More bread and circuses, but this time Perth misses out, for a year or two

By | Books, Economy, Education, Environment, Media, Politics, Society, Sport | No Comments

A few months ago I wrote a piece on the decision of the ACT Government to build a great covered sports stadium to the edge of Canberra’s CBD. The historic point of my little essay was that governments have been doing such things for a long time, possibly ever since there were city governments. It was a Roman poet, Juvenal, who said that all his fellow-citizens were interested in was ‘bread and circuses’, and the Circus Maximus in Rome could seat 150,000, which is more than half again as big as the MCG. The Greeks built amphitheatres (as did the…

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November 22nd as an anniversary

By | ABC, History, Music, Politics, Sport | 6 Comments

All year long those who listen to the ABC’s Classic FM have been ‘remembering’ the birth years of three composers — Verdi, Wagner and Benjamin Britten — 1813 for the first two and 1913 for Britten. The year built up to the past week’s salute to Benjamin Britten, whose birthday was Thursday, November 22nd. As it happens, BB is not one of my favourite composers, but I listened with interest to a lot of his music I had probably never heard before, and raised him up a few notches on my scoreboard. Then I realised that November 22nd was also…

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Skiers should worry about future weather, not climate

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Sport | One Comment

Friday night’s ABC TV news contained a small segment on the likelihood of warmer winter weather for Australia’s ski-slopes. Apparently someone has done a study of the winter snowfall a hundred years ago, and is suggesting that snow falls were deeper then and the season lasted longer than is the case now. The two scientists interviewed seemed to be suggesting that we could look forward to more of this. I can’t at the moment lay my hands, or feast my eyes, on this report, which as a former skier I would read with interest. But the item stirred my interest…

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What has happened to Australian sporting prowess?

By | Environment, History, Media, Society, Sport | 4 Comments

I like to watch cricket on TV, because in terms of understanding what is going on it’s more instructive than being there. It hasn’t been much fun lately, with a dismal performance most of the time, by our batsmen. The Fifth Test looks like grinding its way to a draw. After a good run by the Brumbies, I thought that the first Bledisloe Cup game might be very close indeed. It wasn’t. Our swimmers didn’t dominate in any way in the last international meeting, and our athletes weren’t impressive. The Brits did better than us in the last Olympic Games….

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What will happen now?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, History, Politics, Sport | 4 Comments

OK, so Kevin Rudd is back in the saddle again, with Anthony Albanese as Deputy Leader. As I began writing this post it was not clear how many Ministers would decline to serve in the Second Rudd Government, let alone what would happen when Parliament meets today. I did not expect this spill to happen, but it did. It was prefigured by what Leigh Sales of the ABC called ‘unexpected surprises’ (I wondered what expected surprises might be) — the decisions by the Independent MPs Oakeshott and Windsor that they would not contest their seats. There will now be several…

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On materialism

By | Economy, Education, Health, History, Other, Politics, Society, Sport | No Comments

We live in a world of material abundance, to the point where few Australians experience what would have been regarded in my youth as real poverty. To be without shelter, food and clothing is now uncommon and indeed unnecessary, which is not to say that there are not homeless and ill-clad people. My guess is that most of us are unaware of how recent this state of affairs is. Increasing knowledge and technological competence have made it possible for contemporary Western societies to produce enough food for themselves, to produce enough natural and synthetic fibres to clothe everybody, and to…

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson meets Richard Strauss

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Media, Music, Society, Sport, Theatre | No Comments

My earliest memory of Tennyson’s poetry was my father’s singing lines from The Lady of Shallot to the tune of Mowing the Barley. ‘On either side the river lie, long fields of barley and of rye, and up and down the people go, waving lilies to and fro.’ One or both of us didn’t remember the lines very well, as I discovered at university. He didn’t have many songs, my Dad, but this was one of them. Another was a mildly rude version of Jerusalem, whose text involved a footballer losing his shorts at a match, the chorus beginning ‘You’re…

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‘Sharing the Road’ isn’t always easy

By | Environment, Humour, Politics, Road Safety, Society, Sport | 2 Comments

I live in Canberra quite close to Lake Burley Griffin, and the easiest road to the city, at least in my view, winds around a part of the lake. It’s really an old-fashioned country road, not very wide, and full of little hills and curves. It comes complete with a single unbroken line for about 2 of its 2.5 kilometres. So it’s slow, but it’s pretty, and there’s not a lot of traffic on it. I guess I use it once or twice a day. Between the road and the lake is a kind of park, not manicured, but kept…

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Social justice – or the Arboretum?

By | History, Music, Other, Politics, Society, Sport, Theatre | 4 Comments

In 2003 Canberra suffered through a most destructive bushfire that killed four people and destroyed more than 500 houses, as well as a considerable amount of pine plantation. In the aftermath the ACT Government of Jon Stanhope decided to construct an arboretum that would be a memorial of the fire and the community spirit and resilience that it brought out. The arboretum was to be funded in part through the insurance payout the Government received for the plantations. Opinion was divided. Some liked the idea, while others thought it a dreadful waste of money. Designing, planning and developing the arboretum…

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If we wanted a new cultural policy for Australia, is this it?

By | Books, Economy, Education, Health, History, Language, Media, Music, Other, Politics, Society, Sport, Theatre | 2 Comments

A working lifetime spent in the knowledge of what happened to the arts in the former Soviet Union has made me leery of cultural policies promulgated by governments. As Minister Crean correctly said in his Press Club speech announcing the new policy, governments are there to enable creativity, not to shape or frame it. Creativity comes from the ground up, not from the government down. I‘ve written about this matter before, and the Minister’s speech and the accompanying policy statement offer no challenges. We human beings have an urge to create. Among the earliest records we have of human existence…

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