Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Best Prime Minister of them all?

Following my previous post about Blair's oral skills, Don Quixote said:
All this talk of prime ministers makes me think: who was the best of them all?I toss up between Whitlam and Keating; Whitlam for his social reform and Keating for his economic inroads.
I know, it's an old, subjective and endless discussion. That's why it's fun.

Who do you think and why? I like Keating but for all round skills Bob Hawke was the ultimate in my view, because he had that Clintonesque combination of a very powerful intellect and folksy down-to-earth manner.

Keating, like Costello in the present situation, couldn't see that he was at his peak as offsider to somebody far more electable.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Blair too bright for Canby?

Matt Price fawns over Tony's performance:
How the ALP must be wishing Thomson was right. Whether or not you agree with Blair on prosecuting the war on terrorism, climate change and tackling world poverty, the British PM's eloquence, delivery and intellect is from the very top shelf.

It's comfortably the best speech The Sketch has heard in the House of Representatives, a depressing reminder that uplifting oratory is as foreign to the parliament as politeness and manners are to the modern cricket field.

What hellish bloody Labor wouldn't do for a genuinely Australian version of Thomson's famously articulate ex-student.

Think so?

Australia is not bereft of eloquent intellectuals. But in an era where our historical anti-intellectualism has returned to its high water mark, who's going to vote for a poncy internationalist with visionary aspirations? We had one of those in the early '90s and he didn't last too long. Now we've got a sneering, simple minded folksey bogan-in-a-suit and he's unassailable.

The collective commentatorati are enjoying making unflattering comparisons between Blair's Labour and Beazley's. But they conveniently leave out that Blair was heavily inspired by Australian Labor under Hawke and Keating.

Keating had his suits, his vision, his policies combining social left and economic right. Damn fine orator too.

And like so many tall poppy smart arses he was chopped off at the knees.

My Daughter

We put them to bed last night without food or water. This morning they were both irritated and adamant; staring at the spot where the food should be, miaowing. I let them out for the usual morning walk in the front garden. The cat box was sitting in the living room. Mao was suspicious and guarded, because he's been through this already. Minh was fine, bouncing about, wandering back in to let out a squeak next to where the food should be then back out onto the grass. I picked her up and held her, told her I'm sorry. Started saying it's for your own good but realised that, well, it isn't really.

We spay cats for our good, the good of unborn and unwanted kittens, and the environment. It's a worthy concept, but I couldn't really say it is for her.

She cried and kept sticking a paw out through the bars at the front of the cat box as I carried her down the street. At the vet's a woman who was there with her own cat saw Minh crying and started crying herself.

When I got home Mao stood near one of the walls in the back yard - I think he thought she'd run off- and yowled. These days they're inseparable, and he follows her constantly.

He was inconsolable. I am finding it hard to concentrate on work, my surrogate daughter is under anaesthetic....

Friday, March 24, 2006

Cyclist Shot: Serial Killer?

Melinda Zygarlicki, 31, was cycling along the Capital City trail near the Rushall station about 9.30 on Tuesday morning when a mystery attacker shot her.
Why was this only reported last night?

In normal people's language this is the Merri creek trail, the main 'greenspace' for North Fitzroy, East Brunswick, Northcote and Thornbury. I suppose it was too much to ask that the families, cycling commuters, joggers and random wandering souls who enter this perfect natural shooting range on a daily basis could have been warned.

Apparently it is 'just another shooting' or 'just another attempted murder'; unworthy of leading story status. Perhaps the editors are as optimistic about homo sapiens as the poor victim:

I want whoever has done this to catch wind of this and see they've totally put me out of action... I'm presuming they didn't do it on purpose but you don't play with guns. It's irresponsible, it's stupid.
Understandably she is trying to cope and make sense of the situation, but I'm pretty sure she's wrong.

Try this scenario: she was hunted, because she is human. The sniper crept down, perhaps before dawn even, and found a concealed place to sit and observe. Possibly they had the location scoped out days earlier. Merri creek at that point runs through a thickly tree-lined gully probably 30m deep by 100m across. There is plenty of cover- people cross it via bridges or work their way along a single path. It appears the sniper had a concealed escape route sounded out as well.

She was shot in the chest while crossing the bridge. If they were shooting at a target at gound level and missed they would not have hit someone on the bridge.

She was probably chosen because all the elements were right, presumably, unless a witness is found, this included a clean getaway. She was shot, and it was attempted murder.

The motive was pure homocide.

I hope I'm wrong, otherwise it is likely they will do it again. It is possible they will do it until they are caught.


