Sunday, February 22, 2009

Avoid the Camerata of St John's

Last night Anne and I went to a concert given by the Camerata of St John's at their home base in the cathedral. It was awful. The concert was called "Four seasons" and of course featured the Vivaldi work of that name. Before we got to the Vivaldi, however, we had to endure some screeching modern crap, which put me in a bad mood for the Vivaldi, which is hard to do.

And to cap it all, there was an interminable amount of talk injected into all the proceedings. I go to a concert to hear music, not to listen to some idiot's "artistic" ramblings. They even had the yap in between the different "seasons" of the Vivaldi. What an insult to think they could improve on the music of Vivaldi! It must be the least enjoyable rendition of Vivaldi that I have ever heard.

It was my own fault for going, however. I should have checked the full programme beforehand. I just thought that any concert featuring "Le quattro stagioni" had to be good. I was wrong. Trying to be positive, the best I can say for the performances is that they were energetic.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A saint's day observed

Once it was only Catholics who celebrated saints' days but now lots of us do: St Valentine seems to be going from strength to strength. I think I did my bit: red roses, a card, a present and a dinner prepared with my own fair hand for Anne.

I actually prepared a big antipasto for our dinner: Something we both like. It had giardiniera, olives, feta, sweet pickled cucumber slices, tinned mackerel and tinned salmon in it. It went down well. We washed it down with a bottle of Moet.

I even wore an Hawaiian shirt for the dinner, which seemed to please Anne. My usual taste in shirts these days is predictably conservative -- whites and pale blues -- but Anne is keen on colour.

We were going to take the dinner to a riverside park to eat but rain supervened so we had it on my verandah.

After dinner we listened to the great music of old Vienna in the form of a medley of Strauss walzes

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Burns nights of yesteryear

"Marty", a relative of mine on my mother's side, enjoyed my account here of my recent Burns night. He sent a copy to an old friend of his of Scottish heritage. His friend reminisces as follows:
"When I was a member of the pipe band in Cairns we used to celebrate Burns Night in the upstairs ballroom of the RSL on the esplanade.

Staying true to custom the haggis was piped in cut and distributed, toasts were given, we all got pissed and had a bloody good time.

I was never and still am not keen on haggis I likened the taste to damp sawdust but to stay true to the cause managed to eat a wee bit.

I remember reading about some bloke taking a haggis through customs in Spain, I think it was, and the Spanish customs listed it as fertilizer and they wouldn't have been far wrong.

We never turned out in full Highland dress even on Burns night, it was too bl**dy hot.

The pipe band used to be invited to just about everything that was going in Cairns and surprisingly even in summer the kilt, being made of wool, was pretty cool to wear. I still get the gear on in November when Linda and I go to the Highland gathering in Nambour.

That Andy Stewart clip bought back memories, Linda and I went and saw him at the civic center in Cairns and there was a bloke called John McDonald playing a piano accordion, I could have sat and listened to him all night. My old man used to play accordion and he was pretty bl**dy good but he was not in this bloke's class."

I think it does take talent to cook haggis well. The haggis I get is cooked by a local Scots cook and is excellent.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Susie's wedding

Susan Vanessa Johnson got married last Saturday. Ceremonies were supposed to start at 1:30pm, which is when I arrived, and ended around 10pm. Susie is my stepdaughter and I helped to bring her up. And she was always a happy little girl so we had lots of fun together while she was a kid. So although she is now 30, there has always remained a feeling of closeness between us. When she was little, I used to call her "Lady Fun" and her happy nature is still there today.

I think her love of fun may have partly been why she got dressed for her wedding in a very fine but rather traditional off-white wedding dress, complete with train, which tripped a few people up a couple of times. She looked gorgeous.

The ceremony was a garden one, in one of Brisbane's many parks. It was conducted by newly-minted marriage celebrant, Simon Bartlett, her uncle by marriage. The words of the ceremony were mainly written by Susan and her husband Russell, as is often the way these days. And the words chosen were very fine words of dedication and by the end of the ceremony Simon seemed a bit choked up. All the family love Susan and Simon clearly has a sentimental streak. I am a great sentimentalist too and it takes one to know one. Susie too was obviously a bit overcome by all the goodwill directed her way.

After the wedding, we went to the Mt Gravatt bowls club for the reception. From 4 to 7pm the idea was that we would all play lawn bowls, as the family is a very games-oriented one. I am no gamer, however, so I spent most of that time talking secret men's business with my son Joe. It was good to have the chance of such a long chat.

The dinner started at 7pm and least said soonest mended about the cuisine. There were various speeches, including a speech of utter dedication to Susie from Russell. I think we all felt that Susie was in exactly the sort of good hands we would wish at the end of it. Ken, Susie's father, was even induced to make a speech, which was generally well-done, despite Ken's well-known aversion to public speaking. I think I may have been the only one to get Ken's best joke, however, which was hilarious.

