Monday, June 26, 2006

Sunday chicken

The geese join my sister's horse Shadow for a graze in the top paddock:

Sunday morning we shivered through breakfast then set off for church.

I liked the story that our minister used this week...

"We're told that God made everything," said a Professor. "If God made everything, then God made evil, and if we can only create from within ourselves, then God is evil."

One student raised his hand and said "Sir, is there such thing as cold?"

"Of course there is, what kind of a question is that? Haven't you ever been cold?"

The young man replied, "Actually, sir, cold does not exist. What we consider to be cold is really only the absence of heat. Absolute zero is when there is absolutely no heat, but cold does not really exist. We have only created that term to describe how we feel when heat is not there."

The young man continued, "Sir, is there such thing as dark?"

Once again, the professor responded, "Of course there is."

And once again, the student replied, "Actually, sir, darkness does not exist. Darkness is really only the absence of light. Darkness is only a term man developed to describe what happens when there is no light present."

Finally, the young man asked, "Sir, is there such thing as evil?"

The professor responded, "Of course. We have rapes, and murders and violence everywhere in the world, those things are evil."

The student replied, "Actually, sir, evil does not exist. Evil is simply the absence of God. Evil is a term man developed to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. It isn't like truth, or love, which exist as virtues like heat and light. Evil is simply the state where God is not present, like cold without heat or darkness without light."

The professor had nothing to say.

"Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" asks 1 Corinthians 1:20.

Monday we were out and managed to do one or two things on that long list of stuff that needs doing.

We loaded up with some sacks of feed for my sister's animals, paid my electricity bill, bought the latest issue of The New Yorker and stopped at Café 73 in Moonah for a Caesar Salad.

Tonight we plan to scruff one of the roosters from outside my back door and take him back to Julie's property. Having four roosters at my place is a dangerous situation; as soon as one gets the impulse to crow, all the others join in. Not a good thing in the modern world.

There is traffic in the opposite direction though. Julie brought over a hen from her place on Sunday that was faring badly in the barnyard. "I think she might just be old," said Julie but at the moment she's resting comfortably in what I call the ICU [Intensive Chicken-care Unit].

Old Time Radio:


O.S.S. agent in Italy is meat in the sandwich between a fascist with valuable information and partisans who want to hang him. "I don't have a problem with executions; it's lynchings I don't like."

GUNSMOKE 'Poor, poor Pearl'

Adult western, meaning there are no happy endings for some of the people involved in a romantic triangle on the prairie.

THE CHASE 520504 "Harry Troll's Diamond"

Somewhat in the line of SUSPENSE or ESCAPE, this story will keep you guessing, though veteran listeners may guess one of the surprise twists.

X MINUS ONE 560201 "The Cave of Night"

Docu-drama about the plight of the first man in space – and this was aired a year before Sputnik went up. Effective script based on the same story by James Gunn that was aired on television as "Man in Orbit" [Desilu Playhouse 1959 starring Lee Marvin].

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Friday, June 23, 2006

that **** photocopier


Is there anybody who hasn't got a story about a recalcitrant photocopier? After all these years in the church office I can usually nurse them along, but every so often things grind to a halt.

Thursday was one of those days. We started out with it jamming every few minutes, then every couple of pages, then finally every page.

Twenty four hours passed without a sign of the repairman; I even got up early in the morning in case he phoned during breakfast. So Friday night I ended up at one of the local office-equipment warehouses shelling out $35 to have the weekend printing done. A series of small delays and inconveniences made for a trying afternoon.

As I drove home that night I kept feeling there was a small insect on my left eyebrow. That wasn't encouraging. It's been a long time since I had that nervous twitch in my left eye and I hoped that it wasn't coming back.

Having some of my sister's poultry living at my house isn't usually that much of an imposition, but this month things have been a bit difficult. The roosters she's keeping outside my back door have grown up enough to start crowing, so we're worried about disturbing the people next door. The problem is that it only takes one of them to start and all the others join in.

