Monday, October 31, 2011

The Melbourne Cup and Mark Twain


"Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me."

-           Mark Twain

In 1895, at the age of 60, Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)  embarked on a world wide lecture tour to raise funds to pay creditors.  His tour took in Africa, India and Australia, where he lectured at the Athenaeum, visited the Victorian goldfields and attended the Melbourne Cup.  The latter event prompted him to make the above comment at a public lecture.

It should be remembered that the Melbourne Cup was first held in 1861, so that the exuberance he described had developed in a relatively brief period.

Unfortunately, whilst in Melbourne he also developed a painful carbuncle.

Twain described Melbourne and the Cup in a chapter in his 1897 book Following the Equator:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Halloween Trivia


·         Halloween has its origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain, a word meaning “summer’s end”.  The festival marked the end of the harvest, the end of the “lighter half” of the year and the beginning of the “darker half”.  Celebrated over several days, it had elements of the Festival of the Dead, a festival to honour or recognise deceased members of the community.  Bonfires were a large part of the festivities and people and their livestock often walked between two fires as a cleansing ritual. 

·         The word Halloween is a Scottish variant of All Hallows Even (“evening”), the night before All Hallows Day.  For those younger readers who think that the origin is associated with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the word “hallows” comes from the Gothic word “hailag” meaning holy. All Hallows Day, also known as All Saints Day, honours the saints, both known and unknown.

·         In 601AD Pope Gregory instructed his priests to incorporate local practices and celebrations into Christian practice and belief when seeking to convert pagans to Christianity, rather than seek to remove them entirely. Smart man.  Accordingly All Saints Day was listed for 1 November, the day following Samhain, as a means of countering the influence of that pagan festival.

Whereas Samhrain had recognised both good and evil spirits in its rituals, the missionaries preached that the spirits of Samhain were all evil and that those who worshipped tem were devil worshippers.  As a result Halloween became associated with evil spirits and the following day, the Christian celebratory day, was associated with the Saints.

Although the old beliefs continued, the nature of the celebrations changed.  The worshippers now used the day to ward off evil spirits. The day became associated with witches, demons and fairies.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Some personal moments . . .

Although I post reminiscences and personal observations about the past, I have tried to avoid this blog becoming the equivalent of a face book or twitter page setting out what I did each day.  Today I am departing from that policy and presenting a few anecdotes about some recent personal items.  Again there is a cuation that there is ome risque content.

Yesterday I was in conference with a client when my mobile telephone rang. Usually someone else in the office will take my mobile and answer the call but no one was available on this occasion.  I said to my client “I’ll just get rid of this call.”  Still looking at my client’s documents and turning over the pages, I answered.  The caller was my wife, Kate, who asked “Are you with someone?”  I intended to say “Yes, can I call you back?” My mind on the documents, it unfortunately came out as “Yes, can I get rid of you?”  “Yes, but you’re in deep excrement when you get home.”


The newspapers reported this week that Sydney’s Liam Warriner, 22, had mooned the Queen in Brisbane by displaying his bare bottom with an Australian flag wedged between his cheeks. 

The comments sections of the various online newspapers were swamped, either by those who thought him wonderful and those who thought he needed public flogging.  I particularly liked the comment sympathising with Her Maj for having another Anus Horribilis. 

What was of interest in the comments section was the number of times Herr Warriner was described as a “bogan”.

The funny thing is that everyone knows what a bogan is, but no one knows how the term originated. 

A bogan is a rude and coarse person, uneducated, from a lower class background, typified by speech, clothing and attitude. 

Similar slang terms and concepts exist in other countries, including:
-       chav, scally and pikey in England;
-       ned in Scotland;
-       scanger, scobe, knacker and spide in Ireland;
-       zed in South Africa;
-       tokkie in the Netherlands;
-       proll in Germany;
-       white trash or redneck in North America;
-       ars in Israel;
-       lumpen or lumpenproletariat in Russia.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Funny Friday

At a revival meeting the preacher is promoting faith healing.  “If you believe, you will be healed. All it takes is faith.  Believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will cure you and His love will make you whole. Is there anyone here who wants to be healed?”

