Friday, April 28, 2006

Port Arthur

April 28th is a day in Tasmania's history that will be sadly remembered. Standing side by side in reflection with people at the Port Arthur Historic Site ten years on from the tragic events of April 28th 1996, we hope to help bring "a sense of healing and encouragement, not to forget, but to move on with strength and resilience."

There was a special broadcast of the Commemorative Service direct from the Port Arthur Historic Site on 936 ABC Hobart, ABC Northern Tasmania (and streamed to the internet) hosted by Tim Cox of ABC Radio Hobart.

This service was an important milestone in looking forward, looking back for the Tasman Peninsula and the people of Tasmania and Australia.

Order of Service
12.27 Official Party arrive
12.30 Like an Eagle: performance by Rosny Children's choir
MC: Edward Gauden
- Welcome by Chair Hon Dr Barry Jones AO
- Reading by Keith Moulton (Mark 4, verses 35-41)
- Ave Maria: performance by Amelia Farrugia
- Reading by Maria Stacey
- The Lord's Prayer: reading led by Edward Gauden
- Song of Joy: performance by Rosny Children's Choir
- Address by the Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard MP
- Amelai Candle Bearers make their way to Memorial Garden
- Reading by Premier of Tasmania, the Hon Paul Lennon MHA (Garden of Peace by Margaret Scott)
- Irish Blessing: recorded performance
1.30 1 Minute silence then
- Looking Forward, Looking Back: Performance by Monique Brumby
1.35 Close: Edward Gauden

The radio broadcast was a very moving time. The words of sadness and consolation were made all the more affecting by the many pauses in which we could hear the sound of the native birds singing in the surrounding forest.

It brought back that awful Sunday ten years ago when we heard the unbelievable news that a gunman had run amok at a popular tourist spot and shot down 35 people. Then as now, it seems completely inexplicable.

What I remember even more acutely is being in the city the following day. The populace were subdued. People sat quietly, talking in soft voices and looking off into the distance every so often. It wasn't hard to know what they were thinking; we were all dwelling on the same thoughts.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Anzac Day

April 25th is Anzac Day, a public holiday in Australia, so I wasn't at work.

Instead, my sister and I spent the afternoon having a leisurely meal in a seafood restaurant in North Hobart with family, friends and neighbours. I ordered the pear and parmesan salad, though I ended up eating half of Rose Marie's chips.

It was also my birthday, so you could call it a de-facto party (although I went off birthday parties when I was about 11 years old).

"How old are you?" asked one guest candidly. Well, let's just say it was the 35th anniversary of my 21st birthday.

We enjoyed a nice meal and I even scored a few presents: a book of science fiction stories, a coffee mug with a cat motif, a DVD, a flash-drive and the inevitable box of chocolates (yum, liqueur truffles!).

All in all, it was a pleasant and relaxing afternoon. It was nice that so many people took the time to make their way in to North Hobart to join us – I think we had six people who'd been members of the Amnesiacs quiz team at one time or another at the table.

The intriguing thing was that Jan called in after dropping her son Jamie off at a friend's house. He was going (get this) to a birthday party.

What are the odds on that happening?

Julie's car has been lacking a left-hand window for some time. She's done her best to replace it with a piece of perspex cut to shape, but it's not quite the same.

It's a Mitsubishi Starion and only about 1600 of them were sold in Australia - spare parts aren't exactly easy to come by.

So she was really pleased when she located someone on the mainland who had a spare left window for a Starion.

She sent off for it straightaway and he had it shipped over.

It arrived yesterday.

In about a hundred pieces.

Oh well, she'll just have to keep looking.....

I've been amazed at the amount of old radio shows that are available on the Internet for free thanks to the generosity of some OTR fans.

But one website made me glad I had gone over to broadband. A zipped file containing 90 episodes of Suspense from 1944-46. I set the machine to download and waited.

And watched the total go up. 100MB. 200MB. 300MB.

How big is this file, I started to wonder.

625MB in the end.

"Try that on dial-up!" I thought.


