Old folk at lunch

Monday, January 26, 2015

Will feminism produce great works of art?

DVDs are a wonderful thing.  I have a DVD recording a  performance at the Mariinsky theater in St Petersburg of the great ballet "Firebird".  The company is the Ballet Russes. I am far from a balletomane but the  wonderful music of Igor Stravinsky  gets me in every time.  And the reconstructed choreography of Michel Fokine is of course excellent too. It is no wonder that Firebird has a prominent place in the classical ballet repertoire.

And I couldn't help noticing that the chief ballerina (The Firebird) got thrown around an awful lot by the chief male dancer.  It was done with enormous athleticism and grace but there was no doubt who was the dominant character in the scenes concerned.  And it struck me that feminists would almost certainly find that repugnant -- with words like "patriarchy" and "inequality" popping into their addled brains.  Perhaps they think the ballerina should have thrown the larger male dancer about!

But Firebird is not alone in its representation of male/female roles.  A traditional representation of such roles is virtually universal in opera and in classical ballet.  So, having seen what artistic wonders traditional thinking can bring forth can we expect such art to emerge from feminist attitudes?  Feminism has been around since the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and her girls over a century ago but I know of nothing notable that has emerged so far.  The only possible candidate appears to be the disgusting Vagina Monologues and they seem to be notable only for their crudity.

So my proposed answer to the question in my heading is a blunt "No".  Most prominent feminists are radicals and seem quite deranged most of the time. They seem to have no beauty in their souls.  And they don't care about women anyway.  They ignore the terrible plight of most women in Muslim lands and content themselves with nitpicking criticisms of everyday speech in their own country.

Fortunately most women are not feminists.  They believe in things like equal pay for equal work  but have little in common with the fountains of rage and hatred who are the radical feminists.  So what I have written above is in no way critical of women generally. I have been married four times so I clearly think women are pretty good.  And plenty of ladies find my views acceptable -- particularly ladies around my own age.

Some desultory notes on the Mariinsky performance of Firebird:

As I have previously mentioned elsewhere, in all stage shows I like authenticity in the staging.  I can put up with modern minimalist staging but when directors of the performance try to be "creative" and invent very strange sets, costumes, backdrops etc. I dislike it greatly.  So I was most pleased that this performance endeavoured to re-create the original Diaghilev staging.

And at risk of enormous political incorrectness, I might perhaps note that, this being Russia, all the performers were very white -- which did of course echo the original. There is a great push to get blacks into everything these days but to revise in some way an original great artistic creation is to me just stupid.  The lily-whiteness of the skins was part of the artistic effect.

I am breathless with admiration for the dancing of (Firebird) Ekaterina Kondaurova.  She is unbelievably light on her feet. She almost defies gravity.

Ballerinas tell me that the male dancers are no good to them.  They are mostly homosexual.  So ballet is to a significant extent a homosexual art.  I have on various occasions been critical of homosexual assertiveness.  So does that lessen my regard for ballet?

I regard it as irrelevant.  I judge art by what I see and hear and  have no animus at all towards individuals who have the homosexual  disorder. I feel rather sorry for them in fact.  My late sister was homosexual and there have almost always been homosexuals in my social circle.  There were two homosexuals at a dinner I hosted recently and their presence was welcomed both by myself and everyone else there.  I certainly would not say that "some of my best friends" are homosexuals but all those I know are perfectly pleasant people.

I was sad to hear of the premature death (from AIDS) of prominent homosexual Michael Cass, with whom I got on rather well. He taught at Uni NSW Sociology, where I also did.  People who know Brisbane will not be surprised to hear that he was a former Nudgee boy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Crepe Myrtles

I am a long way from being a nature-lover, most scenery bores me, I am not house-proud and I am no gardener.  BUT: some things in the natural world do get through to me, and my Crepe Myrtles are one such.

Brisbane people love their tropical and sub-tropical flowering trees: Crepe Myrtles, Jacarandas and Poincianas -- plus some lesser species.  They are everywhere in Brisbane.  And from childhood on I have always liked Crepe Myrtles.  So 12 years ago I had eight of them planted along almost the full length of my back fence -- some in the original crepe myrtle colour, which is lavender, and some in both white and in shocking pink.

They are now very tall trees and in full blossom at the moment.  So I have in my back yard what amounts to an enormous floral bouquet  -- a 17 meter (55 ft) wide display of massed blossom.  It is quite spectacular and and immediately invites photography.  But how do you photograph something 17 meters wide?  And if you do manage it, is there any sense in squeezing such a display into a photo a few inches wide? I doubt that there is but I have made an attempt anyway.  Below is a photo of just the central portion of the display, taken with a wide-angle lens.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A 70th

Anne is not embarrassed by her age so I guess I can mention that the dinner I shouted last night at the New Sing Sing Chinese restaurant in Buranda was a 70th birthday celebration for her.

