Sunday, February 28, 2010

Quote: John F Kennedy (1917-1963)

“I am sorry to say that there is too much point to the wisecrack that life is extinct on other planets because their scientists were more advanced than ours.”

Sport: Curling

What synchronised swimming is to the Summer Olympics, curling is to the Winter Olympics, sports that are head scratching to watch and the cause of countless discussions as to whether they should even be Olympic sports.

With the TV on in the background as I worked at my computer, I noticed that the Olympic coverage had shifted to the curling events. There was a curious fascination in watching and also in waiting for the sweepers to fall over the curling stones, but they never did. To picture curling, think lawn bowls on ice with pensioners with brooms sweeping in front of each lawn bowl bowled.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Money Matters: The introduction of decimal currency

Today begins an occasional feature on Australia's banknotes or, more particularly, the designs, pictures and people on them.

On 14 February 1966, Australia went from £/s/d to $ and ¢, or, in the spoken word, from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency of dollars and cents. This was accompanied by a public awareness campaign featuring a character, Dollar Bill, who explained what it all meant.

The first notes were paper, replaced from 1988 by polymer notes. In addition, the $1 and $2 denominations were represented by notes, not coins, and there were coins for one and two cent denominations.

Notwithstanding the picture of Her Maj on the $1 note, the new decimal currency notes were much more Australian than their predecessors. Apart from greater focus on women, architecture and aboriginal culture, the notes now looked to Australia’s history and contributions to the world.

Movie: It Happened One Night

The movie:
Once upon a time in 1934 there was a director with a script seeking to make a movie. The director, Frank Capra, approached various actors and actresses to star in his movie but without any luck:
- Robert Montgomery: worst script I have ever read, no, thanks;
- Myrna Loy - a recent film set on a bus failed and so will this one, no, thanks;
- Margaret Sullavan - no, thanks;
- Miriam Hopkins - no, thanks;
- Constance Bennett - I’ll do it if I can also be the producer (Columbia Pictures: no, thanks);
- Bette Davis - I’ll do it if Warners will lend me to you (Warner Brothers: no, thanks);
- Carole Lombard - I can’t, I’m tied up filming Bolero;
- Loretta Young - no, thanks.
Ultimately Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable were cast in the main roles.

Colbert was less than enthusiastic. She had once made a movie with Capra that bombed and had sworn to never work with him again. She was persuaded by her salary being doubled to $50,000 and the promise that filming would be completed in 4 weeks so that she could take the holiday that she had booked. Apparently she remained grumpy during filming and at the end of shooting stated “I just finished the worst picture in the world.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Quotes: Stupid Football Quotes

Rugby League footballers in Sydney regularly make the news for being boofheads or alcohol fuelled neanderthals, but the list of quotes below shows that lack of grey matter is not confined to one code or one country. Coaches and commentators are also not exempt.

It may be that sports persons are soft targets to ridicule for lack of education or sophistication, given that they spend their time, often since childhood, training rather than studying. The quotes below however are at a much more basic level.

The following is from a website:

The 25 Most Stupid Footballers Quotes... In The World...Ever

25: "Leeds is a great club and it's been my home for years, even though I live in Middlesborough."
Jonathan Woodgate

Quote: Lillian Gish (1893-1993)

A happy life is one spent learning, earning and yearning."

-  Lillian Gish, American actress

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Moments: Władysław Kozakiewicz's Arm of Honour (1953 - )

Watching some of the ice hockey at the Winter Olympics on the TV brought to mind an iconic moment at the Summer Olympics in 1980. That year the Olympics were held in Moscow. The US and various other countries had withdrawn from the games as a protest against Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan, so that tensions were high.  The Russians felt that their plans and efforts for a spectacular Olympics had been deliberately sabotaged and that they had been humiliated in the eyes of the world. 

In the pole vault, the battle for gold had come down to the Russian competitor, Konstantin Volkov, and the Pole Władysław Kozakiewicz (pronounced Vlad-is-lav Ko-za-kev-ich). To understand what happens next, know that the Poles are a fierce nationalistic and independent-minded people. At the time Poland was under the domination of the Soviet bloc, in effect Poland was run and controlled by Russia, a fact which the Poles hated with a vengeance.

The battle had come down to Kozakiewicz’s vault. A success would see him take gold, a fail would result in Volkov taking the gold and the Pole the silver.

