Nudge, Nudge

Welcome to a lot of new blog subscribers, and a lot of new twitter followers, very encouraging. This post from a month ago introduces the sections of the blog, shows you around, makes you feel at home. Oh and begs you very subtly to vote for me on Best Blogs 2013 (see icon at right to click) because voting closes before the 30 April, hurry hurry.

If you are a blog subscriber (ie receiving this by email or RSS) you will probably find it easier to go direct to vote here – on page 5 under “T” for THE Watermelon Blog.

Much appreciated.

Will add a new chapter to the autobiography this weekend, take the story up to date over the last year. Hope you enjoy (now done, see “Topic of Cancer” last chapter in “Dream”, tab above)

Bread and circuses


Had to go to the supermarket for bread and stuff the other day. Suddenly, as if a mirage, there was a circus big top, occupying the normally empty grass area next to the car park.

I’m not a circus fan, don’t think I’ve ever been to one (odd how memory plays tricks, just a faint thought that maybe I have once, but I can’t distinguish that from all of the circus images of film and literature), but a circus arrival in a town is still a big event I guess.
…Read more

Better, Best, Bestest


Hullo there. It’s that time of the year when I say a big welcome to all new Watermelon Blog subscribers, and twitter followers who also drop by, and, well, anyone really who passes this way, and show them around. Also the time when I unashamedly beg, yes beg you to vote for me as Best Blog in the People’s Choice section. So, let’s get that out of the way first, remove my embarrassment at big-noting myself. See over there on the right, near the top, where it says “Best Blog Competition”, yep, that’s the one. Click the big blue icon and it will take you to the polling booth. Once there, I’m afraid, you have to go alphabetically to find “The Watermelon Blog” (pity I didn’t call it A Watermelon Blog, but who knew eh?) and click on the vote button. There, you’re done, ta muchly. Make sure you all vote now.

Right, back to the blog. Structure pretty standard. Main part of blog, with new posts every day or so, running chronologically, is right here where you are reading this. Along the top are a series of tabs, linked to posts not occurring in the chronological blog. “About” is obvious, “Atheism” and “Darwin” are older posts on religion and evolution. “History” is the blog version of my book “The Pure State of Nature” (Allen and Unwin, 2000), on Australian prehistory (including fire, extinction, Aboriginal use of environment), and ” Fire” is a series of my additional writings on fire and the Australian environment.

If you weren’t satisfied that “About” explained who the hell it was writing this Blog, then “Values” and “Dream” will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about me, and then some. Haven’t done most recent chapter yet, but may this weekend. Related tabs are “Elsie”, my mother’s unfinished autobiography, and “Kafka” and “Novel” (fictionalised versions of parts of “Dream”).

In the right column is a calendar showing dates of most recent posts, “Subjects” showing the categories assigned to posts in the main blog, “Tags” likewise for topics assigned to posts. The latter two give you a way of bringing together everything I’ve written on a topic, whenever it was posted.

Then there’s a couple of sections for blog stats (nearly, nearly to 100,000 individual blog visitors since this count began). Then a series of links to the most recent posts on a series of blogs ( rotated from time to time) of interest, then links to some of my archived much older posts, then, under categories, links to other blogs of interest.

The information in the left column is under self-explanatory headings.

There, isn’t that easy? Have a browse around some time, check out my older posts, check out some of the tab material, enjoy, that’s the main thing.

Any questions, post a comment here. Oh, and please comment on any posts, any time, even if just to say “well played that man” or “that was the biggest load of bollocks I have ever read”. Whichever.



Sorry, ignore twitter link in previous feed, the tweet concerned is:

Shoky Joky (@IH8SHOKJOKS)
25/03/13 9:03 AM
#AmAgenda – Fifield says “we never saw anything like a challenge to John Howard”. That’s just a lie which @Kieran_Gilbert accepted. #MSMfail

Guess I’m still learning this twitter-blog interface.