She arrived in a black dress adorned by a big red stole and with her hair fresh from the hairdresser.  She brought her sister Merle and Merle's husband Ralph with her.  Both are in poor health so drive only locally.  Sister June was also there despite an attack of shingles.  All three of Anne's sons turned up with partners and Byron of course brought along his two delightful little sons.  I like to see children at a family gathering.

I ordered Dim Sims all round to get us started and everyone chose for themselves thereafter.  I also supplied 3 bottles of champagne for toasting purposes and they all eventually went down.  Everyone seemed pleased with their dinner. I had BBQ pork with plum sauce and vegetables.  Anne had some prawn dish.  Her daughter in law Bonnie brought along a chocolate birthday cake to the restaurant which we enjoyed in the usual way. 

I gave Anne her presents the night before and also made her -- at her request -- a Martini, which she liked.  I don't like them at all but I can make them -- stirred, not shaken.  One of the presents I gave her was a Japanese lady's insulated shopping bag.  She immediately thought of good uses for it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My past

It is surely supremely obvious that a memoirs blog should be concerned with memories.  And I have been doing a bit of remembering recently.

Some of my memories are quite sad:  Half of the persons I have known are dead. The death of  the very vital Chris Tame, for instance, I find hard to cope with.  And rather a lot of others.

But I have recently found that reaching back into my past can be very rewarding.  I recently re-established contact with Jason M.  -- from about 20 years ago in my past.  And Jason is undoubtedlty a gem of a man.

So I wonder a little about those I went to school with. I got on rather well with several of my fellow students at Cairns State High. I think I got on best with Peter Cook, Graeme Stevens and Geoffrey O'Callaghan.  But how do you contact a Peter Cook via Google?  The comedian of  that name overwhelms you.  More hope with Graeme (if that is the spelling.  Graham?) and I know his family ran Lake Placid at the time.

And what about Loren Gane  -- known by some as "Gane with the lame tame crane".  He was a bit of an outsider but I got on well with him.  He lived in Pruett  (Prewett?) lane at the time.  And last I heard he studied for a Th.L. at the St. Francis Anglican seminary at Milton and got into some trouble.

Even fellow students I did not gell with at the time would be interesting to contact --"Marble", for instance, (Keith Crosland).

Another old friend I would like to get in contact with is Michael Crowley of Tasmania, a fellow psychology student at Uni Syd in 1968. Michael is a very caring man but got into trouble over an affair with a lady aged just 15. A year later he would have been in the clear.  So I hold nothing against him.  He and I both had affairs with the redoubtable Mavis K.  And he married an ex-girlfriend of mine, the delightful Elizabeth T.!

Maybe Google will get these comments to some useful place.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Contra Glyndebourne

For those who are unaware of it, Glyndebourne is a prestigious opera house in the lush South of England.  It is prestigious not only for good performances but is also socially prestigious.  A visit to Glyndebourne is part of the London "season" -- or what is left of it.

As I normally live on the other side of the globe from it, I have myself been there only once -- accompanied by the beauteous Susan  B. and her rather overweight dog Sally. Not quite sure what we did with the dog during the performance.  Left it in the car I guess. England is not a hot place so that would have done no harm.  That was back in the '70s when hysteria about hot cars had not yet been invented.

If I were in England again, however, I doubt that I would revisit Glyndebourne.  I have been watching a set of DVDs of a 2005 performance of Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne and there is virtually nothing about the staging that I agree with.  The music was fine and the singers talented but the director of the performance was obviously under the spell of the deplorable modern urge to be "creative" about the staging.  And, sadly, his/her creativity was so impoverished that he mistook anachronism for originality.  He put into an opera set in ancient Egypt revolvers, modern dress, blimps etc.  There was zero attempt to present the life and times of Caesar and Cleopatra authentically.

Not for me I am afraid.

And, sadly, there was an excellent chance to be original that was missed.  When Handel wrote the opera, castrati were all the rage so the songs of the major male figures were given in a high key that only women and counter-tenors can now reach.  So Caesar was played by a woman in order to be faithful to the notes as written by Handel.  But a female Caesar is frankly ridiculous.  Now that the fashion for castrati is long gone, it would surely have been desirable to drop the male parts down an octave or two and have men in men's parts.

Can do better Glyndebourne. Maybe they could re-run the opera (minus the anachronisms of course) with Caesar as a bass and the other males as baritones. That alone would generate great excitement, I fancy

From the opening scene

I would be remiss if I did not record my appreciation of the performances by Christopher Maltman and Danielle de Niese in the opera. Maltman is multi-talented. He is a singer who is also an accomplished acrobat! And he acts well too. His representation of Achilla represents a military man well. It takes a man to portray a man!

And the unfailing energy of Australian singer Danielle de Niese as Cleopatra is also impressive. She is a mixed-race ("Burgher") Sri Lankan by ancestry but was born and bred in Australia.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A visitor from China

The Sinophilic man has run out of teaching jobs in China at the moment so is back home in beautiful downtown Kirrawee (in Sydney).  He has however enlivened his enforced soujourn away  from his adopted land by making a trip up to Brisbane to visit friends and relatives.