UPDATE: Thankfully, I am wrong, or so it appears as this story continues to break. A 31 year old man has turned himself in, apparently saying it was an accident. Will keep watching as details emerge...

Whether accident or on purpose, the question still remains; would this have happened with a knife, or even a bow and arrow?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Grogblogg you fools!

April Fools bash being hosted by Lippy, see here. Regretably I will be drinking some inner-city lefty beverage like Bollinger on the deck of a Yacht with beloved, so I am unlikely to make an appearance. Can vouch for Lippy being a top drinking companion though...

Libel, so sayeth the Judge

A landmark legal ruling ordering a woman to pay £10,000 in damages for defamatory comments posted on an internet chatroom site could trigger a rush of similar lawsuits, a leading libel lawyer warned today.

Michael Smith, a Ukip activist who stood for the Portsmouth North seat last year, became the first person to win damages yesterday after being accused of being a "sex offender" and "racist blogger" on a Yahoo! discussion site.

Mr Smith, 53, from Fareham in Hampshire, sued Tracy Williams, of Oldham, for comments posted after she joined a rightwing online forum in 2002.
I think Libel laws need reform, and likewise Australia's Defamation regime. But I'm not at all convinced of the argument that somehow the internet should be exempt from rule of law:
Demon argued the case could affect the entire ethos of free speech on the internet.
Maybe, but maybe people shouldn't provoke such intrusions into our 'free speech' by calling people paedophiles, either.

I'll stop using faux old English in my titles soon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

On Leadership: West Wing speaketh

I'm watching West Wing with beloved, fantasising about becoming Sam Seborne - beloved may also have fantasised about me becoming Rob Lowe, best I don't ask - and there's a line, already I forget the particular context, but it got me thinking about Kimbo and my comrades. It went a little something like...

...(bastardised by my memory and two light beers)...

Don't be like the French radical who watched as the crowds of people surged past his window, thinking about how he had to find out where they were going so he could lead them.

Or something, you get my point.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Latte Swaffing Wanker of a Whinge

I've been bereft of motivation, in a haze since returning from the NT. Politics, housing and career all leave me unable to make decisions and motivated to do nothing more than turn up to work when necessary, go for long walks with beloved, and read magazines.

What's to say about politics? It seems worthless. There isn't a role for 'exposing' impropriety in government dealings, it's all out there, nobody cares less. If Watergate happened in Howard's Australia not only would the offending minister be safe in their job, it probably wouldn't even dent their approval rating. Every rightwing commentator has been proven wrong twice over on Iraq, but each time they shift the posts and keep pottering on as if no, they really didn't support the war because of non-existant WMDs and no, they never really expected Iraq to settle into peaceful democracy and, well, it's all still for the greater good.

At least one significant theorist has abandoned the neocon illiterotards.

Labor will change nothing fast and Beazley is obviously intended to be a caretaker until the next election is lost and some messiah has dropped from the clouds to save it. The Greens and Democrats have both been firmly told that they are irrelevant by the electorate, but both continue to mosey along rather than reinvent themselves as anything credible.

Houses in our area have started to sell for an average of 25% above their listed price, and most passable places are now creeping over the half million mark. I feel like buying a caravan and pissing off into hermithood.

And career, well, I've got no options and several. I have 3 potential leads which lead in 3 completely different directions. How different? Try journalism, policy, and courtroom lawyering. I have to consider them because I'm only on a rolling short-term contract here, but I know if I set my heart on one then I won't get it anyway. So I wait, see if anyone's interested before I make a decision as to whether I'd go for it.

I know it's a pathetic latte swaffing wanker of a whinge. Life could be a hell of a lot worse. But it's the sense of having no control over any of these things that affect you so profoundly that is most depressing.

Normal posting about to resume, I hope you are all well. Feel free to whinge about pathetic things that get you down and drain your motivation...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cheeky Crocs, Cheeky Barra

We pulled out onto the water just after dawn. Despite rain overnight the sky was clearing, the air perfect, fresh spray from the barrage misting on our skin. We moved off downstream, picking up speed on the open water. Started to plane, our wake stretching back in a long narrow V until it touched the banks hundreds on metres behind.

Swept around the first major bend, past a creek emptying fresh, tea-coloured flooplain water into the muddy river. And came to a sudden grinding halt. We had hit mud.

Revved the engine violently a few times to no avail. Found the "oars" and they were tiny and useless, one-hand jobs that you had to lean halfway out of the boat to use. We were stuck, and the boat was heavy, very heavy.

3 large, powerful boats with fishing guides and their clients came sweeping around the bend. And kept on going, past us. One signalled that the deep water was well over to the left. Thanks, that's a lot of help.