A little old lady in the front row raises her hand and he calls her on stage. She makes her way slowly on her crutches.  He asks her name and she says “Mrs Smith.”  He asks whether she has faith and she replies “Yes”.  The preacher says “Then go behind the curtain, Mrs Smith, and you will be healed.”

He asks again if anyone else wants healing.  Bily Bloggs raises his hand and says “Neth.”  He too is called onstage and asked his name/  It is obvious that he has a speech defect resulting from a cleft palate when he says “Nilly Noggs.”  Again the preacher asks “Do you have faith?” and receives an answer from Billy Bloggs, “Neth.”  “Then go behind the curtain and you too will be healed.”

“Mrs Smith, throw out your left crutch.”

A crutch is thrown over the curtain.

“Mrs Smith, throw out your right crutch.”

As the congregation chants and praises the Lord, with many Hallelujahs, the other crutch came over the curtain.

“Now, Billy Bloggs, have faith, speak to me.”

From behind the curtain comes Billy Bloggs' voice, “Mithith Nith juth fallen on ner narth.”

Caution: the following item is risqué.

I was hesitant about including the following item as being possibly too risqué but was encouraged to do so by my older son, who said that I was too sensitive.  On reflecting about a risqué content warning, I realised that any such warnings had never caused me to avoid something, in fact it made me want to watch or read it even more.  I have a sneaking suspicion that some TV shows carry such a warning, especially on the promos, to attract viewers.  I once knew a newsagent who said that he had second rate adult magazines that weren’t selling.  He sealed them in plastic and they sold out quickly.

Here is the Friday Funny I was talking about . . .

A Confederate soldier was given the job of supplying his regiment with food. To help him, he hired an Indian scout. The two of them set off on their journey to find some buffalo.

After riding for hours, the Indian gets off his horse, puts his ear to the ground and says, "Buffalo come."

The soldier looks all around but sees nothing.  He says to the Indian, "I don’t see anything, how do you know buffalo come?”

The Indian replies “Ear sticky.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Some images and drawings . . .


(I am partial to the above pic in that it is also a tattoo on the inside of my arm.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Quote: Edward Everett


“The admission to Harvard College depends upon examinations; and if this boy passes the examinations, he will be admitted; and if the white students choose to withdraw, all the income of the college will be devoted to his education.”

-Edward Everett, on admission of the first black student to Harvard University,1847.

Edward Everett  (1794-1865) was an American politician and orator, who served as a US Congressman, US Senator, Governor of Massachusetts, US Secretary of State, and as President of Harvard University. On 19 November 1863 he was the main speaker at Gettysburg, whose two-hour oration has been eclipsed in history by President Abraham Lincoln’s's brief Gettysburg Address.  Everett wrote to Lincoln the following day “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I cam as near the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

The words spoken on the admission of the first black student to Harvard University were in respect of Beverly Williams, who had been in the same preparatory school as Everett’s son.  Williams died of tuberculosis before his 18th birthday and never took his place at Harvard.  The first black pupil to study at Harvard was Richard Greener (1844-1922) in 1865.  Greener graduated in 1870.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quote: Lady Caroline Lamb


“Mad, bad and dangerous to know.”

-       Lady Caroline Lamb’s description in her diary of Lord Byron.

Portrait of Lady Caroline Lamb above by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Lady Caroline Lamb (1785-1828) was a British aristocrat and novelist best known for her affair with Lord Byron in 1812.  She was the wife of the 2nd Viscount Melbourne who was Prime Minister in 1834 and 1835-1841. 

Although the marriage was originally based on love, the stress of having an autistic child who was cared for at home, a premature daughter who did not survive, long recovery periods and the absences through work of Viscount Melbourne drove a wedge between them.

It was also a period when women having lovers after they had provided an heir was common.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Moskito and Marco

(Click on image to enlarge).

The current controversy about Japan’s resumption of whale hunting in the Southern oceans in the guise of scientific research brings to mind an incident which took place in December 2005 off the coast of san Francisco.