We go back a long way so I shouted him both a lunch and a dinner -- at two Japanese eaterys.  His Sinophilia is large and encompassing however so the Japanese theme was well received.  They all look the same, you know.  It also gave him a chance to try out his scraps of Japanese language on the serving staff, no doubt to their bemusement.

The first visit was yesterday (Tuesday) to the Mos burger  outlet at Sunnybank.  It's a Japanese fast food (but not very fast) joint which makes excellent hamburgers -- hamburgers unlike anything of Western origin.  They really have umami.

Also present were the entrepreneurial man plus associated ladies.  The Wagyu burgers were praised all-round.  We had peach tea to wash it down which was also a surprise to my guests -- but again very well-received.  A hamburger lunch CAN be greatly enjoyed.  The conversation was mostly jocular but the decline of Roman civilization was also discussed -- Carthage, seafaring Germans and all

The entrepreneurial man is the one with the monkish pate

Then tonight I shouted a visit to the Sunny Doll, where I usually dine of an evening.  Present on this occasion were the three men only -- women were not invited so secret men's business could be discussed.  At the Mos burger place I had ordered for everyone but this time everyone ordered for themselves. I stuck to my usual order but the others had varieties of raw fish.  The entrepreneurial man had at one time spent a year in Japan so actually managed to place his order in Japanese, rather to the amusement of the waitress.

The conversation was again mostly jocular but doubts about the historicity of Mohammed were raised.

After the dinner we repaired to my place for a blast from the past -- a bottle of Barossa Pearl, to the amusement of my guests.  They drank it with no signs of pain, however

Entrees on the table.  Pork Gyoza in my case and suspicious-looking fish elsewhere

I thought it would be amusing to post the docket I got at the end of the dinner.

It shows an embarrassingly cheap dinner but I am not easily embarrassed.  In my  long experience, the quality and price of  restaurant dinners tend to be inversely correlated -- with the Sunny Doll being an extreme example of that.

Note from the docket what the Sinophilic man had as his main course:  Flied Lice. Considering he was at  a very capable Japanese restaurant, how Sinophilic can you get?

The last two entries were for tea. I seem to have got my peach tea (iced) for free

Friday, January 2, 2015

Crimond and curd

When I end up in hospital, I always go to the Wesley,  Brisbane's most highly esteemed private hospital. My health insurance is generous.  And the default dinner there is meat & 3 veg. I always look at it with amusement.  It is as if my mother were still alive.  Some people are lucky enough to have a mother still alive when they are in their 60s and even 70s.  I am not one of those -- but my mother's cookery was traditional  -- probably healthy but very boring.  So I always try something different from that when I can. But for my first night in hospital, I eat it with good grace.

So I was pleased that something I acquired recently was a taste sensation: Passionfruit and mango curd.  I thought I was really onto something out of the usual.  But when I looked at the label, that thought was crushed.  It was a supermarket's own brand.  I had bought it from Woolworths so I should have known.

But the point is that house brands are usually of very popular lines.  So LOTS of people must like and buy that curd.  I may have made a discovery for me but it was evidently not much of a discovery in general.  So it was brought home to me that even in food I have a lot to learn.  I may know about kumara chips and doda burfees but something as simple and delicious as a fruit curd had eluded me.

And what has curd got to do with Crimond?  Nothing.  Both were simply things I was looking into at the same time.

The most esteemed Psalm would have to be Psalm 23:  "The Lord is my shepherd ...".  It is a wonderful psalm that has been set to music many times.  Bach even did a superb version.  But it is not only the music but also the words that changes. Hebrew poetry does not come out as poetry when you translate it directly into English.  So you have to rejig the words in some way to make the psalm singable in English.

I was not fully aware of that.  I was aware that the version in the Anglican prayer book was different from the version in the King James Bible but assumed that everybody used the prayer book version.  I could not have been more wrong.  I keep both books on my table in front of me so I checked.  The prayer book version is TOTALLY unsingable and the King James version is not much better.

So where do we get the version in our hymn books?  We get it from Crimond.  Crimond is a small town in Northern Scotland where the religion is pretty fundamentalist, meaning that they take the Bible, including the psalms, pretty seriously.  I was once one of them so I like them for that.  And they have their own Scottish psalter (book of psalms in singable form): The Scottish Psalter of 1650, to be precise.  And the words of psalm 23 in that book were set to music by a young Scotswoman who lived in Crimond. It proved a very popular setting so the tune we all now sing is known as Crimond.  Below are the words concerned:

The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want.
He maketh me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

My soul He doth restore again;
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
Even for His own Name's sake.

Yea, though I walk in death's dark vale,
Yet will I fear none ill;
For Thou art with me; and Thy rod
And staff me comfort still.

