Sunday, January 31, 2010

Epitaphs: John Laird McCaffery (1940-1995)

Free your body and soul
Unfold your powerful wings
Climb up the highest mountains
Kick your feet up in the air
You may now live forever
Or return to this earth
Unless you feel good where you are
Missed by your friends
The above epitaph is on the tombstone of John Laird McCaffery, who is buried in Montreal.  The cemetery has strict rules on what is, and what is not, allowed on tombstones, hence the true message being hidden in the epitaph.  It can be found by reading down the first letter of each line.
Kristian Gravenor of the Montreal Mirror spoke to the man who made the tombstone:
The cryptic message occurred to the monument maker after he finished sandblasting it into stone. “Afterwards, as I’m done, I’m looking at it and I’m like, ‘Wow.’ I noticed it just like that,” says John, whose full name won’t be published here for professional reasons. “This guy’s ex-wife and mistress came in together and ordered the stone. They said the message represented him. It was a thing between the three of them.

Quote: Woody Allen (1935 - )

“I asked the girl if she could bring a sister for me. She did. Sister Maria Teresa. It was a very slow evening. We discussed the New Testament. We agreed that He was very well adjusted for an only child.”

Great Cricket Sledges: Viv Richards

The following has been ascribed to an exchange between Viv Richards and various other players, including Merv Hughes, Geoff Lawson and Greg Thomas.
Whoever it was (and the most likely person appears to be the English county bowler George Thomas, playing for England), the bowler had bowled a few that Richards had swung at but missed. The bowler said "It's red, round and weighs about five ounces, in case you were wondering."
On the next delivery Richards hit the ball out of the ground into a nearby river, saying to the bowler “You know what it looks like, now go and fetch it.”  

Awards: New Words

Image from
Language is a dynamic system.  Words can lose favour and become extinct or remain in some archaic form, eg
The adage “the exception proves the rule” does not mean that the exception establishes the rule, which is nonsense, but that the exception tests the rule, the original meaning of "prove". That archaic meaning remains in its original sense in the words proving ground, meaning a military test site for weapons.
Who doesn’t cringe when they hear or sing the words to our national anthem “our home is girt by sea", a matter already mentioned in an Auistralia Day post.
The original wording of The Ode by Lawrence Binyan was “Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn..”, "contemn" meaning despise or scorn. These days the word used in The Ode is condemn.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Movie Moments: More about The Godfather

Leo sent me an email after I posted the previous item, asking some questions about The Godfather:
1. I don't think Brando played in all the Godfather movies.
2. When were they made?
3. Why didn't he play in them all?
4. Did he play this before or after "Apocalypse Now" ?
5. When did he enter his really fat stage in Hawaii?

Movie Moments: The Godfather

I watched You’ve Got Mail again over the holiday break, but that is not the topic of today’s post. Sitting here and typing away (is typing still the correct word when it is a computer and not a typewriter?) I feel a bit like Tom Hanks communicating with Meg Ryan in that movie.
During that movie Tom Hanks quotes something from The Godfather (“Go to the mattresses”, meaning preparing for battle). She asks why men seem to relate to The Godfather and he replies “The Godfather is the I Ching. The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom. The Godfather is the answer to any question.”

Music: Elvis / Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Laughing Version)

Are You Lonesome Tonight? was written in 1926 and has been covered by various artists since that date. Even Al Jolson recorded it in 1950. Elvis covered it in 1960. He was reluctant but was persuaded by his manager. Colonel Tom Parker, it being one of his wife’s favourite songs. Colonel Tom was on the money: the single hit No 1 and stayed there for 6 weeks.

