Vergil Reality

Views, comments, opinions, musings from Vergil Iliescu

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Name: Vergil Iliescu
Location: Sydney, Australia

This blog is an exercise in self indulgence; a way of clarifying or testing my own thoughts - about the random things that interest me. Everything from politics to philosophy to poems and songs I like or even dislike. Putting it online forces me to think.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Test mobile phone post

Testing from my mobile phone

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Poem for Dad in his old nursing home

He has been in a nursing home for about 9 months, and dreadfully unhappy and depressed about it. Of course this is one of the reasons I have not written as much as I would have liked, I have been very preoccupied with the whole situation. I am using the writing as therapy, I think.

Stefan at the Nursing Home

I don't want to write this poem
I don't want to see him
He sits there wilting forward, head bowed, as if he's praying
But he's fallen asleep, in his wheel chair.

I hate to see him like this
I hate feeling so helpless
Him feeling angry, undignified and out of control
And he's fallen asleep, in his wheel chair.

I took him to the dining room
Where he tries to eat squashed carrots, something sloppy and white
And something that passes for meat
But he's fallen asleep, in his wheel chair.

I get out the iPod shuffle and
Shove the earphones in his ears
It plays the old tunes from his home land, languid laments and sad songs
Then he wakes with a smile, in his wheel chair.

He tried to kill himself last week
But he's so feeble he never succeeds
So he's angry, frustrated, just wants to go home
And he's fallen asleep, in his wheel chair

He's becoming a nuisance
To the nurses and their assistants
There aren't enough to watch him all night, and when he wanders they wish
That he'd fallen asleep, in his wheel chair.

And still,
I don't want to write this poem
I don't want to see him like this.

There is a happier postscript to this situation, in that we have managed to move him to a different nursing home just this week, where he is much, much happier.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


The Avaaz organisation provides links to information about this situation, both now and how it got to this point.

1. Associated Press: "Israel Shells Near UN School, killing at least 30" (5 January 2009)

2. "Gaza: outlines of an endgame", Ghassan Khatib (6 January 2009)

Al-Jazeera: "Arab ministers hold UN ceasefire talks" (6 January 2009):

Associated Press: "Diplomats seek truce as civilian toll rises" (5 January 2009):

3. Israel Today: "Israel rejects European, UN efforts for immediate ceasefire" (5 January 2009):

Yediot Aharonot: "Israel examining international treaty to isolate Hamas" (5 January 2009),7340,L-3650522,00.html

4. These parameters are advocated by a broad range of experts and policymakers. See for example International Crisis Group's Ending the War in Gaza report (5 January 2009):

5. Reuters: "Hamas seeks truce but says lifting siege a must" (5 January 2009)

Strikingly, the US Army War College has just released a substantial report supporting the view that Hamas can and must be brought into negotiations and is capable of sustaining a long-term truce, or even peace with Israel. Linked via:

The inside story of the civil strife between Fatah and Hamas and the Bush administration's involvement in this debacle is best-told in The Gaza Bombshell, an investigative article published in the leading US magazine Vanity Fair in April 2008:

This news item from November 2008 provides more background to the story of how the Israel-Hamas truce collapsed:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Oh no, it's God again ...

It's been nearly 12 months since I've posted. Other things on my mind.

I have had occasion to to comment on belief in God in a discussion group again. It's a funny subject. So here are some of my thoughts.

Years ago I asked my wife if she believed in God. She replied "when it suits me". I really liked that answer. Sometimes the God concept is useful. She doesn't much care for philosophical discourse, nor does she really care if God really exists. In practice she has little use for the concept.

Meanwhile, I'm down at the pub on some friday night, enjoying conversation with some work colleagues. After a few beers, for some reason we start talking about whether God exists. My irish mate says - yes of course God exists. He is catholic, but doesn't really go to church except for the usual ceremonies. I carried on about why I didn't believe (supported by Dawkins & Hitchens and some others). One of his responses was "but if there is no God, what is the basis for being good, for moral behaviour". And therein lies the issue for many people. The usefulness of the God concept is that it seems to provide a reason to behave decently, otherwise we would all, presumably be evil ratbags. Hitchens and Dawkins tackle some of this if I recall correctly, but it is tackled head on in Daniel Dennett's book "Breaking The Spell - Religion as a Natural Phenomenon", and provides his arguments for why he believes the idea that religion is a necessary foundation for morality can no longer be supported.