My table Thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God's house forevermore
My dwelling place shall be.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New year's eve

When people asked me what I was going to be doing on New year's eve, they seemed to find my reply rather pitiable.  I would say that Anne was going to come over and cook me a nice dinner.  So I want to say why my new year's eve was a little better than you might think

Anne did come over and cook me some nice "Italian" meatballs with salad -- to which I added Beerenberg "Diane" sauce.  Before that, however we had horse doovers of fruity cheese and Kenny's Kumara chips -- "diretta importata da" New Zealand.  Von brought them over for me last time she was here and I kept them for a special occasion.  They are potato crisps made from sweet potatoes and are much more flavorful than the standard crisps.  They are very more-ish.

For much of the rest of the evening Anne and I listened to a medley of music -- some classical and some traditional.  We particularly enjoyed "Westering home", a joyous Scottish song with strongly marked rhythms.  We got out the lyrics and sang along.  "Westering" is a Scottish word meaning "travelling Westward".  Islay is of course roughly due West of Glasgow.  They distil good Scotch there, including Laphroaig ($179.00 per bottle from my local discounter)

Drinking Laphroaig at Islay

And when midnight came I was listening to "Nimrod" from Elgar's Enigma variations.  Most people probably find it rather boring but if you have any sensitivity to classical music, I think it will transfix you.  It does me.  There is a video here of a Greek orchestra playing Nimrod which shows a violinist who really "gets" it.

Mind you, the version of Nimrod that I was listening to was performed by the band of H.M. Royal Marines -- a most distinguished military corps (Mr Obama once pronounced "corps" as if it were spelled "corpse".  What a clown!  It is of course pronounced as "core") -- so had a touch of the triumphant as well as being elegiac.  And given that Elgar was notable as a  composer of triumphant music, I think that the performance I was listening to was at least odds on to be closest to Elgar's intentions.

It is a crescendo of sorts so starts very quietly but it was in full flight when midnight struck. So I felt that Nimrod was a very good way indeed of celebrating the advent of  a new year.  I was tempted to call it musical fireworks but, like most 20th century English classical music, it is wistful rather than assertive -- but emotionally powerful despite that.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Do Presbyterian churches have campaniles?

I had never considered that important question until today.

I was at lunch with Anne and her two sisters.  And we all are culturally Presbyterian.

Anne and her sisters customarily have a Christmas get-together in between Xmas and New Year.  The day itself is reserved for other family committments.  Anne, for instance, went to TWO different occasions organized by two of her sons.  And I of course had a nice nap at Suz & Russell's place on the big day.

So we were gathered around the table at Anne's place eating some excellent coq au vin that Anne had prepared as a Xmas lunch.  Because Presbyterianism is hostile to alcohol, however, Anne had subsituted for the "Vin".  Instead she used stock, onions etc and the result was first class.  It actually had umami in my view. Which is high praise.  I haunt Japanese restaurants because of their mastery of umami.  And I did in fact that very night visit the "Sunny Doll" for my fix of Chicken Teriyaki Don.

But anyway Merle noted that they do have a bell-tower at the Presbo church she goes to at Wynnum -- but she also remarked that they just play recorded stuff from it.  Shameful!  A bell tower should have bells in it!   But then Anne remarked that our Ann St church has no campanile at all and hence no bells.

So my conclusion is that the old "Wee free" tradition (as at Ann St) is hostile to bells but maybe Church of Scotland is more flexible.  Old questions of theology and exegesis still have some influence.  I am delighted to know about that stuff.

I really like Wee Free (Free Church of Scotland) ways so I guess I am a born Puritan.  And in some ways I still live a Puritan life.  I live simply and give most of my money away, for instance. I have long ago given up teetotalling, however.

And when I used to go to the Ann St Church regularly (back in the 60s) I noted that there was a substantial British Israel sentiment in the congregation.  So when I hear Parry's magnificent setting of Blake's incomparable "Jerusalem". I know what that's all about.

Has the human imagination ever produced more magnificent and more memorable words than these?

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green & pleasant Land

And yet those wonderful words stem from a now-obscure and always way-out religious doctrine.  There can be no doubt that religion can create great art -- arguably the greatest art of all.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Job lives

The book of Job (pronounced "Jobe") in the Bible tells us about a Godly man who enjoys great prosperity until the Lord strikes him down with various plagues.  Why did the Lord do that?  To test Job's faith.  Job survives the test, never cursing God but remaining devout through all his trials and tribulations.  As a reward the Lord restores Job's health and prosperity and makes him more prosperous than ever.  It's an important story for Christians with many lessons in it.  It tells them not to question God even when misfortune strikes,  It assures us that good times will come again.

I think of Job when I think of Von.  Von was born wise and has made a string of good decisions that has given her an idyllic life in NZ.  So what has happened?  The Lord has struck her down with a minor but disabling ailment that she has not been able to throw off yet. No doubt she will throw it off in time but, like the story of Job, it tells us not to envy anyone because no-one knows what the future holds.  And Job tells Von not to despair and that good times will return.  I hope that is of some comfort to her.