Deus ex Machina: Plot Devices and Defects

Deus ex Machina:
On a Parramatta Road intersection near where I live is a motorcycle shop with a painting of a big motor bike on the side of the building with the name of the shop: Deus ex Machina. You may have seen it driving into the city. The Latin words translate literally to “God from the Machine”, not a bad name for a motorcycle dealership.
The words, however, predate motorcycles, being a plot device used in Greek tragedy whereby a god appeared in the sky (an actor suspended from a crane, in Greek a mechane) to resolve plot. In this manner insoluble difficulties were overcome and everything finished nicely. Horace, writing about 18BC, coined the term Deus ex Machina and said that it was a crappy way to resolve plots, but not in those words.
The term and concept are still in use today but no longer means a god coming from the sky. Instead, it now denotes something that appears suddenly and unexpectedly, providing an artificial solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty.
- Superman: Lois dies at the end, so Superman flies faster and faster against the Earth’s rotation until he reverses time and saves her.
- Superman 2: Lois Lane discovers that Clark Kent is Superman, so he takes her to the frozen North to his Fortress of Solitude. He decides that he will become human so that he can love her and so he gives up his super powers, then spending the night with her. He is told that if he gives up his powers, it is forever and is irreversible. When he and Lois get back to Metropolis, they discover that the bad guys from the Phantom Zone have been pretty much tearing the place apart. Clark goes back to the Fortress of Solitude where he discovers the magic green crystal that reverses the irreversible loss of his super powers. He defeats the baddies and gives Lois an amnesia kiss so that she forgets that he and Clark Kent are one and the same.

Movie Moments: Runaway Train

If you see only one movie before departing this world, make it Runaway Train. I guarantee that by the end of the flick, you will feel drained, not by the physical action but by the emotional intensity. This movie ranks in my personal Top Ten, which means it must be seen. Rent, buy, borrow or steal it.
The Plot:
Jon Voight, in the performance of his career plays, Oscar “Manny” Mannheim, a hardened convict in a brutal maximum security prison in Alaska. Manny, accompanied by another prisoner “Buck” (Eric Roberts, also in the performance of his career) escapes from the prison, pursued by Rankin, the vengeful warden of the prison. Manny and Buck, with a female rail employee, send up on an uncontrollable runaway train, as the name of the movie implies.

Newspaper Item: Goan..

Poetry: Janet Minor / Spell Check

I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC;
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea.
I’ve run this poem threw it,
I’m sure your pleased too no,
Its letter perfect in it’s weigh,
My checker tolled me sew.

Quote: William Pitt the Elder (1708-1778)

“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it, the storm may enter, the rain may enter - but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.”

Friday, January 29, 2010

Quote: Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it.”

Poetry: Footprints in the Sand / Buttprints in the Sand

My friend sent me an email in response to something I had posted  that his mother's favourite poem was Footprints in the Sand.  In his words:
Whenever things were tough, she would remind us of this poem and say that we never had to take on a burden by ourselves, there was always someone to share it with. That's why it's so important to have a circle of  friends to at least email things to, so you know you are never alone and there is always someone to help.
For those not familiar with the poem, it was written in 1936 by Mary Stevenson and reads as follows:

Music: Phil Collins / In the Air Tonight

I like Phil Collins, I like In The Air Tonight, but I love the video clip used in the Cadbury advertisement that utilises the song. The video clip I am referring to is the one with the gorilla, which has spawned numerous remixes, spoofs and the like.
The clip can be viewed at:
Sometime ago I heard that the Phil Collins’ song was about his brother drowning, that there was a man on the shore who watched and did not help, and that Collins learned who he was. He sent tickets to his show to the guy, front row seats, and then sang that song to the guy with the spotlight on him. True?
The lyrics of the song are:

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
I've been waiting for this moment all my life, oh Lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, oh Lord


A conversation with a long established client today:

Client: "Could I get you to send me some certified copies of Mum's Power of Attorney? She's got dementia now."

Me: "Yes, I'll do that.  I'm sorry to hear it."

Client: "You wouldn't read about it.  She's gone and married my dad again.  He's got dementia as well.  They've obviously both forgotten that they hate each other.  They keep hugging each other and giving each other kisses.  Mum was walking down the aisle with me when they married again and she said to me 'Who am I marrying again?' and I said 'It's Dad, Mum.'  She said 'Oh good, I hoped it was him.'

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Movie Moments: Was Ben Hur gay?

Leo suggested a classic such as Ben-Hur, The Magnificent Seven or The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, for a Movie Moments, hence this selection.
One interesting item about Ben-Hur, released in 1959, is its underlying gay aspect.
The story:
Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) is a wealthy merchant of noble blood living in Jerusalem. His childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd), a tribune, arrives in Jerusalem to command the Roman garrison. At first happy to be reunited, they argue over Messala’s belief in the glory of Rome and imperial power, and Judah’s commitment to his faith and the Jewish people. They part in anger.

