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Monthly Archives: February 2014

The kus. (a linguistic snotfest)

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In a country where more than 700 languages are spoken, Melanesian tok pisin is one of the three official languages of Papua New Guinea. The other two are English and Hiri Motu.  Tok pisin is a colourful language which is often used in Parliamentary debates and some of it’s words deserve wider promulgation.

kus   (‘u’ pronounced as in ‘bush’) = cough or respiratory infection characterised by wheezing, elevated temperature and nasal discharge.

There are two common varieties of kus and a third closely-related virus which, according to my medical research, usually kills people stone motherless dead.

1. Liklik kus.  Literally ‘little kus’ which is the common cold.

2. Bikpela kus. The ‘big kus’ or influenza.

3. Draipela mama bilong kus.  The unbelievable mother of all kuses.
There is only one person on the planet who gets this rare strain of kus and lives to tell the tale. Me. It’s an infection of such severity that only a human specimen of extraordinary constitutional robustness could ever survive it’s pathological virulence.
I call it the F*B* Kus.  Loudly. Angrily. Repeatedly. I croakily curse the cosmos for the injustice of infecting a clean-living organism like myself with such a debilitating scourge.

Fortunately there are cures for all three kinds of kus;

1.  Cure for Liklik Kus
One of these daily, plus seven days rest.

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2.  Cure for Bikpela Kus
One of each of these daily, plus seven days rest.

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3.  Cure for F*B*Kus
This lot in it’s entirety, plus seven days rest.
Please consult your medical practitioner before overdosing on vitamins and mixing alcohol with the medication.

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I’m up to Day 4. Donations of bottled medication will be gratefully accepted in lieu of sympathy.
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Tom Lehrer; the reluctant performer

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tom lehrer
Timeline;  1968 

As a still-wet-behind-the-ears new recruit for my first job in the (then) Territory of Papua and New Guinea (TPNG)  I’d been sent as far away from modern civilisation as the long pointer-stick held by The Boss Man could reach on his expansive wall map at Headquarters in Konedobu, Port Moresby.

Miliom, in the West Sepik District.
There was only one other expatriate, a teacher from New Zealand. In the absence of electricity, television or roads to the outside world our weekend entertainment was provided by regular earthquakes, the occasional bottle of South Pacific Lager, a superb Grundig short-wave radio and a brand spanking new state-of-the-art Akai reel-to-reel tape deck.  We had only three music tapes to play on it;  Eartha Kitt, Roger Miller and Tom Lehrer.

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Back to 2014;

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From the very first day I started blogging six years ago I acknowledged the part Tom Lehrer had played in the way I came to view the world.  You can blame him (at least partially) for the way I turned out.
The 20th century’s finest satirical lyricist said;  “Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends upon what you put into it” and as an enduring tribute to the man, this has remained my online signature ever since.

Lehrer opened my youthful eyes with his wit and humour to some of the ugly realities of our time which were being conveniently hidden behind smokescreens of political rhetoric and middle-class indifference.

Born in Manhattan in 1928, Lehrer went to Harvard at age fifteen and graduated at eighteen.  Academic life always came first. Music second.
His career included teaching mathematics, geometry and political science at Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California until he was well into his seventies, in addition to a brief period when he was drafted into the army where he worked in the cryptographic branch of the Defense Department.
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He was a reluctant part-time entertainer, retiring at age 31.  He performed only 119 concerts, 33 of which were in Australia and New Zealand.  His repertoire included pieces with some exquisite use of language.  “I pride myself on being literate to the point of  pretentiousness” said Tom Lehrer, the accidental celebrity who briefly shared the stage with some big acts of his time such as Johnny Mathis, Odetta and The Kingston Trio.

My appreciation of Tom Lehrer goes far beyond his music.  I admire the intellect, perspicacity and extraordinary social conscience that he possessed as a young man in his mid twenties when he wrote most of the songs. Many of the messages contained within them remain relevant today, sixty years later.

Most of all I admire the courage it took to shine a light on so many of the contentious issues of his time such as warfare, drugs, pornography (he was in favour of it), censorship, racism, and pollution.  Mendacious politicians and a few pious clergy must surely have considered Lehrer to be an irritating termite chomping away at the foundations of their comfortable castles of conservatism.

Tom Lehrer paved the way for Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and all the other folk and rock activists who were to follow in his footsteps a decade later.