A female humpback whale, the type of whale commonly slaughtered in the Southern oceans, had become trapped in ropes securing crab pots.  The whale was about 18m in length, female, and so badly entangled that it was determined that only divers cutting the ropes would be able to free her, a risky proposal in dealing with a creature weighing an estimated 50 tons.  It was believed that the whale had become tangled while travelling her usual migration route.

One of the first divers on the scene was one James Moskito (true, that is his name).

The following is an account from the time, verified by as a truthful account:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reader Comment


Byter Maz writes:

In reading my Bytes this morning I find that the baseball is referred to as being “A World Series”, i.e. a world championship.

You could do a lot for baseball tragic such as I by explaining the end of year series is NOT a world championship.

It is the final series sponsored by “The World” newspaper.

Now I know the Yanks say they have the biggest of everything – biggest state (try Western Australia for size) – but in this instance it is ignorance by the rest of the world. Who knows one day “Harvey Norman State of Origin” might achieve the same status.

Back to game 2 today. Go the Rangers! Don’t care even if the Cardinals win!


3D Printing


Remember those scenes in cartoons and in sci fi movies where some scientist makes perfect copies of things with a machine?  It was a bit like making copies of documents using a photocopier, only with three dimensional objects, even people.  Well, three dimensional copying is now a reality, although it is not yet possible to invest the objects with life.

The following links show the process and the results, be amazed:

Some comments:

·         The process is known as 3D printing.  Standard and high-res 3D printers produce intricate plastic models from 3D designs, with the moving parts visible on the surface moving similarly on the copy.  It therefore produce working mechanical devices with moving parts.  It obviously cannot produce internal components.  It will therefore produce a copy of a toy car with the wheels moving, for example, but cannot include the engine under the bonnet.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Funny Friday


In recognition of Her Maj visiting Australia, I was going to post the horse joke for Funny Friday.  I then decided that I would post some longer humorous items.  Then I decided to do both. . .

The Queen of England was showing the Archbishop of Canterbury around the Royal Stables when one of the stallions close by broke wind so loudly it couldn't be ignored.

'Oh dear,' said the Queen,' How embarrassing. I'm frightfully sorry about that.'

'It's quite understandable,' said the Archbishop, and after a moment added,' as a matter of fact I thought it was the horse.'

The first of the following items originated in the year 2000.  Over the years various expanded versions have been distributed.  The American response which follows has also been changed from time to time.  There are therefore numerous and various versions of both.  Anyone wishing to read about the items and see variants can do so by going to:


To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth I

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Prince Philip


With Her Maj and hubby visiting Oz, it is opportune to post a reminiscence by Gareth Evans, former Attorney General and Foreign Minister, of his meeting with Prince Philip. Gareth’s comments are quoted in Barry Cohen’s Whitlam to Winston:

Gareth Evans remembers well the moment he cast off any lingering doubts he had about the monarchy and became a confirmed republican. It was December 1985 and Her Majesty was at Yarralumla with her consort to sign into law the Australia Act, the legislation that allowed Australia to finally sever all those remaining linkages with the United Kingdom that we were constitutionally capable of severing, short of a referendum.

It was, he recalls, a great occasion.

The entire Ministry gathered in a semicicrcle as the Queen and Prince Philip came around, shook our hands one by one and engaged in a little conversation with each of us.

After I had a polite but brief exchange with Her Majesty, she settled into a rather more prolonged discussion with Senator Susan Ryan, standing beside me, leaving me face to face with Prince Philip with a conversation gap to fill. My gambit wasn’t, on reflection, the most adventurous or stylish but I still think it was serviceable enough for the occasion. My opening line – ‘This is really a marvellous occasion and it’s wonderful that you are here for it’ – did not evince any discernible reaction at all. So I plunged on with something like this: ‘I feel particularly pleased personally that this has come to fruition. When I was Attorney-General I spent a fair bit of time rushing backwards and forwards to Whitehall, the Parliament and in fact the Palace as well, putting all this together, and it’s great that we’ve now made it.’

Prince Philip paused, looked at me and uttered just two words in reply: ‘Big deal.’

Prams, Trams and Automobiles

(I was going to call this post "Frankly m'dear, I don't give a tram" but decided against it.)