This is even more concerning than it might have been, since the Hobart City Council is talking about introducing new regulations to control barking dogs (three minutes of barking at night or six minutes during the day would be the maximum allowed).

If dogs are in the bureaucracy's cross-hairs, can crowing roosters be far away?

Rod Quinn has been standing in for Tony Delroy for a fortnight while he's on holiday from the late show on ABC radio. It's always interesting to see how the fill-in presenters do – the acid test is how they handle the midnight quiz segment The Challenge.

Some of them are a bit clumsy but pick it up quickly. At least one was an unmitigated disaster. Rod Quinn of course had an advantage since he used to be a regular guest on the early days of the show; he had his own segment The Trivia Challenge each Friday night.

But for some reason the going was a lot harder this week. I can only think that someone else was setting the questions – there was a palpable difference in how demanding they were. Even the compere admitted they seemed a lot more difficult.

Fortunately I got in early and phoned in on the Monday. I was heartened to find that Rod remembered my voice and recalled our days on the Trivia Challenge all those years ago. Mind you, I wouldn't have won if my sister hadn't prompted me on the question "What animal has the collective noun of a 'sleuth'?" [It turned out to be bears.]

Later in the week the wheels seemed to fall off. Answers were hard to come by and took a long time to extract. One night the segment went on past the 1 o'clock news, finally ending at 1:26.

"I've always wanted to set a world record," sighed Rod. It seems this was the latest that The Challenge has finished in its 16 years on the air.

Tony is back next week. Let's hope he brings some easier questions with him.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

to Moonah

bike track

Killing two birds with one stone, I set off for Moonah on foot. I had to go to the bank and I needed to get more exercise, so the fact that Julie had borrowed my car wasn't a deterrent.

I walked along the bike track.. er, the intercity cycleway I mean. It was quiet enough so I could listen to my MP3 player as I strode along, and I got through half an episode of a BBC World Service arts programme that I'd recorded last month.

Elmore Leonard was being interviewed. He said that he always tried to make his novels come out around the 300-page mark. If he was just under, he'd often suggest to his publisher that they change the typeface just a little so it would hit the magic number!

After I'd been to the bank, I called in at the Moonah Arts Centre to see their current exhibition "Eastern Light", a collection of new oil paintings by Romany Best and Sarah Weaver.

There was a certain sameness, since this was a theme exhibition – a visual portrayal of life in Tasmania. Best's pictures included both rural scenes and pictures of urban streets. A couple of the pictures featured brooding skies with titles like "Melancholy" and "If Only I'd Known," but the picture "Feeling Blue" was a visual pun depicting blue skies and blue seas with blue hills in the background.

Weaver's oils included landscapes of places like Adventure Bay, Maria Island and the Huon Valley. I particularly appreciated these since I'd recently visited all of them and it brought back pleasant memories.

I've chanced on yet another web-site that lets you listen to old radio programmes. This one comes from Wisconsin Public Radio and lets you listen to their three-hour Sunday night show in three one-hour chunks.

Another site for my favorites list, along with Those Were The Days and The Big Broadcast.

Old Time Radio listening:

DARK FANTASY 420327 "Convoy to Atlantis"
In a sort of forerunner to all those stories about the Bermuda Triangle, two men find their ship has been hijacked and is heading for the sea bottom where it will be used to re-roof the lost continent of Atlantis.

FIBBER McGEE AND MOLLY 400116 "Fibber's car is stolen"
Amusing comedy in which Fibber gets arrested for stealing his own car and is horrified at the idea he'll only be paroled into the custody of The Great Gildersleeve. Still fun even today.

CISCO KID 531008 "Planted Gold"
In this oater about trying to fake a gold strike, the dashing Cisco Kid encounters one of the few things he's afraid of - a little old lady with an eight-gauge shotgun.

AVENGER #3 "Rendezvous with Murder"
Sort of a poor cousin of The Shadow, with some rather nasty killers and some sonorous voiceovers - "The road to crime ends in a trap that justice sets. Crime does not pay!"

The new series of 24 has started on local television. I hear that they've signed to keep making the show into 2008-2009. That boggles the mind.

