Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Australia discovers fire

I receive daily a free email from the people behind the excellent Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which is a distinguished and weighty Internet publication to which I've never, unfortunately, had direct access... so expensive that I no longer even think about it. So, receiving the daily email puts me in the position of a poor urchin who climbs up onto the great gates of the manor every morning and gazes up at the lord's castle.

This morning, the dictionary's random email reminded me of the life of a celebrated Australian musician, Malcolm Williamson [1931-2003]. A Wikipedia page describes this exceptional man.

— original photo © Sefton Samuels / National Portrait Gallery

Williamson's analysis of his Australian identity pleases me immensely. His lengthy experience of professional life in Europe enabled him to know what he was talking about.
We Australians have to offer the world a persona compounded of forcefulness, brashness, a direct warmth of approach, sincerity which is not ashamed, and more of what the Americans call ‘get-up-and-go’ than the Americans themselves possess.
The term "brashness" intrigues me, in that it's almost a synonym of the famous term "arrogance" used systematically by Anglo-Saxons to denigrate the French. And yet nothing could be more different than Australian and French modes of thinking. Williamson hit the nail on the head when he said:
Most of my music is Australian. Not the bush or the deserts but the brashness of the cities. The sort of brashness that makes Australians go through life pushing doors marked pull.
The hackneyed theme of pushing doors marked pull was not original, and I don't know its creator. But it's fine for Aussies. Once upon a time we would have spoken of rebels, but the force of the "doors marked pull" image for Aussies goes further. Maybe the silly buggers have never learned to read, or they've never realized and accepted that certain doors are designed to open in one way only. Maybe they don't like doors of any kind whatsoever. French arrogance consists of saying: No door can resist my Cartesian powers of penetration. Aussie brashness is rather: I'll break down any bloody door that gets in my way.

Be that as it may, Australian researchers at Flinders University have just developed a fabulous gadget: glasses that are capable, so they say, of re-setting the body clock.

In other words, they claim to have conquered, once and for all, the phenomenon of jet lag. Now, let's hope that they've correctly opened the door into this challenging physiological domain.

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