Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reader Opinions and Comments

Yesterday I expressed the view that relatives of service personnel shouldn’t be walking in the Anzac Day march and wearing other peoples’ medals. I also said that in my opinion it was ruining the march. I invited comment as to whether others agreed or disagreed and I received a number of opinions of varying outlook, some quite spirited, all appreciated: 

From Phillip: 

Hi Otto. 

On ANZAC Day I enjoyed lunch with the surviving members of my father's WW2 brigade and their relatives. 22 attended and I guess there were 5 real veterans at the table. I was there representing my father (who is still alive but not able to get into town). 

Now to respond to your "gripe" ... personally I could not march on behalf of Dad. He was the one who endure the war and is entitled to wear the medals. I am happy to go to the Brigade lunch and pass on the news and stories to Dad but will stop when my father or the last vet has passed away. 

Other people in that lunch group DO march and proudly wear their relative's medals. They believe they are ensuring the "Lest We Forget" message will continue through their participation and it is important to highlight that most are direct descendents of a WW2 vet. 

Perhaps we should draw the line at participants with a direct single generation link to a veteran (or perhaps a minimum age), so that the ANZAC Day march does not eventually become just a parade. 

From Maureen: 

Anzac Day: 

Couldn’t agree more. I would feel uncomfortable wearing medals of family who were service personnel. 

The accolades are for those who earned them not for those just passing by. 

I don’t watch Anzac March anymore either. It is becoming a group of smirking kids who should be cheerleading at the football. 

I doubt you will get unanimous agreement. For those who wish to honour their relatives tell them to send money to Legacy. 

Best regards, 


From Candice: 

Morning Otto, 

Has Mondayitis gotten to you, or are you really a grumpy old bastard? 

If you think that these people marching in the parade think that the applause is for them personally, then I think you are missing the point of ANZAC day – Lest We Forget – as in, to remember them. 

If we all took your opinion, in nothing short of a few years, we won’t have any diggers to march and applaud – therefore there will be no march at all if not for the ‘ring ins’. These people are marching in honour of their relatives (be it great or grandfather) and I for one am happy to applaud a photograph of a man I have never met, let alone the kid walking along with a photo of one. 

I understand your comments are coming from a place of love for our ANZACs, but really? 

It’s up to that Mohawk kid’s parents or relatives to explain to him why he was in the march, and in my experience, most kids seem to understand that the march is about their grandad or the diggers – not them. However, I will admit…. Some of the kids might actually enjoy being in the parade and having people wave and clap. They’re kids and they love attention. 

Sorry, maybe I have Mondayitis but you did ask for opinions! 

Some thoughts on opinions:

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” 
- Harlan Ellison

"You have to listen to the people who have a negative opinion as well as those who have positive opinion.  Just to make sure that you are blending all these opinions in your mind before a decision is made. 
- Carlos Ghosn

"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd."
- Bertrand Russell

"One often contradicts an opinion when what is uncongenial is really the tone in which it was conveyed."
-  Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Anzac Day March gripe

Further to my post about Anzac Day, I would appreciate some feedback on a gripe that I have. Googling didn’t reveal any discussions on this particular issue. 

Anzac Day traditions:

Before looking at my gripe, some background for the benefit of overseas readers.

As I mentioned last week, Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand is the national day of remembrance for those who have died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. The name is an acronym for the initial letters of Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, the combined force which landed at Gallipoli in Turkey on 25 April 1915. 

It is Australia’s most solemn and sacred secular day and is honoured as such. There are various traditions associated with observance of Anzac Day: 
  • a Dawn Service at the memorials of all capital cities, suburban and regional towns, as well as overseas bases; 
  • commemorative services at various places, including in schools; 
  • the playing of the Last Post; 
  • a minute's silence; 
  • a march by service personnel, past and present, and those who served in the conflicts, accompanied by marching bands and brass bands; 
  • a blind eye by the law to two up games (an Australian gambling tradition, betting on how coins will fall when tossed in the air) at the pubs and hotels. 