I pity the poor writers having to come up with that amount of scripts for such an edge-of-the-seat drama. Another example of the tendency of television networks to work something to death so long as it seems to get the ratings.

I was intrigued to read on a W.E. Johns website that Johns had once made a list of what he would want in a volume titled The Best of Biggles, the definitive selection of stories about his stalwart avaiation hero:

Part 1 Biggles the boy in India: two stories from THE BOY BIGGLES
Part 2 Schooldays: two stories from BIGGLES GOES TO SCHOOL
Part 3 World War 1. Foreword on Air Combat. Two stories from BIGGLES LEARNS TO FLY.
Part 4 Biggles Combat Pilot: novel BIGGLES FLIES EAST.
Part 5 Between the wars: Two stories from BIGGLES CHARTER PILOT or, full length book BIGGLES FLIES WEST
Part 6 World War II: two stories from SPITFIRE PARADE (or full length book. BIGGLES SWEEPS THE DESERT.)
Part 7 After the war: SGT. BIGGLESWORTH C.I.D. (part of) then enough detective stories to make up required length.

Interesting. I know two books that have been published with the title BEST OF BIGGLES but neither of them follow John's plan.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

stray hare

My sister's backyard :

treescape winter

My sister takes up a lot of my time, but she certainly keeps me in touch with the real world of animals and plants.

Take Sunday night for example. We'd been over to her place to feed her animals. She went out with the horse and the poultry while I looked after the cats, then she took the dog food out to them. Finally we were driving back to my house.

Just as we turned into my street, she suddenly said "Hold it. Stop the car." I saw something in the headlights, moving across the middle of the road. As I pulled up, I realised that it wasn't a kitten or a puppy but a small rabbit.

She got out of the car and approached carefully, but the rabbit wasn't interested in getting any closer and zig-zagged down the street a few feet at a time. "He doesn't look like a wild rabbit. He might be a pet. I'll see if I can catch him."

I pulled the car over to the side of the road, angling it so the lights lit up the footpath for her. She moved back and forth, following the rabbit's progress. In and out of the front yards of our neighbours – I hoped that none of them were suffering from insomnia and might happen to look out their front windows.

After about ten minutes in the crisp night air she gave up.

This isn't the first time that's happened to her. Once she was driving through the northern suburbs and saw a rabbit hanging around by the side of the road.

When she tried to catch it, it dashed down next to a house and into the backyard. Julie shut it in an outside toilet (maybe a shed) attached to the house, hoping that the householder either owned the rabbit or knew who did.

I couldn't help thinking that if they weren't the owners, they were going to be surprised when they went into the backyard in the morning.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Sunday morning was a cold start, with snow down to 300 meters on Mount Wellington. We drove in to church using my sister’s car since I wasn’t sure mine would start easily and we had to be on time - I was reading the Bible at the morning service.

Julie (above) read the text last week, and owing to a sudden change in the roster I stepped in to fill a vacancy this week. I had been through the passage from Genesis a couple of times [the end of chapter 1 and the start of chapter 2] and it wasn’t too bad - some of the Old Testament can be quite challenging to read aloud. There were a couple of places where the authors had put in what we’d call sidebar pieces, meaning that you had to pace your breathing so you didn’t run out of breath before you got to the end of a long sentence.

It went off all right and we settled down to listen to Robert’s sermon on the importance of human life. Christians, he said, can have nothing to do with the modern idea that some lives are worth less than others; anyone who believes this cannot believe in the teachings of the Bible.

Sunday afternoon we usually eat lunch and rest for a while, but that wasn’t the case this week. While we were still feeding Julie’s animals we received a phone call from her friend Helene - “don’t forget that you’re helping me photograph a wedding at the Town Hall today.” Whoops!

No time for Julie to rest her aching back that afternoon. There was just time for lunch and she had to head back into the city for her second visit to the Town Hall in 24 hours.

There’s no doubt it’s a lovely old building - just look at the photo Julie took at the concert - but you don’t necessarily want to spend Sunday afternoon trailing around it with camera equipment in the middle of winter.

If you’re interested in church architecture, Sunday on ABC-TV was the day for you. In the morning Songs of Praise looked at the reconstructed Spittalfield church in London. Then in the evening we saw Westminster Abbey briefly in The Queen at 80, a programme about 20th Century eccentric English priest John Cyril Hawes who designed and built scores of beautiful churches in Western Australia The Sacred Architect and finished off with Alain de Botton's quizzing the owners of a modern church in The Perfect Home about whether it really felt like a church.

King Features website last year cannily realised that there were people out there who’d actually pay to read comic strips and started a paid site called Daily Ink. After some muttering I signed up for it and have been quite pleased with the service.

Not only do you get all the current comic strips, you’re able to choose to see them at an enlarged size which is a bonus in this age of ever-shrinking newspaper strips. (Our local paper unveiled its “new look” this week and you guessed it, the comic strips are slightly smaller than they used to be!)

That would be worth the annual fee, but there’s also what the DVD makers like to call bonus features. This includes a “Vintage” section which gives you the option of seeing a small selection of old comic strips in addition to the current ones.

The daily and Sunday versions of The Phantom are probably great for people who don’t live in Australia where a local publisher has reprinted all the Phantom stories ever published, and it’s interesting to see the early days of Popeye from the old Thimble Theater strip.

But as the site went into its second year, without any fanfare they doubled the number of Vintage strips and there were some pleasant surprises. There’s the World War II fighting-the-Zeroes strip Buzz Sawyer, the original Beetle Bailey (before he joined the army!), the detective strip Rip Kirby (one of my childhood favourites) and best of all, the daily Flash Gordon strip starting from its first day in 1951.

I’ve only ever seen one of the daily Flash Gordon strips and, yes, it was this one. But I look forward to being able to follow it every day - this is from the period after the heyday of Alex Raymond’s legendary Sunday strip and reworks the characters into a more realistic type of space explorers, more in the mode of its rival Buck Rogers strip rather than Raymond’s extravagant swashbuckling adventures.

I’d better not wax too enthusiastic. If the Daily Ink proprietors read this they might decide to increase the membership fee!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Coward! Chicken!

A clash between matters cultural and agricultural – was there a way of resolving it?

Saturday afternoon was the poultry show out at the Royal Hobart Showgrounds. Saturday evening was a concert at the Town Hall. Could we see both and still fit in the Spit Roast at the showgrounds? Well, yes, but it was a close thing.

2006 poultry show

The noise was fairly overwhelming. All those clucking, quacking and crowing birds in one place. To a layman like me, a chicken is a chicken, but walking around the cages one saw an incredible diversity of breeds, sizes and markings. There were plenty of birds I'd never even heard of before.
poultry show purchase

Julie of course had an even more pressing motivation than usual to inspect the birds in the "For Sale" row. Both the Wyandottes that she'd bought at the last sale had died, apparently victims of the cold weather, and she wanted to find replacements.

double-layer poultry

We took the chickens home and returned for the Spit Roast, which offered beef, pork, venison and (um) chicken. I think it would take a more determined diner than me to tuck into a plate of roast chicken while surrounded on all sides by poultry looking over my shoulder.

The meal made us a bit late, but we almost made it on time for the Tasmanian Song Company's concert at the Town Hall.

town hall concert

Where better than the ornately decorated concert room at the Town Hall [built in 1864 with an organ that was once played by Albert Schweitzer] for a concert entitled "Flanders & Swann meet Noel Coward".

Musical director Christopher Waterhouse has been wanting to put on such a concert for some time, ever since he heard an early 1970s album of the music by the vocal group the King's Singers. It was a difficult job to gather the necessary choral arrangements, since most of these works are seldom heard on modern concert stages. But here they were.

Entering late, we were seated at the back of the hall, but my knowledge of the lyrics made up for my imperfect hearing and it was a delight to hear all the old songs performed with such gusto.

Many of Flanders & Swann's songs involve animals and we were treated to renditions of "The Hippopotamus", "The Sloth", "The Warthog", "The Rhinoceros" and "The Ostrich" as well as everyone's favourite "Mud, glorious mud".

I've known these songs most of my life since I had a teacher who wisely decided there was no use trying to get boys to work during the last week of the school year. Instead, he brought in a gramophone and played us some of his favourite records – always including at least one album of Flanders & Swann. Even at that age I could appreciate the vocal dexterity and clever lyrics.

Allan Bacon and Darren Sangwell performed most of these, while Robert Jarman breezed in every few minutes to portray Noel Coward and offer us a convincing re-creation of Coward performing such songs as "Nina", "I've been to a marvellous party" and "Let's do it."

The evening came to a close with the audience joining in to sing "White Cliffs of Dover" and "We'll Meet Again."

The last was appropriate, since it was announced that the Song Company plans another concert in November focusing on Gershwin and Rogers & Hammerstein.

We shall be there.

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Friday, June 09, 2006


Jezebelle in winter

We had three days under 2º this week – a sudden blast of winter to make us sit up and take notice. That's about 35º in the old measurements. The cat was glued to the electric heater every morning.

There was fog some evenings, and one morning frost lingered on the back lawn until after 9:30. It was quite a wake-up call after the mild winter we had last year.

This of course meant that I should take some precautions to prevent damage to my book collection. I hadn't worried much last year, but weather like this meant I had to start running the heaters in the attic for at least part of the night.

I hadn't been up to the attic for a while, mostly because I was afraid of what I might find. Last time I was up there I discovered one of Julie's cat had started using it as a toilet; that wasn't so terrible but in the tidy way of cats she'd tried to cover it up using any books or magazines she could grab.

I had to throw out half a dozen books (including a nice copy of The Saturday Evening Post Book of Sea Stories). I know some people who are adept at book restoration but there's not much you can do with a volume that's been soaking in cat urine.

But this time it wasn't so bad. To my relief, there was just a bit of cleaning up to do on the floor, with no damage to the books. I was particularly glad to see that some boxes in front of the far bookcases had protected my collection of P.G. Wodehouse and Edgar Wallace. (I have everything arranged in roughly alphabetical order, starting with A near the rear window and going clockwise around the attic.)

I ran a long extension cord from the electric heater to the off-peak power-point so I could heat the place economically. Just a few hours a day is usually enough to stop problems with dampness and mould.

Sarah Key, a physiotherapist who's written a book titled The Body In Action, was interviewed on morning radio this week. She had some discouraging things to say about how the body handles aging and the loss of elasticity and flexibility. I guess I should do something about an exercise programme, something that will stop these twinges and occasional back spasms.

The BBC7 website have been running a 3-part serial based on John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos [a.k.a. Village of the Damned]. I can't work out if I've heard it before or whether the serial is so faithful to the book that I feel as though I've already heard it.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006


The sound of silence. That's what I heard when the clock radio cut off in the middle of a song on Saturday morning. I knew what that meant. The electricity people had been right about when the power would go off.

I got up and wandered out to the kitchen. Nowadays nearly everything you use plugs into something. I looked around. Refrigerator. Microwave. Kettle. Computer. Toaster. Video. All so much useless metal without the vital spark to power them.

They'd advised us to heat some water the night before and keep it hot in a thermos. We tried that but our old thermos wasn't up to keeping water hot all night. Managed to make a cup of luke-warm tea that was better than nothing, but we ended up going out for brunch across at the little coffee shop at the Coles shopping centre.

They actually took two hours less than scheduled to fit the new power-lines. It was positively exhilarating when I opened the refrigerator door and the light came on!

What's the old song lyric - "You don't know what you've got till it's gone"?

This really is the 21st century! Last night Julie's friend Jan sent her a text message on her mobile phone to say that she'd arrived safely in Dover, England. She then asked if we could look up on the Internet the address of the hotel she was going to stay at!

So you had her sitting in a coffee shop on the coast of England while two people in Australia used various search engines to locate the website of the hotel she was seeking. And then sent the information to her phone by SMS.

Talk about your global village...

"How much is it to text to Britain?" wondered Julie. "I'll find out."

"One way or the other," I commented.

Kay and Chris were here on Saturday afternoon. Kay was vexed by one of the television stations and waxed eloquently on the subject till I had to blow my referee's whistle to quiet things down.

Without meaning to, I annoyed her more than somewhat just before she left. She had asked if she could borrow one of my Stargate DVDs and I shrugged. "As long as you remember to return it and in good condition," I said guardedly.

"Of course it would be in good condition," she replied. "When did I ever do otherwise?"

I should have thought before speaking, but given a direct question the answer popped into my mind and I heard myself saying "Well, there was that paperback Thunderbirds and the Ring of Fire you borrowed in 1973..."

"What about it?"

"It looked like someone had taken to it with an electric carving knife."

She recoiled as though I'd slapped her across the face. "There are two things that I've never been guilty of," she moaned. "Cruelty to animals and mistreating books! Anybody who knows me will tell you that." She shook her head. "I don't remember the book, but I'm sure that never happened."

"Well, that's the way I remember it," I said in a neutral voice, but she was still muttering about it as she left.

I think I really upset her this time.

Nice to see that the Nine Network has such confidence in the Star Trek franchise
Enterprise. They've finally stirred themselves to show the first episode of the 2004 season ["Storm Front" part 1] but they don't seem too fussed about it - they're running it at 1 a.m.

Not a great time-slot for a first-run programme. Typical of the way that the networks treat anything that doesn't have instant mass-market appeal nowadays.

If this was the way things always worked, the original Star Trek series would have been cancelled in its first month. They would probably have replaced it with Big Brother's Amazing Survivor Wife Swap Idol.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

I'm so dizzy...

2CV fandom

This is the sight that greeted us when we parked in Moonah to visit Leah at Café 73. Julie was transfixed – an immaculately restored 2CV containing a Dalmatian and a German Shepherd. I can think of nothing more calculated to have her reaching for her camera.

I wasn't feeling the best on Friday. I was late getting to bed but I thought I'd had enough sleep, yet I felt worse and worse as the morning went on. The Blood Glucose test was a startlingly high reading of 8.7 before breakfast – yow!

It's a popular urban myth that having a flu shot causes you to get the flu. I'm beginning to see why people believe it. I spent all morning coughing – "You're sickening for something," said my sister and she may be right.

In the evening I had just finished watching West Wing on television when I suddenly felt dizzy. If it wasn't for my eyes being open, I might have thought my chair was spinning slowly round and round. It didn't last long, but then you wouldn't want it to.

To add insult to injury they're cutting the electricity tomorrow morning to work on the power in our street, so I can't even say "I'm sick, I'm going to stay in bed and ignore the world."

My sister spends a lot of time on the Internet nowadays doing research on our family tree. This week she extended the genealogy one more step back and discovered that Madeleine, one of her oldest friends, is actually a distant relation. Madeleine was so excited at this news that she phoned her mother interstate to tell her the exciting news.

I hope this doesn't mean they'll be coming round wanting to borrow our lawnmower or something similar.

Recent live entertainment in town includes:

Tarantara! Tarantara! is sort of a potted history of Gilbert & Sullivan including all their greatest hits. If you know little or nothing about G&S this is the show to educate you. A lively presentation from (of course) the Gilbert & Sullivan Society.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie was the May attraction at the Playhouse. I think everyone knows the plot of this one by now, but it was well staged and it was interesting to see whether or not the director had decided to follow the lead of the London production and follow the original novel rather than the 1943 stage version. (I'll never tell!).
Ten Bears is an eclectic folk-rock trio fronted by former Hobart performer Josh Wilkinson. Listening to him at the Moonah Arts Centre was pleasant, though I hardly understood a word of what he was singing. Two demerits to the PR person who described the act as "a gentle, ethnic influenced journey into mysterious waters, melded with a more modern sounding rock element, intended to invoke a subtle whisper of ancient wisdom"(!)

Coming up next: Pride and Prejudice the stage play.

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