From 1879 to 1961, Sydney was served by an extensive tram network, one so large that it was the second largest in the Commonwealth after London and one of the largest in the world.  In 1997 a privately owned single line, light rail system, Metro Light Rail, opened and is planned to be extended, proving the old adage that if you hang onto something long enough it will eventaully come back into fashion. 

Trams were not without their risks, one of the most common being collisions with motor vehicles, as the following pics illustrate:

(Click on the images to enlarge)

Collision between a tram and a coal truck, Botany Road, Mascot, 1940’s.

Some points to note:
·         The numbers of spectators that attended motor vehicle accident scenes.
·         The open style tram.
·         Most men wore suits and hats in those days.
·         Barefoot children.
·         Plume petrol, which has been the subject of an earlier post:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Some Prime Ministerial responses and miscellaneous items . . .

George Reid (1845-1919), Premier of NSW and Prime Minister of Australia, to a heckler who had pointed to his ample paunch and exclaimed "What are you going to call it, George?"

"If it's a boy, I'll call it after myself. If it's a girl I'll call it Victoria. But if, as I strongly suspect, it's nothing but piss and wind, I'll name it after you.”

"I went to the zoo the other day, there was only one dog in it, it was a shitzu."

Gough Whitlam, Prime Minister of Australia, to a heckler who had shouted "What are you going to do about abortion?":

"In your case, I'd like to make it retrospective."

Sunday, October 16, 2011


From the Daily Mail 16.10.2011, reporting on Tamara Ecclestone, 26, daughter of Bernie Ecclestone, 82, Formula One supremo, selecting a name for her proposed line of hair care products: 

‘I originally wanted to call it Formula One or One Formula, because obviously there is quite a link between me and F1 and a formula is something you can put in your hair. I thought my father would be proud of me when he called to ask how the business was coming along.

‘He asked me if I had come up with a name and I told him my idea. Next thing I know my dad is saying he’s going to sue me.

‘He said to me, “Tamara, are you fucking mad? I don’t think you quite understand. People pay me a lot of money to use the F1 name and that logo. It has taken years of work to build up that brand. Did you really think I was just going to give you that name and let you use it?”

‘I said “Err, yes”. I realise now people pay him millions of pounds and have to write him letters asking to use the Formula  1 brand name. So I kind of lost that one, so now it’s going to be called Uno.’

Political Moments . . .


An item in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday brought to mind some classic moments from Australian Parliament and Australian politics . . . 

SMH item:


Let no one say our politicians are not alive to nuance when it comes to setting the record straight. Consider the following exchange (brought to our attention by Craig Baumann, the member for Port Stephens) which took place this week in Macquarie Street.

MP Chris Patterson had been praising the government's campaign finance amendment bill for making union campaign contributions included in the parties' expenditure cap, when he said: ''This is the loophole that the former corrupt Labor government used to ensure that the feathering of its own nest continued for 16 years.''

The former Premier, Nathan Rees: ''Point of order: The member knows that that sort of language is over the top, and I ask you to direct him to withdraw it.''

Acting Speaker (Gareth Ward): Order! As I cannot direct the member in relation to his language, I do not know the point of order that the member for Toongabbie raises.
Rees: To elucidate, the member called the former government ''corrupt". That is unparliamentary.

Acting Speaker: Order! It is up to the member as to whether he wishes to withdraw his comments. I cannot direct him to withdraw the commentPatterson: I am happy to say that the former Labor government used the loophole to ensure the feathering of its own nest, and that that continued for the past 16 years.

Rees: That's far better!


Saturday, October 15, 2011

In case you missed it . . .

 “Hey man, hey dude, your pants are on fire.”

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian student from London and al-Qaeda terrorist, is presently being tried in Detroit for trying to set off a bomb in his underpants on a trans-Atlantic flight.  It happened on Christmas Day 2009.  Umar had been to Yemen to take part in jihad and was able to get as far as he did in that spoke fluent English, was a frequent traveller and a visa to enter the US. The plan was to use a syringe to detonate home-made explosives concealed in his underwear, that then detonating 200 grams of plastic explosive.    Umar made a martyrdom video and, during the flight, spent part of his time in the toilet praying and perfuming in anticipation of entry into paradise.  When he returned to his seat he put a blanket over his head for four or five minutes  and detonated the first explosive.  Passengers heard a loud “pop” but fortunately for the passengers but regrettably for Umar, the second explosive did not detonate.  Smoke rose from Umar’s legs, causing the passenger next to Umar to say “Hey man, hey dude, your pants are on fire.” 