The following day, I returned and tried to open the zipped file. It now weighed in at only 622 KB and trying to open it merely got you a little sign saying it was either invalid or corrupted.

So I guess maybe the old saying is true – you can't get something for nothing.

Friday, April 21, 2006

those autumn leaves

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As we near the end of April, the autumn weather begins to bite. Looking across the backyard I can see an arc of mushrooms across the lawn, and there is a speckling of red foliage across the trees and bushes.

Standing out at the front gate looking up at the mountain, there's a constant murmuring sound as autumn leaves blow down the street.

But it's not all poetic and pastoral. A couple of times this month the weather has suddenly turned nasty and the wind comes howling off the Southern Ocean, bringing with it snow and rain. You get up one morning and find that your garden furniture has been blown from one side of the patio to the other.

We just have to get used to it. It will be worse before it gets better.

The commercial television networks are always hungry for a dollar and it's never been more obvious than this year. The Easter period is apparently a fortnight when the ratings shut down, so the networks see no need to use up their lucrative top-rating programmes.

All the popular shows are either repeats or (a new innovation) "specials" which take a look at the history of the show with lots of clips from previous episodes. Shows like Desperate Housewives, Lost and Prison Break have all gone this route.

That's why they call it show business, emphasis on the latter word.

The cultural side of things starts to pick up at this time of year though.

The amateur dramatics with Hobart Rep kick off at the Playhouse, and the free concerts begin at the Moonah Arts Centre.

The Arts Centre concert season was opened by the Lord Mayor of Glenorchy, who introduced the 35-voice Tasmanian Song Company, who serenaded us with a selection of popular and choral numbers. They also gave us a few songs from Noel Coward and Flanders & Swann.

I made the acquaintance of Flanders & Swann's amusing songs at an early age. When I was at school, the last couple of days of the year were always a non-event – one of our teachers used to bring in a gramophone and pass the time playing us his favourite records, including Flanders & Swann.

By the time I left school, I knew the words to "Mud, Glorious Mud!" and several other songs off by heart.

Meanwhile down at the Playhouse the first production of the year was The Lion in Winter by James Goldman.

Imagine the situation – it's Christmas and the head of the family insists on everyone getting together to celebrate the yuletide season. It's not exactly a happy occasion; the three sons are all jockeying for position to see who will inherit the family business and the mother has mixed feelings about her husband's young mistress.

The difference to your family or mine is that the father is King Henry II and the family business is running England. Any differences of opinion inside the family can be not just disruptive but deadly.

James Casey and Leonie Adams were gripping as Henry II and Eleanor of Aquatane... and who would have thought there were so many good one-liners in a play about 12th century politics?

“Television exists to make time pass quickly,
to get rid of an evening,
to whittle one's life away,
whereas radio drama illuminates,
invigorates and stirs the imagination.”

I saw that on a radio website and I rather liked it.

Since becoming involved with some of the websites where people discuss and trade old radio programmes, I've been impressed by the amount of knowledge shown. But even I was surprised to see a message from one aficionado that he'd just posted on-line the first 2½ years of the Suspense series for free download.

The Internet is a continuing source of wonder even after all the years I've been on-line.

Called in at the Harrington Street newsagent to pick up the latest American and British monthly magazines. Hi, I said, I thought it was about time I came by; it must been a while.

Yes, they said, it's nine weeks.

Where does the time go?


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter saturday

Tuesdays seem to be a bit of a jinx day for Julie's poultry. The week before last I came home from the office to find she was worn out from chasing straying chickens and building a new house for them at her place.

Last Tuesday I arrived home to find that she'd brought over two more ailing chickens from her place and reorganized the poultry here. The grounds around my house are slowly being filled with cages and hen-houses - as though a property developer with an interest in bigger-and-better barnyards has been at work. There are chickens of various breeds inside the house, outside the back door, in the driveway and there's a goose on the back lawn.

We have to bring the rooster inside at night in case his crowing wakes up the people next door. Not waking us up, of course, is more a matter of good luck than anything else.

Sometimes it's all a bit much....