Quote: Napoleon (1769-1821)

"Imagination governs the world."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Last Words: Terry Kath (1946-1978)

"Don't worry…it's not loaded… "

Terry Kath was the original guitarist and founding member of the rock band Chicago.  After a party at a roadie's house, Kath put an unloaded .38 revolver to his head and pulled  the trigger several times on the empty chambers. He then picked up a semiautomatic 9 mm pistol and put that to his head.  His friend expressed concern so Kath showed the empty magazine to his friend, saying, "Don't worry, it's not loaded." However, one bullet remained in the chamber.  When he pullked the trigger with the pistol against his head, he died instantly.  He was one week off his 32nd birthday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Insults and Put-Downs: Don Rickles (1926 - )

"Is that the wife? Looks like a real mercy mission. Throw a stick on the floor, see if she brings it back."

Don Rickles to actor Ross Martin

Quote: John Wayne (1907-1979)

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into 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.”

The same words appear on the plaque marking his grave:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Quote: Katherine Whitehorn (1926- )

“It is a pity, as my husband says, that more politicians are not bastards by birth instead of vocation.”

Art: Bruno Torf's Sculpture Garden

(Click on photos to enlarge).

Marysville is a little town about 100 kilometres out of Melbourne that came into existence as a stopping point for those travelling to the goldfields. Named after Mary Steavenson, the wife of Assistant Commissioner of Roads and Bridges John Steavenson, it continued its stopping point status when the coach route passed through, eventually becoming a tourist attraction in its own right for its bushwalking, views, gullies and lush rainforests. From the 1920’s tourism became the mainstay of the Marysville economy.  Over the years cafes, art galleries, restaurants, and craft shops developed, catering to that industry. It is also used as a base for those travelling to the snowfields.  It came to be referred to as "God's own garden".

One year ago, on Saturday, 7 February 2009, the fires hit Marysville.

Believed by the police to have  been the result of arson. 45 people died in Marysville and the surrounding locality, with 90% of the Marysville buildings destroyed.  In total, 173 people died from the fires. That day is now known as Black Saturday.  Following the fires, the police shut the whole of Marysville down as a crime scene and restricted access, whilst they went through the grim task of searching for, and extracting, bodies ruin by ruin..

Quote: David Mamet (1947 - )

"I hate vacations. There's nothing to do."

David Alan Mamet is an American author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and film director. He has received a Tony award nomination for Glengarry Glen Ross, the Pulitzer Prize for Glengarry Glen Ross and, as a screenwriter, Oscar nominations for The Verdict (1982) and Wag the Dog (1997).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Extract: George Orwell (1903-1950)

"Nearly all the sports practised nowadays are competitive. You play to win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win. On the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local patriotism is involved, it is possible to play simply for the fun and exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused. Anyone who has played even in a school football match knows this. At the international level sport is frankly mimic warfare. But the significant thing is not the behaviour of the players but the attitude of the spectators: and, behind the spectators, of the nations who work themselves into furies over these absurd contests, and seriously believe—at any rate for short periods—that running, jumping and kicking a ball are tests of national virtue. ... Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting."
Collected Essays:  The Sporting Spirit (1945)

(The full essay may be read at:
and also contains the following:  "Even a leisurely game like cricket, demanding grace rather than strength, can cause much ill-will, as we saw in the controversy over body-line bowling and over the rough tactics of the Australian team that visited England in 1921.")

Music: John Lennon / Mother

In 1969, before the dissolution of the Beatles, John Lennon and Yoko Ono had formed the Plastic Ono Band, a supergroup which included John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, Alan White, Keith Moon, Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins and Phil Spector.

The Beatles split happened when Paul McCartney said he was leaving the band in April 1970. The band officially split on 31 December 1970. The album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was released on 28 December 1979, the song Mother coming from that album.

The version in the link below is the longer album version, which has the tolling bells at the beginning and the Lennon screams at the end. The single version is shorter and omits those parts. Go for the longer version to truly appreciate the work.

