Thursday, October 23, 2008

What about me?

I was reading an article in the newspaper the other day about a woman responding to the Rudd government's stimulus package. She was saying that "working families" had been forgotten in the package ie she hadn't got anything from it. The article said that she and her husband's annual income was between $140,000 and $160,000 a year. They were paying off $2000 a month on their mortgage and a further $1200 a month on an investment property. She added that her husband had paid $38,000 in tax that year. So let's do the sums: the mortgage payments are just under $40,000 a year. Add that to the tax - roughly $80,000. Say their income is at the lower end of the abovementioned scale - take away $80,000 and that leaves this woman and her family $60,000 to live on, or $5,000 a month for food, petrol, clothing, school costs, entertainment etc. $60,000 after tax and mortgage payments and she's complaining that she's missing out on government handouts?!

She's not alone, though. Right across this country you can hear the refrain "What about me?" Since when did we become a nation of whiners, all lining up with our hands out for some government largesse?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

First Australians

I've just finished watching the first two episodes of a brilliant new series, First Australians, airing on SBS. I missed seeing the first episode on TV because it clashed with *cough* Australian Idol. Happily for me, SBS has made the series available on its website, so I spent yesterday afternoon watching it.
The series traces the history of contemporary Australia from the perspective of its first inhabitants and begins with the coming of white man to the shores of Sydney. It weaves modern commentary from historians and Indigenous people with original sources such as diaries, letters and paintings to bring to life the events of over 200 years ago.
Many of the comments on the website ask 'why weren't we told this before?' as the series reveals the true history of the early days of white 'settlement'. In the year that the Rudd government said 'Sorry' to Australia's Indigenous people, this series is a valuable tool in continuing the process of reconciliation between black and white Australia. For how else can we have meaningful reconciliation if the truth about our shared history remains hidden.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Faking it Beijing style

Faked firework displays, a kid miming to another little girl's voice and now it seems the Chinese have pulled off the biggest fake of all - taking the Olympic torch to the summit of Mount Everest, or Chomolungma as it is known to Tibetans.

A Nepalese blogger, blogdai broke the story after some careful research and has concluded that the summit bid was faked. The conclusions are based on:
  • no verification photographs - ie no visible peaks or other recognisable land features that would confirm being at the summit of Everest
  • presence of exhalation vapours and lack of rime ice
  • speed at which the climbers move
  • lack of old, faded prayer flags at the summit

I've watched the official video footage - see it here - and whilst I have not climbed Everest, I have read many many accounts of other people's climbs and have watched a lot of films and documentaries on the subject. And from everything I know, I just cannot believe this is not faked.

  • Hardly any of the climbers are using oxygen. They're sitting around on the summit waiting for torchbearers to arrive and not one of them needs artificial oxygen?
  • Only the torchbearers are ever clipped into the safety line. Other people are just swanning around not roped up together or into other safety lines
  • Everyone is moving far too fast for the altitude. I've climbed to 5640m and there's no way I could scamper up the mountainside like those Chinese did!
  • Isn't the actual summit area really small - no bigger than a billiard table is how Sir Edmund Hillary described it - yet there are 10+ people standing there

Watch the video, read all the comments across the internet and make up your own mind. But if it's true that the Chinese have faked the Olympic torch summit, what else could they have faked? Perhaps their 'historical proof' that Tibet has always been a part of China...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Where the wild things are II

Our garden is filled with birds. Rainbow lorikeets feast on flowering gum blossoms, noisy mynahs squabble in the pink cassia, chasing off blue-faced honeyeaters. Crested pigeons whirr into the blood swampwood, currawongs warble in the leopardwood while grey and pied butcherbirds sit on the latticework of our front verandah, serenading us with their song. Crows, ibis and magpies all visit and most recently, a tawny frogmouthed owl took up residence in the tree above our front stairs. It's easy to forget, lying in bed just after dawn and listening to all the birdsong, that we live just 3 kilometres from Brisbane's CBD.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

k d lang

Smithy and I went to see k d lang in concert at QPAC last night. She's here promoting her new album, Watershed (which is No 1 in Australia). The concert was fantastic. k d just gets better and better. Her voice is awesome and her vocal control stunning. And she's funny and interacts with the audience really well - giving and taking presents, shaking people's hands, cracking jokes.
It's a privilege to hear one of the best singers of this century performing in a beautiful arena like QPAC's Concert Hall. The acoustics are brilliant and showcased k d's voice fantastically. The show was a really good mix of new and older material - Paydirt, Constant Craving, Western Stars, Miss Chatelaine - the only song she didn't sing that I think the audience expected her to do was Crying. But then I read in an article recently that k d believes recording that song was a mistake, although she didn't explain why. She sang Hallelujah instead - which could easily turn into her next signature piece. My favourite song of the night was Jealous Dog.
I've been a fan of k d's since 1985 and this is the third time I've seen her live. I've really enjoyed her musical journey and love the latest album. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.
It was also fantastic to see k d's involvement with the Tibetan movement at the Canberra Torch Relay. I just wish I could have been there too.
Click on this link to see k d perform Hallelujah at the Juno Awards in Winnepeg

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Free Tibet

The recent events in Tibet have focussed the world's attention on China's continuing brutal occupation of Tibet and its people. China is in the spotlight like never before because of the upcoming Olympic Games. Whilst I've always held that the Games should never have been awarded to Beijing, it's been a fantastic opportunity to highlight the Tibet issue.
It's time the international community, which for so long has turned its back on Tibet and condoned its invasion by Communist Chinese troops, started to pressure China on its record in Tibet. It's time, I feel, for nations to start withdrawing their acknowledgement of China's sovereignty (historically dubious) over Tibet. Recent events have shown that the Chinese cannot be trusted with the welfare of Tibetans. Just as the 1989 protests were brutally repressed - just a few months prior to Tianamen Square - so the Chinese have similarly reacted in 2008.
A boycott of the Olympics may not happen but the least we can all do is boycott the opening ceremony. No athletes 'careers' will be harmed, but by the same token, China's "coming-out" party will be spoiled if no-one turns up and no one watches it on television.
I for one will not be watching one minute of the Olympic broadcasts. What will you do? Or does seeing your favourite athlete win a medal outweigh the lives of Tibetans?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Vale Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary died on Friday 11 January 2008, aged 88. WIth him goes another piece of Everest history. Yet his name will live on for generations - not so much for being one of the first to climb Mount Everest - but for the legacy he has built in the villages that sit in Everest's shadow. Sir Ed's achievement is remarkable because he used his fame to enrich others, not himself. He dedicated 50 years of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal. Setting up the Himalayan Trust, he has worked tirelessly to raise funds to build 26 schools, 2 hospitals, 30 clinics, an airport and many bridges. Scholarships support children and funds assist monks' educations as well as monastery repairs/improvements. The Trust was instrumental in helping rebuild Tengboche Monastery after it was destroyed by fire in 1989.

Trek in the Everest region and it's easy to understand Sir Ed's love affair with the people and the mountains. Most of us leave Nepal with a similar love and admiration for these tough but generous people. Not many of us devote our lives to making theirs better. Sir Edmund Hillary was one of the few that did. In my book, that makes him a real hero.

Standing in front of the statue of Sir Ed at the Sir Edmund Hillary High School in Khumjung, Nepal

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Welcome to 2008

So another year begins. The old one finished in quite a spectacular fashion as a tropical depression took up residence just off the coast, causing near-cyclonic winds and whipping the sea into a frenzy. Torrential rain bucketed down forcing the cancellation of fireworks shows on both the Sunshine and Gold Coasts. Smithy and I were up at the Sunshine Coast to see the new year in with friends. We set up our tent in B's backyard and crossed our fingers that it wouldn't blow down on us.
There were a few moments during the night when we were buffeted by enormous gusts of wind and I thought for sure we'd end up in the Maroochy Canal! But the sand pegs held and we ended up having a very snug and dry night!
We all spent the morning of New Year's Day leisurely sitting around the table on B's back porch enjoying a wonderful cooked breakfast of eggs, sausages (veggie and meat), mushrooms and haloumi and marvelling as squalls of wind and rain kept sweeping over us.
I've never seen weather like this at this time of year, but the born and bred Queenslanders assure me it's typical storm season weather and that every christmas it would be the same - and I thought it was only Melbourne where the weather was miserable at christmas time!
Our next big adventure is only four months away so we're starting to crank up our fitness regime with increased visits to the gym and bushwalking every weekend. We're booked to go on a 30 day trek into the Everest region to commemmorate the 55th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest. Very exciting! I'll be writing more about the trek and our preparations in my other blog