Some bits kind of relevant to today in Illawarra…

Well, the first is. And I am ashamed to say I had clean forgotten about it. See Black Christmas 2001-2. Helensburgh is on the northern side of Illawarra, north of Otford, up against The Shire and the Royal National Park.

After lunch a dark brown cloud came out of the Appin, Darkes Forest area. At first it blanketed Stanwell Tops, sweeping down into Stanwell Park. As it thickened, the Burgh crew down at the Park realized they were in for a massive bushfire. By the time they got up to the Burgh, the fire had already jumped the F6, the Princes Highway, down past Binners, Symbio, the Hindu Temple and was racing toward Stanwell Tops.

By late afternoon the power was off and the fire had reached the Ampol service Station, Busy Bee and the Mower Shop. It worked through to Mrs Lawson’s industrial area and took out a number of sheds – Helensburgh Metal Fabrications, owned by Michael Brooks, and Kurt Martison’s car restoration business. Rajani Road was next to feel the force of the fire, with one house in Excelsia Avenue totally destroyed.

In the meantime the fire had reached Stanwell Tops, devastating the Tops Convention Centre, and taking out properties owned by the Gilmour, Parker, Host, Saverino, McWilliams, Price, Green and Armstrong families. Mrs Luck’s home next to the Hindu Temple was nearly lost. Trent Luck heard about the fire and tried to get home and protect the property, but was stopped at Waterfall. So he parked the car and with three police chasing him, ran through the bush to the Burgh. "Mosley", owned by Mrs. Loyd, was only just saved. The fire then moved to Otford.

That doco is well worth a look.

On days like today all kinds of things can start a true catastrophe. For example:

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Car accident – image from Helensburgh RFS Facebook page.

Not really related, except geographically,  but worth seeing is Alan Bond’s Ghost Tunnel.

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This video really ought to be deeply offensive

… to just about every believer in The Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or any other alleged holy book. But no-one ever notices. Perhaps it’s the tune.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

Last I heard God was not offended. In fact I believe He is a fan.

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…Over the course of human history blasphemy has been understood to be unacceptable in most human societies, and often entails extreme sanction. The American, and to a lesser extent Western, elevation of liberty of speech over the sacred values of the community is a peculiar counter-cultural trend which has become normative. But that doesn’t mean that it’s normal or natural. I stipulate here the term “sacred values of the community,” because though blasphemy connotes violations of religious norms, obviously outrage can be triggered by violations of sacred communal norms more generally. Imagine, for example, if someone violated Lenin’s Tomb during the 1950s in the Soviet Union. Jonathan Haidt has alluded to this issue. Someone who reacts calmly to “Piss Christ” might not react so calmly to “Piss Martin Luther King.”

This points to the second issue. Not only is there is a human universal of offense at violation of sacred norms, but those sacred norms vary from culture to culture. So, for example, I have pointed out to followers of the Abrahamic religions that the core documents of their own faiths and the dominant interpretations are often gravely offensive and hostile toward those of other religious traditions. There is a certain incommensurability of offense across cultures. What may be sacred to one culture may be offensive and blasphemous to another. To give an example, the institutions of sacred prostitution has cropped up repeatedly over human history. Many religious people would consider prostitution in the service of gods or God blasphemous, whereas others might consider it an exalted act. Similarly, blood sacrifice, whether of humans or animals, has been central to many religions, and taboo and blasphemy in the context of others. In contrast to this there are acts and violations which seem relatively universal in interpretation. This is clear when offended people make analogies to insulting one’s mother; this is generally communicable across societies, because emotional family ties are fundamental. And the collective paroxysms of rage, anger, and violence, due to violations of communal honor probably draw from the same cognitive reflexes as those which are triggered by violations of family honor….

Priscillas I have known

Here is one: the warm-hearted late Pepper Stevens.

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I was always just a spectator of the world that burst through to everyone via the the excellent Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. But I did have quite a few conversations over the years with Pepper, who passed away not all that long ago.

Oh yes: The Albury – where I met M in 1990 and Sirdan and chatted with the former Premier of South Australia, Don Dunstan – and The Unicorn, and all that 1980s-early 1990s scene.

I see Channel Ten has a rather intriguing new reality show.

IN 1994, director Stephan Elliott breathed life into a small Australian film, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, that would become a cultural touchstone, blending Australia’s cosmopolitan gay capital with its mystical, ancient heart.

Its plot – three city-bred drag queens embark on a coming-of-middle-age journey from Sydney to Alice Springs in a bus nicknamed ”Priscilla” – resonated powerfully. It was adapted as a stage musical in 2006 and has subsequently conquered Broadway and London’s West End.

Now, almost 18 years later, it has been turned into a television talent quest, in which host Hugh Sheridan and two judges – Elliott and actor Jason Donovan, who starred in the musical in London – search for the perfect musical theatre ”triple threat”: a singer-dancer-actor…

See also Outback drag queens create wave of acceptance.

Travelling from Sydney to Alice Springs, the commercial TV crew has swooped through Port Augusta, caused a furore at the Quorn Races, and doused Cooper Pedy in drag.

Writer and director of the original Priscilla film, Stefan Elliot is part of the large troupe, which includes a crew of 120, four buses, and ten drag queens.

"We’re just an extraordinary moving production number that is going from town to town," said Mr Elliot. "The original advertising line of the film, Priscilla, was if aliens landed in your town what would you do, what would you say, and most importantly what would you wear? I think that sums up exactly what’s happening here."…

This blog–fearless ground-breaking questions FOR YOU!

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That last one is amazing!

Finally, am I damned because I find myself agreeing with Paul Sheehan this morning?

Exhibit one: The Shire. I’m not close to being in the target demographic for this series, which does have high production values but also has a hole where its heart should be. The Shire is a new low in network corporate cynicism. Ten presents the series as being driven by ”real people, no actors”, about a real place, Cronulla, and the surrounding Sutherland Shire. This is nonsense. It is a kernel of authenticity wrapped in a package of artifice.

The genesis of this series is pure plastic: it is a copy of an American faux reality series, Laguna Beach, with a dash of the grotesquery of another American reality show, Jersey Shore, and the dramatic story line of yet another American show, The O.C.

This Australian knock-off draws its drama by fixating on several carefully chosen young women who represent the quintessence of puerile narcissism. They are the only people who don’t get the joke – that they are the joke – cast for their combination of vanity, vapidity and plastic surgery.

The real Shire must be getting sick of parodies…

Mind you compared with many current offerings Sylvania Waters actually looks rather good.