Sunday, 31 January 2010

video postscripts to biloela sojourn

video clips taken on the return road trip from biloela to southeast queensland. with music (an old song and a recent song) from neil young.
burnett highway monto, mulgildie, eidsvold, binjour, gayndah, tansey, wide bay highway, kilkivan, bruce highway, gympie, sunshine coast, moreton bay region, gateway highway, inner city bypass, brisbane.

videos have also been added to the following blogs:
  1. first-we-take-brisbane.
  2. deer-hunting-on-wheels
  3. on-road-again-eastern-queensland
  4. going-bananas
  5. i-banana-theyre-wild-mob

Saturday, 30 January 2010

a musical expedition - the journey continues...

To a bit of musical diversion now – to ease the troubled mind. This is my choice of what's around at my local library.
(I'm stocking up for at least two months of work up in sunny Queensland again. This time it's deliveries to a Port somewhere - Qld State Govt Authority; and also to a tunnel project of sorts - South-to-North bypass Tunnel or something like that, under a river i'm told. I hope to see the light at the end).

So here is for my listening pleasure - my company on the road.

Recent CDs
Lyle Lovett. I like Lyle Lovett. And I love and have at least half of his recordings. His latest is called ‘Natural Forces’. It’s a modest effort really. There’s more covers here than original compositions, but he does them all tastefully and respectfully. Check out his interpretation of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Loretta’.

Norah Jones. I don’t mind Norah Jones either. I believe she’s from Mainit country he he. This is her 4th album. And like her first three, there’s something to like here too, though they’re mostly songs of heartache and regret over a love that’s gone sour. The CD just lacks something – like maybe a killer cover as in her previous efforts. But she’s sold 40 million albums - and am still looking at my old school photo album.

Dave Matthews Band. This 2-cd set is a Greatest hits compilation. The second CD is a compilation of fans' choices of live performances. I prefer Matthews’ subsequent release (with Tim Reynolds) at Radio City music hall, but this is okay if you like your music rowdy.

Kathryn Williams is an English singer who does great versions of songs by Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, The Byrds, Tim Hardin and Jackson Browne.

CDs to Revisit:
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. 'Will the circle be unbroken Vol 3'. This is top country, with input from established artists and the band. This 2-CD collection is what country music is meant to be. On this volume, the Band is joined by Iris DeMent, Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, etal.

Putumayo Presents American folk. And this is topshelf folk with contributions from peter mulvey, lucy kaplansky, Nanci Griffith, Patty Griffin, Natalie Merchant, Eric Bibb etal. This compilation features these well-known artists alongside lesser-known troubadours.

The best UB40 is just that with their hits including 'kingston town', 'many rivers to cross', 'light my fire', and others.

Simon & Garfunkel. This duo’s music is hard to ignore even decades on from their heyday. Their seminal album is still worth the time.


Woodstock. Woodstock is ingrained in American 60s culture and the music there in those three days still echoes. Check out Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Country Joe, John Sebastian, CSN, Hendrix etc here. If you haven’t seen or heard Woodstock before, you were born yesterday.

The best of REM includes hits 'man on the moon', 'losing my religion', 'everybody hurts' etc.

John Schumann. 'Behind the lines'. If you get a chance to listen to some classic aussie songs, check out schumann’s ‘I was only 19’,’ khe sahn’, and eric bogle’s ‘and the band played waltzing matilda’, both are in this cd. Or try youtube.
More CDs
See also Tarantino connection and The Sports.

the rest:

Grant Lee Phillips. A Native American Singer-songwriter compared favourably to Neil Young and Bob Dylan. 'Strangelet' was released in 2007. Since 1999, Phillips has quietly been establishing himself as a singer and songwriter of the first caliber, and 'Strangelet' is lovely stuff that shows he's still reaching the top of his game.

'Campfire songs' by the 10,000 maniacs (lead Natalie Merchant) include songs by Cat Stevens, June Carter, John Prine, Jackson Browne, Patti Smith/Springsteen.

Yet more books:

Don DeLillo's 'Underworld' is a bit disjointed but this acclaimed book is a snapshot of american culture and needs a bit of patience to enjoy.

Dr Karl Kruscelnicki is a popular and likeable Aussie who popularises science. Read his books. They're funny but the best part is they're very informative.

Yet more reads:
Mojo Dec 2009 on the latest news on music.

'The Politics of hope' is more on Obama.

