Monday, December 23, 2013

A last message from Denis, gender roles and the sound of a crow in the hot still distance

Having resolved her comments problem, AC has resumed posting in My Observations. Her Christmas Eve Polish style Wigilia gives a rather nice description of that traditional celebration in Poland.

Over at his place, Neil Whitfield has been doing an end year review across all his blogs, looking at the main posts visited over the last twelve months. There are some old friends there.

I no longer follow my own stats in the intense way that I did in the past, but year end always brings on a sense of introspection, of looking back. A month back, I passed 100,000 visitors on New England Australlia, I'm coming up on 200,000 here. On this blog, there have been 282,472 page views since 7 August 2008. That's quite a lot.

My  blogging activity has been down this year, and that's reflected in the stats, with overall traffic on a downward trend since the middle of the year. I noticed that my search engine rankings have slipped as well. Those search algorithms are hard task masters!

To a degree, the lower post rate reflects an increased focus on other ways of expression including print. However, it probably also reflects a lack of focus on my part, associated in part with a period of experimentation.

Ceasing introspection, Denis Wright's blog carries A Last Message from Denis. This includes a eulogy by his friend and colleague David Kent providing details of Denis' varied life. I knew of Denis' connection with Bangladesh, but didn't realise its depth, including his naming as the 'white Bengali’, speaking and reading both Hindi and Bengali. He will be missed.

Switching directions, on A la mode frangourou, Sophie Masson provided a rather nice and simple recipe for  fruit ice. It sounds yummy. I don't have either electric blenders or beaters in my kitchen, Perhaps time to rectify that! 

Over on a Good Whine, Clare Belshaw's Just a thought - A hero's weakness and gender coding explores the question of gender stereotyping in fiction. This quote sets the scene:

While working on some of my own novels and reading a few others I noticed a number of trends about what weakness audiences will and won't accept from their hero's, and that these fell along gender lines. Male hero's are allowed to have certain weakness, and female's their own, often regardless of the character of those individuals regardless of gender.

Have you come across the Ministry of Harmony? I hadn't until I saw the link on the Lowy Institute blog. Classifying itself as the onion for China, it has some quite funny stuff. This is one quote:   

Following the successful launch of its first lunar rover, the Chinese government has declared a defensive zone extending vertically from China into space and encompassing the moon. The Lunar Defense Obliteration Zone, according to newly appointed space minister Wu Houyi, “will protect China’s core interests and interplanetary sovereignty.” All foreign spacecraft, satellites, comets and space debris must notify China before passing through or into the zone.

Due to orbital complications, the boundaries of the LDOZ will shift daily in accordance with the position of the moon relative to its sovereign power. China’s Ministry of Space has issued diagrams of the shifting boundaries, dubbed “the lasso.”

Many countries have disputed China’s ability to establish such a zone, but Chinese officials are adamant about the country’s claim to Earth’s only natural satellite. “China’s historical ties to the moon date back at least five thousand years, perhaps more,” said Chen Guang, an official historian from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “We made a whole calendar based on it for Christ’s sake.”

Funny, but with a serious edge.

Don Aitkin's How important is the ‘first hundred days’? looks at the derivation of this term. at the way importance has come to be attached to it. It's not a term or approach that I particularly like. For the life of me, I cannot see why we should expect a new or newly elected government to spring into instant action. There may be circumstances, a national emergency for example, where this is required, although then people are likely to be too busy to worry about counting days. Otherwise, taking a bit of time to work out how things work, to settle in, is sensible.

The focus on the need for instant action is not limited to government. How many new broom CEO's have we seen? I am at the stage now that where I see a new broom, activist CEO, I put my money firmly in my pocket. Statistically, the percentage that subsequently fail to deliver is just too high for comfort.

Returning to Don Aitkin,it seems that he is planning to change his format from daily posts to longer, essay, style posts three times a week. This, Don feels, will give him more time to explore issues. In response, a commenter wrote:    

Sorry to hear you will reduce posts to 3 a week in the New Year. I’ve looked forward to reading you with my weet-bix each morning.

I can see both points of view. We all write for different audiences. We also write for different reasons, requiring different forms. We also struggle with time. For my part, I like the weet-bix analogy.

Over the last few years, my two main blogs have got the most return traffic and interaction when I do post daily or, at least, close to daily. When, as happened this year, my posting frequency declines, so does the traffic. More importantly. so does the interaction.

There is so much to write about. Over the last week, my train reading has been a book on African history. As I write today, South Sudan has dissolved in chaos. How does this link to the past? Another book I am reading is Clive James' Cultural Amnesia. That book, it's a very good book, really makes me feel inadequate!

Talking to a friend over the weekend, I mused on the reasons for the cultural flowering that took place in Australia in the late 1950s and 1960s. I think that it was partly due to release from the War, the way barriers broke. Then, too, we had the infusion of new ideas from our new European migrants and especially the displaced intellectuals who came to us from Central Europe.

We did the right thing, we accepted them, but then we gained. Their ideas gave us access to new streams of intellectual thought that melded with local streams. I think that you can see this most clearly in painting. I love Australian art, it is my art; the visual images created have become part of my personal mental wall-paper. The names and the interactions between the names are real to me.

A few weeks back, a friend and I visited the Sydney Art Gallery. This followed a visit to the New England Regional Art Museum, something I wrote about in A morning at NERAM - Flora, Cobcroft and Badham's Observing the Everyday. Part  of our reason for going was to find more paintings by Badham, but I found myself running around showing my friend the paintings with New England connections. These were the black soil plains, this what it was like on the Upper Clarence gold fields, here is that famous scene of sheep shearing, this is Thunderbolt's death.

The artists were famous in national terms, my interpretations local, personal. See how they are throwing the cut fleece out so that it can be classed? There are the shearers with their hand sheers. See how they push the shorn sheep down the runs? I tried to explain the heat, the smell. That black soil plains scene? See how the team pulling the dray laden with wool bales is struggling to pull the load through the bog? Why bog? Well, that's because of the structure of the soil. And so it went on. 

Looking at the time, I really must get ready for work. Most are already on leave. The office should be quiet allowing me to catch up. Still, as I write, the sound of a crow on a hot stil, day echoes in my ears.

I am not setting big objectives for 2014, just a little one. I want to learn how to research and write so that I can better share the things that I love or which interest me: how to set a context, how to explain difficulties, how to bring things alive. That's not a bad objective.        


Legal Eagle said...

So sorry to hear of Denis' death. All the best to his family.

Jim Belshaw said...

A belated thank you, LE.