Sunday, 16 January 2011


It's easy for us to cast judgements based upon that which we read or see on the news broadcasts.  Climate change, or 'global warming' as it is often known, is the bulls-eye topic as far as markedly dividing the populace with the for-or-against arguments is concerned.  We see debates on television, read articles in the papers about melting poles and glaciers and devastating flash-floods that are happening in major cities 1000km up the coast.  We then walk outside and ascertain the validity of these 'global-warming' findings depending on if it's a hotter-than-usual day, a colder-than-usual day, and just plain too-nice a day to bother about it.

What if we never read anything about global warming/climate change?  What if we never saw a news broadcast or television debate on the issue?  What if were totally uninformed in any way to do with anything on this matter?  What if we used our senses only to guide us?  What would we see, and what would we find?

To me, it's impossible to believe that the way of the civilised world has little or no effect on the atmosphere and the planet.  Imagine the unfettered, untouched paradise that is a garden of Eden.  Imagine there is one motor car running through it.  Now that one motor car, in a small way, will effect the life around it; "life" meaning the fauna, foliage, creatures, air etc.  When you have one billion of these motor cars, each of which devour the stupendously miraculous resource that is crude oil that in turn exfoliates this liquid-power into the atmosphere in a kaleidoscope of various gasses, some of which are benign, most are damaging in some way, then it's hard to maintain that the effect on our planet and atmosphere of this occurrence is a negligible one.

And this is only what we can see, can ascertain for ourselves.  Immense scales of mass-meat production, industry, and construction on a global level, all contribute to altering the biosphere's gas quotient.

Matter cannot be destroyed, in its pure sense, it only changes form.  What then is the effect the mechanisms of western civilisation on our planet?  Surely, these mechanisms can't be benign.  Some mighty law of cause-and-effect is going to come into play - perhaps this has already started - and I believe this to be the crux of the argument.

Many people glance upward at the weather and then watch the news to learn that the current summer/winter is the coldest on record.  These people find it easy to debunk 'global warming' as a hoax, as a nonsense.  Unfortunately, these issues run deeper than merely cooler or warmer weather.  Cold Northern winters - particularly those centered around the usually mild (for latitude) British Isles and North-Western Europe - are becoming the norm.  This is because: 1. rapidly melting ice in the Arctic sea is diluting the Gulf Stream that provides Northern Europe with a warm sea/air current and therefore cushions winter temperatures, and 2. this rapidly melting ice is affecting air and therefore pressure systems.  This heavier than usual air-pressure finds its way coming down from the Arctic as a freezing large mass of polar air, wreaking winter havoc on Northern land-masses.

And warmer than usual water off the Australian tropical Eastern coastlines is causing the mass-precipitation events that have devastated much of Queensland since last week.

These flooding events, freezing events, heatwave events (remember Moscow during summer 2010?? Shocking heat, unbelievable...) seem to be becoming way to common for our comfort, but isn't that what climate-change scientists have been predicting for quite some years now?

And climate-change skeptics are absolutely correct in saying that climate can be altered by numerous causes and instances in and around our planet and our solar system.  But for the moment, we humans here on Earth are doing a pretty hard and fast job of it, plumbing away ruthlessly at the planet's biosphere without much of a true, vital, idea of what we're really doing to a sacred, cosmic source.

If all of us were mindful of our way of life and how it contributes to the whole, perhaps we would change.   We wouldn't be so willing to get into our cars on every occasion when we could otherwise walk or catch a bus.  We would cease consuming plastic bags at every visit to the supermarket.  Be mindful of our usage of utilities such as water, gas and electricity.  Stop eating so much animal product.  Each of us being mindful, and acting upon it in some small way, will go a long way not only to mitigate climate change effects (if it isn't already too late) but will help to ease ourselves into a more relaxed and friendly way of living.

But it's probably too late now.

It was said in 1983:

"like a child getting its experience in a playpen, we have made an awful mess

but it's nothing that won't be cleaned up..."