'Fire' (Oxfam book) is a selection of short stories including from Le Carre etal and poetry from Vikram Seth.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Some notes on "The New Asian Hemisphere"

The New Asian Hemisphere is a book by Kishore Mahbubani.

Mahbubani gives an Asian viewpoint of the current economic and political balance or imbalance and posits the thesis that Asia has risen to take control of half the globe away from the hold of the West headed by Imperial America. He contends that the struggle between supposedly two main protagonists Asia and the West (America/EU & allies) will shape global relations and policy in this next decade and into a new Age (of Asia).

The book glosses over a few issues such as human rights, political oppression and economic exploitation. It also chooses to ignore the fact that the success of the Asian tigers is owed mainly to the principles of free market and the current economic order effected through globalization.

Mahbubani does advance the positive Asian values of meritocracy, pragmatism and open-mindedness that are the ingredients to global leadership. He is optimistic that these Asian traits will lead them to prevail.
Mahbubani thinks the Asian hemisphere is inevitable, although many consider his arguments debatable.

I have compiled some notes from the book of the positive aspects of the Asian tigers:
• Asian domination in research in science and technology. It is predicted that soon 90% of all PhD scientists and engineers will be based in Asia.
• Massive increases in funding, investments and spending in research and development.
• In India, they are reaping the rewards of decisions made decades ago by Nehru who founded Indian Institutes of Technology. These IITs collect the best talent pool in India and are very successful in churning out very talented and internationally renowned graduates. This fact led a TV host in America (CBS’ 60 Minutes) to state that the status of IITs is comparable to Harvard, MIT and Princeton put together.
• China’s gains in science and technology match that of India.
• The World Bank has reported that from 1983-2003 more than 50% of US PhD degrees (nearly 90,000) in science and engineering were awarded to students from Asia (China, Taiwan, India and South Korea). This is four times more than those from Europe (23,000).
• Japan successfully modernized by applying Western best practices. They learned from the French and American education systems and implemented them. They also adopted Western civil service and jurisprudence systems.
• Singapore has the most meritocratic civil service in the world. Pay scales of senior government officials almost match the private sector. Department heads earn as much as US$1.5M a year, more than President Obama ($400K). Singapore also applied Western techniques in its fledgling years of independence after 1965.
• The principle of meritocracy rigidly applied in Harvard and a few other organisations, has been adapted and applied ruthlessly and systematically in China’s government structures. China also gained from following the success of Singapore after Deng Xiaoping visited there in 1978.
• Malaysian leader Dr Mahathir implemented economic policies by “looking east” and learning from Japan and South Korea.

What of the Philippines? Has it missed the boat?
Mentions of the Philippines in the book highlight Asian non-achievement. The Philippines is noted as an example of where meritocracy has failed:
• The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism PCIJ (2007) shows that two-thirds of congress are traditional politicians (second- and third- generation).
• The Makati Business Club showed that only one-third of 86 bills passed in 2007 were of national import.
• Roger Olivares found that political dynasties control 75% of provinces and 100% of cities. This hold on power by the traditional elite, and by extension their grip on the economic wealth of the Philippines has resulted in what the late Fr Miguel Bernad described in a review of Olivares’ Noli... 2,
the degradation of the Filipino people who must export one million persons every year, because the leaders have neglected to develop the agricultural and the industrial resources which might have provided them with decent jobs at home. A total of eight million Filipinos are now abroad, most of them in menial jobs. ... Government officials gloat over the number of Overseas Workers (OFW) and the amount of dollars coming in from them – not realizing that this situation is an indictment of their neglect: they should have been doing something to improve the economy so that people need not seek a better life abroad (underscoring mine).
Mahbubani states the obvious that the Philippines is still very much crippled by feudal mindset.

The Philippines is an Asian country and yet likes to adopt the Western mindset and cultures of its former colonial masters, including the Christian religion. The Philippines proudly boasts to be the only Christian nation in Asia. It’s motto is: Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan, at Makabansa ("For God, People, Nature, and Country").

The Philippines is indeed a Christian nation. People go to their churches and absorb christian values which inform their politics. Come election time, influential people, including the clergy apparently hear voices from God to endorse this or that candidate. How many Christian gods are there though? How come he endorses so many? Politicians themselves claim to have divine approval. So then may we ask - with God on their side - why have they abandoned their fellow Filipinos by the wayside? I read that the Philippines became a Christian nation in 1521. Being a Christian must be so hard to do. I’ll just be an Igorot, tend to my fields, and thank the anitos for the palay and camote that sustain me. I’d be very afraid to face God in the other life if I were or profess to be a Christian.

