Back watching “Australia’s Got Talent”–and what was hot here in May 2012

Australia’s Got Talent 2012

I began watching again last Thursday, and tuned in again last night. It does lack the magic of last year, but last night there was a BIG surprise. Talk about talent!


Noriko Tadano – not what you were expecting

Of course there were others that were good. Like the guys and girls from Penrith – Outside the Box.


FotoSketcher - box

What’s hot here in May 2012

Both this blog and the photo blog have gained this month – best figures for the year, but more of that tomorrow when the final count is in. Meanwhile, the most read posts here in May have been:

  1. Home page / Archives 1,211 views in May 2012
  2. A very personal Australia Day 26 January – my family 200
  3. Being Australian 16: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 9 – my tribes 181
  4. The Rainbow Warrior 110
  5. Tomorrow is… 107 – yesterday’s post!
  6. Nostalgia and the globalising world — from Thomas Hardy to 2010 82
  7. Sport and multicultural Australia 81
  8. Jack Vidgen–Australia’s Got Talent last night 65
  9. About 60
  10. Being Australian 11: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 4 53
  11. This may well be the best Australian history book I have EVER read! 47
  12. Niggling example of political short-sightedness: Maldon-Dombarton rail link 40
  13. Being Australian 20: poem and song, images, dreams, nostalgia, England 40
  14. Being Australian 34
  15. Wollongong local history 34
  16. 2010 retrospective 6: cricket, boat people, Islam 32
  17. No, I didn’t 32
  18. Election 2010 next Saturday 31
  19. Now what was its name…? 28
  20. SBHS ex-students in the news, and pleasant Sunday in Illawarra 28

Tomorrow is…

World No Tobacco day 2012


It’s a good cause.

Interesting to see such a strong involvement from India this year.


World No Tobacco Day 2012: Tobacco industry interference

Tobacco use continues to be the leading global cause of preventable death. It kills nearly 6 million people every year through cancer, heart disease, respiratory diseases, childhood diseases and others. It also causes hundreds of billions of dollars of economic losses worldwide every year. Over the course of the 21st century, tobacco use could kill up to a billion people unless urgent action is taken. The action we need to take is laid out in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). So far, 173 nations (plus the European Union) have pledged to work together to implement the Convention. However, these tobacco control efforts are systematically opposed by the tobacco industry. In its efforts to derail or weaken strong tobacco control policies, tobacco industry interference takes many forms…

Click the image above for more.

As for me:

Hello Neil Whitfield!

Your Quit Date is: Monday, February 28, 2011 at 12:00:00 AM
Time Smoke-Free: 456 days, 20 hours, 8 minutes and 8 seconds
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 22842
Money Saved: $14,592.00

You’ve made it! A whole 15 months without a cigarette! In that time, you’ve successfully navigated the physical chaos of withdrawal, the emotional highs and lows of early quit, and the pitfalls of relapse!

Countless times you’ve refused the offered cigs. More times than that you’ve craved nicotine, but opted for health, instead. You’ve endured teasing, lack of support, and feeling uncomfortable and out of place among smokers. You may have had issues with weight, anger, tension or sadness, but still you stayed SMOKE-FREE!

Email from Quitnet 28 May 2012. Smile

And in case you are wondering: No, I do not hector my friends and neighbours about this. However, smoking is the single most idiotic thing I ever did!

Patrick White


Image linked to source

A cart drove between the two stringy barks and stopped. These were the dominant trees in that part of the bush, rising above the involved scrub with the simplicity of true grandeur. So the cart stopped, grazing the hairy side of a tree, and the horse, shaggy and stolid as the tree, sighed and took root.

The man who sat in the cart got down. He rubbed his hands together, because already it was cold, a curdle of cold cloud in a pale sky, and copper in the west. On the air you could smell the frost. As the man rubbed his hands, the friction of cold skin intensified the coldness of the air and the solitude of that place. Birds looked from twigs, and the eyes of animals were drawn to what was happening. The man lifting a bundle from a cart. A dog was lifting his leg on an anthill. The lip drooping on the sweaty horse.

Then the man took an axe and struck at the side of a hairy tree, more to hear the sounds than for any other reason. And the sound was cold and loud. The man struck at the tree, and struck, till several white chips had fallen. He looked at the scar in the side of the tree. The silence was immense. It was the first time anything like this had happened in that part of the bush.

More quickly then, as if deliberately breaking with a dream, he took the harness from the horse, leaving a black pattern of sweat. He hobbled the strong fetlocks of the cobby little horse and stuck the nosebag on his bald face. The man made a lean-to with bags and a few saplings. He built a fire. He sighed at last, because the lighting of his small fire had kindled in him the first warmth of content. Of being somewhere. That particular part of the bush had been made his by the entwining fire. It licked at and swallowed the loneliness…

So begins Patrick White, The Tree of Man.

I must confess that when I first read this book while studying OzLit under Professor Gerry Wilkes at Sydney University in 1964 I did not take to it. That came later when I was obliged to teach it to a Year 12 Class at Wollongong High School in the late 1970s. I had also recently read The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough around that time – a book I found then ineffably stupid and badly written – but I read with the page-turner motive of discovering whether something even more unlikely would happen next or whether the cliche count could possibly grow. I still think the book a bit of a travesty, though one day I must give McCullough’s Roman books a go. I began to read passages aloud from both books to my Wollongong students. Invariably McCullough had them rolling in the aisles.

