Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fit to be worn by an Aussie PM

This morning, I was browsing around on the Internet, looking for stores that sell long winter underwear... which is the ideal solution for keeping warm whenever I'm wandering around outside in the snow. I took a look at the website of the French textile company named 3 Suisses.

Now I can already hear some of my readers complaining: "William is such a staunch Francophile that he's trying to pull the wool (or synthetic textile) over our eyes by suggesting that the 3 Suisses company is French. But we know enough French to realize that this company, in view of its name, is obviously Swiss." I'm sorry to disappoint such bright readers, but the explanations I'm about to reveal might enable them to succeed in a future French trivia quiz. In 1932, Monsieur Toulemonde set up the offices of his company in Roubaix, in the north of France. Opposite his office building, there was a bistrot run by a Monsieur Suis, who had 3 daughters. Customers got around to referring to the bistrot as chez les 3 Suisses. And that name rubbed off onto the textile company on the other side of the road.

After World War II, the annual 3 Suisses catalogue became required reading for families throughout France. And, as early as 1998, the 3 Suisses company glided effortlessly into the Internet era... almost as if they had been waiting for it to happen.

These days, when Internet users are reading the French news, they often find images of scantily-clad females, wearing 3 Suisses garments, floating across the top of the screen. And I know from experience that, whenever I've been tempted to take a closer glimpse at such a creature, I've been bombarded constantly, for days afterwards, by all kinds of 3 Suisses ads for female clothes... which are generally of a quite pleasant nature.

This morning, though, I was hit in the eye by the following 3 Suisses publicity:

I peered at the name beneath the photo on the left, and said to myself that this was no doubt a joke. Somebody had surely created this hoax name and image on the 3 Suisses website. No genuine manufacturer would dare to call his company "Aussie Bum". Maybe the site had been hacked by a gay guy from Down Under who was still under the spell of Mr Rabbit's budgie smuggling.

Well, it seems I was wrong. The company in question really exists, and you can click here to view their range of big-bulge products.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Satellite night views

I'm impressed by this lovely Nasa night view of the planet Earth:

[Click to enlarge]

Questions arise, demanding answers. From right to left (like the Sun):

— Clearly, the New Zealander who was holding a candle has learned that humanity possesses fire. A kind soul might inform him that we've also invented electricity.

— The Australian government should find and punish the fuckwit who turned out all the lights in Tasmania at exactly the moment that Nasa photographers were asking the people of the world to say cheese.

— What's all that luminous agitation in the Nile Delta ? The spirit of the pharaohs ?

— Dark Africa. Basically, the African continent remains dark. Is this some kind of literary arrangement?

— Northern America appears to be sharply divided between illuminated society (to the Atlantic east) and the obscure Far West. California might succeed in throwing light upon this vast dark territory.

Don't forget to blow out your bedside candle before falling asleep.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Young Australians 2012

In France yesterday, a similarly illegal protest march took place in Paris. We learn today that an official inquiry will take place, to identify the ringleaders. An organizer of an illegal happening of this kind can be jailed for six months and fined 7,500 euros. To perform their inquiry, French police have the identities of 152 protesters, and they will be using street video images and messages that appeared on the Internet.

The exceptional resolution of the French ministry of the Interior is reassuring. I have the impression that a similar procedure is to be adopted in Australia. The following excerpt from The Sydney Morning Herald confirms that the disturbances in Sydney are being taken most seriously:
The chain of text messages that led to the riot in Sydney's central business district on Saturday leaving 23 people injured, including six police officers, was being traced by detectives last night. More arrests were expected in addition to those of the six men already charged, after about 400 protesters tried to storm the US consulate in Sydney and became involved in running battles with police around Hyde Park, St James railway station and William Street. [...] The public order and riot squad was on standby last night to quell any further outbreaks of violence, and an investigative team, Strike Force McAlister, was formed to track down ringleaders.

