All well so far

The stress test did show I am unfit but the heart seems OK.  Another test to go later on some time.

Meanwhile, here I am after the appointment in Diggers.


Having just had a beef casserole…


And at the bus stop as I set out for the hospital, a good omen?



Art and more yesterday

Lunch at Wollongong Diggers


Then Wollongong City Gallery, where so much great stuff may be seen right now. For example:





If you are in The Gong, do not miss this. It is amazing.

Then I felt the need to visit the hospital, where I stayed to around 7.30pm – but all seems well.


Go in tomorrow for a stress test though – just got the call.

On reviewing this blog–and browsers

The new template enables something called a “featured image” – the majority of WordPress templates don’t make much of it. So I have been going back turning it on in past posts.

It is responsible for the nice image at the top of the “sticky” – that recycled post at the top – and also provides the small image beside most of the summaries here and in the categories and archives.


That’s July 2011

Another feature of this template is that it does not offer a choice about how many items to display per page. On the categories and archives you get seven, but here is why that choice has gone: on the front page there is no limit!  Scroll down and you will see what I mean. The entries keep on coming. Now that, I have decided, I really like!

And I have just changed the background a little. Seems to read better.


Now I have learned a thing or two about browsers while going through those past posts. does have – has long had – a bit of an issue with some browsers dating back to changes a couple of years back when the site was made secure. It seems some bits were not made secure, and browsers cope with this in various ways. Every now and again Chrome has a spasm and just stops working when you are doing editing work behind the scenes.


Typical Chrome spasm

Firefox copes but it is so amazing resource hungry, or so I find. I have Process Lasso and it goes crazy if I start doing WP work in Firefox, especially after I have been working with it for a while!


I haven’t tried Internet Explorer, which I rarely use anyway, but I have found Opera to be good when I am doing these jobs. Much lighter on resources and pretty reliable.

See also Facebook Drops Google Chrome Recommendation, Replaces It With Opera but I find that story rather fishy. Compare What web browsers does Facebook support?


It may just be the cold weather, but I am keeping an anxious eye on my heart just now.

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!

Neil — DQ

That is Doctor of Quitology.

The highest Degree in the science of Quitology; conferred upon a QuitNet member who has reached One Year smoke-free.

Yes this time one year ago – or the day after to be quite accurate – I informed you:

Where I am right now…

Wollongong Hospital after a small heart attack… I’ll be here a little while yet.

My last cigarette was on 28 February 2011 while waiting for the ambulance.

365 days, 8 hours, 36 minutes and 53 seconds smoke free.

18268 cigarettes not smoked.

$11,680.00  saved.

Out and about–doc, library, pho, Yours and Owls

Down to the doctors. Aside from rotten teeth – waiting on dealing with them – and sore heel, and of course the heart, and other signs of decay, it turns out I am fine. A blood test I had on Monday indicated alcohol consumption. I wondered how that could be – though I do drink wine moderately. But then I remembered I had the blood test the day after the last “pub crawl” with Sirdan – well two pubs – before he went to Queensland.

Then the Library. I have a lot of good books to tell you about shortly, and borrowed more today. I am especially attracted at the moment to smiley-happy005smiley-happy005[5]smiley-happy005[7]smiley-happy005[10] My Dog Gave Me the Clap by Adam Morris – an easy read. I consumed half of it with coffee at Yours and Owls. “Adam Morris’ dog says he resents the implication. Fair enough. Despite these conflicts I found My Dog Gave Me the Clap to be a funny, strange and compelling read.” I agree! I will almost certainly finish it after posting this!





You may notice I never use natural colouring for Yours and Owls. Heightening it is more truthful. Winking smile

Reflective of the 80s and 90s–others and myself

I was simply checking the internet for Dr Cassy’s current number – it isn’t there – when I came upon this: “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (from String Quartet). is a radical experiment in truth-telling. Every week over the next 28 months, I will write approximately 6 minutes of music per fortnight and give it away for free. I will accompany the music with blogposts which say what was on my mind and was occurring in my life during the composition of this music.

I am a composer. My music is like a diary. At least, it’s the part that cannot be said in words, whereas the part that can be will be.


I found the music beautiful, and then I read on encountering things I had been on the edges of myself, Dr Cassy having been my doctor on and off for about 25 years.

I began the sketches for this section of my String Quartet back sometime in the mid-1990s.

On May 29, 1995 I delivered the eulogy below for the artist David McDiarmid. David was a magical and gifted artist, completely of his time in the best sense of that phrase – the time being the late 70’s to the mid 90’s, against the growing backdrop of the AIDS epidemic…

We were all AIDS activists back then. I was a member of ACT UP, the media-savvy direct-action group destined for perpetual infamy on account of its confronting protests. (Think Greenpeace, but for AIDS.) Within a couple of months of arriving in Australia in Christmas 1990, I was running a ‘buyers club’ importing AIDS drugs unavailable here. It was a stop-gap measure while the activists lobbied hard to get regulatory authorities and pharmaceutical companies to cut the red tape preventing the drugs from being accessible readily and affordably….

