Quietly being contentious…

The blog has been even more visual than ever over the past few days, and today is no exception. Let me share with you yesterday in Wollongong Mall:



There are local government elections soon, and let’s hope the usual suspects – mainly real estate agents, developers and their stooges – don’t win. Otherwise Crown Street Mall will be history. Yes, it could do with a bit of TLC – but generally I love it!  I think most people do.

I did enjoy Phillip Adams today too – and the images above do relate to what he said in my mind.

IS future shock all that shocking? Less like a stun gun, it’s more akin to the tingle betwixt fingers and doorknob. Mainly because our turbocharged tomorrows are subject to the gravitational pull of the past…

…Though lost in amplified instrumentation in what passes for pop, old-fashioned singing, which predates Bing Crosby by some millennia, can still be heard in opera and churches. Churches? There’s that old gravitational pull.

People still whittle. Still whistle. Still waltz. Ballet, which developed from deportment classes in royal courts, still pulls a crowd. To watch women totter on tiptoe and men mince in bulging tights. And despite the iPod there are still audiences for live orchestras where dozens of musicians, beaten into submission by a martinet waving a stick, pluck, toot and boom in unison, replicating scores written centuries ago. Not only our museums are museums….

For all the seductions of technology, for all the miracles of Google, the future struggles to stay ahead. In any case, it so quickly becomes the past, with millions of computers as landfill, with the Space Shuttle retired to the Smithsonian. Already the moon landings seem as remote as Agincourt. As does the invasion of Iraq, soon to be joined in ancient history by that of Afghanistan. Thus the accelerating pace of change has its benefits. Like his nemesis bin Laden, George W. Bush is already a fading memory. Or perhaps a repressed one.

Now. In the nanosecond since I typed those three letters Now, in all its urgency, has become Then. A part of the past. In the municipal tip of memory. Which is not, as L.P. Hartley told us, a foreign country where they do things differently. Because for much of the time we choose to live there.

There are serious concerns down here in The Gong, however: BlueScope black hole: jobs cuts, $1 billion loss flagged and Fears BlueScope blast furnace to close.

Fears are growing BlueScope Steel is heading for further grim times and that it may cease production at one of its two Port Kembla blast furnaces.  The Illawarra business community is bracing itself for the flow-on effects of a major reduction in steel production and significant redundancies. Many steelworkers are fearing the worst as concern spreads that recent cuts to long-serving staff and contractors could be the tip of the iceberg.

BlueScope may be forced to shut down production at the No 6 blast furnace in a drastic move to cut costs, a steel industry analyst from investment bank Credit Suisse has predicted.

BlueScope is cutting production as it battles a high Australian dollar, high iron ore and coal prices and weak domestic demand…

The report also forecast BlueScope’s mill at Western Port in Victoria would be closed, at least temporarily, and BlueScope could leave the export steel business altogether. It questioned whether a 20 per cent workforce reduction could be achievable. BlueScope had exported about 60 per cent of about five million tonnes of steel it produced at Port Kembla last year, much of it into loss-making contracts under a high Australian dollar.

Closing one blast furnace would halve production and bring output more into line with profitability. The human cost to Illawarra families who rely on steel jobs could be immense.

BTW, the carbon tax is no longer a great issue for Bluescope, the deal done being acceptable to them. But it appears their somewhat anomalous place in the world market is really biting at the moment.

Meanwhile too I have been carefully reading a contentious history in a field where rational discussion in next to impossible: Israel and Palestine. The book is The Invention of the Jewish People (Hebrew: מתי ואיך הומצא העם היהודי?‎, Matai ve’ech humtza ha’am hayehudi?, literally When and How was the Jewish People Invented?) is a study of the historiography of the Jewish people by Shlomo Sand, Professor of History at Tel Aviv University.

I have almost finished, and I have to say, as a long-time Bible reader, former teacher of Ancient History in a Jewish school, and interested reader that much of what he says is convincing. It does say something good about Israel that he can ask his questions.

For some ideas about the book see Shlomo Sand: an enemy of the Jewish people? by Rafael Behr (The Observer 17 January 2010), Shlomo Sand’s ‘The Invention of the Jewish People’ is a success for Israel by Carlo Strenger (Haaretz 27 November 2009), New York Times on Shlomo Sand and Jewish Origins.