Nevertheless, I suspect that many perfectly nice people believe in God (in some form or another), because they cannot imagine how you could control bad behaviour without recourse to a supernatural authority. So it is up to atheists, agnostics and otherwise couldn't-care-less-about-it people to show why that is not the case. On the other hand, maybe some people really need something like a personal belief in a personal God (or some other definition of God) to give them meaning, purpose, a sense of self or whatever else they feel they need to make life worth living. (Personally, I think all we need is a really good relationship with a few people who matter to us)

Now my brother in law just thinks believing in any kind of God is just a form of mental and character weakness. So there you go.
By the way, my own definition of God, as in when I ask someone if he or she believes in one, is a supernatural being or beings whom you ought to be trying to please, who is capable of a personally engaging with humans, and who is the reason that anything exists at all. I reckon that's how most people conceive of God, or something similar to that. Such a creature would give me the shivers, yet that is what is at the heart of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. I finish with a quote from Sigmund Freud (taken from Dennett's aforementioned book)

"Philosophers stretch the meaning of words until they retain scarcely anything of their original sense; by calling "God" some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves, they pose as deists, as believers, before the world; they may even pride themselves on having attained a higher and purer idea of God, although their God is nothing but an insubstantial shadow and no longer the might personality of religious doctrine" - from "The Future of an Illusion".

People will believe in God if they want to. There is nothing much new to be said about God's existence or otherwise. My hope is that one day religion will be just another personal hobby, like stamp collecting. So when I ask my mate down at the pub whether he believes in God, and he says yes, then everyone yawns, we say in unison "that's nice, what colour?" - and then we order another round and talk about politics.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Old age sometimes leads to forgetting of words not recognising things, or using the wrong words. This is a poem which came from thinking about this.

Each verse is in traditional cinquain form, where there are 5 lines and the number of syllables in each line is 2, 4, 6, 8, 2 respectively. Using a structure like that seems to help me keep the writing more concentrated - sort of like a Haiku does.

The words
Don't come to mind
As quickly as before
Other words come, but I wish for

The things
That used to be
Familiar, now are strange
My home has now become a house

The soul
Is woven from
Our words and memories
And when these disappear, will I

But if
I write these down
And make them dance and rhyme
And sing, will my soul live on for

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Visit to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

So restful, sitting, silent on her chair,
You deeply breathe the vista here spread out;
Dismiss our time, the breeze transports me there,
No opera house, no quay, no bridge, no doubt.

Existing in a time and space not mine,
You hear a voice, just there, beyond the tree!
She whispers; “Look! You see this chair so fine?
He carved this rock to show his love for me.

At once I saw the feeling in his heart,
Relinquished fear of former lovers past.
By simple act of kindness from the start,
Our love’s confirmed; I know now it will last”.

Undying love remembers little things,
Rejoices in the gifts a lover brings.

The above is both an acrostic poem and a sonnet. (The acrostic is formed from the first letter of each line).

Based on the Sydney Harbour landmark "Mrs Macquaries Chair", carved by (or commissioned) by Elizabeth Macquarie's husband, Governor Lachlan Macquarie in the early 1800s. Gov. Elizabeth was Gov. Macquarie's second wife, and it appears that his writings showed he never had quite the same passion for her as he did his first wife. However, over time he grew to respect and love her. I wondered what she night have thought while sitting in this chair, carved out of the rock, commissioned by her husband all those years ago. So this is what I imagined.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Live Minus Zero

This is a Bob Dylan song I love. I recently bought a book of most of his songs, and I'm learning to play this one...

My love she speaks like silence,
Without ideals or violence,
She doesn't have to say she's faithful,
Yet she's true, like ice, like fire.
People carry roses,
Make promises by the hours,
My love she laughs like the flowers,
Valentines can't buy her.

In the dime stores and bus stations,
People talk of situations,
Read books, repeat quotations,
Draw conclusions on the wall.
Some speak of the future,
My love she speaks softly,
She knows there's no success like failure
And that failure's no success at all.

The cloak and dagger dangles,
Madams light the candles.
In ceremonies of the horsemen,
Even the pawn must hold a grudge.
Statues made of match sticks,
Crumble into one another,
My love winks, she does not bother,
She knows too much to argue or to judge.

