On Bruce Dawe keeping on, and other miscellanea

Nice to see a poem by Bruce Dawe in today’s Weekend Oz Review. Yes, I do compromise my integrity every Saturday by patronising Rupert, as I do like the Review. The poem is called “The Ultimate Tally” and comments on James Magnussen and the 4X100 Relay in London.

— You gave it all you had. Luck turned away,

As did those bitter media reckoners, who say

You failed

Quite a lovely little poem, and hey the guy is 82 now!  Among my record ever posts is Friday Australian poem #17: Bruce Dawe, “Homecoming” — 19,998 views since November 2007.

Also in the Review is a great encouragement to read The Sex Lives of Australians: A History by Frank Bongiorno. One to look out for in the Library for sure.

Cross-dressing colonists, effeminate bushrangers and women-shortage woes – here is the first ever history of sex in Australia, from Botany Bay to the present-day

In this highly readable social history, Frank Bongiorno uses striking examples to chart the changing sex lives of Australians. He shows how an overwhelmingly male penal colony gave rise to a rough and ready culture: the scarcity of women made for strange bedfellows, and the female minority was both powerful and vulnerable.

Then came the Victorian era, in which fears of sodomy helped bring an end to the transportation of convicts. The twentieth century saw the rise of the sex expert. Tracing the story up to the present, Bongiorno shows how the quest for respectability always has another side to it, and how the contraceptive pill changed so much. Along the way he raises some intriguing questions – What did it mean to be a ‘mate’? How did modern warfare affect soldiers’ attitudes to sex? Why did the law ignore lesbianism for so long? – and introduces some remarkable characters, both reformers and radicals. This is a thought-provoking story of sex in Australia.

With a foreword by Michael Kirby, AC CMG.

Not in the Oz today, but my recent travels on Facebook have led me to two nostalgia groups: Lost Sydney and (just the other day) Lost Gay Sydney. This is such an interesting phenomenon that I may do another post on it later. One of my more popular posts here already has been Nostalgia and the globalising world — from Thomas Hardy to 2010 — 2,519 views since January 2010 and quite a few of my posts, particularly on The Shire, are nostalgia pieces.

It still seems odd to be getting nostalgic about the 80s and 90s – but people do in both those groups – and thirty years is thirty years, after all!


Newtown Bridge 1988 – I can get nostalgic about this! From Lost Sydney, though it could equally be on Lost Gay Sydney!

And speaking of nostalgia, I have really been enjoying the rerun of As Time Goes By, a British sitcom that aired on BBC One from 1992 to 2005. Starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. I had never watched it systematically before, I have to admit, but now I am just loving the sharp writing and the display of some very fine ensemble acting.

ABC is also repeating Monty Don’s Italian Gardens, one of the most beautiful documentaries ever made, in my opinion.

The cinematography is to die for on that!

Back in The Oz, Phillip Adams alarmed me rather:

SOME of the madder middle-eastern mullahs, including a number in Egypt itself, are calling for the destruction of those pagan pyramids – in the same ecumenical spirit as the Taliban’s destruction of the monumental Buddhas of Bamiyan.

Carved into a cliff not far from Kabul, they stood there from the 6th century to March 2001, when, having been deemed "idols", they were dynamited on the orders of Mullah Mohammed Omar. Later, some of the more tolerant Taliban (an oxymoron) would express regrets, if only because blowing up Buddhas was bad PR.

Now their Egyptian brothers want to finish what’s left of the venerable pyramids after various vandalisms of the past. While time itself has done the most damage to Egypt’s ancient tombs, some blame should be directed at the pharaohs themselves, who would, all too often, seek to erase the identity of their predecessors. 19th-century Europeans masquerading as archaeologists could be as brutal – one dynamited a huge hole in the Great Pyramid. And, yes, the radiant limestone that once encased Cheops’ man-made mountain was removed to build mosques in Cairo.

But Christians have been at least as destructive as Muslims. Leaving aside the Crusades, there’s the way Catholic Rome used the Forum as a quarry – and melted down the bronze from the roof of the Pantheon for the papal altar canopy at St Peter’s Basilica.

Every civilisation has behaved in an uncivilised way in regard to such looting and pillaging – right into the modern era of Christian missionaries burning down the great indigenous cathedrals in Papua’s Sepik region, and in the bulldozing of Aboriginal sacred sites by miners. The spiritual destruction of aboriginal religions throughout the world by white invaders was finally far worse than the destruction of temples and statues, and gets the endorsement of God in his Good Book. Look at what He did to Sodom, Gomorrah, the Golden Calf and the whole shebang with the Flood. Thus the most rapacious real-estate developers can claim divine inspiration, as can the Balkans’ ethnic cleansers.

You don’t need religion to inspire the demolition of the past, though…

Yes, I have of late thought quite a bit about the wholesale destruction in England and a little later in Scotland that accompanied the Reformation, and the 16th/17th century wars of religion in Europe. Madness finds a companion in the notion that God writes books – he doesn’t and never has – and even worse that I (or my partners in delusion) have the Magic Key to the book. There’s another topic for another day! Let’s just say that I think uncertainty is a really healthy thing.  Somewhere in that you may be afforded glimpses of a God who is really godly, unlike the extremely crotchety old bastard with an unhealthy compulsion for blood sacrifices who appears in the pages of the holy books of the three Abrahamic religions – alongside glimpses of a much more godly God…

But enough of that. See my older posts on The Bible if you want more.

Trouble is, fortunately, that Adams may be believing a furphy. Certainly hope so.

Someone who reads a lot of right-wing blogs in the United States these days might be forgiven for thinking so, though there is no sign here that any such Islamist clamor to destroy the monuments of ancient Egypt has actually arisen.

The fear that it has, though, is a textbook example of how a rumor, especially about a place as tumultuous as Egypt these days, can take on a life of its own — fed by a kernel of fact, a dash of Twitter, and a convenient coincidence or two.

The claim that radical Islamists had, in the name of the Muslim aversion to artifacts of paganism, asked President Mohamed Morsi to have the pyramids torn down apparently began with a June 30 item in Rose el-Youssef, an Egyptian magazine that for years was a mouthpiece for Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Morsi’s ousted predecessor…

Ahmed Sobeai, a spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, responded, “Dr. Morsi cannot respond to something that hasn’t happened.” Mr. Sobeai called the whole affair “an attempt to fabricate a crisis from an illusion.”

The pyramids, he said, are safe.

To be fair, Adams concludes his piece thus:

I’m not too worried about the pyramids. True, Islamic anger has been directed at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum in the past – forcing the curators to remove mummies from public view. But the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people are very proud of their history – and would form the first line of defence if bulldozers started rumbling towards the Giza Plateau. Australia might offer help in such a circumstance. Jack Mundey could transplant our Green Bans.