Old folk at lunch

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tax


Getting your tax return done is not a minor event in anyone's life.  It is a major headache.  So I was most pleased to get my tax done today.

I went to a very knowledgeable lady named Janet Ortiz at my local ITP branch at Stone's Corner, 5 minutes drive from where I live.  She even told me where to park my car!

I know it is completely irrelevant but she had the olive skin one would expect of a person of Spanish ancestry  -- not like the awful whiteness of Poles or the Irish -- or the golden brown of the Norwegians and the Swedes.

Like most Australians, both Jenny and I have substantial Irish ancestry so it was no mystery how Joe would end up.  When he was a toddler I used to call him "the white boy" as his skin was just about as white as a sheet of white paper.  And now in adulthood he simply goes red if he gets much sun -- as my father did.  Though my father was a redhead.  But Joe has a red beard so it all fits.  Because Jenny's grandfather was a redhead we had great hopes that Joe would be a redhead but a "bluebeard" is certainly a good alternative.

Anyway Janet sat me down for one and a half hours and turned my heap of paperwork into a proper return  -- and even told me what  refund I would get.  And the cost --$200+ -- was worth its weight in gold to me.

In my youth I used to do lots of things myself  -- not only tax returns but simple plumbing, electrical work and even some (rough) carpentry.  But I am pleased that I can hand all those things to the experts these days.  I don't even hang my own pictures now.  Geoff has just put up a whole heap of them for me -- mostly family photos


Sunday, September 28, 2014

A sendoff and a birthday



Paul is about to go overseas to Britain for 10 months so I will not see that little family for a while.  So I put on a farewell dosa lunch for them. I also invited Paul's mother and father as they will undoubtedly miss him too.  Nanna and Maureen also came along of course.

Matthew got a whole dosa to himself and ate the lot  -- good eaters, the Johnsons.  Elise also ate up well, as usual.

After dosas we went back to my place for tea, coffee and choc chip cookies.  Between Paul and Ken the biscuits disappeared at lightning speed.

Paul is suffering from a wog at the moment and appeared very listless when he arrived at the restaurant.  After a dosa and a coffee, however, he livened up and gave Ken a hard time as usual.

We talked about travel and Paul was amazed that I had been to Thailand. I seem to be the only person I know who hasn't been away on trips lately.

Elise loved Joe's piano and had a great time thumping it.  As she is only one year old, however, her little hands could not have damaged it.  Matthew spent a lot of time with his latest toy, a foldout city.

Maureen discovered that the mulberry tree overhanging my front verandah was in fruit and managed to get quite a few berries to eat.  It's Maureen's birthday next weekend so I gave her a present of something I knew she liked -- a leather-look coffee table

One thing we spent quite a lot of time discussing was England.  Paul is off to England and Ken was born there.  In particular we discussed the class system and its effects.  Discussing social class is a rather deplored thing to do in both England and Australia but I am a retired sociologist with a couple of published research papers on the subject in the academic journals so I can say the unsayable with some justification.  It's actually within my field of professional expertise.  I amused the company by quoting George Bernard Shaw's famous saying:  "No Englishman can open his mouth without causing another Englishman to despise him"

Ken made the interesting point that class enmities have diminished in recent years with the large influx of uncongenial immigrants to England.  The English are more likely to see themselves as one by contrast with the Africans, Muslims etc who now make up a substantial fraction of the population.  Both Paul and I think that the old divisions are still influential however.

But I did comment that what Ken said was convincing in terms of what Hitler did. It was only Hitler, with the many enemies he saw, who created among Germans a sense of German identity. Up until that time Germans mostly had a mainly regional identity -- as Saxons, Rhinelanders, Bavarians etc. To quote: "Vor uns marschiert Deutschland; unter uns marschiert Deutschland; hinter uns marschiert Deutschland". That got wild applause.

We also discussed Nederland a bit as Susan is of Dutch ancestry and they plan to visit the old family stamping ground while they are abroad.  Dutch and German are quite similar languages so it amused me to translate Susan's maiden name into German: "Von der Quelle".  And it sounds almost the same too.  All Nederlanders  think they can speak German and are equally convinced that no German can speak Dutch. They think in fact that only Nederlanders can speak Dutch properly, which may be true

I know a little about  Dutch pronunciation so usually try to pronounce the surname of Vincent van Gogh in the Dutch way.  But if I do that no-one understands what I am talking about -- they probably think that I've got a sore throat.  And a Nederlander would undoubtedly say that I get it wrong anyway.  I use German gutturals (the "Ach Laut"),  which are apparently a bit different from Dutch ones.

Susan is quite rightly enthused about her Dutch heritage so she even had a wooden jigsaw puzzle of the sort you usually give to toddlers wherein the pieces were all the provinces of Nederland

Susan is even thinking  of having Elise Christened in the  hometown of her Dutch family, which would be a great affirmation of continuity (only conservatives understand the importance of that) but it is a bit regrettable after the good family time we all had in Brisbane with Matthew's Christening.

Even anti-religious Ken came along to Matthew's Christening.  In my jocular way, I asked him afterward if he had felt the power coming down as Matthew was "done" and he assured me that he had!  I probably joke too much sometimes

I mentioned the Japanese custom of omiyagi (bringing back presents from a trip) but it didn't seem to get much traction.

I asked Ken if he had managed to get along to the Philip Glass opera recently performed in Brisbane (for only the THIRD time in the world).  He replied that he did not go as he did not like opera.  I understand that to some extent as I am not big on opera (through I LOVE all the great arias from  19th century Italy  --  "O mio caro babbino" etc.) but I was surprised he did not make an exception for Philip Glass.  I wondered if he had been put off by the price.  ANYTHING at our entertainment centre seems to cost $200+ per seat.  Knowing how much he likes Philip Glass I would have shouted him a ticket if that was the problem.  He has recently spent $50,000 on a new VW, however, so that may not be the case.

