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May 9, 2020

When I am starting to write something substantial, I keep tabs on the ongoing process by creating a series of documents, the names beginning A1 to A9, B1. etc. That keeps them sorted chronologically and a 3 or 4 word description tells me what’s in them: ‘A1 At the beginning’, ‘A2 This place remembers’ or ‘B1 July 2019’.

It is rough and ready. There are fine writing programs available, but I can’t be bothered learning another bloody program. Yet. So this is the system I have developed after writing two books. It gets me going at least.

I looked back this morning to find 10 documents, each one containing at least one start to this current work. In the longest, I count 12 attempts to get going. Making a start is not so difficult for me; it’s sustaining it that’s the issue.

I have been researching this for five years and still only scratched the surface on the subject. And I will suddenly come across an appealing way to begin, and begin, only to find it petering out – going nowhere. When I come back to it, after hours, days or months, it usually seems trite. I was right to stop.

I have given up a number of times. But the itch of this story never truly goes away. Like the Kapooka story.

I spent twenty years or more researching my family histories before I sat down to write them. That took a couple of years as well. Once I had finished the writing of what I knew, it was as though I had drawn a line beneath it. It was finished. My writing of the story, and of endlessly searching it out, was ended. The same The Kapooka Tragedy and The Bracelet.

So, in a way, I am not surprised this one is still itching away at me.

BUT, I may have finally made the final start. The word count is up to 10,000 words. It is very slow so far. Nothing much has happened. That’s OK. Most of this will end up in the bin, probably. The important thing is that the project is moving. Words are being written. Characters are turning up.

What intrigues me about this time writing is my approach. There could be many factors contributing but they are immaterial at this point. I don’t bother trying to see the way ahead in a session. I have a start-point, a sentence. That is all. It proceeds from there. I am not detached from the process – not at all. I am constantly peering into the potentials, the width of choices in the direction to take as the sentences unfold. They don’t unfold themselves, as if I am some innocent bystander; no, I am completely engaged in what’s happening now, right at the point if the pen so to speak, and regarding what comes immediately next. When I run out of what-comes-next, I stop.

It might be complete drivel. I don’t know yet. I haven’t done any re-reading of passages to get a sense of where to go next or whether to chuck it and make another start.

April 10, 2020

There was a time when writing a poem or song on Good Friday was an annual event. This is one. (Apologies for the formatting – I haven’t got a grip on the changes yet.)

GOOD FRIDAY NIGHT, 1978

                (Easter Sunday too far away)

The walls are hewn inside the hill –

granite, veined with quartz,

and roughly marked with picks.

The floor too is rough, uneven,

falling just a little inch too close

to give a tallish man the room

to stand

                and breath

together.

The air is gloomy with the stink of death,

heavy with the kicked-up dust

that soon will join the floor

                                                     again.

There he lies –

a shrouded, shapeless corpse.

If you could see beneath the cloth:

the alabaster cheeks that dry the grimy blood;

the matted hair that’s clotted

on a tattered skull;

the beard, rustling in the silence;

the filthy neck that’s stiffened now.

All his bloodied body

signs his wretched death.

Without,

walled in by stone and air,

the Romans play at dice in silence,

                or murmur in the firelight.

He’s dead.

It doesn’t make a scrap of sense.

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March 8, 2020

Below is a link to a 2-page Word document with links to sites & articles I have found useful and trustworthy in seeking information about Climate Change. I will probably add to this list.

http://jjsheahan.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Sites-of-great-resource.docx

March 8, 2020

The link below takes you to a 6-page Word document replete with the main (as far as I can tell) arguments against Anthropogenic Global Warming, or Climate Change. For each, I have supplied a list of references to counter-arguments. It is created out of hours of following up points raised in ‘discussion’ of the issue/s. Cheers.

http://jjsheahan.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/GLOSSARY-of-Climate-Change-Arguments_published.docx

February 29, 2020

This is a fragment from a larger piece I have been playing with for some time. McKellar’s wonderful poem, ‘My Country’, is part of my cultural baggage: here was a poem that celebrated what others shook their heads at.

I love this many-island country drifting slowly in the planet,

This Great South Land is part of me and I of it – my Home I call it:

Its red-soiled scrubs like heartbeats, constant, quiet, relentless;

Its ancient forests from Gondwana crown the eastern mountain spine;

The inland sea now dust and salt beneath the vast blue skies

That ache my eyes and stretch my mind, shrinking self-importance.

This place for me is like my breath, my heart’s beat, the stillness in my centre. 

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February 19, 2020

G

My personal history with smoking bears some similarities with the current environmental debate.