The shadow of young girls


Was sitting in a Shopping Mall the other day, trying to conserve energy, watching the world go by. It is not a Mall we often go to, except when we happen to be over that way and need to get a few things from supermarket. It is a linear mall. The car park underneath leads up to it via a walkway at one end. Then you move along the central passage way (where I was sitting), browsing the shops, and eventually leave by a walkway at the other end which takes you back down to the car park.

The shops are all the usual same-old same-old we see everywhere these days. A supermarket (one of the big two), McDonald’s, Subway, Donut chain store, Coffee chain store, Bakery chain store, KFC, several clothes shops, mobile phone store, another one, computer games, cheap jewellery chain store, chemist, a store in which everything is a dollar, a hairdressers, fingernail salon, cheap clothing chain store, Chinese takeaway, Medicare, and so on.

The crowds browse these less than impressive (to be fair, tawdry) retail outlets as if they were on Fifth Avenue, or perhaps Oxford Street. Constantly, it seems, in thousands of triumphs of hope over experience, believing that this, this will be the transaction that transforms their life like the kiss of a prince waking a sleeping beauty.

There are apparently, at the time I am there, mid-afternoon, virtually only females in the Mall, apart from me. There are young girls just out of school for the day, celebrating with milkshakes and donuts: Teenage girls getting their nails done, first tattoos shyly peeking out on necks and arms; Young adult women, baby bumps, sadly unpaparrazi-snapped, pushing clothing out, or those with ex-baby-bumps now in prams or strollers; Thirty-somethings. wiping crumbs from mouth after coffee with girls, hurrying guiltily to get home before school buses arrive; Middle-aged women, hair with fresh new colours after discoveries of grey hairs, push trolley loads of supermarket goods, bought on auto-pilot; Old women, supported by walking frames or occasional surviving more elderly husbands, move from chemists shops with repeat prescriptions, to Medicare offices for refunds.

Sometimes these individuals combine as if preparing for family portraits of the “Three generation” type – mother, daughter, grand-daughter in pram; or grandmother being supported by middle-aged daughter, baby bump being carried alongside. Or they clump together like friend’s battalions, small platoons of teenagers or thirty-somethings or schoolgirls.

But if I, invisible old man with no hair, sitting on a hard bench apart from the crowds which flow around me like a river around a rock, squint my eyes just a little, order is imposed on this apparently almost random scene. Then I see a young girl emerging at the top of one walkway, and, as she walks along the Mall, gradually aging, going through all the ages of woman, until she, supported by a walking frame, disappears down the walkway at the other end. And then another, and another, until the Mall resembles one of those factory machines where raw materials are poured into hoppers at one end, and, after much processing and whirring of gears, a finished product, child’s toy perhaps, or household utensil, emerges at the other. It is it seems a big machine where young girls are processed by life into old ladies.

Finally I see, pausing at the top of the last walkway, an old lady who seems to be looking around for something, searching with increasing desperation. And I know, instinctively, what she can’t find – it is the Reverse Button, which would send the whole machine running backwards and turn old ladies into young girls again.

They never seem to fit the Reverse Button to these bloody machines.

Be careful out there


Started writing a long, complicated post about how “New Year” was as meaningless as birthdays because they are both artificial points in a time continuum and you can’t characterise particular years because mixture of stuff, and yada yada yada.

But I took pity on you all and scrapped it. Here we are, another year rolling out, another year rolling in. Thank you all for your keen interest and warm support in 2012, and I hope we all have a good, better, best year this year.

So, off you go, embrace 2013, but Hey!

Be careful out there.

Nothing to write home about?


Have been watching a series of Alan Bennett plays on DVD (“Alan Bennett at the BBC”).

I’ve always felt kindly disposed towards Bennett. He seems like a nice fellow from his books, and I suppose his experiences, ideas, personality, are something like mine might have been had my family stayed in northern England and I been born there instead of in Australia. Or perhaps not.