Click on the following link to listen to the song:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

RIP: Bon Scott (1946-1980)

Ian, an Acca Dacca fan from way back, sent a message that February 19 will be the anniversary of the death of former lead singer Bon Scott and that a Bytes should be considered for that date. It is impressive, almost rivalling Rock Brain of the Universe Glenn A Baker, that someone not only recalls Bon Scott and his death but that they also know the exact date of death from memory. Such a depth of knowledge shows that he is either a dedicated AC/DC fan or that he needs to get out more. I mean, it’s not like knowing that the day the music died was 3 February 1959, or that the candle in the wind went out on 5 August 1962.

Before looking at the life and death of Bon Scott, take the time to view Bon Scott and AC/DC members Malcolm Young and Angus Young, and watch Scott turn the bagpipes into a rock n roll instrument long before Steve Earle and Johnny Farnham did so. The video is from 1976 and shows the AC/DC crew on the back of a truck driving around Swanston Street, Melbourne, singing a rock classic, the original video for It’s a Long way to the Top, made for the Oz TV show Countdown

Quote: Ian McKellen (1939 - )

"That was the big effect Lord of the Rings had on me. It was discovering New Zealand. And even more precious were the people - not at all like the Australians."

Quote: Tony Abbott

"My life didn't flash before my eyes.  I think the only word that passed my lips was a short one beginning with F as I saw the truck go past."

- Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, whose car was nearly collected by a truck when he stopped on the Princes Highway near Winchelsea, Victoria to make a right hand turn into a property.  Abbott was meeting with journalists to discuss the dangerous stretch of highway when a van travelling behind swerved left, which forced a large truck to swerve left onto the verge and brake suddenly.  See it at:

"Ryan's Freighters managing director Graham Ryan also told the Geelong Advertiser Mr Abbott needed 'a kick in the bum' for staging a photo opportunity in such a dangerous place."

-  From The Australian

Quote: Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

"If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Miscellany: Spiderman reviews crayons

And now, as Mr M Python puts it, for something completely different...

It is always refreshing to come across someone doing something original.  I recall  that when I first went to Uni, the uni newspaper "Honi Soit" published an alphabetical guide to university life for freshers.  G was stated to be for the phrase "Good God!  There's someone doing something original."  This was followed by the comment "Forget this phrase, you will never have occasion to use it."

I am therefore impressed by the mind that thought up Spiderman reviewing the colours of an entire box of Crayola crayons, and that that person took the time to photograph it.

I enjoyed it.

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Laws & Principles of the Universe: Ettore's Observation

"The other line moves faster.  This applies to all lines - bank, supermarket, tollbooth, customs and so on.  And don't try to change lines.  The other line - the one you were in originally - will then move faster."

- Barbara Ettore, Harper;s Magazine, August 1974

Poetry: Ozymandias / Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

(Ozymandias was an alternative name for Ramesses 11, 1279-1213BC, often regarded as Egypt's greatest, most celebrated and most powerful pharaoh).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympics: Vancouver 2010 - Ilanaaq

If anyone has been wondering about that big figure made out of stone blocks you see in some of the broadcasts from the Winter Olympics, the following is from the Vancouver Olympics website:
For centuries, the Inuit people of Canada’s Arctic stacked rock in human form to create the inukshuk, a steadfast guidepost that provided direction across the vast horizons of the North. Over time, the inukshuk has become a symbol of hope and friendship, an eternal expression of the hospitality of a nation that warmly welcomes the people of the world with open arms every day.
The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games emblem is a contemporary interpretation of the inukshuk. It is called Ilanaaq which is the Inuktitut word for friend. This is the symbol of Canada’s Games – our friend who will help us greet the world in 2010.
Above:  Ilanaaq
Below:  An example of an inukshuk and the 2010 Olympic poster/emblem.

Quote: Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

"Never mind about 1066 William the Conqueror, 1087 William the Second. Such things are not going to affect one’s life ... but 1932 the Mars Bar and 1936 Maltesers and 1937 the Kit Kat - these dates are milestones in history and should be seared into the memory of every child in the country."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Epitaph: Spike Milligan (1918-2002)

"Duirt me leat go raibh me breoite".

Irish for: "I told you I was ill."

After I originally sent this out as an email some time ago, one of the readers, Steve, responded:
Spike was also famous for publicly calling Prince Charles "a little grovelling bastard" during a dinner in his honour. As you can imagine, the comment reverberated around Buckingham Palace and was repeated on the front page of every newspaper in the land. The following day Spike sent Charles a telegram saying "I suppose a knighthood's out of the question?"

