ing? Okay, now it's your turn:
be upstanding and click here

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Braunschweig, home of my misspent youth

 

This is where I grew up, went to school, and served my three years as an articled clerk. Then I left to conquer the world, long before hip-hop and skateboards had conquered the town.

Judging by this clip, the town has grown up while I've grown old on the other side of the world.

 

We couldn't afford the other 49 candles

left-to-right: Padma, Merty and Flora; the chubby one is little 'Sarah bobo'.
Giggling behind the camera was May

 

Here's a very short and very belated clip of Padma's get-together with her Indonesian friends at the Starfish Deli in town to celebrate her birthday.

 

Chicken or the egg?

 

Which came first: comedy or reality? They seem so much the same that I wonder whether I should laugh or cry. Housos vs. Authority is a crossing-the-line 'comedy' that has the stench of truth wafting through it.

If you and your brain have temporarily parted company, you may just enjoy this perverse celebration of a certain type of Australianness with its stream of expletives uttered by people who speak and move as if their underwear is full of gravel.

Watching the trailer was bad enough and so I never sat through the whole thing to count the number of times those dole-bludging misfits used the F-word. And I failed to see the point of the movie. Or perhaps it was meant to be pointless - as pointless as the bludgy lifestyles of the foul-mouthed, dim-witted characters in it.

All I've learned from it is that Centrelink is not an urban transport system but the place where a large number of Australians collect their "paycheques". Stupid me! No wonder my neighbours, who every time they see me stick up their middle-finger - presumably to check which way the wind is blowing - , call me un-Australian!

 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Back to Boganville


No password? Try here to watch Episode 2
and here to watch final Episode 3.
To watch Episode 1, click here

 

Of course, we watched the second and final instalment of Struggle Street on SBS and were torn between anger and pity: anger at the 'grown-ups' who blame everybody else but themselves and feel that society owes them a living, and pity for their children who didn't ask to be born into such filthy and self-inflicted squalor - click here.

I really don't want to say any more than that. Now that our politically-oh-so-correct world offers an excuse for every failure and a medical term for every misbehaviour, any suggestion based on common sense would be shouted down immediately.

 

Travelling Light

 

For ten years Robyn Davidson, the bestselling author of Tracks, has been travelling light. This slim 136-page volume of articles takes you into the wilds of many countries - as well as countries of the mind.

It may not be quite enough reading for a weekend which looks like it's going to be cool and overcast, so I have also chosen Alain de Botton's How Proust Can Change Your Life as a standby.

And if that isn't enough yet, I might watch "Tracks - The Movie" again:

 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Which one will be next?

The sale of LANE END has ended

 

There's still life left in the real estate market: # 8 Sproxton Lane sold in November; # 57 Kings Highway (just above Sproxton Lane) sold in December; # 18 Sproxton Lane sold in April; and just today the SOLD sign went up on "Lane End", # 33 Sproxton Lane, directly across from us!

 

Which leaves # 27 Sproxton Lane and "Riverbend"! Which one will be next?