Some pics illustrative of the above: 

My gripe: 

I have attended Anzac Day marches from when I was a young cadet in the St John Ambulance Brigade, a Zambuk on the sidelines to render first aid when needed. Over the years thereafter I continued attending to give the diggers, nurses etc a round of applause. It was only about 10 years ago that I ceased attending in person and began watching on TV. 

In the last few years it has become increasingly common for young people to march wearing a relative’s medals and honours. Admittedly most wear the medals on the right side of their chest, as is the custom for those who have not been awarded the medals. The actual recipients wear theirs on the left side (the origin has been attributed both to the left side being over the heart and to keeping the right side free for a sash supporting a sword). 

Young people – adolescents, teenagers and young adults - marching in the official marches has become so common that there is hardly any group that doesn’t have ring ins alongside the adults. Kids as young as 7 and 8 can be seen marching, carrying photographs, some waving to the crowd. Oftentimes they are teenagers, some walking in a dignified manner and some slovenly. Some have taken the trouble to dress respectably, some look as though they got dressed in the dark. 

Call me a grumpy old bastard if you want to but, to me, these ring ins have no place in the march. 

The applause for the marchers as they pass by is for those who earned the medals, for those who have served and those who are presently serving. 

They are probably all very nice people and they are all probably genuine in wishing to honour their forebears by wearing their medals. I have no problem with that. But not to march. 

Some pics that illustrate what I am referring to:

The caption for the last pic above said that the child was marching for his great grandfather, whose picture he carried. He has probably never met the man. 

What particularly annoyed me last week was that during the TV broadcast of the march, the camera focused on a young boy aged about 12 or 13, with a Mohawk style haircut, black jeans and black shirt, sunglasses and a disinterested expression, waving at the crowd as he passed. He was also chewing gum.  His body language and expression suggested that he accepted that the applause he was acknowledging was for him, rather than for the people around him who had actually earned the medals. 

My wife stated that he was probably marching to honour one of his relatives. In my view, that makes no difference.

It pissed me off enough that I didn’t watch any more.  I doubt that I will watch it again.

Your views?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Song Spot: Island Girl

I was driving to work when Elton John’s Island Girl came on. Not paying much attention to the lyrics, I started to become interested when I wondered how someone wraps themself around someone else “like a well worn tyre”. No matter how I tried to make that image work, it didn’t make sense to me. It still doesn’t. Cest la vie.  It also started me wondering about the rest of the lyrics. Have you ever heard a particular song for years, not paying that much attention to the lyrics, and then found out that the lyrics and subject matter are actually quite startling? A previous post on the Stones’ Brown Sugar looked at that particular aspect: 

Island Girl is another example. Some notes and facts: 


I see your teeth flash, Jamaican honey so sweet
Down where Lexington cross 47th Street
She's a big girl, she's standing six foot three
Turning tricks for the dudes in the big city  
Island girl
What you wanting with the white man's world
Island girl
Black boy want you in his island world
He want to take you from the racket boss
He want to save you but the cause is lost
Island girl, island girl, island girl
Tell me what you wanting with the white man's world  
She's black as coal but she burn like a fire
And she wrap herself around you like a well worn tire
You feel her nail scratch your back just like a rake
He one more gone, he one more John who make the mistake 

  • The music is by Elton John, aka Captain Fantastic, the lyrics by Bernie Taupin, aka The Brown Dirt Cowboy. 

  • 1975 production, the first single taken from the album Rock of the Westies, reached No 1 in the US and No 14 in the UK. The single’s B side was Sugar on the Floor written by Kiki Dee, who would partner Elton in 1976 with Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

  • John’s and Taupin’s 1975 album Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy was the first album ever to debut at #1 on the Billboard music chart. Their next album, Rock Of The Westies, also broke in at #1. Island Girl was the only hit from the record. 

  • The lyrics suggest that the Island Girl is a Jamaican woman who has found that the only way to make a living is via prostitution. The singer says that there are a lot of men in Jamaica who would have liked to have had her as a wife, but it’s too late now, the “cause is lost”, she is stuck in the life of a prostitute. 

  • There is also a suggestion that maybe she kills her Johns: “He one more gone, he one more John who make the mistake”. 