Have always thought of his plays as being great works in some sense. The stage and tv equivalent of the 1950s-1960s working class English novels I admired when young. Had only seen a few of them, and settled back to watch the whole sequence with great expectations.

Only to suffer a right disappointment.

Look, don’t get me wrong. His excellent qualities are on full display here. He’s had a lifetime of using ears finely attuned to words and tone of voice; of eyes finely focused on facial expression and body movements; of empathetic neurones able to imagine himself in all kinds of other pairs of shoes. It is as if you are there with him on the top of the bus looking down on the street, or at the seaside on holiday, or in a hotel, remarking on the passing human parade.

But, and I’m afraid it’s a big BUT, seeing them all at once like this reveals them to be very thin gruel indeed. Great plays, like great novels, poems, films, need to do more than just present a slice of finely observed life. They need to show us something, teach us something about the meaning of life that is more than just “41”. There need to be deep and meaningful ideas about the meaning of life that arise from the fine observations, the latter, for an artist, never being an end in themselves.

What do we get from Alan, one play at a time? The First World War killed a lot of people who had been living in a Golden Age; retirement is a challenge after a working life; a spiteful person can wreck your life; an unpleasant person who thinks they are popular often isn’t; a disabled child can put strain on a marriage; Guy Burgess loved Englishness; Franz Kafka got his ideas from his place of employment; Marcel Proust was isolated by his housekeeper; discovering Anthony Blunt was a spy was like working on a painting. And so on, so little. Each of those is the only “insight”, from all those plays, one per play, about either life in general or some historical figure. And the latter unconvincing. Slim pickings eh?

My idea of a good play is not just the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; but one which will tell me a number of things about life, the universe, and everything that I hadn’t thought of before.

But I guess I am mistaken, it seems that is not a good play, that is the best. And Alan Bennett’s plays, sadly, are merely good.

O Tannenbaum


I was going to write something really original about Xmas but just as I began there was a knock at the door and some fellow (was his name Mr Porlock or something, I forget) interrupted my train of thought and… Well, suffice it to say you’ll have to wait for Xmas 2013 for my festive season originality.

Discovered this during the week (ignore the commentary, some of which is wrong, a better description is here). A remarkable and touching series of photos of a German couple from 1900 to 1945, recording their every Xmas together from just married to the death of the wife. Taken in the same room, with Xmas tree, and their presents to each other, every Xmas through those tumultuous German years, outside the room, and their own aging. The complete series sadly seems not to be online, only in a book published some years ago, but the eight available give a very good feel for a life evolving.

As Draaisma observes – “Each of the photographs has been taken on the same day of the year. But against the unvarying background, you notice the changing seasons in a human life all the more clearly. You see how gradual the changes are, though they can also be abrupt, life the first true day of spring every year or the morning when winter seems to have arrived. By moving forward exactly one year with each click of the self-timer, the Wagners demonstrate clearly that the aging process does not follow the even rhythm of the calendar.”

I guess Xmas in general does that for all of us, a series of fixed points at which we can picture ourselves in times past, growing up, then our children in turn, then our grandchildren. And conversely our parents and grandparents, seeing our youthful excitement will have been thinking back through their own lives, to their own childhoods. And so all the way back, through the mediaeval celebrations and legends of “St Nicolas”, through Roman “Saturnalia” and the like, to the various Solstice/mid-Winter pagan festivals which early christianity copied.

No point in being all Christmas carolly about Xmas. The photos of the Wagners show as much sadness as happiness. And all of us can probably remember Xmas events where the ambience was a little strained. You can after all choose friends for your New Year’s Eve guests, but you can’t choose your Xmas family members.

Anyway, apologies again for writing a Xmas post as original as a pair of socks for a present. Thank you all for sticking with this blog, and me, through another year with less than ideal ambience. And thank you all for the support you have shown me – a series of very welcome presents.

I hope the latest in your Xmas series is a good one. Picture Richard Wagner taking your photo.

And smile for the camera.

Happy Christmas!