I then gave a little talk about a couple of the amusing events from Susie's childhood and then the night gradually transformed into dancing of various kinds. Susie came and got me on my feet so I had the privilege of dancing with the bride.

Being an old traditionalist, I felt a certain gap in that there were no religious blessings on the couple at any time but the family is such a non-religious one that it was really no surprise. As an atheist myself, I could hardly step into the breach.


I have no doubt that any readers not steeped in Australian culture would have been a little puzzled by my reference above to "secret men's business". It is of course a joke and refers to Aboriginal customs. Google "secret women's business" to get an idea of what it is all about.

A sympathetic caricature

I like the work of conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG and do what I can to promote it. As a thank-you Zeg has done the caricature of me with my son Joe below. I think it is great.

And, yes: I DID wear the kilt to Susie's wedding.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Asian influence

As a conservative, I treat people primarily as individuals, regardless of any group to which they may or may not belong. I leave obsession with race and class to Leftists. From Marx up until shortly after the Hitlerian catastrophe, Leftists were very pro-racist. Now they are very anti-racist but the obsession with race remains. They seem unable to treat people as individuals and can only talk about people in terms of broad and very oversimplified categories.

But as well as being a conservative I am also a sociologist. An Australian government (NSW) paid me a lot of money over a 12 year period to teach it. And as they are nearly all Leftists, what is the chief interest of sociologists? Race and class! So I still mull those topics over in my head quite a lot -- with always in mind the one piece of wisdom I remember from my mother's incessant chatter: "There's good and bad in the lot".

I am, for instance, very pro-Indian; I think that Indians tend to have admirable characteristics. And being the forthright sort of person I am, I put my money where my mouth is and have mostly Indian sharers living with me in my large house. Usually, I even fly the flag of the Republic of India from the flagpole at the front of my house and have been known to greet Indians living here with Jai Hind ("Long live Hindustan")! And that orientation serves me well in that I am very satisfied with the people that I have living with me. But I have also kicked two Indians out. Even though I think Indians are mostly fine people there are some pesky ones too and I have no trouble treating them accordingly. There is good and bad in Indians too.

So on to my thoughts about East Asians and the Han Chinese in particular. I have probably commented on this to a boring extent already but I never cease to be amazed at how well Australians of Asian and British ancestry get on together in Australia. One sees Anglo/Asian couples around the place all the time: Older Australian men with Filipinas and younger Anglo-Australian men with Chinese ladies.

And I myself am quite Sinophilic as well as Indophilic. It is in a way fortunate that I am as I have two old friends who now live in China with Chinese wives. And another old friend has a Japanese lady in his life. I myself however have never got involved with East Asian women, though I did once have an Indian girlfriend. My son however has a girlfriend with Han ancestry and has Chinese friends as well. There are all sorts of background differences and some genetic differences between Anglo-Australians and Chinese but at the individual level there is also often a great appreciation of one another. One can only applaud that. And my conclusion is that the differences between East Asians and Anglo-Celts are complementary: Each has strengths where the other has weaknesses and vice versa. But I might tread on toes all round if I went further into that thought.

The present revival of this theme in my thinking was provoked by a visit from China by one of my old friends, Croucher. He arrived in Brisbane yesterday with his Chinese wife and his two very impressive Eurasian sons. So we all went to dinner together with the Henninghams. Henningham, Croucher and I have a friendship that goes back many years. We always refer to one another by surname only, indicating a sort of jolly friendship, I suppose.

Perhaps in need of a change off Chinese food, Croucher wanted some Middle-Eastern food. So we went to a Turkish restaurant near where I live. Parking around there there is either very difficult or very expensive so I crammed us all into my 1963 Humber Super Snipe and delivered everybody to the door of the restaurant in that. The Humber has bench seats front and back so can transport more people than many modern cars.

I was feeling a bit depressed due to my upcoming minor surgery but fortunately everyone else was in good form with nonsense being talked for most of the night. We did however have occasional serious moments in which we agreed, for instance, that global warming was a great steaming heap of ... Henningham, Croucher and I constantly talk bantering nonsense to one another in emails -- which we greatly enjoy doing -- but it was best of all to do so in person, of course. All three of us are academics so there is also occasionally some academic talk between us but not much.

But it is still a little surprising to me that wherever I go there is a Han presence -- a presence that seems to be completely harmonious. At the classical music group I go to there are almost always Chinese performers giving renditions of Western classsical music to a very high standard; and at the recent annual gathering of my relatives on my mother's side there was also a Han presence: A cousin once removed is married to a Chinese lady and has attractive Eurasian children. I actually now have relatives with Han ancestry!

So if only all minorities fitted in as well here as the East Asians do! Australia is indeed lucky that its largest visible minority is East Asian -- people whom I see as generally patient, clever, flexible individuals who work hard and contribute greatly to the community as a whole. They are not saints (though their rate of crime is very low) but they do seem to fit in with the rest of us remarkably well. And anyone who values social ease and harmony will value that.