A clip of that comment is at:

Quote: Mark Twain (1835-1910)

"Noise proves nothing--often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Music: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald / Gordon Lightfoot

(A lengthy story but worth both the read and a listen to the song)

 The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
The Song:

On 11 November 1975 the Governor General, Sir John Kerr, dismissed the Whitlam government in Australia.

Across the other side of the world on the evening of November 10, 1975, the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald went down in Lake Superior with the loss of all hands. The cause for the sinking remains a mystery.

Gordon Lightfoot has written a haunting and moving song about the tragedy, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which can be heard at:

Take the time to look at the above clip, which features film of the Edmund Fitzgerald prior to sinking and afterwards.

If you enjoy songs that tell a story in the nature of an epic poem, especially a story that is true, then have a listen to the song and read the notes below which describe the loss and the background.

RIP: Walter Frederick Morrison (1920-2010)

Occasionally an ordinary person living an ordinary life does something ordinary which ends up benefitting everybody, thereby making the world a little better, a little happier.  So it was with Walter Morrison, who died a few days ago aged 90.

Walter who?

You won't find Walt's name amongst the great scientists, politicians, adventurers or philosophers, but he has brought smiles and laughter to millions, children and adults alike.  Walt was the inventor of the Frisbee.

From Wikipedia:
Walter Fredrick "Fred" Morrison (January 23, 1920 – February 9, 2010) was an American inventor and entrepreneur, best known as the inventor of the Frisbee.

Quote: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
-  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)
French writer and aviator, best remembered for his book The Little Prince. Comercial pilot before WW2, joined the French Air Force on the outbreak of war, flying reconnaissance missions until the armistice with Germany. . Joined the Free French Forces, disappeared on a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean in July 1944.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Music: Damned Whores and God's Police / Devil Woman

There has been discussion over the last few years as to the depiction of women in video clips on shows such as Rage, Video Hits and MTV. The criticism is that women are portrayed merely as sex objects belonging to males, or as slutty, and that the images presented are unsuitable for impressionable young females going through formative years. This is especially so in that the young people are watching such shows at increasingly younger ages. Most of Saturday morning free to air programming is taken up with music video shows.

It is not my intention today to enter into that debate. Everyone will have their fixed views on the topic and, as Frank Zappa once said, people will agree with you if they already agree with you, you don’t change people’s minds.

What is interesting is how the depiction of women in popular music has changed. (Or has it? There may be arguments that women are still depicted the same way although appearing superficially to be different).

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, references to women in popular music typified the attitude referred to by Anne Summers as “Damned Whores and God’s Police.” Summers, in her 1975 book by that name, examined the colonisation of women in Australia. It is her thesis that the Judeo-Christian notion that all women could be considered wholly good or wholly evil came to Australia with the First Fleet. However, because of the preponderance of convict women in Australia for the first 50 years, nearly all the women were categorised as whores (“damned whores” as Lieutenant Clark referred to them). Female convicts who obtained their freedom remained so categorised, they did not alter status to the women who were considered pure and virtuous, the God’s police. Wives of the soldiers fell into the latter category.  Summers maintains that these attitudes and imbalance underlies the role of women in Australia to the present, hence the need for activism.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quote: Buddy Holly (1936-1959).

(Click on photo to enlarge)
"Death is very often referred to as a good career move."

Defunct Occupations: Knocker-Upper

The term Knocker-Upper puts me in my mind of my 21 year old son, Tom. Not because he is the sire of numerous progeny but because of his sound sleeping. Tom would sleep through a nuclear explosion, which makes his morning rising a somewhat traumatic event within the domestic circle. Tom sets his alarm at half hourly intervals, commencing at 6.30am. The problem is that he does not hear it going off, although everyone else in the house does. The longer it goes without being answered, the progressively louder it bcomes. This gives rise to such shouts as “Thomas, sweetie, your alarm is going off” or “Goodness, what an annoying alarm.” What he needs is a Knocker-Upper.

Quote: Graham Perrett

"I think Barnaby Joyce is doing to economic responsibility what Ivan Milat did to backpacker holidays."

-  Queensland Labor MP Graham Perrett to Federal Parliament about Opposition Finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce, 10.02.2010. 