Von was brought up with no religion in her life but there are some important truths in religion.  Although I have been an unbeliever for all of my adult life, I still get a lot out of reading my Bible.  Everybody should read at least the Gospels.  They are simple stories of great events that have resounded down the ages.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A banner weekend

Except that it was not a weekend.  But the festive season is like that. On Christmas Eve, Anne cooked me lamb cutlets with salad. A favourite meal. Then on Boxing Day night she cooked me T-bone steaks with Diane sauce  -- which is the best BBQ sauce you have ever tasted.  It's a bottled sauce made by Beerenberg in South Australia so you might be able to get it from Woolworths.  It's a definite gastronomic discovery.

The next day (Saturday 27th) we had big traditional breakfasts at  the Phams in Buranda, followed by very rich Punjabi Doda Burfis  from a local Indian grocer for lunch.  The grocery is a big one so we had a walk around looking with wonder  at their multitudinous but totally unfamiliar products.  I bought some chutney and some South Indian pickles to try out.

We then went to the local Aldi to pick up a few things that I needed but we of course ended up coming away with a lot more than that.  Aldi is like that. That evening we visited the New Sing Sing -- a nearby high quality Chinese/Vietnamese  restaurant -- for supper.  It was good, as usual.  I had lemongrass chicken, as I usually do, and Anne had Chicken Chow Mein with added cashews

I had the pickles on my lunchtime ham sandwich today.  It was not my idea of pickles so I will keep it as an accompaniment to curry.  It definitely has the taste of India

Doda Burfi slices

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas day

Today Christians celebrate something very implausible -- the incarnation -- when the great God over all poured himself into the body of a baby and subsequently lived a life as a normal human being.  It takes a lot to believe that and the whole thing was a matter of great dispute among the early Christians. Jesus himself did after all say: "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).

But along came Athanasius' Egyptian doctrine of the Trinity to quell disputes and to make some  sense of it all:  The doctrine of three persons in the one God. It's not a doctrine mentioned anywhere in Christian scripture  -- as I often point out -- but perhaps it is needed to make sense of the implausible.  That we cannot hope to understand Godhead is after all a reasonable claim.

Partly at urging from Anne, I attended a service at my local branch of the Church of England yesterday evening: Holy Trinity Anglican Church Woolloongabba.  It's a nice-looking church, and well-maintained

To my amazement, the church was full with a good cross-section of people . I rather liked that as I see Christianity as a civilizing influence.  I thought initially that most came simply for the Xmas carols  -- which were promised and delivered -- but it seems I was wrong.  It was a Communion service and almost all of the congregation went forward to get the biscuit.

Rev. Paschke's  sermon was pedestrian, with God "rolling up his sleeves" rather a lot  -- an image I could not get with at all.  But one expects an Anglican sermon to be inoffensive junk.  I just went there for the carols.

Given my very fundamentalist early life, there was a lot more Popery in the service than I liked but I guess that I am a bit of a dinosaur there.  "Popery" is probably condemned only in Northern Ireland these days

Anyway, after the service, which finished about 8pm, Anne made me a dinner of grilled lamb cutlets and salad, one of my favourite foods.

And for lunch today I went out to the family gathering at Suz & Russell's place.  Because so many of us were interstate or abroad, there were only 9 adults and 2 littlies present but it was still a pleasant occasion. The littlies certainly made up in volume for what they lacked in numbers, with Dusty in particular giving an exhibition of  perpetual motion.

I woke up earlier than usual (for me) so went straight out to the house.  I was the first to arrive at around 8am.  Suz had declared it an open house so that was OK, though.  I was the first  to arrive. It gave me the chance of a few chats with Russ.  My early rising did catch up with me, however,  I napped on a verandah couch for most of the time between morning tea and lunch.

We had lots of morning-tea food followed at lunchtime by a big leg of ham which was well cooked by Russell, with potato salad.  For the morning-tea finger food, Davey brought along some "piggies in blankets" -- small sausages wrapped in puff pastry -- which I particularly liked.  I think I had at least 6 of them.  Puff pastry and sausages are both definite weaknesses of mine.  And for dessert we had one of Maureen's excellent pavlovas.   I talked mainly with Russell and Jenny.

Secret Santa got me 7 bottles of Clayton's, which must have involved a bit of scouting around.  I drink a lot of it so it will soon go down.  It's a surprisingly satisfying drink, though now very much out of fashion. Davey helped by carrying it downstairs for me.  Suz & Russell's house is built on very sloping ground and that seems to have required a rather long and steep entry staircase.  The position of the house is very good, however.  It has native bush on one side so we ate our food looking out at a native Australian forest of gum trees.  Like most Australians, I like our gum trees.

I was the Secret Santa for Jenny but in my usual way I forgot to bring the present with me.  Everyone is used to me being "Mr Forgetful", however, so no-one was surprised.  Jenny will drop in  to my place to pick it up when she is next over my way.

We also played our usual present-grabbing game -- out of which I got a bottle of red wine that looks good.

Some amusing bits:

We had all recently seen two very widely circulated videos which show you how to fold a shirt and how to fold a Japanese present.