A croc, about 14 foot long (which is about 7 foot beyond "maneater" status for the uninitiated) surfaced in the mouth of the creek, looked us over, and powered through the water towards us. About 10 metres away he turned and took up a position where he could watch us, Crocs are opportunistic feeders; one of us might crack and try to wade to the shore and he'd be in business.

Another guide boat roared around the corner. He was also going to ignore us, however he didn't go wide enough and rammed into the mud, scaring the croc underwater. He revved hard sending a useless stream of mud into the air. Imagine how the prize cock would have felt; in front of his clients he was blatantly going to ignore us, only to hit mud himself - a supposed expert on the river!

Twice the cock, because the next guide boat to round the bend came to his rescue. And then to ours. He lobbed us a fishing line, we attached it to our anchor rope, and he'd hauled us off in moments.

Darren of Darren's fishing safaris. Karma may well exist, because he and his crew caught 14 fish that day. Later I found out that most of his clients go back year after year, and they come from around Australia and the world, so he must do something right.

So we headed off downstream, cast a few lures into likely looking spots. Felt a couple of potential hits, maybe mudbanks, maybe small barra half-heartedly hunting, nothing more. Suddenly an argument started about the fuel. My dad and beloved both thought it was running out quickly, I thought that had to be impossible because we had a large boat, designed to go all the way to the sea, and a full tank. I looked, and kept looking, and became persuaded. 3 hours into a full day's hire and we turned around. And chugged for the next 2 hours, trying to save what was left. It kept getting lower, as if it had sprung a leak we couldn't see, until the engine coughed and gave up.

We lobbed the anchor into the mud, middle of nowhere, and sat on the boat, me fishing, wifey stressing, dad wandering through the mangroves braving crocs and mudcrabs so he could take a crap. He startled a small croc which leapt into the water a couple of metres from the boat.
Just then a small boat rounded the corner. Thankfully they weren't barra guides, in fact they were Victorians. Must be a reason I've adopted this state as my home. They stopped, but couldn't sell us any fuel because our engines were incompatible. So they towed us, all the way home, in rain- nice rain, I must add, cooling down the 30 plus early arvo heat. Champions.

The "Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge" were apologetic at first, but then only offered a part discount on the next day's hire, as opposed to the obvious refund we deserved. Not a bad place in many respects, but that really grated.

Still, we made the most of the next day, and in a backwater between two stong currents under a small barrage in the floodplains, right where I expected one to be, a small but fiesty barra attacked my lure. He took two big head-shaking leaps out of the water and nearly escaped, then I got him up to the bank. I knew he wasn't a keeper, he was under half a metre, so I drew him up gently onto a grassy patch. Lifted him slowly up for a photo- sorry, still getting developed. Then I held the shaft of the hook with pliers and drew it out, taking care not to catch the barb or damage any tendons.

He knew he was free immediately, and started flipping hard down the mudback, at the same time, and I'm sure he knew what he was doing, accurately spraying mud all over my face, glasses and shirt. Barra's revenge!

A good trip despite a bad day. I was reminded why I left the NT. As they often say of Queensland, it's God's country, but shame he chose to fill it with Queenslanders.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Of sacred fish and primeval instinct

I am embarking on a spiritual journey. In two days I will be out on the open water at Shady Camp, on the Mary River, barramundi fishing. This for me is something approaching a religious act, a ritual that takes me directly to my childhood in Kakadu, sharing a boat with my dad or standing ankle-deep in crocodile infested waters lobbing the lure across waters capped with mist, waiting for the thump and flash of gold from a strike.

Barramundi are a sacred creature, to be respected, eaten, but also preserved and allowed to flourish. I have three bark paintings of barra by indigenous countrymen from the Territory, all looking down at me from the top of the bookshelf. In Kakadu the Gagadju and Bunidj would fish barra during the dry season, particularly late when the waters are low and the rivers have turned to pools crawling with hungry barra, catfish, and crocodiles. In the wet, when everything floods high, they would retreat to the escarpment country and live in the honeycomb caves that run along the edge of the flatlands and which they shared with bats, scorpions and very edible pythons.

It is now late in the wet, but it is a good time for fishing with the help of a modern addition to the barra fishing armoury; the dingy. Small, agile boats that can negotiate the narrow cuttings and broad tidal rivers to access a prize called, unglamorously, the run-off. In indigenous seasons we're approaching the knock-em-downs, a short stretch around April where powerful random winds blast across the country, but here's hoping for nothing worse that warm tropical rain that can be scooped out of the boat with one hand while both eyes stay on the water.

