Archive for March, 2006


To that long night came no morning

March 27, 2006

Within a few months, work commitments and other irritants permitting, RL and I will again find ourselves in Prague, the world’s most marvellous city (after Melbourne, of course). This time we hope to visit the site of Lidice.

Until the night of June 9th, 1942, Lidice was a small mining town about 30 km from Prague. That night, and in the day that followed, it was erased from existence, along with its entire population. Its name was excised from the land registry, and removed from all maps. Later, many towns around the world would take the name Lidice, but their namesake was never rebuilt. Read the rest of this entry ?


Great Australian comedy

March 26, 2006

I was recently reminded (or, more correctly, I recently reminded myself) how much I loved Tim and Debbie in Australia You're Standing In It from the mid '80s. Like The Young Ones, but with more bite.

Ah, those were the days — when the left could still laugh at itself.

And on the ABC, yet.

Tim and Debbie in Brainspace

Mark and Kim in a previous existence, perhaps, or some weird but strangely contemporary parallel universe?

(That's a joke, folks — G-I-O-K-E with a capital tsk.)

A good but 10-year-old appreciation site is here. I stole the pic from it.


Persian rugs, African cats

March 16, 2006

Two passionate obsessions that really do not mix.

Get off that beautiful Isfahan, Francesca. I just vacuumed it.


Favourite artists

March 10, 2006

Paul Delvaux
Belgian, surrealist

Trains du soir, 1957

Delvaux, though not as well known as many, was one the finest of the surrealists. He understood the essence of the genre better than almost any of them, better than Miro, Chagall, the bombastic Salvador Dali. He knew that surrealism was the reconstruction of dreams from the heart of re-entered darkness.

His haunting, enigmatic nudes are ethereal, other-worldly — yes, dreams — but are probably not suitable for posting here.

On the other hand, why not? The Belgians put them on postage stamps.

Sleeping Venus, 1944


The Czech Republic has the best politicians in Europe — and more

March 10, 2006

Check (aagh!) out this great speech on the illusion of European unification by the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, delivered in Luxembourg on 8 March.

And it has some of the best sights in Europe. This is a great site: not too touristy. Take some time to look around.

Some of the best music, too.

Walking along the banks of the Vltava down towards the Castle, you can hear this incomparable music leaping and curling along the surface of the river below.

And I have listened to at least a dozen performances of this great work, but Susskind’s, for me, is the definitive one — though Ferenc Fricsay’s recording of the second of the cycle of six symphonic poems, Die Moldau (otherwise Vltava), for RIAS in the late 40’s is possibly the greatest Smetana performance of them all.

You can listen to Vltava here — download #5.

And while you do — if you do — imagine yourself to be gazing at this, in the life.

The bridges across the River Vltava, Prague


Crusaders, terrorists, more Islamist outrage

March 10, 2006

This story about encouraging Australian schoolchildren to equate Christian Crusaders with terrorists has been picked up around the anti-Islamist blogosphere, notably at the indefatigable Dhimmi Watch, but if it’s attracted attention here in the Ozblogosphere, I must have missed it.

For a taste:

“Like the Crusaders … they were told they would go straight to heaven when they died,” the book says. “Those who destroyed the World Trade Center are regarded as terrorists. Might it be fair to say that Crusaders who attacked the Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem were also terrorists?”

I loved ‘…are regarded as terrorists’, and the gentle, insinuating, ‘Might it be fair to say that…’

More, including some pretty lame justifications, here.

Mary Bluett, union official:

It’s really about teaching young people to analyse the words being said, think about their response and justify their response. It’s a tool for teaching them how to advance an opinion and back it up.

Michael Horsley, education bureaucrat:

It isn’t a matter of what’s written on paper. Any text can be interpreted in many different ways by children – and that’s where the teacher’s knowledge and expertise comes in.

Umm, right.