The bridge at midnight trembles,
The country doctor rambles,
Bankers' nieces seek perfection,
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring.
The wind howls like a hammer,
The night blows cold and rainy,
My love she's like some raven
At my window with a broken wing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Internet, Truth, Uncertainty & Chernobyl

There was a very interesting "Ockham's Razor" broadcast on ABC Radio National this morning - you can view the transcript (or listen to the podcast) here: 'Kiddofspeed'

"Dr Rosaleen Love from Monash University looks at the Chernobyl disaster and tells the story of Elena Filatova who visited the area".

A very interesting talk about the internet, whether we can believe what we read, what the underlying truth or message might be ... and the long term consequences of nuclear energy might be. See what you think.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tainted by Brian Burke

I think I once saw Brian Burke in my rear vision mirror - should I confess? Have I been tainted for life?

The dangers of meeting Brian Bourke

Sunday, November 26, 2006

All in the cause of Road Safety

Denmark has found a creative way to help get drivers to notice the speed limit. I would like to see the same sort of thing done here in Australia. My motives, are, of course, are entirely driven by my concern and desire for safer roads.
You can see the video here

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sometimes it happens

I just bought the CD "Dreams Fly Away: by Linda Thomspson", which has a collection of the songs she has done herself or with Richard Thompson. While I have many of these already on earlier albums, a lot a new releases and there are some new songs. I especially like this one, a poem by Brian Patten put to a lovely tune ...

Sometimes it happens

And sometimes it happens that you are friends and then
You are not friends,
And friendship has passed.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself.

And sometimes it happens that you are loved and then
You are not loved,
And love is past.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself into the grass.

And sometimes you want to speak to her and then
You do not want to speak,
Then the opportunity has passed.
Your dreams flare up, they suddenly vanish.

And also it happens that there is nowhere to go and then
There is somewhere to go,
Then you have bypassed.
And the years flare up and are gone,
Quicker than a minute.

So you have nothing.
You wonder if these things matter and then
As soon you begin to wonder if these things matter
They cease to matter,
And caring is past.
And a fountain empties itself into the grass.

Brian Patten

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Nature of Belief

A very interesting discussion on the nature of belief on radio program "All in the Mind" last weekend

"Why do you believe what you do? Is the human mind an organ designed for belief? Why are we so convinced of the existence of things we can't prove or see? Are some beliefs healthy and others pathological? Margaret Wertheim, author of Pythagoras' Trousers, and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace; cognitive scientist Professor Max Coltheart, co-editor of Pathologies of Belief, and theologian, film-maker and cult-buster, Reverend Dr David Millikan, join Natasha Mitchell to unravel the perplexing power of belief."

Transcript and mp3 available.

The discussion ranges across a wide variety of issues surrounding belief, religion, science, cognitive science and philosophy. I've picked out just one of the many interesting points below - a comment from Margaret Wertheim - to rant about:

"But I think many people feel that there is as it were some aspect of humanness that isn't reducible to neuro-physiological processes, which doesn't necessarily mean to say they're suggesting that it exists independently of the body."

The use of the word "reducible" always gets me in these discussions. "Reducible" as if its a bad thing. I've sometimes heard arguments dismissed with a wave of the hand as "oh that's just reductionism". A better word to use in this context, to try and avoid the pejorative use of the word, is simply to say "explained". I don't see any contradiction between explaining mental processes in neuro-physiological terms, and talking about humanness in terms of self, soul, spirit, etc etc - they are different levels of explanation and usefulness. Explaining something doesn't make it meaningless, doesn't "reduce" anything (as if something important has been boiled away, leaving some sort of scum in the beaker). Explanation adds to understanding, but may well lead to discarding of some other beliefs.

Ultimately I'm with John Lennon, with respect to the future of relgious belief:

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

Yes I'm dreaming.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


... a poem by Donna DuCarme

Afraid of self,
afraid of knowing,
running, hiding,
going nowhere, fading fast.
Then. Stop.
Turn and see,
Turn about and face it.
It? Me.

Myself, my secrets, my soul
Growing, dreaming, dancing,
going, going someplace,
anywhere, searching for meanings
& motives & reasons why,
learning to fly, to soar again like
before, before fear made me run.

I found this beautiful little poem in a book on how to do creative writing "Writing the natural way". The book is by Gabriele Rico. Gabriele Rico's web site is here, and you can see details of her book on amazon here.