Maureen  is a folder from way back so said that her method was very similar to the Japanese method -- which Ken, being Ken, immediately disagreed with.  Maureen was not oppressed, though.  She promptly handed Ken some paper and told him to show how it should be done.  Ken had a short attempt and them gave up.  He declared  that you can know when a thing is wrong even if you yourself do not know the right way.  That produced some hilarity, though it is of course correct.

Then Davey put his foot in it.  He is inclined to large claims so  he claimed that he could do the shirt folding.  Again Maureen put him on the  spot.  She found a kiddy shirt and told him to fold it.  Dave did not do well initially but eventually got a result that we passed. We had a lot of laughs

A restorative nap after early rising

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner

In the wake of the two black deaths above, relations between American police and African-Americans have plummeted to a new low -- in part because of anti-police rhetoric from the likes of far-Leftist Bill de Blasio.  De Blasio has since tried to pull his horns in but the damage has been done.

Conservatives have cautiously exonerated the police involved in the deaths above but blacks have become fired up by the Leftist pot-stirring and two NYC police have now died as a result.  So I feel moved to say what little I can that might help the situation.

What I want to do here is to offer a couple of anecdotes in support of the view that civility towards the police will generally engender civility from the police.  When the Ferguson and NYC police were both confronted by two huge and un-co-operative blacks, the result was always going to be perilous but could have been much ameliorated by a more civil response from the blacks concerned.

My contact with American law enforcement is very minor but I do think my contact with the California Highway Patrol -- not exactly a much praised body of men  -- is instructive.  My contact occurred in the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter's reviled 55 mph speed limit still applied on American highways.  I was bowling along a Los Angeles freeway in my hired Ford Pinto at about the speed I would have used in Australia  -- 65 mph.  And I had with me my then-wife, a very fine Scottish woman aptly named "Joy"

A CHP patrol detected me and pulled me over.  The trooper approached me very cautiously, sticking close to the side of the Pinto and standing behind me instead of beside me.  He was obviously very tense.  But when he found that I was unaggressive and perfectly civil to him, he untensed rapidly.  The fact that I speak with an accent that Americans usually perceive as British may also have helped.  It helped explain my unawareness of California rules.  (For the phoneticans, my accent is Educated Australian).  We had a perfectly genial conversation at the end of which he waved me on my way without even giving me a ticket.

White privilege?  Not exactly.  Because something similar happened recently to me where I live in Brisbane, Australia -- a place where blacks are too few to influence policy.

I was approached by a Queensland cop when I had unwittingly made an illegal turn.  And Queensland cops are not exactly fragrant.  There are many bad apples among them.  Even the police Commissioner was sent to jail for corruption not long ago.

So the cop was initially brusque and supercilious with me.  When I showed that I was listening to him carefully by asking him to repeat something I had not understood, however, he became much more relaxed and we had a fairly genial conversation.  He saw it as his duty to give me a ticket but we ended up with him wishing me a Merry Christmas and pausing other traffic to facilitate my driving off.  Once again a civil and co-operative approach from me got exactly the same back.

These are only anecdotes but I think they feed into a general perception of what might have saved the lives of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  There is an old saying that people are a mirror of ourselves.  There is a lot of truth in it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Another visit to Sunny Doll

I thought it would be a good idea to introduce Suz, Russ and kids to Sunny Doll so I shouted them a dinner there tonight.  Suz, Joe and I had Teriyaki chicken Don but it is a smallish meal so I recommended the Japanese curry to Russ:  A big meal for a big man. For the kids I ordered Karaage (fried) chicken.  Everybody was of course impressed with the food, Russ particularly, I think.  Suz told me that she mostly cooks "meat and 3 veg" for dinner so the Japanese food would be a big contrast for Russ.  He tried a bit of the dinners that Suz and the kids had and liked them all.

The kids were wound up to have Joe present as he always plays with them.  I even played "get that tongue" with Sahara, which I also used to play with her mother long ago.

After the dinner Russ shouted us some Italian hot chocolate that the restaurant have recently added to their menu.  It was VERY thick.  Von would have loved it.  While we were drinking, the kids ran all around the restaurant in typical kiddy style.  Lucky there were no other diners present at that stage.

Dusty looked cute in his brown overalls

Monday, December 1, 2014

A rare birthday success

I am a brilliant buyer of birthday and Christmas presents -- if I get Jenny to select and buy the presents on my behalf.  I just give her a vague budget and she makes excellent choices.  All I do is pay the resultant credit card bill.  As Jenny enjoys shopping, that arrangement has continued for many years -- to the satisfaction of both of us -- and to the satisfaction of those who get the presents.  Jenny's recent selection of a kiddy cosmetics set for Sahara is a case in point.  It was a hit with Sahara.

On rare occasions, however, I do get a present idea that works well.  The time I gave Ken and the kids half a ream of A4 paper for Christmas was memorable, as was the time I gave Nanna a particular computer joystick she wanted as a 70th birthday prersent.  And I think a glass frog that I once  gave Anne went down well.  She likes frogs but doesn't like things to hop or scuttle.  A glass frog therefore seems just right.