Saturday, 1 January 2011

we're a weird mob

I've been watching another iconically curious little Australian film recently, They're a Weird Mob, which dates back to 1966 and was filmed on location in Sydney during the summer of 1965/66.  As that date-dial wenched into 1966 my brother was about to turn 8 and my sister was 11 years old.  I was nowhere in the picture, in this physical body.  I was merely a potential at this stage, and being a potential, I could have landed anywhere.  Instead I landed in Sydney in 1970 where, 40+ years on, I still find myself living.

The film itself is not wonderful.  It's hokey and dated and the plot itself is stilted, a little too make-believe, being much like the plot of a musical without the film actually being a musical.  It's a pithily enjoyable film to watch nevertheless, both as a period-piece and for the sense of innocence conveyed in the film, particularly for its comic innocence.   The romantic plot is quite conservatively portrayed, particularly when compared to that which we see in films of our current era. And yet, the romance is achingly real, heroic, true.  It makes me yearn for the good ol' days, it makes me yearn to turn back the clock to 1965.  

They're a Weird Mob is ostensibly about an Italian sports writer who comes to Australia by boat to work for his cousin's magazine.  Unfortunately his cousin had left the country leaving Nino to find work on his own.  He calls for a builders labourer's job and is taken in by a most affable bunch of fellas (the contemporary cream of Australian male TV/film talent) and almost too readily so to be deemed realistic.  Notably, the film's depiction of racism as a constant undercurrent in burgeoning sixties society is filtered through comedy and, for the most part, a sense of good-natured tolerance.  The terms being used back then were "new Australians" and the yucky "dago".  (I know in the fifties my dad belted someone up for calling him a dago).

On the whole I feel moved by the sense of promise this film depicts.  There is almost this thread of charmed fascination running through the film, of how lucky the people are to be living in such a beautiful place with such a magnificent harbour and abundance of sunshine.  There seems to be an equally indolent detachment to the history and achievements of Western civilisation that were in a rapid phase of ascendance in the Northern Hemisphere during that time.  As They're a Weird Mob was being filmed, Bob Dylan was about to record Blonde on Blonde, the Beatles had just finished making Rubber Soul and Brian Wilson was about to start writing Pet Sounds; The Sound of Music had been filmed and released.  Compared to the rampant creativity of her northern, western counterparts during 1965, there's no sense at all of a 'swinging' Sydney in this film, other than that it is the location itself that "swings" with the city's residents partaking eagerly in the swing of a landmass that's somehow bestowed upon them: a day at Bondi Beach, or a harbourside party, locales that seem larger than life, particularly when viewed through the lens of this film circa 1965.  What you can glimpse through watching this film is a possibility, a potential, of what is to come.  And what's  become since 1965 is the city having doubled in size with close to half of the population now decking the foreshores for the 2011 NYE party.  Many more buildings came up in the CBD and the Opera House was finished (it's halfway there in the film).  An Olympics came and flew by in 2000, and residential property prices have soared to levels unbelievable to anyone in 1965.

What a weird mob..

All of the main cast of male leads have passed on since this film's production, including Italian actor Walter Chiari who died of heart failure in Milan, age 67, in 1991.    The local cast of men, granted, would or may have lived great Australian lives and left the joint when their time was up.  I was not there, just as these men are not here now.  They left their imprimatur, their psychic imprint, over their city and country, just as I do now.  The female leads have survived and live on, including knockout Italian actress, Alida Chelli.

As I watched this film I felt a rumbling in my chest and stomach region, I felt myself as I may have been in 1965, drawn to this place by forces we cannot comprehend and understand, to be finally made physical by March 1970.  

It's the sense of innocence that I'm drawn to in this film and the feeling of timeless Australiana that comes with that, and it's a sensation that part of me wishes we could go back to.  But there's no turning back the clock, is there?  One has to find this in oneself, within one's own being.

Paul Hewson shooting star

i'm in the sunshine A mate of mine produces a monthly songwriter newsletter which goes out to a hundred or so mainly Sydney-based...