Thursday, May 27, 2004

Most Dangerous City

I was a little overenthusiastic when I described Port Moresby as 'The most dangerous city' a little research has shown that it is in competition with Johannesburg, Mogadishu, Baghdad, Lagos and several others. Not that this makes things any better, it was not that long ago most of these places would have been considered quite pleasant to live in.

Port Moresby Memories

Port Moresby in 1977 was a great place. I was working on secondment in their version of Telstra at the time. Hot days and nights. It was a time not long after independence and the country was hopeful for a prosperous future. The people in PNG are like everyone else in the world, there are brilliant clever types, normal people, crooks, hard workers and lazy sods and everything else you would get anywhere. The culture is different, there are hundreds of different clans all with their own way of doing things and seeing the world. Individually the people are like people everywhere. I worked and socialised with many of them and had a laugh and a beer quite often. The expatriate community was similar to expats everywhere, many were not suited to the role (me amongst them) again all for different reasons, immaturity, racism (though not common) money etc.

Port Moresby was a melting pot with mainly men from all over the country having gone there for money, excitement and escape etc. It was a good place to live there were some dangerous times and places but generally you could go where you wanted when you wanted. I remember snorkeling off Ella beach until it was dark, drinking and eating at the beachfront RSL (now gone), parties most weekends, scuba diving on basilisk reef, packing the ute with a mate and driving as far as we could for beach weekends sharing food and drink with the locals. The speedway. the drive in, the swimming pool, car rallies, fishing and exploring old ww2 sites.

What happened? My friends there now live in compounds and it is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. If these are the benefits of independence perhaps the place would have been better off becoming a state of Australia. Sure there would have been fewer opportunities for grandstanding politicians but who cares, the people would have been better off. I have no great affection for Indonesia, however I can understand some of the reasons for their occupation of Irian Jaya and East Timor after all who wants a failed state on their doorstep. It will only export fear and misery to neighboring countries and destroy its own citizens.

What can be done?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Snow in Melbourne

Almost the best time of year in Melbourne -winter. I love autumn, the best weather of the year. Spring, well it never knows what it wants to be - four seasons in one day? And summer? Well when it finally gets here it's just too hot, only good for fly fishing on mountain streams. But winter I love it. working outside in the cold for a couple of hours, then inside next to an open fire and a whisky, going to the footy (outdoors) all rugged up, just enjoying the invigorating weather. Best of all - skiing, nothing like a few days up high and getting wet, cold and miserable, well not really. The few weeks in late July, early August where it is true cold alpine weather, everything is crisp cold and dry. The snow is clean and fast and the cold can take your breath away.

Talking of snow today I was listening to Jon Faine on 3LO (or 774 if you prefer) and as usual he was rambling on as if he knows everything. He apparently recently had someone tell him it snowed in Melbourne in 1952, the next 10 minutes were taken up with stories of this and how unusual it was. He must never go outside in cold weather in Melbourne, I often work outside and most years I get snowed on at least once in Melbourne, sure it doesn't stay on the ground but it definitely snows. Sometimes it can be quite heavy, in form two in 1970 it snowed quite heavily it stayed on our clothes for a minute or so. About 14 or 15 years ago I didn't see it snow but it did snow overnight quite heavily so much that driving around Pascoe Vale that morning the gutters were white. First thing that morning my backyard was covered. it was still in the gutters of Gordon Street West Coburg about 9 am.

So much for the big snow of '52, anyway enough needless picking on our esteemed media personality. Does anyone else remember snow around the suburbs in recent times?

Monday, May 24, 2004

Political Music

I have McArthur Park by Richard Harris playing in the background as I write. I don't know why, I don't particularly like it and I have no idea what it's about but it is pleasant. When I was a teenager and into my early twenties I placed great store on music and especially the lyrics, I don't know why but I saw them as short philosophical statements. Perhaps they were, however looking from here and listening to some of my old favourites it seems more likely that most of them were chosen for the rhyme and have no more meaning than do wah diddy. There were some songwriters who tried so transmit a message, however most of those were of a political nature rather than reflecting on love and life in general.

Thinking about those writers of political songs it seems that the successful ones were those that made the lyrics fit a good tune rather than the other way round. I am sure some of you must have attended political rallies where some unwashed would be musician was given an opportunity to present his/her talents to a semi captive audience. The result was usually a rush for the nearest pub, and was far more effective for dispersing a crowd than the police could ever be. Generally the theme was one that alienated the bulk of those present combined with catchiness of the Fremantle Football Club song.

Though I disagree with much of (though not all) of Peter Garretts political views, I find Midnight Oils music great and it does get me thinking about the issues (sometimes) but generally it is great music. If they had concentrated primarily on the message rather than the music, they would have achieved little and the world would be poorer for it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Radio National

I have for the past several years have listened to radio national for several hours each day, It gives me heart to think that I am not the only one in the world who is interested in many different subjects. It has always had its blatanty politicized presenters - Phillip Adams, Sandy McCutcheon and a few others, however most of the presenters manage to suppress their personal feelings and present reasonably well balanced programs, Terry Lane, Alan Saunders and Peter Thompson to name a few. I can put up with Adams as he often has interesting guests and I just don't listen to McCutcheon but I can't stand presenters who have little knowledge of a subject and try to give the impression that they know much.

Life Matters was never my favourite program however it often had interesting topics and guests, unfortunately since the departure of Geraldine Doogue the standard has steadily deteriorated until I can no longer listen. I don't know how the guests or topics are selected however since Julie McCrossin has been the sole host the focus seems to dwell on wymyns matters. There seems to be no end of gay issues, single mothers and indiginous female artists etc. Julie gushes all over her guests and topics at the same time she offers her own anecdotes or observations most of which seem to have little or no relevance to the issue at hand. When Geraldine was a co host the program seemed to offer a more balanced selection of guests and topics and a more mature outlook.

Until things improve I will stick to the afternoon shows, especially books and writing and big ideas, great stuff.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Why 737? Well it was in the second Creedence Clearwater Revival song that I heard, at the time I was staggered, "what could be better than this?" I thought. Well 35 years later I had another listen to some of my old albums some still sound good but others - well they were a sound for the times I guess. Remembering a 13 year old boy, listening to either 3XY or 3AK on a small transistor radio in his room late at night, it was cold in the little tacked on lean to room in winter. I would have the blankets pulled up over my head to keep out the cold and the volume down as I was supposed to be asleep. I think I was attracted to the energy in 'Travelling Band' a raucous loud energetic song reflecting the adrenalin charged lifestyle of a band in demand, it made me want to be a musician however being extremely non musical that was not to be. I don't know whether I will ever play the album again. It may be that the music is not what I remembered it to be or it reminds me that I will be what I wanted (at that age) to be, who knows, it hurts to think about it sometimes

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

1966 The First Time

Sometime in 1966 not sure of the season except that it was a warm afternoon, I was wearing grey shorts, a blue shirt and my school jumper. The class was lined up to go over to church, it was all rather semi military then, we marched to our classrooms in the morning to the Colonel Bogey march, we lined up and marched in twos to sport, church everywhere almost. St Fidelis was I suppose, a typical working class catholic primary school of the time. Anyway we were lined up and we were all chatting as kids do, the headnun was becoming increasingly frustrated in her efforts to get us to behave as silent obedient 'good children'. "The next child who speaks will get the strap!!" she cried. Everyone fell silent, I turned to the boy next to me and said "You know I've never had the strap". Well then at the age of ten I got my first taste of leather, there was much more to come over the next 7 years.