On BBC Radio 4, Sunday's new Classic Serial was part 1 of "The Code of the Woosters", by PG Wodehouse, dramatised by Judith French. It's been recorded on location and the production team promised "a lot of vim and vigour."

"Now, this is really going to divide opinion, isn't it?" commented the BBC programme guide. They may be right. The first five minutes for example are a bit of a shock, as we discover that the producers have dubbed in a lot of comical sound effects more suited to Roger Rabbit than the Drones Club, as well as a dream sequence that I don't remember in the original. (Mind you it has been about 35 years since I last read it.)

This is a bit strange, since in condensing a Wodehouse novel into two one-hour segments one would have thought the problem was deciding what to leave out, not what to insert.

Marcus Brigstocke plays Bertie and Andrew Sachs shimmers in as Jeeves. This is the one where Bertie has to rescue newt-loving Gussie Fink-Nottle's engagement to Madeline Bassett, daughter of the formidable Sir Watkyn Bassett.

BBC Radio have done many fine adaptations of Wodehouse - I thought Richard Briers was a particularly good Bertie Wooster and Michael Hordern a satisfactory Jeeves when they serialised The Code of the Woosters in 1973 - but this one may disappoint the purists and fans.

I shall report further when I've heard part 2.

Speaking of radio, I greatly enjoyed the 1957 special Easter episode of the old radio show The Great Gildersleeve that was available on the Digital Deli website. I tuned in for it after seeing some comments that it was the sort of thing that nobody would be willing or able to do in the modern media.

I think they could be right. Not only would it be politically incorrect, it would be difficult to find any modern star who would sound convincing espousing mainstream Christian ideals.

It simply doesn't happen today.


Thursday, April 13, 2006


Easter, our minister told us on Sunday morning, is the “silly season” for comments about religion in the mainstream media. Most years there is some sort of expose or amazing discovery about Christianity. This time it was the unveiling of the so-called Judas gospel.

Unfortunately the people of both our century and Biblical times have the wrong approach to Jesus. They think that belief in God is something that brings them personal happiness and is spiritually satisfying – and if not, why not?

If Christianity doesn’t do this, they’ll move on to some other set of beliefs. Forget the catechism that says man’s purpose is to know and glorify God.

The authority of the Bible is unique in that it’s based on historical events, not on the philosophical speculations of self-appointed gurus. Jesus was a king because God sent him, not because of any popular consensus amongst the population on his land.

Christ came not to make our lives more pleasant and comfortable but to help us escape the consequences of the way we lead our lives. We come to him because we need rescuing; we stay because he is Lord.

One day when heaven was filled with His praises,
one day when sin was as black as could be,
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin,
Dwelt among men, my example is He!

Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away,
Rising, He justified freely for ever:
One day He’s coming: O glorious day.

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain,
One day they nailed Him to die on the tree;
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected;
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He!

One day they left Him alone in the garden,
One day He rested, from suffering free;
Angels came down o’er His tomb to keep vigil;
Hope of the hopeless, my Saviour is He!

One day the grace could conceal Him no longer,
One day the stone rolled away from the door;
Then He arose, over death He had conquered;
Now is ascended, my Lord evermore!

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming,
One day the skies with His glory will shine;
Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing;
Glorious Saviour, this Jesus is mine!

May you have a happy and blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

wet wet

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A good thing that the City Council fixed the problem with the water seeping onto Julie's property. The climate has taken a turn for the worse, with rain and snow suddenly a fixture on the weather forecasts. If the seepage had been combined with the recent rain, her yard would have been a veritable morass.

As it is, I've been reminded that those old shoes I wear when I go to her place are ready to be discarded. They are only intermittently waterproof, and going up and down the front path on a wet day is less than comfortable.

Well, I may have been overly optimistic about my back - it seemed to be improving a little every day over the last week, but on Tuesday I forgot to take any pain-killers before I went to the office and after a few hours I knew about it.

It didn't help that Tuesday evening I always take Kay to the supermarket on the way home. All that bobbing up and down moving things in and out of the shopping trolley was the last straw and I was in some discomfort by the time we reached her cottage.