David and I became much closer after I started collaborating with a doctor named Cassy Workman. Cassy and I together with Lois Johnson from ACT UP formed a radical AIDS treatment center masquerading as an ordinary doctor’s office. We ran our own clinical trials, recorded and analyzed our own data, and devised treatment regimes using drug combinations obtained by lying to the hospitals about what drugs our patients were really on – to circumvent a thinking-inside-the-box limit about how many experimental therapies a person could be on simultaneously. Our patients were clearly healthier than most. Some of it was due to the stealth combination therapy. Most of it was because we treated AIDS patients like normal people…

I’ll cut to the eulogy here, because much of the rest of David’s story is told in it, and resume my story about the music afterwards…

That was 1995.

During those heady days of life-and-death activism, I sketched a lot of music without fully composing much of it. I used to joke that I specialized in unfinished works. I’ve since realized that sketching was my way of keeping a diary. A diary of feelings, rather than events. This piece is realized from sketches I made from that time.

Since Cassy uncompromisingly gave her everything to every patient in front of her in every moment, it meant unpredictably long periods of waiting in the doctor’s office. A big part of my friendship with David came from talking to him while he waited his turn to see Cassy. He’d come with hilarious gifts for me, such as a compilation video tape of cartoons (eg. Son of Stimpy) and 1950s bodybuilding and soft porn footage. He also gave me a compilation cassette tape of campy songs, which I eventually understood was either a prototype or an offshoot of his “Toxic Queen presents …” and “Funeral Hits of the 90s” projects.

Humor – actually, sarcasm and bitchiness – was a key ingredient in David’s art. His works had titles like “Lifetimes are not what they used to be”, “Darling, you make me sick”, “AIDS victim dies alone – family profits” and “It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to, sugar.”…

My music here is nothing like David’s art. None of David’s humor has shown up. So that’s how I know this piece is not a tribute to him, though he’s in it. It’s more a record of the times we both inhabited, and about the stars we visited in our minds while we were all coping with the times. Instead there’s a debonairness to the music, a sophistication that’s shown up as, interestingly, jazz. I don’t know if David liked jazz, but this piece has great chunks of it. David lived a lush life. I think that’s where the jazz comes from, from Billy Strayhorn and the lush life….

The music that post refers to is here.

See also:

And do note:

Solo Piano: new 2012 project

In 2012, I am sending out free music from my gigantic, autobiographical work-in-progress called Solo Piano.

I guarantee it will be one of the most unusual musical projects you’ve ever come across. More information will be posted on this website over the next few days, but meanwhile: free free to join the mailing list for Solo Piano here.

Now The Iron Lady again

Yes, I am still ruminating, especially after seeing Meryl Streep last night on ABC. Interesting contrast made between what the USA thinks is “conservative” and the actual beliefs and actions of Maggie T.

Then I see I was not alone when I thought: " whatever I may have thought about Margaret Thatcher was kind of beside the point. Think King Lear, perhaps, with Maggie as Lear rather than as Goneril and Dennis perhaps The Fool…" Or maybe Kent?  Hmmm. But Poor Tom? Hmmm.

Anyway, see Elizabeth Farrelly in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

The film has been accused of disrespect, hagiography, clumsiness, obtuseness, ”horrifying” sexism and – by America’s National Public Radio, no less – ”sheer awfulness”. Some are charmed, others disgusted – largely along tired ideological lines.

Yet to me it seems at once a clear-eyed feminist treatise, a sympathetic study of ageing and dementia and a thoughtful analysis of mother-daughter complexities. On a canvas of riotous democracy, it cartoons the contemporary human condition, and in particular the contemporary female condition…

It is King Lear recast in a context of feminism, democracy, television and dementia. Innocent beginning, glorious climax, fatal flaw, dreadful end.

The Iron Lady is not told linearly, partly because we are assumed to know the narrative arc, and partly because fragmentation is the theme, common to democracy, post-modernism and Alzheimer’s disease.

Yet it is a Lear. Carol of course is Cordelia, faithfully serving the parental monarch even as she is unwittingly lashed. Mark is the perfidious Goneril, calling from South Africa only to turn the knife. Dennis is Poor Tom – equal parts priest, shrink, joker and crutch – and Airey Neave is Gloucester, car-bombed, rather than eye-gouged, for his loyalty.

Enthroned at the centre of it all is Thatcher herself; grand, as well as grandly flawed. (The film pointedly ends with her self-sketched fate, not dead but – worse – softened by disease, washing said teacup). She stands on principle, and on principle she falls.