Australian child 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

French visitor in Australia

Recently, this emu at Taronga Park on the shores of Sydney Harbour was puzzled:

The bird couldn't be expected to know that the great French 34-year-old rugby international Sébastien Chabal (nicknamed the Caveman) was in Sydney on a working holiday. He had been invited as a guest player in the third-grade Balmain team in a match against Petersham.

Why not have fun while getting paid to visit Down Under? For the moment, Chabal has a bit of time on his hands, since leaving his last club in Paris.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rally Australia

At Coffs Harbour, over the four days starting next Thursday, this is the Citroën automobile to admire:

Here's a rear view of this vehicle:

And here's the driver, Sébastien Loeb:

For the moment, Loeb is leading the 2011 championship, but he could still be beaten by the other Citroën driver, Sébastien Ogier. Meanwhile, with three rallies remaining after Australia (in France, Spain and the UK), the Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, in their Fords, are unlikely to catch up with the Frenchmen.

Click the banner to access the Rally Australia website. I've been looking at the four-day schedule and the various maps, and trying to figure out what I would do if I were a spectator out in New South Wales. On the opening day, it would be good to spend some time at the Jetty Precinct in Coffs Harbour, in the hope of glimpsing the drivers and vehicles before they actually get into action, late in the afternoon. Then, on Sunday afternoon, it would be interesting to watch the final so-called "power stage" up in the vicinity of Wooli and Red Rock.

The rally covers such a big area—of what appears to be bush country (?)—that I have no idea how spectators are expected to move from one place to another. Nor do I know how spectators can actually obtain real-time information on the results of the latest stages. Maybe by means of an iPhone capable of linking to the above-mentioned website?

Early Australian automobile rally

Starting next Thursday, Rally Australia will be taking place near my birthplace: more precisely, in several rural zones in the vicinity of the coastal town of Coffs Harbour.

I shall never forget my first contact with an automobile trial in Australia, in 1956, at a time when I was living with my grandparents at Robinson Avenue in Grafton and preparing my final high-school certificate. I am referring to the 1956 Ampol Around Australia Trial. My grandfather was the Ford dealer in Grafton, and his garage had a gasoline pump alongside the roadway in Fitzroy Street, at the spot where the entrance to an automobile business existed up until recently.

This address was indicated as an official refueling station for the Ampol contestants, who had left Sydney during the day. When the vehicles started to arrive in Fitzroy Street, it was late in the evening. I was there, alongside my grandfather's gasoline pump, participating in the excitement. After all, in quiet old Grafton, we had never before seen anything quite like this. I remember in particular the third car to arrive, with its headlights blazing. It was a charming little MG TF sports car (manufactured by Morris), much like this:

On the local radio, I had heard about this vehicle and its occupants, Les Slaughter and Bill Mayes, no doubt because their vehicle was so much more elegant than most of the typical sedans engaged in the trial: bulky Holdens, Peugeots, Fords, Standard Vanguards, etc. I was so close to the car that I had time, while it was being refueled, to gaze down into the cockpit, where I could see clearly the two drivers, both of whom were wearing woolen bonnets (because it must have been quite cool, of an evening, beneath their flimsy canvas hood). To my innocent eyes, unaccustomed to harsh sporting adventures of this kind, there was something unreal about the vision of these two fellows emerging from the darkness, and waiting impatiently to take off once again. As they drove off into the dark, I had the impression that I was watching a pair of daring pioneers, heroes of a new kind.

The next morning, we learned from news bulletins on the radio that Slaughter and Mayes had never reached the next town, up on the Great Dividing Range. They had disappeared mysteriously somewhere along the mountainous Gwydir Highway between South Grafton and Glen Innes. However nobody in any of the other 31 vehicles, racing through that rugged and sparsely-populated region in the middle of the night, had witnessed anything unusual. Later on in the day, an intrigued automobile specialist, Evan Green, came upon telltale tracks in the gravel, indicating that a vehicle had left the dangerous road. Police found the little MG down at the bottom of a gorge. The two drivers had been ejected by the impact, and they were lying face-down in a creek, side-by-side, where they had in fact drowned. I was no doubt one of the last people to see Slaughter and Mayes alive, in the cockpit of their beautiful little automobile. I've never forgotten that tragedy, which marked me enormously. Curiously, though, I felt that it was almost inevitable that such exotic and intrepid heroes should meet their destiny in this dramatic fashion.