  • According to Wikipedia

The lyrics are about a prostitute in New York City and a man who wants to take that prostitute back to Jamaica. Arguably the "Island Girl" is a male prostitute, given that John sings, "She's a big girl/she's standin' six-foot-three/turning tricks for the dudes in the big city."  
As chronicled in the documentary Gay Sex in the 70’s, New York City at that time provided an unprecedented sexual freedom for gay men, with ample opportunities for anonymous sex. Gay men also may occasionally refer to a gay peer as "she" rather than "he".  
At the time the song was released, Elton John had not yet publicly come out. The following year, in a Rolling Stone article, he said he was bisexual. In 1988, he confirmed he was gay and went public with his relationship with another man.  

  • The term Island can mean Jamaica, Manhattan Island or both in the context of the song. 

  • The lyrics have been denounced as sexist and racist. 

So there you have it. No doubt it will never be the same for you, whenever you hear the song again and start singing along, you will recall that it could be about a 6 foot 3 inch male prostitute from Jamaica. 

Next time: 

Whether The Rolling Stones’ Angie was written for David Bowie's wife Angela Bowie, who claimed that she found Mick Jagger and David Bowie in bed together.

Cher, Elton John and Diana Ross, 1975

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Artist's Eye

When I recently posted the above pic as part of a series of parodies and variations  on Van Gogh's Starry Night, I forgot to mention its title, which is part of the fun:  Dark Starry Knight.

See that post at:

Here is another on the same theme:

More starry night variations in the future.

Byter Sue sent me an email in relation to Van Gogh’s increasing manic swirls and haloed lights towards the end of his life.  I suggested that his swirls, light haloes etc increased as he descended more and more into mental disorder; that they were symbolic, if nor representative, of that increasing disorder.

From Sue:
It has been theorised that his art was influenced by either cataracts or by digitalis toxicity (foxglove was then used to treat both epilepsy and heart disease) 
Thought you might find these articles interesting:
Bit about cataracts if you are interested

The above articles are indeed fascinating.  Click on the links to read.

Thanks Sue.

Other famous artists have also suffered from eye disease or conditions which have been reflected in their art:

Degas suffered from retinal eye disease which caused failing vision from 1860 to 1910.

Degas’ pastel “Woman Combing Her Hair”, 1886.
During the mid-1880s he first began to talk about his “infirmity of sight.”

Degas’ “Woman Drying Her Hair”, 1905. 
After 1900, there was virtually no detailing of faces or clothing in Degas’ artwork.

Monet, a master of light and colour, suffered from cataracts that made it increasingly difficult to see colours.  He was forced to memorise where the colours were on his palette, to recognise the colours of tubes of paint by their labels and to decide what colours he would place where in his paintings.  The cataracts, as with Van Gogh, caused yellowing and darkening of the lens of the eye.  After cataract surgery in 1923, Monet was able to paint again and he threw out much of his work from the previous 10 years.

Monet’s “The Japanese Bridge at Giverny”.
Painted by Monet sometime between 1918 and 1924, showing the worsening of his vision due to cataracts. 

Compare with:

The Waterlily Pond, 1897


When Monet was talked into his cataract operation in 1923, he was aged 82 and almost blind.  He agreed to the operation on his right eye but not his left and was able to see out of his right eye with special spectacles.  Works from after the operation show that items painted using his left eye, the one still suffering cataracts, have a red and yellow domination; those using his right eye a blue cast.  By way of example, between 1922 and 1924 Monet painted a large number of works all called The House seen from the Roses Garden.  Here are some of them:

Monet died in 1926 and painted up to a few months before his death.
Other noted artists who have  been identified as suffering eye disease or malfunction which affected their work include the following: 

Rembrandt is said to have suffered from stereo blindness in one eye, that is, a condition where the eye perceives in 2 dimensions rather than 3. This is said to have assisted in turning images into 2 dimensional works.

El Greco is said to have had astigmatism, causing him to elongate his figures.

Constable’s blue-green colour blindness is the cause for his predominant yellow and brown landscapes, it has been suggested.

Clifton Pugh, the noted Australian artist, suffered from protanope, an inability to detect red. 