Mr Lehrer is now 85 years old and I have chosen the following soundtrack which typically treats 1950’s Government propaganda with the contempt it deserved .
Here is his musical deliberation on nuclear testing in the American desert.

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It was a very good year

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(I have taken the liberty of improving and personalising the lyrics of this old Frank Sinatra song.)

When I was seventeen
It was a very good year.
It was a very good year for small town girls
With personal toys
And hot country boys
Whose minds were unclean
When I was seventeen.

When I was twenty one
It was an lucrative year.
It was an lucrative year for my solvency.
Seven bank robberies,
With consummate ease,
Then went on the run
When I was twenty one.

When I was thirty five
It was a polarizing year.
It was a polarizing year for psychotic me.
With the shock therapies,
Thousand volt remedies,
I was fryin’ alive
When I was thirty five.

When I was fifty four
It was a penitential year.
It was a penitential year when lovers and wives
Fed my bare pink arse
To bull-ants in the grass
Then showed me the door
When I was fifty four.

When I was seventy two
It was a transitional year.
It was a transitional year with Doctor Hackett.
He chopped off some bits
And added silicone tits.
So I felt perky and new
When I was seventy two.

And now I’m ninety eight
It is a very good year.
It is a very good year for GOF  O.B.E.    **
Who fixed up this song
When it was rote rong.
I’m the Poet Laureate,
Now that I’m ninety eight.

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** Order of the British Empire.

Elevation to Knighthood must surely be imminent.

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Inga and the bird

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First some essential definitions for the benefit of my new reader;
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Inga is my adult daughter who lives and works as far away from me as she possibly can without having to leave continental Australia.

Birds are 2 -legged animals which fly in the sky. They all have feathers unless one happens to be a plucked chicken equipped with a GOF Mk1, 3-stage experimental rocket strapped to it’s undercarriage.
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Oops……newcomer’s gone already.
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Next thing;  I now need to waste some of your time with history;

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I have occasionally written about the ‘sense of place’ and connection with the land that Mrs GOF and I feel after having lived for 30 years on this soggy and secluded place which has nurtured us, provided food and water, and protected us from harm.
 
White-fellas in Australia have a difficult time coming to terms with the spiritual depth of connection to ‘country’ that aboriginal people feel, but I think I am beginning to understand.

I’m guessing Inga feels something similar even though she will have her own unique perspective.  She was only an infant when we arrived here and to this day she remains the only child who was raised to adulthood in this neck of the woods.  Today there are three children in the neighbourhood, but in Inga’s day there was only herself.  She grew up with Merial her pet cow, played in the mud and wandered around our 46 acres making her own entertainment. Inga’s formative years were spent being an integral part of this very special natural environment.

Something attracts her back here for holidays every year and I’d venture to suggest that there is a force at play which is greater than simply the close relationship she has with her parents.
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And finally; The main event;

parrot feeding time

Every morning either Mrs GOF or I distribute a cupfull of bird seed on the garden path as supplementary feed for the wild birds living in the rainforest.  We’ve been doing this for at least twenty years.  Depending on the season, between 50 and 100 individuals arrive. King parrots, emerald doves and assorted finches. Whenever we try to approach them, they all flock-off up into nearby trees until we’ve disappeared from view, then they fly back down again to resume eating.  We’ve made several attempts in the past to ‘tame’ some of them and failed, so they will forever remain wild birds.

Last Christmas Inga came home for two weeks. Apparently this must have been a very tiring experience because most mornings she got out of bed well after the birds had eaten their breakfast and disappeared back into the rainforest.

On the final morning she was up early making preparations to travel back home to Melbourne.  As soon as she went out onto the verandah with a small handful of seed a lone King parrot came out of the blue and landed on the roof above her head. It peered over the guttering at her before fluttering down and landing on her arm.  Then it ate all the food from her hand before taking off again into the bush.

There is only one acceptable explanation. 

Inga was offering a token departing gift to Mother Nature in appreciation of the connection she has with this ‘country‘ and the bird was accepting it on behalf of all the spirits of our land and thanking her for returning.

Until such time as science can provide me with a more sublime conclusion, I’m going to cherish this one.

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A flabbergasted Mrs GOF hurriedly found a camera to record the moment.