And I think that one of my recent ideas has to be in the "rare success" category.  About 6 months ago I was walking through Woolworths and saw a bachelor's frypan -- a one-egg frypan -- for sale.  It looked rather cute so I bought it and later gave it to Von to be kept for Hannah's birthday.  The pictures below tell a graphic story, I think.

Von emailed me as follows:  "Hannah loved her little frypan you gave her for her birthday.  I have attached photos of her unwrapping her gift. Thanks again, it was very thoughtful as she really loves cooking"

A girl who loves cooking will go far.

I see that Hannah got a train set too. Both she and Sahara are very keen on trains -- largely because of Thomas the Tank Engine, I suspect

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A hailstorm and a birthday

On Thursday (27th) evening, starting about 5pm we had the mother and father of a hailstorm with quite a lot of the hail being bigger than golfballs -- all accompanied by cyclonic winds that blew the hail in a horizontal direction a lot of the time. I was blogging at the time but was aroused to my surroundings by the loud bangs of the hail hitting my house. We lost power after a few minutes. Brisbane is a big town, however, so only a narrow corridor was affected but the Gabba was in that corridor.

Joe had his friends Eugene and Kristian over playing computer games but we were soon all watching the live spectacle of the storm.  The storm was in fact the most ferocious hailstorm I have  ever seen so I remarked at one point that it must all be due to global warming -- and I am pleased to say that everyone laughed at that.  Global warming has become a joke.

Most houses in the area seemed to have at least some broken window glass and some cars had  multiple holes in their back window glass.  Joe had his windscreen hit and was left with a crack in it.  As the windscreen is a laminated one, however, that did not limit operation of the car.  Quite a few cars in the area had extensive hail denting in them but both Joe and I escaped that somehow.

We lost power until about 10pm and internet until about 5pm the next day.  We went out in search of food at about 5.15pm in Joe's car but the traffic jams were horrendous with the traffic lights out.  We ended up at the Sunny Doll restaurant in the hope that they might be able to feed us from their gas stoves but they said they needed electricity to see what they were doing.  So we went into Woolworths (which has backup power) and bought a roast chicken, bread rolls etc and took it back to our place and ate it on my verandah under candlelight.  I even managed to make tea using the gas stove.  It was all rather fun.  Part of the roof came off however so my kitchen had a waterfall in it for a long time.

Dudley came over and fixed the roof the very next day and luckily I also had Jeff booked for that day so he took care of the broken windows.

And today, Saturday, we had a lunchtime party at Suz and Russ's place for Saharah's 5th birthday. I bought her a pack of 6 toy trains with confectionery in them so that suited a train-loving girl.  The big hit was however a little girl's cosmetic set that Jenny bought for her on my behalf.  Saharah LOVES cosmetics: A complete girly girl.

Joe bought Kate along to the party and she said she enjoyed it.  I talked mostly with Jenny.  Russ cooked some excellent sausages on his BBQ and I had 3 of them.  It was my "free" day however so my diet was not compromised.  Joe drove us there and back, which I was pleased about.  I don't like driving these days

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Weather report

Some people reading here may just possibly be aware that Brisbane had a major storm this afternoon which produced quite a lot of flooding in some parts of the city.  Where I am at Buranda is fairly elevated, however, so we had no flood grief at all.  My son and I simply drove to our usual local Japanese restaurant (Sunny Doll) for our supper and got marvellous food as usual. There are some brilliant Chinese, Thai and Indian cooks but Japanese cooks are the best.  They know about umami.

At the Sunny Doll, Joe always orders Jasmine tea to go with his meal.  You might think you know all about that but you would be TOTALLY wrong. Japanese Jamine tea is not remotely like Chinese Jasmine tea. It tastes rather odd to me but it is MILKY -- and Joe is a milk freak.  He also always orders Lassi at Indian restaurants.  Milk is his addiction -- for which I am profoundly grateful -- considering all the other foul things that young people get addicted to these days.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A final visit from Von & Co. before their departure

They came over at 2pm for afternoon tea.  It was a pretty hot day so we met in Joe's room, as he has the best air-conditioning.  Joe even tidied up his room in advance!

I had some Japanese curry products ("Golden" curry sauce and "Vermont" curry sauce) to give Von & Simon just by way of introducing them to Japanese curry.  They can probably get the stuff in NZ if they know what to look for.  I also gave Simon a bottle of ready-made Teriyaki sauce, which he looked at with great interest.

On her visits to my place Von has on a couple of occasions said how much she likes my tea.  It is Tetley tea, an English brand.  I have a big box of it so I gave her a small pile of it to take home.

Von gave me a packet of a Pakistani curry sauce which they like.  Simon makes mutton curry with it.  It is Achar Gosht Masala and Von says it is their favourite curry.  Apparently I can just toss it into my crockpot with a few other ingredients and that is all there is to cooking it.  Hopefully, I can find some mutton to try it with.  Anne is very keen on mutton so she might be able to track some down.