Other passengers were a bit more astute.  They grabbed Umar as the plane made an emergency descent and landing at Detroit airport.  The co-pilot radioed that there had been a fire aboard and called for the fire brigade, an attendant asked Umar if he was in pain and Umar finally admitted that he had explosives in his underwear.

The trial continues.

Champagne and Podia



-    Following the presentation of the trophies, motorsport drivers will often spray champagne over each other and their team-members watching below, a tradition started by Dan Gurney following the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

-    The drivers will generally refrain from spraying champagne if a fatality or major accident occurs during the event.

-    For the Bahrain Grand Prix, drivers do not spray the traditional champagne on the podium, although alcoholic beverages are legal in Bahrain. Instead, they spray a non-alcoholic rosewater drink known as Waard.

-    In the 1980s Alan Jones used to spray orange juice instead of champagne because the Williams team at the time was sponsored by Saudi Arabian companies and alcohol was forbidden by religion.

-    In France there was a law forbidding all advertising of alcohol products. In theory, the use of champagne on the F1 podium is an infringement of that law and one year the French refused to supply champagne. Annoyed, Bernie Ecclestone sent one of his assistants to a local supermarket on the morning of the race with instructions to buy bottles for champagne for the ceremony. If there was any legal action, Bernie said, he would face it. The champagne was sprayed and nothing happened.

-    Normally there is not much champagne left in a bottle when an F1 driver has sprayed it over the others and himself on the podium.  Nonetheless the bottles can be very valuable and are sometimes kept and then signed by drivers for charity auctions. Others are given to mechanics as gifts.

A previous post dealt with the 1955 tragedy at the Le Mans 24 hour race, mentioning that Mike Hawthorn’s traditional spraying of champagne was met with scorn locally:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Funny Friday


Last week’s item about crucifixes and empty crosses reminded me of the old story about Cohen’s Nails, recounted below.  Also, seeing a promo for the movie Thor coming out of DVD brought to mind some other humour, also below.  Caution:  the posts below have irreverent and risqué content.

Old man Cohen is getting along in years. He decides to retire and let his 3 sons run the company, which manufactures a wide variety of nails. The sons think that they can increase market-share with some judicious billboard advertising.

A week later the old man is taking his usual Sunday drive in the country when he sees a huge billboard ad with a picture of Christ on the Cross.  The caption reads "Nails for Every Purpose. Use Cohen’s Nails."

The old man immediately meets with his 3 sons to voice his concern. He tells themn that the backlash could be horrendous and that he wants to see noi further ads showing Christ crucified.  The sons agree to do so.

A week later the old man is again taking his usual Sunday drive when he sees a billboard with a picture of the same cross, empty.  The caption reads “If they had used Cohen’s Nails, He would still be there.”

A burglar breaks into an apartment. He's sure that nobody is home, but just in case he keeps all of the lights off. As he is moving around with a torch, a voice says "I can see you and so can Jesus.” The burglar freezes on the spot, shines his torch around but doesn’t see anyone.

A few minutes pass and  the voice comes again, "I can see you and so can Jesus.”  The burglar again pauses and shines his torch around.  This time he spots a parrot in he corner. "I can see you and so can Jesus.”

"What would you know," says the burglar, "You're just a fucking parrot!"

"Yeah, I may be a fucking parrot," replies the bird, "but Jesus is a fucking Doberman."

There had been an orgy at Vallhalla.  The next morning there are prone bodies around the place and quite a bit of disarray.  As the bleary eyed God of Thunder tries to get up from a pile of people, a nearby hungover goddess raises her head and and says “Who are you?” 

“I’m Thor,” he replied.

“You’re thore?” she says.  I'm tho thore I can hardly pith"