But my and their respect for what White was doing just grew and grew, and those lessons became a talk at an HSC study day organised by the English Teachers Association – one of the best things I ever did.

See also this critique (PDF).

My Patrick White reading grew in earnest from that time on, and I devoured the earlier works and anticipated each new one.  Some indeed I liked more than others, but I am looking forward to seeing at last the movie – excellent we are told – of The Eye of the Storm on ABC next Sunday night.

Yesterday marked Patrick White’s centenary.

See Why Bother With Patrick White.

Last night on QandA

BARRY HUMPHRIES: Well, David is the author of a great biography of Patrick White and I think today is a special day, isn’t it, David?
DAVID MARR: It is 100 years today since little Paddy came struggling into the world in a Knightsbridge apartment with a view of Hyde Park and about 16 indoor servants. Yes, his struggle began a century ago today.
TONY JONES: A typical Australian by the sound of it?
DAVID MARR: He was, in fact, one of those Australians – he came from one of those families who believed themselves and felt as at home in England as they did in Australia and I would just guess that you, Barry, are another of those who feel just as at home in Britain as you do here and they lived in a big world, which was absolutely Australian but it had England too and that was a very Australian experience. It wasn’t just here, it was Australia, it was, in fact, in those days the empire and they were part of they felt themselves to be part of a very big world as Australians.
TONY JONES: And now, of course, the Australian experience probably includes being part of Malaysia or Indonesia or Iraq or many other countries as well so there has been a sort of great shift in our country.

SBHS ex-students in the news, and pleasant Sunday in Illawarra

SBHS ex-students in the news

In a good way.

Jeremy Heimans (1995) has been in Sydney for TedX.



Jack Manning Bancroft (2002) is on Australian Story tonight.


The pictures link to the stories. On Jack see my 2008 post Fantastic, but another reason to feel old!

Pleasant Sunday afternoon in Illawarra



Lunch at City Diggers

Met ex-TIGS (1975) student Ian Turton – and his son!


Music at Illawarra Brewery


Just saw the program about Jack. Inspiring, and he is inspirational. I did have an Extension English class for Yr 12 in Jack’s year but he wasn’t in that class – though some pretty amazing kids were, as happens at SBHS. But we (ex) teachers really do know our place: so often we really are humbled by the humanity that passes through our hands, as it were, and what we contribute is never all that clear. Even so, with no real justification I guess, I couldn’t help but feel proud about what I saw tonight – and cheered to see something we so often have regarded as an intractable problem yielding to this young man’s vision. There’s hope there eh!

ALICIA JOHNSON, AIME MENTEE: What I think makes AIME so good is it was developed and created by an Indigenous youth, for Indigenous youth. And other people ask me about the program and ask me about my involvement and I just said, "It’s made for us, pretty much by us and that’s why I believe it’s so successful." It’s not someone trying to save us. It’s not someone trying to tell us what to do; it’s about giving us self determination and hope.

IAN THORPE, ‘FOUNTAIN FOR YOUTH’ CHARITY: I think Jack probably has a plan that we have to get Australia right first and then why not AIME in Africa, why not AIME in other countries that have similar problems? I think, for someone like Jack Manning Bancroft, and I think, you know the world really is his oyster. He could be doing anything.

JACK MANNING BANCROFT: It’s pretty humbling to see what AIME has done for a lot of different people. Personally, I think that it doesn’t make sense today that an Australian kid who is Indigenous doesn’t have the same chances that every other Australian kid has. And until I can see an Australia where that happens, I don’t think I’ll be happy or satisfied.


Diamond Queen

I am not normally disturbed one way or the other by the fact Australia is a constitutional monarchy whose Head of State may or may not be an old lady who lives in England. (It is either her or the Governor-General, depending on who you ask or where you look.) As far as I am concerned the whole odd thing has a certain charm, and it works. Every time I see the ongoing saga of a US Presidential Election I am rather glad we are at least spared that – and spared the spectacle of turning the judiciary into yet another gaggle of elected politicians.

So roll on the Diamond Jubilee, as far as I am concerned. And I like the Queen.

Back in Sutherland we were mad for her, as I recall.



Sutherland Station decorated for the Royal Visit in 1954.

Yes, I know it looks like someone has put out their washing, but we thought it splendid at the time —

and look at those soot stains from passing steam engines!

I have to say, however, that I find Professor David Flint and the monarchists profoundly annoying. I have met the man. And no, they can shove their petition up their Khybers…


Our Canadian siblings-in-royalty aren’t devoting their national public broadcaster to the Diamond Jubilee either, though BBC Canada is giving live coverage – much as ABC 24 is here I suppose. I couldn’t quite ascertain what the Kiwis or Jamaicans are doing…


Meanwhile, you can trot down to Australia Post and pick up one of these beauties. That’s the special silver one. I will await the plebeian cupro-nickel edition.

Meanwhile I am looking forward to the final episode of The Diamond Queen on ABC tonight. I have seriously enjoyed it for the past three Sundays. 

Douglas Hurd said the most subversive thing by far, commenting on the Queen’s relationship with Margaret Thatcher: "They each thought the other was rather strange… which was true," he chuckled.