Quote: Gore Vidal (1925 - )

“Nobody with that awful wife and those ugly children could be anything but normal.”

Quote: Dalziel and Pascoe

"Soccer is hooligans acting like gentlemen, Rugby Union is gentlemen acting like hooligans and Rugby League is hooligans acting like hooligans."
-  Sergeant Pascoe in Dalziel and Pascoe

Quote: Sigmund Freud?

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Although this is often attributed to Sigmund Freud, there is no record of him ever having said it or written it.
It appears that the quote may be an adaptation of the phrase “Sometimes a banana is just a banana” used in an early Saturday Night Live sketch, as follows:

Announcer: And now, Great Moments in Herstory, a celebration of women through the ages.
[Dissolve to a finely appointed sitting room, complete with globe, couch and easy chair. A narrator reads a superimposed text as it scrolls by.]

Movie Moments: Rat Race

If you have not yet seen the 2001 flick Rat Race, rush out to your movie outlet, buy or borrow it and spend a lazy Sunday afternoon watching it, close your eyes and drift away, as the Small Faces sang.
For those of you who don’t want your enjoyment of the movie diminished, stop reading now, there are spoilers ahead.
Rat Race is one of my favourite fillums and is one of a handful that can actually cause me to laugh out loud. I’ve seen it heaps of times but still like watching it again every now and then.
There are so many scenes and so many quotes worth mentioning that I feel I am doing an injustice by selecting only one, but that one is gold: the Hitler Car.

Quote: Stephen Hawking (1942-)

“I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.”

Quote: George Bernard Shaw (1814-1885)

“Cruelty must be whitewashed by a moral excuse, and pretense of reluctance.”

Quote: Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809)

“Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

I don't usually provide biographies of the persons quoted but Paine is such a fascinating character that I will provide a brief one.
He was on the spot for so many important historical events that he reminds me of Forrest Gump.
From Wikipedia:
Thomas Paine (29 January 1737 – 8 June 1809) was an English pamphleteer, revolutionary, radical, inventor and intellectual. He lived and worked in Britain until age 37, when he emigrated to the British American colonies, in time to participate in the American Revolution. His principal contribution was the powerful, widely-read pamphlet Common Sense (1776), advocating colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and of The American Crisis (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series.

Quote: Samuel Johnson (1709-1784),

'I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."'
Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson

Laws & Principles: The Peter Principle / Laurence J Peter (1919-1990)

“In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”
- Laurence J Peter, the above being known as the Peter Principle.
The principle holds that in a hierarchy members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their "level of incompetence"), and there they remain.
Dr Peter's Corollaries:
“In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out his duties."
"Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence".

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Music: Subterranean Homesick Blues / Bob

In March 1965 Bob Dylan released an album, Bringing It All Back Home, which contained the song Subterranean Homesick Blues. That song was issued as a single the following month, reaching Number 39 in the American charts and Number 10 in the UK. One of Dylan’s first electric works, it was his first in the Top 40 in the US.
The song is a put down of a schoolgirl being unable to exist outside of an institutional umbrella and is particularly well known because of the film clip associated with it.
See and hear Dylan’s performance of it at:
The lyrics can be read at:
The video shows Bob Dylan with a series of cue cards with selected lyrics from the song. The video has been spoofed/reenacted many times, some notable ones including INXS's "Mediate" and Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade's "Buzzards of Green Hill."

Australiana: The Eureka Oath

“(Peter Lalor) knelt down, the head uncovered, and with right hand pointing to the standard, exclaimed in a measured tone: ‘We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other to defend our rights and liberties. A universal well-rounded Amen was the determined reply.”
– Raffaello Carboni (1817-1875), the author of the main eyewitness account of the Eureka Stockade, writing about the oath taken by Peter Lalor, leader of the rebelling miners, on the 29.11.1854, the evening before the assault by Government troops.