Finally, the trial was won by two Australians—Alan Taylor and Wilf Murrell—driving a run-of-the-mill French car: a Peugeot 403.

POST SCRIPTUM: It's quite possible that this archaic gasoline pump, which apparently still exists today at the Fitzroy Street premises, is the place where Slaughter and Mayes fueled up for the last time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The day my grandfather woke up in Australia

My grandfather Ernest Skyvington [1891-1985] once described to me his joy upon arriving in Sydney Harbour on the SS Marathon on Christmas Day 1908, where he was greeted by his London-born seafaring uncle William Mepham and his Australian-born wife Gertrude Driscoll, who lived at Rushcutters Bay.

The next day was important in 20th-century boxing history and, indeed, in world racial history, for Australian boxing enthusiasts would witness a match that had been unthinkable, in the Northern Hemisphere, up until that summer afternoon in Sydney. A black Texan, Jack Johnson [1878-1946], whose parents were former African slaves, would finally seize the world heavyweight championship from a white Canadian, Tommy Burns [1881-1955].

My grandfather, aged 17, spent the 26 December 1908 wandering around Rushcutters Bay, where he was impressed by the crowds who were gathering for the big match. He would tell me much later (with a hint of pride in his modest origins) that he obviously didn't have the necessary cash in his pocket to pay for a seat in the stadium.

Click the above image to see a panoramic photo—which I've only just just discovered—of the entire view of the Rushcutters Bay stadium on that famous afternoon.

Exactly 46 years later, my grandparents would take me to that same Sydney eastern-suburbs neighborhood to watch another great match: the Davis Cup tennis finals, described in my article of 27 December 2007 entitled Over half a century ago [display].

POST SCRIPTUM: A fascinating video summarizes the celebrated Johnson-Burns title fight of 1908 (which I recently heard described on French radio).

There's a terribly significant detail, which may or may not correspond to what we tend to imagine when we hear this story today. Finally, it was not the referee, but rather the Sydney police, in the 14th round, who intervened to halt this one-sided combat, which looked as if it might culminate in a fatal issue. But, before stepping in between the boxers, the police ordered the news filming to be stopped. Today, historians consider that the Sydney police had orders to do everything that they could to avoid the idea that the sporting archives might contain the terrible images of a black man hammering a white boxer to death. As you can see for yourselves in the video, the Sydney police did in fact succeed in this censuring mission.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Crocodile Douglas

My son François Skyvington has just pointed me to a French TV trailer concerning his recent moped excursion in Western Australia.

[Click the image to see the trailer.]

The documentary includes a sequence with the crocodile expert Malcolm Douglas, who died a few days ago in a freak accident when his four-wheel-drive vehicle crushed him against a tree on his farm property near Broome.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Down blunder

When I was young, the first blunder indicating that something might be rotten in my native land was the Orr case, in 1955. In an atmosphere evoking the trial of Socrates for moral misconduct, a professor of philosophy in Tasmania, Sydney Sparkes Orr [1914-1966], was castigated on the grounds that he had been involved in an intimate relationship with one of his female students, named Susan Kemp. At that time, I was convinced that a professorship of philosophy was surely the most noble calling that could possibly be imagined in Tasmania or the civilized world at large, and that such an academic incumbent should certainly have the right, in certain circumstances, to screw his permissive libertarian students. Retrospectively, I don't deny that I probably imagined myself already as a future teacher of philosophy, in exciting Tasmania, initiating a harem of splendid young virgins (all of whom were taking notes conscientiously) into the subtle sins of sex. Alas, I never made it to Tasmania…

Starting in 1980, my compatriots have perpetrated a vastly greater blunder: the case of Azaria Chamberlain.