The run-off is prized because it is the best chance anyone gets to catch the elusive barra. At the start of the wet, around November, all breeding age barra head for the sea, it is a massive movement akin to the salmon's journey. Barra live everywhere crocodiles do; from the estuaries right up to the freshwater pools at the base of the escarpment, so for many it's a journey of up to several hundred K's. Fishing is rightly banned in many places during the next couple of months so that they may breed in peace. This policy, together with buybacks of commercial fishing licences (the reason your barra is so expensive on the plate in southern cities), has resulted in a massive re-stocking of a once extremely depleted population.

It is one of Australia's great, unheralded environmental success stories, a good example of ostensibly opposite groups, greens and fishos, working together towards common and productive goals.

Later in the wet the barra move up onto the floodplains which fan out from the submerged banks of most of the Territory's great rivers. There is an abundance of food; frogs, insects, other fish, and they gorge themselves. Then, as the plains start to drop, by early March, the run-off commences. Big females - all big barra are females because barra change sex midlife - take up positions at the places where the water from the floodplains is draining into the rivers. They hunt aggressively, they kill whatever comes within range when they are really fired up.

And at times, the hunter becomes the hunted.

The barra sees a loping, wounded small mullet working through the water. She strikes by gliding up to the victim with a casual flick of her tail then, in one fraction-of-a-second movement, slamming open her mouth, throat and gills. Litres of water are sucked through and pumped out the other end, yanking the stunned fish into her smooth, hard, virtually-toothless mouth which crushes down hard, breaking the victim's back and allowing her to take it in fully with the next mouthful.

The unique attack mechanism of the barra means that the strike is unlike anything else an angler has experienced. There is a thump, and it does somehow hit you in the chest. Within moments she can be out of the water, shaking her head several times per second while walking on her tail. More often than not it ends right there, as the unwelcome, spikey baitfish that didn't taste so good goes flying through the air. But if that fails, then she runs hard and deep, seeking out fallen logs or mud banks to hide in and in the process stress, and often break, the fishing line.
Occasionally all efforts fail, and she is beaten and brought to the boat.

If it's me on the other end then she's still got a chance, because I find it so hard to do what every meat-eater should be able to do- look my food in the eye, thank nature for providing for me, and engage the "priest" - the short, blunt piece of iron used for dispensing with last rites.

But if this moment is passed, and she ends up grilled, fresh from the water, with just a dash of lemon and pepper to bring out her mouth-watering flavour that beats anything I've ever eaten in a restaurant, then I think of her and give thanks, as humans have done for tens of thousands of years, on completion of this most intuitive, spiritual and grounding process.

It has been a gruelling couple of weeks, I apologise for the lack of posts.

Tonight beloved and I fly to the Territory for a few days with the parents; they deserve some visits after being so good during my wedding. The cats went in the 'hotel' this morning; she was ok, but he hissed and went a little psycho. It always makes me a bit sad when that happens, hopefully he'll calm down and enjoy playing with the friendly girls.

Paul's Iced Coffee, the elixir of the North, awaits...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sherro's Spewing!

Cop a load of this Mr "I-cross-bridges-but-bash-muslims-when-it's-convenient" Costello:
There is no reason why Peter Costello should ever be prime minister of Australia.

...there is not the slightest way of knowing what sort of change Costello would bring, or even what he believes in or stands for.

Costello's foolish, gratuitous, undisciplined, and slyly offensive comments about Muslims...

The bigger disappointment about Costello is just how lazy and shallow his thinking is whenever he's not speaking from a Treasury script. evidence of any serious thought...

The reason the speech deserves attention, and censure, is because it plays around with race and religion in an entirely negative and dangerous way and to no policy purpose. Unless you are an exceptionally irresponsible person, this is not what you do. 'Exceptionally irresponsible', no less.

On it goes, Sherro can be a pain in the arse but for that very reason- the fact that he's pretty hawkish and right wing on security issues- his comments should have resonance with more moderate and intelligent members of the right.

I say 'should' because my expectations have become pretty low....

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

True liberals aren't celebrating 10 years of Rodentry

Divisiveness savaged:
Dr Hewson accused Mr Howard — who yesterday raised the prospect of another decade of Coalition rule — of having "run on his prejudices a lot" during the past 10 years, and urged a return to less divisive social policy in coming years. "In value terms, we've gone backwards. There has been a tendency to be divisive".
He'll turn up and eat the canapes anyway, unlike some:
Malcolm Fraser, who has become deeply disillusioned with elements of Coalition social policy, will be attending a family function.
Ah Malcolm, you weren't meant to take the whole 'liberal' thing literally. It's like the 'democratic' in 'democratic socialist'...