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Today's quote:

Monday, March 8, 2021

This blog is all all about memories, so it's perhaps appropriate to have some idle thoughts on memory

Why not read along as you listen? Click here


Oh, give me back the good old days of fifty years ago!" has been the cry ever since Adam's fifty-first birth-day", wrote Jerome K. Jerome in his book "Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow". I can't remember when I started looking back to the good old days, but it must have been when I had found Eve and settled down.

Ah, memory, the pleasure and the pain of it! Jerome's last essay in this delightful little book is entitled "On Memory", and he begins it by remembering the first poem he learned. Memory is not always reliable and much of the things we should or would like to remember are forgotten. Men will always want to return back in time but that is impossible and so we must try to enjoy the life we have.

Perhaps listening to the reading of this essay, or reading it, or listening while reading along, will help you do just that. Happy memories! Click here.

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P.S. If you have second thoughts, there are some of them here.


Saturday, March 6, 2021

I have regrets, but I don't regret having them


One of my many regrets is not having stayed longer on Thursday Island. The year was 1977 and I had come down from New Guinea to work as an accountant on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait in Far North Queensland.

I've always been drawn to remote and isolated places, and there were few as remote and isolated as Thursday Island. The location suited me perfectly and I should've been set for at least a couple of years before ambition and wanderlust would've got the better of me again.

However, I was working under the dick-tatorship of a former missionary-type who, having discovered the difference between a debit and a credit, had passed himself off as an accountant and then became the manager - and my boss - of what was then the Island Industries Board.

Had it not been for his reign of terror, I might have stayed longer, much longer, maybe even forever, as, according to 'Banjo' Paterson's "Thirsty Island", 'the heat, the thirst, the beer, and the Islanders may be trusted to do the rest.'

Of course, professionally speaking, I would have signed my own death warrant because Thursday Island was a dead-end, whereas I went on to bigger and better jobs in the Solomons (again!), Samoa, Malaysia, Australia, New Guinea (again and again!), Saudi Arabia, Greece ...

It was a case of Thursday Island versus the World, and the world won!

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Friday, March 5, 2021

More "details follow"


Rick Gekoski has been described as the Bill Bryson of the book world. Rare book dealer, academic, publisher, critic, bibliographer, and broadcaster, his BBC Radio series "Rare Books, Rare People" was acclaimed by The Daily Telegraph as 'one of the gems of Radio 4'.

In "Tolkien's Gown", a book based loosely on that hugely successful radio series, he discusses twenty great works of modern literature as both texts and objects. At once erudite and funny, the essays give a publishing biography of each book, together with comments about the author's involvement with first editions of the works.

'What is the value of a book?' he asks. The answers are both critical and financial, involving appraisals of the literary qualities of the works, together with an account of their (sometimes surprising) value in the rare book trade.

His stories are fascinating and diverse, and involve memorable encounters with, among others, Graham Greene, William Golding, J.D. Salinger, Ted Hughes, Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes and Harold Pinter. Relations between book dealers and authors can be uneasy: Ted Hughes thinks he has been overcharged, while Graham Greene is simply delighted to have done business.

For anyone who loves books, "Tolkien's Gown" offers a wealth of amusement and instruction, and enough literary anecdotes to last a lifetime. I found this delightful book last Wednesday in an Ulladulla op-shop, and it will certainly last me all weekend to read it, to chew on its words, and to enjoy the wealth of knowledge gained from it.

You can read it online at www.archive.org (SIGN UP for free, then LOG IN and BORROW). Just don't chew on your computer screen!

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P.S. A German version was published under the more alluring title "Eine Nacht with Lolita". What are the implications? That Germans are more interested in Vladimir Nabokov or in a man's love for a very young girl?