For ages, it was called Ayer's Rock. Then somebody in a government administration, bowing down to the sentiments of the survivors of an indigenous people that had once been slaughtered, said it should be known henceforth as Uluru. Why not? For me (who's never set foot there), it's Dingo Rock.

The amazing details of the many ways in which Anglo-Saxon fuckwits screwed up this investigation and legal case can be found on the web. To my mind, it is a harsh indictment of almost everything about naive and uninformed Australian attitudes towards crime, law, guilt and innocence. The notorious legal pursuit of Azaria's mother, Lindy Chamberlain, was a case study of Down Under ignorance, stupidity and injustice.

Today, those of us Australians who respect historical evidence and arguments must visit the following excellent website, and read Lindy Chamberlain's 30th anniversary "letter to open-minded Australians":

I ask the following rhetorical question: Are we Australians in fact sufficiently open-minded to hear Cindy Chamberlain's plea for justice?

No, globally, many things make me fear that we Aussies are still too astronomically stupid…

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Staple Aussie food

Emmanuelle, my daughter, has the impression that there exists a characteristic Australian cuisine. I have no idea where she got this strange idea. She often asks me whether, apart from steak and kidney pie, and crumbed lamb cutlets, etc, I can recollect any other typical Aussie dishes. I often tell her that my staple diet, as a lad in South Grafton, was peanut butter sandwiches. A few days ago, for the first time ever since I've been in France, I bought a jar of Nicaraguan peanut butter at the local supermarket.

With my home-made walnut bread and Norman butter, the sandwiches are as good as (probably better than) anything from my childhood.

Meanwhile, if Australian readers were to supply my daughter with the recipes of authentic Australian dishes, I'm sure she would be delighted (since I believe she's putting together some kind of a document in this domain). Following my last visit to Australia, I've attempted to obtain the recipe of traditional meat pies of the so-called "humble pie" variety (this could well be a trademark), but nobody has ever replied to my inquiries.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

God save Oz

In viewing some of the dull videos associated with the recent Atheist Convention in Melbourne, I was struck by the fact that certain debaters, opposed to Richard Dawkins, punctuated their sad and silly remarks by phrases such as "here in Australia"... as if there might be two world orders: one for Aussies, and another for ungodly wogs (outsiders). For me, the notion that Australians or New Zealanders or seven-day bike-riders might have some special connection to the Almighty is so weird that I can say no more... apart from mentioning the fact that apparently serious compatriots would appear to evoke such illogical conjectures.

I fear that media coverage of the recent event didn't result in a positive image of Australia. Tourist authorities say that they'll only have to publicize messages from friends of Australia, and that everything will be bananas. We love a dollar-burnt country... but we Australians need to stop believing that we can simply turn on our nationality like a tap. Our only birthrights are those that a precious few of our ancestors acquired through a lifetime of determination and hard work.

My compatriots persist in seeing things as "ordinary", whereas things in our modern universe are antipodean: extraordinary, upside-down, unbelievable, unimaginable.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sea change

Up until the age of sixteen, I was an adolescent in a dull Australian place named Grafton, where the Good Lord surely intended that nothing unusual should ever happen, not even my birth. In my time, this magnificent landscape had sadly lost its pioneering soul before losing forever its spirit of social evolution and economic development. Today, Grafton is a charming empty carcass, whose sole awareness is the fact that it's a boring old town, with nothing to say nor even hide.

Downstream, at the estuary of the Clarence River, our outlet on the Pacific Ocean was named Yamba. In 1954, surrounded by school friends, I found it an enthralling place.