Joe spent a lot of time playing with Hannah, which she greatly enjoyed.  He plays the sort of impromptu games I played with the earlier generation and he is very popular with the littlies because of it.  He really livened her up but she wore out after a while.  That was a bit of a surprise as in my day I always wore out before the kids did.

An amusing thing was Von on chocolate drinks.  She thinks that things like Milo are too weak.  She goes for the original cocoa, which she can put in large quantities into a drink.  She likes dark chocolate (as I do) so she likes her drinks dark too.

Von is an amazing sentimentalist. Paul and I are great sentimentalists but Von leaves us both in the dust.  She has mementoes of almost all of her past  -- starting from when she was a little girl.  So it was amusing that she remembered my writing desk -- which I still have -- from way back.  She was pleased to see it again.

One of the curries

Friday, November 14, 2014

Back to the Bollywood

I put on a sendoff dinner, starting at 6pm,  for Von & Co. -- as they fly out early next week.  There were 9 or 10 of us there plus kids.  Sahara was looking very pretty in a mainly green sundress.  Suz has got a real girly girl there.  The dress went well with her blue eyes, blonde hair and very white skin, in my opinion.  Von was wearing one of her long full skirts, which is what suits her best in my opinion.

The story of my fountain pen got a re-run to considerable hilarity. I mentioned that Simon couldn't work it out until he read the instructions and he said "I hate instructions".  I agreed with him .  Men don't read instructions unless they are desperate.  It is against our religion.

Von was very lively and kept us interested with her various comments.  She has become as good a talker as Paul -- but not as  loud.  She speaks in quite a soft contralto voice, like the lady she is.  She spent a lot of time trying to convince George that he needed to take a holiday in NZ.  But George, like me, is off holidays these days.  Building things is George's holiday.

I had always been a bit concerned about Dusty's good nature,  I thought people might use it to push him around.  But I saw that my fears were unfounded.  At one stage Russ suggested something to him that he disagreed with -- which he responded to with a loud "No" and a big frown.  Russ was thrown back by it.  So I was delighted to see that.

Hannah was mostly minded by Simon while Von talked to us all. Davey was there but without Anna-Marie.  For once the kids didn't run around the restaurant like mad things, partly due to Matthew not being there, I think.  I rather like to see them running around as it means they are having fun.  And the Bollywood rarely has other customers.  Their trade is mostly takeaway.

The food was good as usual.  George and I had Tandoori chicken, Suz had a peanut curry and Anne had Moglai lamb.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

With Von & Co at the Sunny Doll

I was keen to introduce Von to the Sunny Doll as it is by far my favourite restaurant these days.  It is Japanese food cooked by very polite Japanese people and the Teriyaki Chicken Don really is magic.  Von departs very soon so we had to squeeze it in whenever we could.

Hannah was in a really "High" mood, full of smiles and chatter. And she got through an entree serve of Karaage (fried) chicken with no trouble. She is a great little kid and good-looking like her mother.

As expected, we all enjoyed our dinner and went back to my place for tea and bikkies afterwards.  On sorting out my desk drawers recently, I discovered that I am the owner  of about 30 pencils and 7 pencil sharpeners.  I have no idea how I acquired any of them but there they are.

So when Von suggested that I find Hannah something to draw with I was able to provide a selection of pencils, which Hannah enjoyed using, though she can't really draw as yet.  I never use pencils myself.  I think some tenant or tenants must have left them behind.  Von said they are a good resource for whenever I have littlies visiting.

I drove us all to and from the restaurant in the Starlet, which I enjoyed.  It really is a great little car, but a bit noisy in its old age.

Teriyaki chicken don

Karaage chicken

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Morning tea with Von

Von & Co came over to my place about 11 for morning tea.  Now that their house is under contract they have a lot more time to spare.

I had two puzzles for Simon:  A strange gadget that seemed to have something to do with opening bottles and cans but nobody so far has been able to guess exactly what.  Simon was stumped too.

A much more interesting puzzle was a Parker fountain pen that George gave me a couple of birthdays ago.  It was one of those "some assembly required" gadgets and I could never figure out how to assemble it.  I gave the job to Simon on the grounds that he is very clever technically.  But it nearly stumped him too. He actually had to read the instructions! And even then it took him a while.  I now intend to use the pen to sign cheques.

At one stage Hannah slipped off her seat and hurt herself slightly -- making her cry.  We were at the time however opening the box of  choc-chip cookies that I customarily provide for morning and afternoon teas.  So Von said to Hannah:  "Want a biscuit?"  And as soon as Hannah saw the cookie, she stopped crying and gave a big smile instead.  She likes her food.

It was a very pleasant morning tea.

UPDATE:  I think Von does not like to be beaten.  When she got home she hit Google hard until she found the source of my little mystery gadget.  See the illustration she found below.  The bottom part of it is obviously a bottle opener for crown-sealed bottles but the top protrusion was the mystery.  The accompanying text  said that the gadget is used to open bottles AND cans.  So it must be to help lift up the ring on a ringpull can.  I would have thought that fingernails could do that but maybe ladies with long nails might prefer to use a tool.