Ingabird 1

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‘Straylia Day 2014

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In a rare moment of illogical impetuosity, I recently moseyed off down the mountain with Mrs GOF to check out the Australia Day family fiesta being held along the magnificently picturesque Cairns Esplanade.  No politicians. No speeches. Just lots of free entertainment, frivolity and fun in the sun.

I’d never been to an official Australia Day celebration before. 
The previous 60-odd during my lifetime seem to have vanished unnoticed as innocent victims of my social and nationalistic inertia.   I do however seem to recall that in 1972 one of ’em clashed with the United Nations World Scentless Skunk Day so I chose instead to show solidarity for this downtrodden minority by waving my “Odorless skunks need love too” placard and letting off smells in public places to draw attention to my ’cause’.

Whilst I remain quite fiercely proud of my country and it’s achievements I am not an aficianado of earnest patriotic displays and flag-waving. History warns me that such events can sometimes grow into sabre-rattling exhibitions of military might, platforms for political and religious zealots, or just excuses for xenophobic dimwits to drum up support for their ignorance and narrow-mindedness.

Which reminds me;  Some years ago when they apparently had nothing better to do, a few lunatic politicians proposed legislating against the wearing of clothes depicting images of our national flag.  Included below is my little pictorial tribute to people-power, democracy and the victory of common sense over dictatorial stupidity.

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snake 1

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Combo 1

combo 2

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The rise and fall of Saveloy Selassie

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Tutorial #1 for 2014.  Copyright; The Bucket History Academy

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Saveloy Selassie was born in the Abyssian (now Ethiopian) village of Dabora  in 740 B.C., the only child of peasant farmers Bradworz and Awina.  We know very little about his childhood except that he had very large flat feet (a genetic inheritance, possibly from his maternal grandfather) and recurrent inflammations of the septum.

An itinerant tutor arrived at Dabora in 722 B.C. and recognised a studious intelligence in Saveloy so he taught him how to write in the Semitic boustrophedon style. (First line from right to left, and the next line left to right…etc ) but it soon became apparent that the young man was more interested in physical activities.

The Semites had only recently brought news to Dabora that the Greeks were conducting the Olympian Games at the Sanctuary of Zeus in the Peloponesus, so in 720 B.C. Saveloy set his heart on competing in the Dolichos, a race run over a distance of 15120 feet.

He started training immediately.  Wearing the brand new pair of over-sized sandals woven by his mother from papyrus reeds he ran all the way down to the headwaters of the Blue Nile and began to wade across it.  To his utter astonishment he found that he was able to walk across the surface of the water.   Science had not yet come to understand the principles of buoyancy afforded by air trapped within the cellular structure of papyrus, but it must have felt exquisitely uplifting so Saveloy continued his way across the river.

A group of women who were washing loincloths on the opposite bank  could hardly believe their eyes as they watched him striding athletically toward them barely creating a ripple. The village elders had always spoken of a man with supernatural powers who would one day come back to their village and lead the people to Elysium, their legendary paradise.  The women gathered around Saveloy with awe and anointed him with oil of cloves before decorating him with garlands made out of orchid and lablab flowers. Then they escorted him back to their hamlet of Drodo.

After hearing the women’s story, everyone in the village milled around Saveloy, some reverently bowing down before him and others dancing and chanting incantations and festooning him with gilded silk scarves and shiny trinkets.

The elders had been right.  This was the Promised Man and He had returned to them, the chosen people of Drodo.

Word of His arrival soon reached all the neighbouring villages. Men, women and children came and sat cross-legged before him, awestruck by his presence and the timbre of his sonorous voice.  Teenage girls swooned. The infirm and insane gathered in the hope of being healed. The elders then promised Saveloy ‘three fatted virgins and a sacred jade tiara encrusted with diamonds’  if he would just show them one more time how he was able to walk on water.

And so it came to pass that Saveloy, accompanied by hundreds of adoring followers, walked with saintly gait back down to the Blue Nile, stepped off the bank and sank in twenty feet of water.  He was never seen again.

The women wailed and wept as they returned to the village.  They gathered up the moist clay from where they had so recently washed and kissed Saveloy’s feet and they moulded an ornate altar from the very earth where he had been sitting.  The men built a shrine around it and blessed it with sprinklings of holy water distilled from hippopotamus urine.

Then on top of the altar they reverently and respectfully mounted the sandals which Saveloy had forgotten to put back on.

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