My most moving recollection of Yamba dates from the summer of 1957. I had returned to Grafton after a year at the University of Sydney, and my parents had decided kindly to take me on an excursion down to Yamba... which I had not visited for quite some time. I remember, as if it were yesterday, that my father Bill Skyvington had parked his LandRover while Kath was buying food down in the new shopping area of Yamba. I was exploding internally with the urge to tell my father that, during my first year in Sydney, I had just encountered a fabulous corpus of knowledge about the nature of the world. I can even recall the slim volume of relativity physics that had engendered my enthusiasm. In a backstreet of Yamba, on that sunny afternoon, I tried naively to transmit an iota of my enthusiasm to my father. He looked at me as if I were a Martian, and informed me abruptly that he had no time for such nonsense... which was vastly less urgent, in his mind, than the question of earning one's living by grazing and slaughtering beef cattle (my father's business). By the time my mother returned from her shopping, I had lost forever all possible intellectual intimacy with my paternal progenitor. In an instant of incomprehension between a father and his son, on that sunny Yamba afternoon, I moved forever away from my ancestral ignorance... into enlightenment.

In my mind, Yamba remained nevertheless a seaside sanctuary, which my children were able to encounter briefly with joy during their teens.

Today, I learn sadly from the Australian media that something seems to have gone wrong at Yamba [display]. Is it just Yamba, I ask innocently, or Australia at large?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Atheism seen from Down Under

In today's issue of The Sydney Morning Herald, there's an article entitled Atheism's true believers gather [display], written by the newspaper's religion reporter Jacqueline Maley, concerning the forthcoming Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne. Sure, the article is imperfect, but it's better than nothing... and surprising, above all, in the mentally stultifying context of Sydney's once-great newspaper, which now specializes in trash. Concerning the celebrated Oxford scientist Richard Dawkins, here is the most sublime idiotic pearl from Jacqueline's pen: "Dawkins has been criticised for his ignorance of Christian theology, and his inability (and that of science in general) to disprove the existence of God." Saying that Dawkins ignores theology is akin to deploring the fact that Pope Benedict XVI hasn't participated in much advanced research in molecular biology. As for the inability of Dawkins to disprove the existence of God, that's the fault of human reasoning and formal logic (about which Jacqueline Maley probably knows as little as the pope about molecular biology). Until the end of time, and beyond, nobody will ever be able to prove that the famous orbiting Celestial Teapot of Bertrand Russell [display] is not somewhere out there, maybe in the vicinity of Jupiter and Saturn.

[Click to display a bigger image.]

Then there's all the exciting literature and debate concerning the fabulous Flying Spaghetti Monster [display], whose existence has never yet been disproved, not even by the Vatican.

Fortunately, if you wish to listen to Jacqueline Maley talking about more everyday matters, which she masters admirably, you can read her amusing article entitled Pastor's ban sparks unholy Anglican stoush [display], on the heart-rending theme of a Sydney suburban parishioner who declared: "I was forbidden to hand out pencils or stack chairs in church because of my theology.'' [Some kind soul might please tell me what stoush means.] But don't spend too much time delving into the archives, religious or otherwise, of The Sydney Morning Herald. You would be taking a silly risk. It's the sort of nasty reading that could well induce permanent brain damage.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sister's blog

My sister Anne Skyvington, whose married name is Onslow, has just started a blog called Philomel. [Click the banner to access Anne's blog.]

Anne lives in Coogee, on the coastal outskirts of Sydney. Her husband, Mark Onslow, is a university professor who has become a world expert in the domain of stuttering therapy. I shall publish details on my Antipodes blog, as soon as they become available, concerning the professional and cultural activities of my sister and her husband.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nasty stuff, should be censored

The list of nations intent upon censoring the Internet is not very long: China, Iran, Egypt... and, soon, Australia. Nice company! Think of it as a select little club, with visionary guides such as Stephen Conroy, and well-tested high-tech means to impose the desired censorship.

This hilarious guy is known as "Some Grey Bloke":

Click the picture to visit his website, where you can appreciate his broad and profound wisdom on many subjects. If you happen to be Australian, you should hurry. One never knows. Progress is such that you might not be allowed to watch this fellow in the near future.