Meanwhile, another of my favourite writers — this one long dead — has fallen foul of Islamist ire. Last year, the town of Saint-Denis-Pouilly, France, wanted to stage a reading of Voltaire’s Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet. Muslim protests were predictably ignited, but rather than capitulating, the local mayor called in police to protect the theatre and the readers. True to French form, a riot broke out, and cars were torched.

I’ve not read the play in question, but from what I know of Voltaire’s work, I expect his real target, suitably disguised, was not Islam at all, but the Roman Catholic Church. After all, he cheekily dedicated Mahomet to the Pope. And the Church did, indeed, get the message — in August 1742 forcing the withdrawal of the play from the Theatre Francais after only one week of successful performances.

Voltaire was a tireless crusader (yes, one of those) against tyranny, especially the religious kind. It was said that, so powerful was his revulsion at the slaughter of French Huguenots (Protestants) during the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, two hundred years earlier, that he broke out in a fever every year on its anniversary.

The St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre,
August 1572

Radical Islam finds terminal fault with such a man, and such works. Perhaps we should not be surprised.

Update: An editor in Yemen is the latest to face death over the Danish cartoons. Via Pia Causa, who’s doing a great job keeping up with the issue.


The English Patient

March 9, 2006

Good film, crap book, IMHO. But that’s not the point of the post.

We’re all victims of what we read, and what we read may be misleading or unrepresentative. But from all I do read — even making the necessary allowances — England, of all the countries of the west, seems to have gone further down the path of cultural suicide than any other.

I was born in England, and, although I no longer have the same affection for it as once I had, much preferring Australia as the place to live, I have a residual fondness for my birthplace that manifests itself in a certain ambivalence when Australia plays England at the cricket.

But I can’t understand why England seems so bent on destroying itself, its culture and its memories. No-one is asking it to.

What inspired this depressing train of thought is a post at Laban Tall’s UK Commentators about the bowdlerisation of nursery rhymes in the UK. But it came after an awful lot of other stories in the same basic vein.


TRADITIONAL nursery rhymes are being rewritten at nursery schools to avoid causing offence to children.Instead of singing “Baa baa, black sheep� as generations of children have learnt to do, toddlers in Oxfordshire are being taught to sing “Baa baa, rainbow sheep�.

The move, which critics will seize on as an example of political correctness, was made after the nurseries decided to re-evaluate their approach to equal opportunities.

Stuart Chamberlain, manager of the Family Centre in Abingdon and the Sure Start centre in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, told the local Courier Journal newspaper: “We have taken the equal opportunities approach to everything we do.

“This is fairly standard across nurseries. We are following stringent equal opportunities rules. No one should feel pointed out because of their race, gender or anything else.�

In keeping with the new approach, teachers at the nurseries have reportedly also changed the ending of Humpty Dumpty so as not to upset the children and dropped the seven dwarfs from the title of Snow White.

A spokesman for Ofsted, the watchdog which inspects Sure Start centres, confirmed that centres are expected to “have regard to anti-discrimination good practice� and that staff should “actively promote equality of opportunity�.

It’s not just the sheer idiocy of it. It’s the ghastly bureaucratic language of self-justification in which the the relevant authorities wrap themselves. I suppose Mr Chamberlain genuinely believes the stupidity he utters. That’s profoundly sad; and as a human being he merits our pity. But some fools can persuade themselves of anything, if the verbiage is sufficiently unctuous. We should rather pity England, wholly hostage, now, as would appear, to such inanity.

No-one asked for it; no-one objected; no-one lodged a protest; not one parent spoke up for a distressed child. Just nursery administrators deciding it was a terribly bad thing, and launching the ban, then celebrating their suicidal self-righteousness in the language of death.

England is sick, sick, sick. Indeed, it seems it may already have died quietly in the night, without anybody even noticing.

(Via Drinking From Home.)

Where are the English? Dead, I guess. Or down the pub. Do the English still have pubs? I know they don’t have the old London buses, for fear of alienating the disabled.

Update: Again via Drinking From Home,the BBC has stealthily restituted the condition of being English to the national catalogue.