Postscript: Donna DuCarme has seen this blog entry, and with a bit of luck this will inspire her to write more poems :) In the meantime have a look at her theatre company in Amsterdam here

Thursday, August 10, 2006

On Thinking and Analysing

I have resolved to be more like the dog!
(Remember, it's about the bones)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Lady - by Sandy Denny

The lady she had a silver tongue.
For to sing she said,
And maybe that's all.
Wait for the dawn and we will have that song.
When it ends it will seem
That we hear silence fall.

The lady she had a golden heart,For to love, she said
And she did not lie.
Wait for the dawn and we'll watch for the sun.
As we turn it will seem
To arise in the sky.
We heard that song while watching the skies,
Oh the sound it rang
So clear through the cold.
Then silence fell and the sun did arise
On a beautiful morning of silver and gold.

I never get sick of this song by my favourite singer/songwriter.

Why some people be mad at me sometimes

- a poem by Lucille Clifton

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and I keep on remembering mine

from a book "Kiss Off - Poems to set you free"
Mary Esselman & Elizabeth Ash Velez
published by Warner Books

The end of the world is nigh?

An article from the Guardian on the state of the world ... is everything really getting worse?

I like this comment in the article:

"The final item on the news that evening couldn't have been more symbolic if it had shown the ravens leaving the Tower of London. Fidel Castro, the one constant in all our lives, was on the blink. That's when I reached for the phone and -
"We're fucked."
There is a time when the time for analysis has passed.
"We are."

... and the conclusion:

"You reassure yourself that, as in all cycles of history, this one will come to an end, too. Then you remember that the man in charge of writing the ending is George Bush, and you have to start again."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sophie Raymond Sings for Me!

Last night we went to La Lupa restaurant in Balmain for dinner - but really to hear Sophie Raymond perform. I first saw her play at the Basement a year or two ago and immediately fell in love with her voice and her songs. I hadn't much chance to see her again, since she is Melbourne based, but she's been doing some gigs in Sydney and this was my chance to hear her again.

It turned out that there were only two couples in the restaurant - Susannah and I and one other couple! However, this turned out to be a very good thing, because when you are in a circumstance like that, there's nothing else to do but introduce yourself. So I did and we had our dinner together and chatted about her music, other people's music and her travels. The second half of the show was just Sophie singing to us - giving us a private performance!

This really made my day (having a bad week at work). She did a wonderful reggae style sort of version of "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music", as well as selections from her new CD (not out yet, but I shall be getting it as soon as it is available).

She finished with this song request from me ...

Happy people

Miss donna can’t find
A thing in her room
Beyond the light
Of afternoon
Guess buying light bulbs
Is still new
So centred now having a base and a home
Friendships drift fast when you’re on the road
Now she nurtures them
In her bondi abode
She’ll offer you floor space
To put down your road case
And miix you up a fancy treat
Through her bent laugh,
She tried to speak

Do you think we could breed happy people
One good heart is the seed
Happy people
Laughing smiling only seen
Happy people

Mister fisher
He had a situation
A child with a woman-
He was not in love
He lived with them
Five years long
Together despondent
Passionless was the norm
These are not the values
He wants to pass on

Through his guilt
The truth was strong
He said this choice is hard one
We’ll be more apart son
But a better man i will show you how to become


Think of a memory
Of a perfect time
Like a sunday,
When you were a child
Sun kissed an salty
Sand in your toes
From the sea,
Into a hot bath you’d go
Be fed googy eggs
And soldier toast
Hold on, to that feeling
Hold on, let it breed

My dad he was told that he had a bad heart
And as a result
They opened him up
He went under for the big op
It changes your life when you somehow cheat death
Realise how much we
Don’t show that we care
Something shifted
In my parents then
Think i captured a glimpse of their youth and the instant
That they fell in love
Saw for the first time, what my conception came from.


Make sure you go and see her, and buy her CDs, they are wonderful.
Her website
Some more info about her:

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Robert Fisk on Lebanon

This is a great article on the current situation and the plight of the Lebanese from Robert Fisk, from the Australian.
Not sure how long the link will be up though.

It is also here and here.

Personals from The London Review of Books

The winning entry this week is:

Although this is an advert that screams excitement, the man who placed it (historian, 54, enjoys air-fix modeling) is strangely subdued."

I think this deserves the bottle of Champagne prize.
But there are quite a few other good ones:

"I intend to keep the precise contents of this personal ad a secret".

"Man sought, with Mozart tendencies, his own wig and his own arch rival, by a gorgeous(ish) F (39, living in NW).

"Where's my Jack Walser equivalent? I'm Red Riding Hood (but older) you're the wolf, only it's on equal terms now, so be brave and I'll sleep peacefully between your paws"

Global Voices

Global Voices is a site that aggregates blogs from "people who are talking about their country or region to a global audience. Global Voices is your guide to the most interesting conversations, information, and ideas appearing around the world ... Each day they link to 5-10 of the most interesting blog posts from their regions in the 'daily roundups' section. "

There is some interesting reading on from Lebanon there right now.

(I was made aware of this site from reading David Weinberger's Blog )

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What is going on in the world

The world seems to be going crazy again. The flare-up in Lebanon seems just so stupid. The futile violent actions of Hamas and Hezbollah just ensure that the issues can never be resolved. The Israeli response is out of proportion and in the long term is ensuring long term hatred will never end.

It has all happened before of course. The situation improves then deteriorates. Right now I don't think the Israel/Palstine situation will ever be resolved unless the world is invaded by creatures from outer space. There are too many hawks in charge of the world's governments.

Some words from one of Sandy Denny's songs, One More Chance:

"Calling all olive branches and laid-off doves
There is work to do before we say good-bye.
But who can see them turning to the face of love?
Though I hear them pleading with me, 'Don't let us die,'
As I sit, I can see their troubled souls wander by,
And I feel them leaning on my shoulder to cry,
Oh, oh one more chance.

The naked tree of winter seems to stand so proud,
Lording the poor mortal as he goes.
And the tears which well beneath his sombre shroud,
Will they fall with the shame of somebody who knows
He can never be like the thought of a rose
Whose beauty remains even though the bloom goes?
'Oh, oh one more chance.'

Oh is it too late to change the way we're bound to go?
Is it too late? Then surely one of us must know. "

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hard On Me

I bought the Mock Tudor Album a few years back. This is another one of my favourite songs by Richard Thompson. Great words and intense guitar playing with it.

Hard on me, hard on me
Why do you grind me small
Hard on me, hard on me
At every fence I fall

I bite my rage
I stop my breath
I shake my cage
I swim with emptiness

Hard on me, hard on me
Like they were hard on you
Hard on me, hard on me
So I can stumble too

My circuits seize
My senses jam
I don't know who to please
Trapped inside the Wicker Man

You're so hard on me
You're so hard on me
You're so hard on me

Hard on me, hard on me
Why do you grind me small
Hard on me, hard on me
At every fence I fall

Unzip my heart
Unbraid my veins
Unstitch my wantonness
And loosen up my reins
Before I dare
Go on that hill
In dumb despair
Unfreeze my will

You're so hard on me
You're so hard on me
You're so hard on me

Now to find out how to play it ... my fingers are still hardening up on the strings!

So much for the good old days

An article from the Australian titled "Without soothing heroin tonics, we're addicted to panic"
by Emma Tom, she notes:

"AUSTRALIAN society has gone to the dogs. The young are intravenously connected to iPods at birth and think nothing of pulling out a pink bit and performing a turkey slap live on national telly. Parents are permissive, schools are postmodern, and cruise ships, once innocuous floating nursing homes, are now dens of druggish vice and nudist iniquity.

If only we could return to the golden era. You know, that time when neat nuclear family units flourished behind white picket fences, blissfully free from the multitude of social ills that plague us today. No scary new technology, no sleazesome celebrities, no teenage girls in slutty porn-star singlets. Just good, old-fashioned moral uprightness."

Ahh yes, the rosy tinted view of the past still prevails, and the sky is still falling..

Emma Tom continues ...

"The overwhelming evidence is that the more things change, the more they stay eerily similar. But this is unlikely to come as a comfort to a society that loves working itself into a sky-is-falling frenzy. Oddly enough, we seem to prefer the panic. "

The good old days never really existed. Some things remain the same, some things change.

Thanks Romana (from the MOLES discussion group) for the link.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Poems by Luke Davies

I stumbled across a book of poems by Luke Davies - who wrote the book Candy (on which the film is based) - which is really quite beautiful. It's called "Totem". It has one very long poem "Totem Poem" with over 500 lines and then 40 other poems.

Here are some verses from Totem

In the yellow time of pollen when the fields were ablaze
we were very near bewildered by beauty.
The sky was a god-bee that hummed. All the air boomed
with that thunder. It was both for the prick
and the nectar we drank that we gave ourselves over.

... and

In the dead of night in the dead of time
the private creature nibbled, milky under moonlight
Not a pine needle dropped. A salmon pulse throbbed muted
from the slumberous cold waters. The lake's meniscus shivered.
Dragonflies flinched, then picked up the void where they'd left off.

This is really lovely, evocative writing.

You can read about the book here:

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

by Marie Gibb

(I can't remember where I found this poem, but I like it.)

The mind is having an affair
with a body in full denial
A conscious on full alert and
holding a trial
They say if you’re flirting with
the idea you’ve already sinned
and the mind is sentenced wearing a grin
all over itself because it has already
gone there
Heart has been agitating the temple and
inducing hunger, feeding its urges
prodding the body to give in and splurge
What are you waiting for
Refusal to indulge in obvious excitement
could be taxing on your health
Get swept up and carried away
Bathe… No, dwell in the river of your fantasies
and the body will surely follow
getting itself wet
Stop fretting about tomorrow and live
unbridled losing your inhibitions today
This is the winner’s path… unapologetic
and the losers are drunk with
envy of those and fat from boredoms
Be frivolous with yourself and listen
to your heart
Begging for a pardon
Listen to a pro and let it go
Just let it all go

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Also reading: Candy (Luke Davies)
I haven't seen the film yet. The first few chapters I found compelling.
Let's see how it goes ...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday Monday

It's a grey and green monday morning
In a glassy green and steel cityscape
Of wobbly floating reflections
Of the grey sky.

The rain floats down
There is no wind blowing
It drizzles onto the black tar
Onto the black streets and paths
The women are dressed in black
The men are dressed in black
All under a floating sea
Of black umbrellas
(Occasional red or yellow ones
mark the optimists I suppose).

Its been like this for days and days
And I'm tired of it
All the wet, cold, green and glassy blackness
Of this grey and green monday morning.

Postscript: The weather did improve - as it always does!
And yes, not only was the weather bad, but it symbolised my mood for a range of reasons.
But is the weather a cause or just co-incidental?!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Reading: On the Road - Jack Kerouac

I've just started reading Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" - a classic I should have read 30 years ago. Better late than never, I guess. I already find it compelling with lines like this:

"But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life, after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!' "

All I can say is "Awww!"

Here is a review of the book:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sandy Denny Video!

This is a wonderful find - Sandy Denny singing some of her songs. (North Star Grassman and the Raven, a bit of Crazy Lady Blues and Late November). It's a bit wobbly at times, but a must for Sandy fans. I find her voice entrancing still, after so many years - saw her play with Fairport Convention at the Sydney Opera House in 1974, and never forgot it. (Yeah ... I was young!). She died in 1978, aged only 31.

Here is a good article on her life and talent from the Guardian newspaper

Here are the video clip links:
Sandy Denny:

Fotheringay (Sandy Denny's band after leaving Fairport): singing Too Much Nothing

Fairport Convention: singing "Now be thankful"

Fairport Convention: singing "Polly on the Shore" (features Trevor Lucas, Sandy's husband)

Fairport Convention: Singing the "Hanging Song" from the John Babbacombe Lee album

A beautiful and intense poem by Paul Amlehn

(Found it here: )

from The Seven Words


When the world has been reduced to a dark wood I will find you
a taste of ashes floats on the air. The musk is in the deer,
the fire in the wood. What new constellations of torment rise
for me now? Like weak prey torn I have bared my innermost hidden
to my killer. And if I become the ancient traveller I shall go
down the path the air milky and spiced with trade winds with
rose leaves in closed jars. Here it has the sublime confusion
of a dream we cannot remember. The great fire which illuminates
us and sings in our flesh leaves us a husk of helpless shadows.
Again these same thoughts that fall and fly. Whistlings
of death and unheard music. I have been humiliated by the
destructive powers of my own love. I have confessed an appetite
that is unspeakable. At the time of telling blood flows from
each eyelash pieces of the heart that come through the eyes.


Along the path back to the cold of nothingness I hear the light
beat on the other side. All is visible and all elusive, all is
near and can't be touched. How much longer must I carry this
body of grief? The useless anguish of my flesh and my weeping
without tears. Amnesia guides me through these solitary
fields over the numb earth. There is something I am here for
something I have to do before I can go the dead around like
birdcalls rain in my face. I have created a loneliness for
myself that no one can imagine. I am filled with all things
seen for the last time.

Love in the personals

An interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald Archives by Catherine Keenan
(January 3, 2004):

This story is about personal ads in literary magazines like the London Review of Books and New York Review of Books - but goes into the use of emails and personas people are able to create for themselves on line.

This is a very interesting development in how people meet and interact. My kids seem to find half (if not more) of their friends via the internet discussion groups/chat rooms. The trouble is (from a parent's point of view) is that they stay up way too late at night chatting to their mates in the USA or Denmark or other far flung places from Australia! (hey, parents are supposed to tell their kids to go to bed and get enough sleep aren't they?)

What is interesting is the way you can create some particular version of yourself on line - via a blog, or even just email conversations.

After a discussion of her research on people who place personals in literary magazines, the articles author, Catherine Keenan, concludes with this:

"I did a quick Google search of the name he gave me, but this yielded only a musician affiliated with Philip Glass, a ballet dancer and a lumber salesman in Louisiana, none of whom seemed likely. I emailed Paul, saying as much, and asked him to tell me more about himself.

He replied: "Why do people always make such sweeping assumptions about those of us who work in the lumber business? Is it really so odd that I should mix an interest in postfeminism with the care and storage of hardwoods?" He continues to write to me in the guise of a southern lumber salesman, talking about his special Creole recipe for a chicken-based Christmas cake, and assuring me that "when you specify cypress, you've made the choice of kings!"

Once started, some of these correspondences are hard to end. But in true LRB fashion, I still know absolutely nothing concrete about him. He may be 18 or 80, cruel or kind, ugly or gorgeous, a respected academic or an inmate at an internet-enabled asylum. But I am intrigued. And that - whether you are an intellectual, a writer or a timber expert - is the goal of all advertising. "

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Back to the fretboard

I got my self a new guitar yesterday. The old one wasn't staying tune, and the neck was too wide for my hand anyway. The new one is much easier to handle, and sounds much better. What has inspired this has been ordering my Sandy Denny Songbook from Maartin Allcock. At last I can learn her wonderful songs. Can't wait for him to do Richard Thompson's songbook as well.

Fingers are sore while I get back into it though.

Richard Thomspon and Mirror Blue

I'm currently listening to Richard Thompson's CD "Mirror Blue".
This is a fantastic collection of songs. This one is one of favourites on the album, but then again I love them all anyway.

Taking my business Elsewhere

If she's not here by now, then I guess she's not coming
If she's not here by now, then I guess she don't care
Oh waiter, I won't waste your time anymore
You've already started to sweep down the floor
And I guess she's not coming, so I'll head for the door
I'll be taking my business elsewhere

It wasn't for me, that spark in her eyes
It wasn't for me, that halo in her hair
When she touched me a lump rose up into my throat
But she must act that way with any old soak
And waiter you don't seem to share in the joke
So I'll be taking my business elsewhere

She called me her fantasy
And boldly she kissed me
I'll never get over the sheer surprise
Of her acting that way
And I'm healing okay
But for the eyes of her...

Oh it's cold in the rain and it's dark and it's sad
And I'll miss her tonight on my lonely back stair
I'm sorry for taking so much of your space
I'll move down the street to some friendlier place
'Cause I guess she's not coming, and you're sick of my face
I'll be taking my business elsewhere

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Strange Rivers, and the Road Less Traveled

This song (Strange Rivers) is a wonderful song, with wonderful words.
The small decisions you make lead who knows where. What if you'd chosen another path?

This also reminds me of Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken", where the last verse is:

"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood , and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

This version Strange Rivers is taken from an album by Joan Baez

Strange Rivers

There are voices in the mirror, faces at the door,
That open on the rivers we've never seen before.
Are there choices for the sparrow, or does he only fly
High above the rivers that are pulling you and I ?

For there are strange rivers, rivers that we cannot see
And there are strange rivers that know our destiny
And there are strange rivers that run your love to me

And he could have been a builder, he could have been the one
Who turned his dreams to steel cathedrals in the sun,
He could have been a builder, until he bought the gun
There are forces in that river that keep him on the run.

For, there are strange rivers, rivers that we cannot see
And there are strange rivers that know our destiny
And there are strange rivers that run your love to me

Have you ever turned the corner and wondered why you did?
You haven't been that way you know since you were just a kid
And nothing really happens, and then you have to say
What would happened had you gone the other way?