Here's an encounter between Some Grey Bloke and a Man of God:

Members of the new generation (?) of Aussie Christian pollies are likely to be moved by these videos.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Voice of a blind black angel

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is a 39-year-old Australian. Not an adoptive Australian, like me and my millions of white compatriots. An authentic Australian.

Gurrumul, who speaks only a few words of English, sings in the Yoingu language of his ancestors. He is currently touring Europe. The following song overwhelms me by its mysterious simplicity and beauty.

In Germany, John Kennedy once said: "Ich bin ein Berliner." Overcome by the universal strains of the music of Gurrumul, I make an equally exaggerated emotional declaration: "I'm an Australian."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Actually Asian?

I was born in Australia in 1940, in the country town, Grafton, that will be celebrating its 75th Jacaranda Festival from October 30 to November 8. My great-great-great-grandparents from Tipperary—the convict Patrick Hickey [1782-1858] and his wife Elizabeth Brerton [1784-1850]—had reached New South Wales a century earlier, respectively, in 1829 and 1837. So, my ancestors—like those of countless Australian compatriots—have been Down Under for quite some time. But there's a question that has often bothered me: Are we Australians actually Asian? Genetically, older generations of Australians such as my ancestors had few marriage links with folk from the traditional lands of Asia... although this situation has evolved, to a certain extent, these days. So, I would be incapable of saying whether Australians remain merely superficially Asian, because of the geographical location of our continent, or whether our nation has indeed started to be an integral element of modern Asia.

Meanwhile, for the last 42 years, a ten-member organization named ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] has existed.

They even have a corny anthem:

As you can see, Australia is not included in ASEAN, whereas most of our closest neighbors are members. So, I've often felt that we have there a credible answer to my earlier question: Are we Australians actually Asian? The answer would seem to be no.

Now, ASEAN had a summit meeting last week in the delightful Thai resort of Hua Hin, and Australia was invited along as an observer.

Prime minister Kevin Rudd even had an opportunity of pleading for the opportunity of teaming up with ASEAN nations in the establishment of a so-called Asia-Pacific Community. But he added a curious proviso. He wants to bring along a mate: the United States of America! Rudd's suggestion reminds me of my recent invitation to become a naturalized citizen of the French Republic. Reacting in the spirit of our Australian prime minister, I might have told the French authorities: "That idea of my becoming French is fine with me, but I would like you to also naturalize all my relatives out in Australia." I'm sure the French would have been intrigued and annoyed by such a proviso. And I can't even be certain that my Australian relatives would have appreciated this idea.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Aging ghost from a ghost town

This year, my home town is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its proclamation as a so-called city... which no longer exists in reality, because the former municipality has been dissolved into a geographically broader entity that might be described as a regional administration. In a foreword to the following commemorative book, for example, the senior elected individual refers to himself, not as the mayor of Grafton, but as the mayor of the Clarence Valley Council.

Today's my birthday. I was born in Grafton (New South Wales, Australia) exactly 69 years ago. Now, if you want to know what Grafton was like when I grew up there (up until I reached the age of 16, when I left for university studies in Sydney), well you should simply go there today. Little seems to have changed. Nothing whatsoever appears to have evolved in a positive sense. It's a place devoid of visible development, of civic progress. A place where almost nothing of significance ever happens (apart from their antiquated colloquium on science and religion). The "city" makes a brave effort to take itself seriously (for example, the authorities commissioned the above book, written by an outsider), but the major economic actors moved out of town long ago, just as most of the dairy farmers on the banks of the Clarence abandoned their time-honored activities. Today, the global scene in Grafton is one of genteel decadence. When I last visited my birthplace, in 2006, I had the impression that I was wandering around in a ghost town whose ghosts are kindly requested to stay away from the few remaining pubs that still attract customers, and to keep off the streets after dark. I'm told that it remains nevertheless a nice town for people who like a quiet existence.

As the sole resident of Gamone, and happy to remain so, I guess I should appreciate that viewpoint. But I'm sure I would be terribly frustrated if I were obliged to reside in Grafton. I'm much better off here in my adoptive home in France.