Maybe you, like Humbert Humbert, are also besotted with twelve-year-old girls, in which case you can click here. In this remake of the 1962 original film, viewers will doze off fairly early, lulled to dreamland by the sleepy, droopy, muttering voice of Irons, who narrates in sepulchral tones and who always looks as though he died during production. Perhaps the catering wasn't so hot after all. This 1997 remake makes one thing painfully clear: "Lolita", like so many other screen classics, was better left alone. As for the book itself, Groucho Marx declared he would wait six years to read it, until Lolita was eighteen. Nabokov himself did pretty well out of it: he was able to retire from his teaching position, to devote himself fully to writing and butterfly collecting.


Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Corporation


I did write "Details follow" when telling you about my recent finds at the Ulladulla op-shops, didn't I? Well, here's one of them: the award-winning documentary based on Joel Bakan’s bestseller "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power".

As images of disgraced and handcuffed corporate executives parade across our television screens, pundits, politicians, and business leaders are quick to assure us that greedy and corrupt individuals, not the system as a whole, are to blame for Wall Street's woes. Despite such assurances, citizens today - and many business leaders too - are concerned that the faults within the corporate system run much deeper than a few tremors on Wall Street would indicate because, whichever way you look at it, one WorldCom or one Enron is one too many.

These larger concerns are the focus of this book. A book that was virtually begging to be written, and which is available online at www.archive.org. (SIGN UP - it's free! - then LOG IN and BORROW)

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Tom Gleeson plays HARD

Watch it on iview


I'm not much of a TV-watcher - I'm more into reading, you may've noticed! - but I like watching Tom Gleeson's HARD QUIZ. In last night's episode 3 in series 6 he asked contestant Judith to expose one of the great rip-offs in the medical profession: the referral.

Tom said it with a smile, so as not to be sued by the powerful Australian Medical Association: "You are a GP? Can you give me a referral, please? ... You know, when you get a referral to go to the dermatologist? That is a scam, isn't it? Can you say that? Say it on camera! Everyone knows it's true. Let's get it on the public record, so we can all admit it so that we can all go to the dermatologist without seeing you."

After a lifetime spent under tropical skies, I am seeing a dermatologist to keep an eye on my countless melanomas. I've been doing so for years but I can't just walk into his practice! Oh no! I first have to see a GP who, in exchange for a hundred dollars (the amount may vary between doctors but it's around the hundred-dollar mark of which Medicare refunds me thirty-five dollars *), gives me a piece of paper called a referral which allows me to see the dermatologist. But here's the catch: the referral is valid for only twelve months! So, every twelve months I have to see a GP again who, in exchange for a hundred dollars (the amount may vary etc.), gives me a new piece of paper called a referral which allows me to see the dermatologist again, ad infinitum.

The same charade began to play out after my operation and radiation at the Lifehouse in Sydney when I had to return for follow-ups, initially every three months and then every six months. More and more referrals, more and more hundred-dollar bills! Until I dared to ask the question, "I'll be doing this for the rest of my life! Isn't there an easier way?" To which the surgeon's receptionist replied in an almost conspiratorial whisper, "You could ask your GP for an INDEFINITE referral!"

And so I did! After a long pause - during which he no doubt silently calculated the number of monthly repayments on his new BMW he'd be missing out on - the GP reluctantly issued me with that precious piece of paper, an INDEFINITE referral, which, assuming another ten years before the final autopsy makes further referrals unnecessary, would've been worth the equivalent of a thousand dollars in today's money.

Unfortunately, it was not to be, as my GP left town which, even more unfortunately, I mentioned to the dermatologist who immediately informed me that this cancelled my indefinite referral and that I would once again have to see another GP for a new referral which, depending on the new GP's bank balance, may or may not be an indefinite one.

As contestant Judith, who is a GP, said to Tom, "I like to eat!" Eat what? Caviar? Who am I to take it out of her mouth? (indeed, who am I?)

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*) a tiny repayment out of the several thousands of dollars I pay every year in Medicare Levy; the only Government "hand-out" I receive as a self-funded retiree is my public transport concession which allows me to use all of Sydney's trains, ferries and buses for a mere $2.50 a day; pity I don't get to Sydney more than twice a year and then only for a day.