It's probably evil of me but I am betting that his VW breaks down before my 2004 Toyota Echo does.  See here.  I am a great fan of Toyotas.  I own two of them and have donated one each to Jenny and Joe!

Acknowledgements!  Jenny and Susan made the teas and coffees and Maureen did the washing up.  This family is a traditional one.

Waiting for the dosas to arrive. Maureen is helping Matthew with his jigsaw of Nederland


Ken reaching for the cookies  -- and Elise eyeing them

Saying farewell. Note Susan's fashionable hemline and my St George flag


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The immerser



It was only when I was about 9 that my mother first acquired an electric jug.  Such things were not common in Innisfail at that time.  The lady down the road, Mrs Young, did however from early on have an immerser ("immersion heater") -- which is basically an electric jug without the jug.  It was just a heating element that you could attach to a power cord and immerse in a bowl of water. It would then heat the water in the bowl until you turned it off.

Horace Young and my father were in the same business -- timber getting -- so the families knew one-another but were certainly not close  -- rivals more



In those days back doors were not usually locked (only people you didn't know came to the front door) and if a neighbourhood kid walked in your open back door you would say Hello and treat the kid more or less as one of your own.  And I had been in the Young's house on a number of occasions and seen the immerser in use. I was only about 4 at the time but was fascinated by this unfamiliar gadget.

Then one day I wandered into the Young's house and found no one home.  I went straight to the immerser, put it in a bowl of water and turned it on.  I watched the little bubbles in the water for a while and then lost interest.  I wandered off leaving the immerser ON!

It must have been a pretty sturdy piece of kit because it evaporated all the water, broke the bowl and then proceeded to burn a hole in the wooden  floor.

Eventually the Youngs came home to this scene of disaster and tried to make sense of it.  Eventually someone asked me if I had been in the house and in my usual honest way I said I had.  So partly because of that honesty I was not punished for it but was taken to see the hole in the floor.  It had burnt almost through one of the floorboards.

I was too young to know of any other repercussions.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dosas with Ken plus a Philip Glass opera


Last Sunday, I shouted Ken and Maureen a dosa lunch.  Both had been ill recently but they were in a recovered state for the lunch.  It was Ken's birthday the day before so it was in part a birthday lunch.  But it was mainly just to catch up with Ken. Ken has a most enquiring mind so is always interesting to talk to.

We talked a lot about both art and religion with the debate being over what drives both.  Along the way I mentioned that Anne had a Picasso print on her bedroom wall at my place so when we got back to my place for tea and coffee, Anne took Ken to have a look at it.  It is a line drawing of Don Quixote and is most evocatively done.  Ken was greatly impressed by it - as Anne and I are too.

I suggested that ego is the key both to artists and religion. Artists tend to think that they are special and religious people want to feel special.

Then last night Anne and I went to "The perfect American" by modern composer Philip Glass. It was a good opera, with lots going on, lots of drama and lots of dramatic music.  It even had a death scene.  So, except for Glass's unique music, it could have been a 19th century opera.  I went to it only for the music but it was a good show as well.  One's attention did not wander.

The whole point of the opera was to lampoon Walt Disney.  The intelligentsia will never forgive Disney for being anti-Communist but to my mind those who make excuses for Communism are the ethical cripples.

Disney was portrayed as a pathological egotist.  I am in no doubt that a hugely successful entrepreneur such as Disney had  to have a considerable ego but I am equally sure that a man who built up from scratch such a huge organization as the Disney organization had to be a very good people manager -- and no-one likes an egotist.  So whatever ego Disney had must have at least been kept in check most of the time.  So I very much doubt the accuracy of the Disney portrayal by Glass. But much in the opera was admittedly fictional so I suppose one should not take it as history



Another historical blooper was the portrayal of Abraham Lincoln as a champion of blacks and a believer in equality.  That is schoolboy history.  Lincoln was neither of those things.  In his famous letter to Horace Greeley Lincoln said that it was only the union he cared about, not blacks.  And after the war he wanted to send them all back to Africa, but was shot before he could implement that.  Let's have some words from the man himself, words spoken at the White House and addressed to a group of black community leaders on August 14th, 1862:

"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this be admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. It is better for both, therefore, to be separated."

Got that?

And Glass's history is equally shaky in portraying Disney as a racist.  His biographer Neal Gabler in his 2009 book 'Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination' concludes, "Walt Disney was no racist. He never, either publicly or privately, made disparaging remarks about blacks or asserted white superiority. Like most white Americans of his generation, however, he was racially insensitive."

And in describing Disney as the perfect American, Glass was largely disparaging America as a whole -- something Leftists such as Glass generally do.  The opera has yet to be performed in America.  I predict a very mixed reception to it when it is performed in America.

Why the opera first went to Madrid, then to London and then to Brisbane I do not know.  It was a very extravagant production in Brisbane with a far larger cast than needful and a huge (4-ton!) mechanical  contraption in the roof used to change scenes etc so maybe it was that only the Brisbane arts community felt able to afford it.

UPDATE

Below is a picture of the front cover of the program notes for the opera.  It is supposed to be a blending of Walt's face with the face of Mickey mouse.  The effect, however, is to make Disney look insane, and certainly two-faced.  So it is all part of the demonization of him.  A most unpleasant and disturbing piece of Leftist art.



Leftists customarily envy other people's success and Disney was VERY successful, so this attempt to pull his memory down might have been expected