And therein lies the paradox. The Philippines is the most professedly Christian of the developing countries in the world, and yet is the most un-Christian in its standing. How does one reconcile that?
The Philippines is going backward because of corruption and all sorts of unchristian practices not least  hypocrisy. And going back to meritocracy - the principle of equality somehow goes against the grain, in the minds of the Filipino ruling class.
The above shows that traditional Politicians are not the solution, they are the problem. The journalist Sheila Coronel also stated an obvious 'known known' (thanks rummy):
“I think our problem is we ask the politicians to save us from our misery when they are the cause of our misery.”
So back to the question: has the Philippines missed the boat?
Well bet your house on it (i would if i owned one) - that the Philippines has missed the boat. The ship has nearly arrived at its destination, and we haven’t even got to the port yet.
Is it too late? Hey we're Christians aren't we? We believe in miracles. But we need to find a catapult to breach that ocean and hope for that divine intervention to delay the ship “The New Asian Hemisphere” so we can swim along in its wash.
Where to start?
First we need to learn to swim or we’ll just sink.
Let us start from the basics: that democracy is best practised in the grassroots and thus must emanate from the grassroots. As the notes above show, it is time for a change. Get rid of the traditional politics that have been an albatross around our necks. The huge majority of Filipinos are morally upright citizens with enough intelligence to run national affairs capably and well.

It is time for us to change our culture of popular politics and look to those acclaimed in the community for leadership. Our tradition of the ato where the Council of elders is formed not through wealth or name or connections, but by virtue of one’s standing, may be the key. This is the egalitarian philosophy at work.
It may be a schoolteacher, a government official, a local Councillor, or just someone with enough experience that the people can entrust their confidence in. If there is someone who combines some of these and is willing to be drafted to serve, that would be ideal.

Wikipedia has attributed part of the success of the Asian tigers to the role of traditional philosophies:
  • In Japan the existence of harmonious labor-management relations resulting in an "invented" tradition that has played an important role in the evolution and character of Japanese economic values and behavior of social peace for economic development. Thereaffirmation of ancient Confucian values and native Japanese traditions of harmony, self-sacrifice and non-individualistic group striving in pursuit of a common cause. The emphasis on long-term growth, scrupulous market evaluation, and process engineering are all well regarded as important components of its economic development.
  • These "Asian values" are the foundations ("Grund" as it used to be) of "Asian political economy". Abandoning import substitution, the model advocated in the developing world following the two world wars, the Four Asian Tigers pursued an export-driven model of economic development with the exportation of goods to highly-industrialized nations. Domestic consumption was discouraged through government policies such as high tariffs. The Four Asian Tigers singled out education as a means of improving productivity; these territories focused on improving the education system at all levels; heavy emphasis was placed on ensuring that all children attended elementary education and compulsory high school education. Money was also spent on improving the college and university system.
  • Since the Four Asian Tigers were relatively poor during the 1960s, these nations had an abundance of cheap labor. Coupled with educational reform, they were able to leverage this combination into a cheap, yet productive workforce. The Four Asian Tigers committed to egalitarianism in the form of land reform, to promote property rights and to ensure that agricultural workers would not become disgruntled. Also, policies of agricultural subsidies and tariffs on agricultural products were implemented as well. (underscoring mine).
  • These places had strong industrial economies which set them apart from all other places in Asia.
Indeed we could do worse than to be 'looking East' and learning from our Asian tigers.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

New Year's Resolution # 0101: drink less read more

January reads 1.
Bob Carr: My Reading Life. Carr is a former premier of the State of NSW down under. His book is like a compilation of notes on his library which includes volumes on writing, democracy and dictatorship, fiction, thrillers, politics, histories, literature, shakespeare etc. I like Carr’s Introduction:
Recommending books is an exercise in sharing – sharing pleasures.
I’m pleased to see that he enjoyed the works of some authors as i did. Carr suggests how to read:
Don’t just read for pleasure... otherwise you won’t get beyond spies, crime and the comic. Tackle works that are a challenge. The enjoyment comes with the comfortable familiarity of subsequent readings.
I have to check out his list now, although he did write in his book’s introduction (2008), that he might write differently in another ten years. I’ve got eight years before his next list then.