Likewise famous Australian artist Lloyd Rees could not distinguish blue and yellow, hence his style of landscape painting. 

Turner is believed to have suffered from cataracts, accounting for his later red and brown art works. 

Holbein suffered from astigmatism, with the result that his portrait of King Henry VIII displays an excessively wide girth compared to the rest of his body. When viewed through a corrective lens, the figure is much thinner. Holbein’s The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb shows the subject tall. When viewed through a corrective lens, Christ becomes wider with a more normal appearance. 

Hans Holbein the Younger, The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb, 1521-1522 

Some have speculated that Holbein painted Christ in the tomb flipping the bird:

I have not been able to find anything to either support or disprove that view, but given that the gesture dates from Ancient Greece and was also in use in Ancient Rome, it is conceivable.. 

Here is the first recorded photograph of someone flipping the bird, baseball pitcher Old Hoss Radbourn, back row far left, 1886. Funny how you sometimes secure your place in history. 

It has also been proposed that the portraits painted by Thomas Gainsborough showed the subjects with elongated bodies and necks as a result of his uncorrected astigmatism, the same as Modigliani.

Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pisarro, Cezanne, Matisse and Rodin all suffered from myopia, or shortsightedness. This caused a loss of detail in the works with the emphasis on light and colour, plus an emphasis on red. Indeed it has been suggested that the Impressionist Movement may well have been started by myopia and cataracts. 

Frank Miller, the writer and illustrator of Sin City among other works, suffers from total colour blindness so that he can only see in black and white. He also has problems with perspective as a result of stereoblindness in both eyes:

No, that’s not true. I made up the last one, the one about Frank Miller.


Fans of Sin City (I am one) will be pleased to know that shooting of the Sin City film sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, began in October 2012 and is due for release in October 2013.

Friday, April 26, 2013

10 John Wayne quotes

John Wayne (1907-1979) was born Marion Robert Morrison but his middle name was changed to Mitchell when his parents decided to name the next born Robert. As an actor Wayne came to symbolise masculinity, bravery, action and individual struggle against overwhelming odds and challenges. A prominent Republican and avowed anti-communist, he was also renowned for right wing thinking on matters as diverse as politics, indigenous affairs, women’s rights and welfare.

"We must always look to the future. Tomorrow - the time that gives a man just one more chance - is one of the many things that I feel are wonderful in life. So`s a good horse under you. Or the only campfire for miles around. Or a quiet night and a nice soft hunk of ground to sleep on. A mother meeting her first-born. The sound of a kid calling you dad for the first time. There`s a lot of things great about life. But I think tomorrow is the most important thing. Comes in to us at midnight very clean. It`s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday." 

“Talk low, talk slow and don't say too much.” 

"I would like to be remembered, well . . . the Mexicans have a phrase, 'Feo fuerte y formal'. Which means he was ugly, strong and had dignity. "

Although Wayne had requested that the above words be placed on his grave, the plaque marking his final resting place uses different words, those quoted in the first item above:

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” 

“Life is hard; it's harder if you're stupid.” 

"I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to the point of responsibility. I don`t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people." 

"Have you ever heard of some fellows who first came over to this country? You know what they found? They found a howling wilderness, with summers too hot and winters freezing, and they also found some unpleasant little characters who painted their faces. Do you think these pioneers filled out form number X6277 and sent in a report saying the Indians were a little unreasonable? Did they have insurance for their old age, for their crops, for their homes? They did not! They looked at the land, and the forest, and the rivers. They looked at their wives, their kids and their houses, and then they looked up at the sky and they said, 'Thanks, God, we'll take it from here.' " 

“I've had three wives, six children and six grandchildren and I still don't understand women” 

"I don`t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves."

(1971 interview)

"When I started, I knew I was no actor and I went to work on this Wayne thing. It was as deliberate a projection as you`ll ever see. I figured I needed a gimmick, so I dreamed up the drawl, the squint and a way of moving meant to suggest that I wasn't looking for trouble but would just as soon throw a bottle at your head as not. I practised in front of a mirror."

Some pics: