Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWO THINGS PUBLISHED LAST SATURDAY

Last Saturday, in the Review section of The Weekend Australian, I had a small piece published (entitled This (Displaced) Life) about a house crow that has been frequenting the beach side suburb of Dee Why, in Sydney's north, since early 2008. The house crow is an outstandingly rare vagrant to Australian shores. This is our fourth official record. I was lucky enough to see the bird back in March or April. Added to this, I had a small, silly thing on swamphens published online with The Sydney Morning Herald that day. Where would I be without avian inspiration? LJ, November 18 2008.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

THE CARIBBEAN'S STEEL SOUL

A week ago, in the epicentre of Sydney's Centennial Park, I came across a mob of West Indians picnicking on the periphery of Lachlan Swamp's dense, sweaty tangle of ferns and paperbarks. Jamaican flags were flying high. I got speaking with a dude with blonde dreads from Trinidad who was teaching a dozen kids how to play steel drums. The sound the kids produced en masse was extraordinary: I was particularly into their epic version of Blondie's The Tide is High. After they'd finished, I asked if I could grab some sticks and have a play on one drum.

I was unaware that steel drums (or steelpans) were made from 55-gallon drums that oil was kept in (Trinidad has had a long history of oil production). Steelpans have been played since 1947; the secret to playing them well is to strike them gently! You tune them with a hammer.

Jean Michel Jarre's leftfield Waiting for Cousteau (1990), is the only CD I've got that features the unusual sonic gleam of the steelpan. The Amoco Renegades played the instrument on that album. The amateur percussionist in me was enraptured by this accidental Sydney meeting with the Caribbean's steel soul.

LJ, November 16 2008.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

BARRACKING FOR BARACK

My fingers are crossed for a Barack Obama/Democrats victory on Tuesday. America and the world needs a commander-in-chief who is young, dynamic, thoughtful, moderate and chilled-out (without being comatose) when under fire. I love the fact that Barack is half Kensan and half Kenyan, and he grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii; this polychromatic background seems emblematic of America and the wider world.

I'm behind Barack because he is:
a. wanting U.S. servicemen and women out of Iraq
b. for diplomacy when it comes to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran (rather than treating them as outright enemies and worthy of American aggro)
c. pursuing a fairer health care system
d. after some restrictions on gun ownership
and
e. cautious of endorsing the death penalty.

At present, according to graphs and figures at The New York Times' website, Barack is ahead of John McCain. A survey by The Gallup Poll (that received responses from about 2,800 people) shows Barack with 52% of the vote, whilst McCain is polling at 41%. It'll be interesting to see how residents of Florida, Missouri (Bush country), Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina vote: it could go either away in those states. Nevada (Bush country), New Mexico, Colorado (Bush country) and Iowa, have a swing towards Obama; hopefully, these swings will not change on Tuesday. I just hope Americans get up off the couch and get down to their polling stations. They should be forced to vote, as Australians are.

I doubt Dick Cheney endorsing McCain is going to be much of a threat to Obama... Michael Moore is cautious as to whom will win... According to The LA Times, Iraqis are split in who they want - either way, they feel America will still dominate them.

And where is Dubya at the moment? Probably shooting varmints on a big ranch somewhere! The other day someone asked for his opinion on General Motors. His response was something along the lines of, "I think he's doing a great job in Iraq."

LJ, November 1 2008