Quote: Lance Armstrong (1971 - )

“What am I on? I'm on my bike, busting my ass 6 hours a day. That’s what I'm on. What are you on?”
- Lance Armstrong, 7 time winner of the Tour de France, responding to doping allegations.

Quote: Jack Handey (1949 - )

“To me, clowns aren't funny. In fact, they're kind of scary. I've wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.”

Quote: Shirley Temple (1928 - )

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”

Quote: Nikita Kruschev (1894-1971)

"The main difference for the history of the world if I had been shot rather than Kennedy is that Onassis probably wouldn't have married Mrs Khrushchev."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Music: Fretkillr

Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the last 5 years you would know what YouTube is. For those who have been living on Mars, YouTube is a video sharing website where people can post, view and share video clips. Think of it as a giant video library with millions upon millions of video clips that can be accessed by typing in the name. You will find clips of people doing silly stunts, clips of 60’s TV stars, your kids singing… it’s a bit like that song Portobello Road in Bedknobs and Broomsticks or Alice’s Restaurant, a place where you can find and get anything you want.
Which brings me to today’s topic.
Anyone can post what they want (within reason) on YouTube.Some people have achieved fame from their video clips having gone world wide for viewing, such as the guy in Sydney who walked around with a sign saying “Free Hugs” and then gave hugs to people.
One guy who posts videos of himself singing and playing is a guy who goes by the name of Fretkillr (also known as Fretkiller).

Legal: Unique Sentencing Submissions

(First posted 05.12.2008)

How would you like to be this fellow's lawyer?...

Adam Patrick Owens, 35, of Cremorne recently pleaded guilty to murdering his mother in 2006. Apparently she was a green activist and was described as feisty. She was 69 at the time. Just before he was to go to trial, he changed his plea to guilty. The matter came before the NSW Supreme Court today for sentencing submissions where Mr Owens addressed the Court on his own behalf, no doubt leaving his barrister seated at the bar staring at the ceiling and rolling his eyes.

Mr Owens asked that mitigating matters be ignored and that he be given the maximum penalty, crticising the prosecutor who raised an issue of depression, saying "Please stop trying to mitigate the offence, it sends a terrible message to the public."

Quote: Albus Dumbledore

“It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
- Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Question: Pixie O'Harris

Whilst thinking about the Harris clan, does anyone know what happened to the numerous Pixie O'Harris murals in the former Children's Hospital in Camperdown when the hospital was converted to private residential apartments? They were delightful paintings of animals, much like the May Gibbs illustrations. I remember them from when my daughter was in the hospital a couple of times as a baby.
As a digression, Pixie O'Harris, the aunt of Rolf, was named Rhona Olive Harris but she hated the name. Dubbed the Welsh pixie on the boat to Australia, she adopted Pixie O. Harris as her name. Following a printer's error in the Sydney Morning Herald where her name was printed as Pixie O'Harris, she stayed with that thereafter. She was born in 1903 and died in 1991.
If anyone has any knowledge on those murals, I would be appreciative.

Quote: Rolf Harris, Part 2

(First posted 4 Dec 2008)
Readers may recall that Rolf Harris featured recently in these pages for his demonstration of diplomacy Rolf Harris style.
Rolf apologised for the "let my abos go loose, Lou, they're of no further use" lyric in the original version of Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, then proceeded to get stuck into them as being lazy, dirty and non-disciplined. It seemed a funny sort of apology.
Rolf has now apologised for the apology, reported in today's SMH at:

From that article:
He said yesterday that the remarks were made in response to a documentary he had seen about the state of indigenous accommodation around Uluru.
It's all a matter of feeling really rough and having somebody jump onto me for a quote about something or other. I quite honestly should have kept my mouth shut, and gritted my teeth and not said anything. I would just like to apologise for causing offence to anybody.

Quote: Alan Hull (1945 -),

“Neurotics build castles in the sky, psychotics live in them, psychiatrists collect the rent and psychopaths smash the windows.”
- Alan Hull, British rock musician

Great Cricket Sledges: Eddo Brandes

Aussie bowler Glenn McGrath to Zimbabwe batsman Eddo Brandes:
"Why are you so fat?"
Brandes in reply:
"Because every time I make love to your wife, she gives me a biscuit."