The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan is the latest book on a much-loved and admired writer and composer still practising his craft. I had the opportunity to see him in concert about two years ago. The contributors are very distinguished writers and authors including from the Academe. The book is laid out in two parts. The first part comprises Perspectives on Dylan’s achievements and influence and his place in the artistic tradition. Part 2 spotlights eight of Dylan’s Landmark albums (he’s released nearly 50). Overall the book is an excellent addition to appreciating Dylan and his immeasurable contribution to contemporary culture.

• I only recently watched a dvd of the Wing Chun kung fu action flick Ip Man which i enjoyed thoroughly. This film was released more than a year ago, about the kung fu master of Bruce Lee. The book on wing chun is co-written by Ip Man’s son Ip Chun.

January books set 2

• The Q&A Cosmic Conundrums... book on everyday mysteries is an entertaining and informative unravelling of the science of our world. It includes chapters on everyday life, life and death, beliefs and myths, numbers and games, meteorology and nature, the earth and sky, the heavens and the cosmos. So if you have a question, you just might find the answer here. Or like Newton asking how an apple could fall to the ground and setting out to find the answer, you might discover a universal law yourself as he did, such as that of gravitation.

1089 and all that is like a ride into the wonders of Mathematics if Maths is your idea of an adventure. Even those not overly enamored with maths will find some thrill in this book.

• For those who have troubles with correct spelling or choice of words like me, Quite Literally is a useful reference for all writers. So think laterally but keep it quiet. This is a fun and practical resource with more emphasis on British rather than American English.

• Some choices for fiction here too. I enjoyed American Rust by Philipp Meyer. This book has been hailed as a 'Great American Novel' and compared favorably to the works of Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy. I passed on the Wambaugh book and may read Greene later.  A collection of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut published posthumously, is also here.

• I recommend The Mask of Dimitrios if you’re into thrilling spy stories. This Eric Ambler book is among his better ones and is just as good as a Le Carre 'Smiley' novel. Or maybe put the other way, Le Carre is as good as Ambler was in this book.

• Oh and listen to some Disney music composed by Randy Newman in the The Princess and the frog CD.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Life in the gasfields (gasfields pt. 4)

In the gasfields of Dalby Regional Council, you get to meet all sorts of people.
There are Architects, Cleaners, Cooks and Chefs, Cultural Heritage Officers, Engineers, Environmental Scientists, Excavator Operators, Geologists, Project Managers, Safety Officers, Site Supervisors and Foremen, Surveyors, Truck Drivers, Welders,  etc (oh and delivery boys too - almost forgot myself).
In the Nangram Gasfields, there are larrikins or characters that define a memorable work experience.

Joey here in these photos, is one such character.
We met people with names such as Nitro, Wilko, Tuckerbox, Bullfrog, Dickie, Dibley, Goldie, Blewie and others.
Most nicknames are oftentimes to do with Surnames such as Wilko might be short for Wilkinson.
Goldie however is named for his love of a certain brew of beer, of which he drinks 17 bottles each night.
He still blows a zero Blood Alcohol reading the next morning!

Dickie is short for Richard but one time he was otherwise engaged and could not answer a radio call.
The caller kept radio-ing and asking "does anyone know where Dick is?"
Dickie himself got on the radio to acknowledge the caller and said: "Dickie is dangling between your legs."

They're good for a laugh these pipeliners.
They are also good blokes.
Many of them are family men and women, sacrificing weeks and sometimes months away from their loved ones to make a living.
Pipeliners are all kinds of people as the cross-section of their occupations above shows.
They come from all around Australia.
Cranky Andy is a highly skilled excavator operator from Tasmania.
Many are also recent arrivals in Australia. There are at least three Irishmen in the crews we met. They happen to be excavator operators as well.
Others of the pipeliners hail from the Americas. All the continents around the world are actually represented out here in the gasfields west of Dalby. A multinational effort. The UN at work. let the gas fields burn.

Back at camp, we say hello to Kristie, a young Kiwi girl who assists in running the day-to-day operations of the camp.
I asked her if she'll miss me when I'm gone and she started to say:
To tell the truth, i really couldn't care less....
I interrupted and said to her:
No, just lie to me and say: 'Please don't leave. I need you so bad.'

We had a good laugh. At least she's a good sport.
The photos above are just some light-hearted hot air...
To see more adventures - echidna escapes dusty track, storms never last, Gowrie Mountain – western downs, down the Toowoomba range, cruisin’ the Warrego highway, Mt Crosby Road, Gap Creek Road, etc
see long may you run ooops! deleted by youtube... sorry.