For there are strange rivers, rivers that we cannot see
And there are strange rivers, that know our destiny
And there are strange rivers, that run your love to me

And there are strange rivers
And there are strange rivers
And there are strange rivers.

(original words by John Stewart for last line of chorus are actually:
"There are strange rivers, and we're sailors you and me")

Long time no blog

It's been a very long time since I've written anything here. Basically I got quite sick in August last year, and just never had the energy or inclination to write or comment on anything for many months, and then just never started up again.

Anyway, I shall try and start up again and see what happens.

Friday, July 08, 2005

London Bombing

Another, more considered reaction to Bush's response, this article from The Nation explains how perhaps the president should be held to his words.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London bomb blasts

This is President Bush's statement from the G8 conference after the London explosions:

I spent some time recently with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and had an opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences to the people of London, people who lost lives. I appreciate Prime Minister Blair’s steadfast determination and his strength. He’s on his way now to London here from the G8 to speak directly to the people of London. He’ll carry a message of solidarity with him.

This morning I have been in contact with our Homeland Security folks. I instructed them to be in touch with local and state officials about the facts of what took place here and in London, and to be extra vigilant, as our folks start heading to work. The contrast between what we’ve seen on the TV screens here, what’s taken place in London and what’s taking place here is incredibly vivid to me. On the one hand, we have people here who are working to alleviate poverty, to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS, working on ways to have a clean environment. And on the other hand, you’ve got people killing innocent people. And the contrast couldn’t be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill — those who have got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks.

The war on terror goes on. I was most impressed by the resolve of all the leaders in the room. Their resolve is as strong as my resolve. And that is we will not yield to these people, will not yield to the terrorists. We will find them, we will bring them to justice, and at the same time, we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate. Thank you very much.

While I agree with many of the sentiments expressed in this statement, and I am glad he is recognising first the human tragedy, I can't help but feel dismayed by the utter hypocrisy of his statements about the "contrast" in intentions. Here he is pointing out that the G8 are trying to deal with poverty, AIDS and the environment.

But which president is resisting aid to african nations on the pretext of insisting on better governance? (Of course we need good governance - that's an issue to deal with strongly, not a condition of offering aid!) Which president puts insane conditions on providing AIDS assistance to countries - insisting on imposing his weird ideas of sexual morality? Which president has rejected all scientific advice on global warming, rejects the Kyoto Protocol and only recently begins to accept there might be a problem with global warming yet still rejects that it has anything to do with human industrialisation? You guessed it. The same man who is indirectly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people because of his illegal war on Iraq. Terrible events like those in London today are happening almost every day in Baghdad, all triggered by the immoral decisions of this president.

Another interpretation, which I can only hope is true, is that the president is beginning to see the necessity of dealing realisticially with the three issues he outlines - AIDS assistance, debt and the environment. Perhaps the US administration is finally starting to move int he right direction. I can only hope.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Definition of a Moral Vacuum

The ABC news reports the following:

The labelling of Liberal MPs dissenting on the Federal Government's policy of mandatory detention as "political terrorists" has sparked widespread condemnation of the MP who made the comment.

Liberal backbencher Sophie Panopoulos made the comment while criticising the push by Petro Georgiou and his supporters to achieve significant changes to the government policy.

Mr Georgiou has been in talks with Prime Minister John Howard about the issue but has decided to table two private member's bills that would free women, children and long-term detainees from detention.

Ms Panopoulos says Mr Georgiou is holding the Government to ransom.

"There is an arrogance in the thinking by a few individuals who are at odds with the vast majority of the parliamentary Liberal Party and the vast majority of the Coalition party room to hold the Government to ransom on this," Ms Panopoulos said.

"If you spit the dummy because the vast majority of people in your own party won't agree with you, and you in effect behave as a political terrorist, well I think you actually lose credibility.

"I don't think it's a bad sign for the party at all."

This gives me the idea for some new Orwellian definitions:

Liberal Party of Australia

A collection of people organised into a political group, who, when staying in office in excess of two terms, automatically form into a moral vacuum.


A word commonly used by the majority of liberal party members to refer to anyone who disagrees with the party line, no matter how unethical or immoral or vacuous.

Political Terrorists

Members of the Liberal Party who have managed to avoid forming a moral vacuum; Liberal party members who follow their conscience against the explicit demands of their leader.

It is unclear how Political Terrorists got to have a moral conscience, although some people think it could have something to do with a related disease know as compassion.