Quote: Queen Mother (1900-2002)

"It will never work with all those Huns, wops and dagos."
- The Queen Mother (1900-2002) in the early 1990’s, commenting on the European Union, a political and economic union of 27 member states, established in 1993. Quoted in a new book It’s a PC World by BBC presenter Edward Stourton, to whom she addressed the words in a conversation after learning that Stourton had just returned from Europe to cover the proposed EU. He comments that “I thought that what she had said was nasty and ugly. … The Queen Mother came from a certain generation when people did talk like that."

Quote: Chuang Tse (c 369-286 BC)

"I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man."

Movie: The Italian Job - The Ending

(First posted 30.11.2008)
Welcome, a treat in store with this item... an explanation for the ending of the movie The Italian Job.
For those pissants among the readership who are too young to remember this movie classic, let me offer some background…
The Movie:
The Italian Job (the original, not the 2003 remake) was made in 1969 and stars Michael Caine. Caine plays Charlie Croker, who has just been released from prison and who plans a big job: the theft of $4m in gold arriving in Italy from China. To achieve this feat Charlie enlists the aid of a computer geek to create a giant traffic jam and recruits a team of safe crackers and drivers, all the while working under the noses of the Mafia.

Australiana: Cook shoots a local

(A further item from last year's Australia Day).

On 29 April 1770 Captain James Cook first stepped ashore at what is now Kurnell in what is now Australia and immediately shot one of the indigenous population for throwing a stone, setting the tone for black-white relations for the next 238 years until Kevin Rudd said sorry.

From Cook’s journal:

Sunday, 29th.
In the P.M. wind Southerly and Clear weather, with which we stood into the bay and Anchored under the South shore about 2 miles within the Entrance in 5 fathoms, the South point bearing South-East and the North point East. Saw, as we came in, on both points of the bay, several of the Natives and a few hutts; Men, Women, and Children on the South Shore abreast of the Ship, to which place I went in the Boats in hopes of speaking with them, accompanied by Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, and Tupia. As we approached the Shore they all made off, except 2 Men, who seem’d resolved to oppose our landing. As soon as I saw this I order’d the boats to lay upon their Oars, in order to speak to them; but this was to little purpose, for neither us nor Tupia could understand one word they said. We then threw them some nails, beads, etc., a shore, which they took up, and seem’d not ill pleased with, in so much that I thought that they beckon’d to us to come ashore; but in this we were mistaken, for as soon as we put the boat in they again came to oppose us,

Australiana: Under the Southern Cross I Stand

On a day celebrating all things Oz, and at a time when there is ongoing debate about our flag and anthem (and I place on record that I hate the inane lyric “Our home is girt by sea”), it is appropriate to repeat and amplify an item posted last Australia Day, the victory song of the Australian Cricket Team.  I came across it again as I was transferring old posts to this blog.
The words to the song are:
"Under the Southern Cross I stand
A sprig of wattle in my hand
A native of my native land
Australia, you f***ing beauty"

Monday, January 25, 2010

Music: Rolf Harris / Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport

(First sent  29.11.2008)
Never let it be said, dear readers, that this regular email does not strive, on occasions at least, to be topical and relevant. Certainly an item on what was thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge may not be of riveting interest in 2008, but today’s item is bursting with topicality…
Rolf Harris has been in the news in the last few days for a number of reasons:
Baz Luhrman did a last minute deal with Rolf to have Rolf’s wobble board in the sound track for Australia, Baz having realised how iconic for Oz that wobble board sound is;
Rolf has released a picture book of his paintings illustrating the lyrics to Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.
After doing the big atonement grovel for some of the lyrics, Rolf made a few comments that weren’t exactly PC (more of that later).

Extract: A Tale of Two Cities / Charles Dickens (1812-1870),

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Quote: Jack Handey (1949 - )

“Whenever I see an old lady slip and fall on a wet sidewalk, my first instinct is to laugh. But then I think, what if I was an ant, and she fell on me. Then it wouldn’t seem quite so funny.”

Quote: Augustus de Morgan (1806-1871)

"Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on."

Poetry Extract: Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

"We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
- Ullysses