Not that there was that much food to unload. Nowadays she seems to live mostly on yogurt, ice cream and potato crisps. A lot of the supplies were blank tapes for her video recorder – she never buys less than 20 three-hour tapes and this week I carted in 30 tapes for her stockpile.

On reaching home I took some paracetemol and retired to my armchair for most of the evening. After a few hours I was able to move around the house without wincing at every step.

The introduction of podcasting has proved to be another success story for ABC Radio with the number of listeners taking advantage of this service making Australia's national broadcaster a world leader in the field.
Most recent figures show that in one week in February there were over 360,000 accesses to the ABC's podcast files.

ABC Radio National's podcasting service had a record number of mp3s downloaded in the last week of February. The network continues to extend the number of programs available for downloading. Since the start of this year programs added to the available list include Radio National Breakfast, The Book Show, Saturday Extra, By Design, Counterpoint, The National Interest, Rear Vision, Perspective and Radio Eye. These additions bring the total list available to 26 different programs.

The ABC's triple j was the first station to podcast in Australia but because it is a music station copyright laws prevent their podcasting most of their content.

ABC Local Radio is selecting popular program segments such as Shannon Lush the best-selling guru on stain removal, special events such as the Newcastle Music Awards or creating material especially for podcasting as ABC Central Coast in NSW is doing.

Go to :

But if you have a taste for more downmarket radio programmes, you'll find lots of old-time drama and comedies at the Zoot Radio website. There is a thriving forum where questions and answers fly at speed through cyberspace.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Showers

Who would have thought there'd be such an instant difference between March and April? April 1st dawned dark and squally, with alternating patches of bright sunshine and driving rain.

This usually means only one thing, and sure enough when the clouds rolled back momentarily from around Mount Wellington, we could see that the first snows of the year had fallen. Then it clouded over again, like a giant drawing closed his robe.

At least the goose will appreciate the result of the wet weather, with improved grazing on the back lawn, though she actively dislikes the noise made by the rain on the roof of her quarters.

I don't suppose I can blame the weather, but my back isn't improving as fast as I had hoped this week. Oh, it's better than it was a fortnight ago, but it still bothers me when I first get up especially.

Friday morning I felt perfectly dreadful. Julie's night-owl habits had kept me out of bed till almost 3 a.m., I'd had to get up to answer a call of nature around 6 a.m. then the phone rang at 8:59. By the time I rolled out of bed I felt like I'd been run dragged through a hedge backwards.

At least the water situation at Julie's place seems to have been resolved. The pools of water have slowly dried up and the dogs no longer have to run through the mud to get in and out of the place.

Talk about spoilt for choice. With live radio, streaming audio on the internet, podcasting and MP3 discs, there is simply too much stuff for even a dedicated radio buff like myself to keep up with.

I've resorted to burning the half-hour programmes on to a CD and listening to one each night while I'm getting ready for bed. At least that way I can be sure of getting through 180 hours of Old Time Radio in a year.

This week I listened to several episodes of Leave It To George and A Man Called X, American thrillers from the 1950s. Yesterday I quite enjoyed listening to a 1957 episode of X Minus One "The Lights on Precipice Peak", based on a Galaxy magazine story by Stephen Tall. Two no-nonsense mountain-climbers get into difficulties and are rescued by friendly extra-terrestrials – characteristically one of the climbers says "If this is a gag, I don't get the joke."

I did get a chance to watch a little television on Friday: the ABC finally had a new episode of Dalziel and Pascoe after years of repeats, and the Nine Network aired episode #1 of a new Australasian science-fiction series Maddigan's Quest, featuring a travelling circus in a future century after the collapse of our civilization. Looks good – shot on one of those new high-definition video formats.

I remember Nan asking me some time ago to keep an eye out for any war books for Don that I might come across. Last week in the Salvation Army op shop I picked up a thick hardcover reprint of Eric Feldt's 1946 book The Coast Watchers. I wonder if it's of any interest to him?