Ivan Milat is a serial killer who was convicted in 1996 of the murders of seven backpackers.  He is serving seven life sentences, all sentences running consecutively and without the possibility of parole.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quote: Peter Carey (1943 - )

"We’re built, as a nation, on the grounds of a concentration camp. It’s like saying 'OK, here’s Auschwitz. Here’s where we’ll start our country.' ”

Laws of the Universe: Murphy's and Other Laws

Murphy’s Law, the adage that “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”, became known in those terms about 1950 although similar expressions dated back to the 1800’s. The above wording and the name Murphy’s Law are generally attributed to Captain Edward Murphy, an engineer working on Edwards Air Force Base in 1949. Murphy said of one technician “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.” Shortly afterwards the base MD, Dr Stapp, said at a press conference that the base safety record was due to a firm belief in Murphy's Law and in the need to try and circumvent it. From there it was quoted and became more widely known, eventually worldwide.

Murphy’s Law, and laws like Murphy’s, help to explain and make sense of both minor occurrences and the structure of the universe. More importantly, they do so in practical ways we all understand and relate to. Quote Newton’s Third Law of Motion – “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” – and you will have people scratching their heads and wondering of what practical benefit in any event.

Quote Aigner’s Axiom – “No matter how well you perform your job, a superior will seek to modify the results” – and people will nod knowingly. Not only do they know it’s true, either from experience or because it intuitively feels true, it also a practical tool to deal with expectation and  for not becoming discouraged.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

TV Quote: House

“Like I always say, there's no 'I' in team. There's a 'me' though, if you jumble it up.”

-  Dr Gregory House, House

Origins: A bird in the hand and a town called Intercourse

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Meaning: a small advantage actually held is better than a larger potential advantage.
The earliest written usage in its current form is in the Compleat British Songster, 1781, in a song wherein the female speaker declares that she will be faithful and loving to the man who has asked her to marry, that she cares not for the other swains in that “One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” The word “bird” in this context means girl or woman, a usage dating back to the 14th century. Variations of the saying date back to the 13th century. The Latin Bible at Ecclesiastes 9:4 states “A living dog is better than a dead lion”, this being recorded as such in Wycliffe’s version of the Bible. A 1546 collection of proverbs records “Better one word in hand than ten in the wood.” Many medieval pubs (some still existing) were named “The Bird in the Hand” as a reference to falconry, the bird in the hand being the falcon and the two in the bush being the prey.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Last Words: George Sanders (1906-1972)

"Dear World,
I am leaving you because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool.  Good luck."
- Suicide note of George Sanders, British actor and novelist.

David Niven wrote in his autobiography Bring On the Empty Horses that his friend Sanders, in 1937 at the age of 31, had predicted he would commit suicide when he was 65

Great Cricket Sledges: Frederick "Freddie" Trueman (1931-2006)

With English cricketer Freddie Trueman bowling, the batsman edged and the ball went to first slip, right between the legs of fielder Raman Subba Row. Trueman didn't say a word. At the end of the over, Row ambled past Trueman and apologised sheepishly, "I should've kept my legs together, Fred".  Replied Trueman "Not you, son. Your mother should've!"

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Humour: Wedding Invitation

Clcik on image to enlarge.

(Thanks to Rosanne for sending this).

Origins: The Wheeled Shopping Trolley

The first shopping cart was developed in 1937 by Sylvan Goodman, the owner of the Humpty Dumpty Supermarket chain in Oklahoma City. Looking at ways to increase profits to avoid ruin, he had noticed that shoppers did no further shopping when their carry basket was full. He based his design on a wooden folding chair with wheels, adding a metal basket. The invention did not catch on immediately. Men found them effeminate; women found them suggestive of a baby carriage. He overcame this by paying people to walk around the supermarkets using trolleys to do their shopping, thereby inspiring others to do the same. Shopping carts became extremely popular and Goldman became a multimillionaire. Goldman continued to make modifications to his original design.  The basket size of the shopping cart increased as stores realised that their customers purchased more as trolley size increased. At his death in 1984, Goldman was worth $400m.

Quote: Kerry Packer (1937-2005)

“Of course I am minimising my tax. And if anybody in this country doesn't minimise their tax, they want their heads read, because as a government, I can tell you you're not spending it that well that we should be donating extra!”

Kerry Bullmore Packer to the 1991 Senate Fairfax inquiry when questioned about his tax payments.