I started young, when it was the cool and adult thing to do, and smokes were cheap. By the time I was in the early stages of being addicted, it was just easier to go along with it, even though there were rogue doctors warning about the health impacts.

Then the news was more and more of the link between cigarettes and lung cancer. And emphysema. Still, it was a bit controversial as there were doctors and scientists who disputed the link. There was – and still it is the case, as far as I know – no scientifically proven, causal link between cigarettes and cancer: why does smoking cigarettes result in cancers? It was all statistical.

So it was easy to push the risks to the back of my mind. And giving the smokes up was a very, very difficult thing to do. Finally, there were always the young-man’s rationalisations of last resort: what’s wrong with living a little dangerously, who wants to live forever and it won’t happen to me anyway.

It became more difficult to ignore after I was married and I was looking fatherthood in the eye. The whole passive smoking thing was beginning to emerge as an issue – banning smoking for bars! – and I was going to have dependents, so it became more imperative to do something about it.

Lots of attempts with varying degrees of success and failure, but I am glad I started kicking it when I was 24. Since, I have been an intermittent smoker – cigars, a packet when I go north, etc. In my 30s, though I couldn’t deny I felt better when I was off them, it was sometimes easier to just have a few. The ads had said that the body starts recovering as soon as I stopped, so I took the risk.

A couple of years back, smoking hurt my lungs immediately. Finally, there was an instant feedback from the body: pain is a great motivator! Now, it is easier to say No, though still not easy.

The benefits are multiple, some unexpected: so much money saved; breath doesn’t stink like an ashtray so others appreciate that a bit; don’t have to brave the cold and wet when I want a smoke in winter, no longer driven by the cravings, and I am still here. I haven’t avoided all the negatives: I use puffers for my breathing these days, a constant cough and I still hanker for them. Plus, I may yet develop a cancer related to smoking.

What has this to do the environment?

– Gradual transition of awareness and acceptance of the impacts of the activity

– Slow changes to social behaviour as the impacts became more accepted as real

– Fierce debates over the science

– Slow, difficult process in need of high motivation

– Entrenched vested interests mounting fierce opposition

– Backlash from smokers (mostly) faced with demands on them to make changes

– Costs of changes

A big difference is that there was no social deadline with the smoking. Sure, it would probably kill individuals over time, not to mention all the butts poisoning the waterways, but society as a whole wasn’t threatened. With the environment, there is a visible endpoint if no action or insufficient action is taken.

January 28, 2020

If you wish to have a quick peek at Garnaut’s projections and reasoning, I have put together my notes from my reading of the book. You can find them here: Super-power by R Garnaut_notes

I stress that these are my notes, constructed from underlined passages in the text to serve a number of purposes. One is to try to provide a reasonably neutral picture of Garnaut’s arguments. Perhaps this might create interest sufficient to nudge some folk to reading the whole thing. Another purpose is to serve me as a source of suitable quotations for future commentary or essays. (Ever the academic!) And finally, it is a great way to internalise material, to review it and to see potential flaws. (For instance, there is little to no mention of wages.)

This is a book by an economist-type, written for people who can read and think. Above all, I find it a book of challenge and hope. This potential future is bright; the challenge is of leadership, individual and collective.

PS An opinion article in the ABC News by Ian Verrender, a financial writer, provides some more up-to-date figures on money movements at the larger end of town: ‘The future of coal has already been decided in board rooms around the world’ (28 Jan 2020) It supports Garnaut’s general thesis.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-28/why-finance-is-fleeing-fossil-fuels/11903928

 

January 24, 2020

This is a revolutionary book.
Ross Garnaut was commissioned by the (Australian) state governments and the Federal Opposition in 2007 to review and report on the climate change challenges facing Australia. He delivered it in 2008 and reviewed it in 2011. This book is based on a series of lectures in 2019 delivered at University of Melbourne.
This man has been looking at the challenges of climate change and transitioning economies in the face of it for years, intensely, and working at a national policy level. And he is still optimistic that we can rise to the occasion and save future Australians from the worst effects of climate change. It means being involved in the global effort, seriously. It will require visionary leadership and courage at all levels of society. He sees massive opportunities for rural and regional Australians into the future in a zero-emissions world.
The alternative, which he spends little time over, is catastrophic disruption economically, environmentally, socially, with national security imperilled.
Garnaut comes to the subject as a person who gives weight to the science of climate change and who sees opportunities if change is implemented soon enough. It is more than a matter of sheer survival: he sees the possibility of Australia becoming a global leader with a de-carboinised economy, and prospering.
Some parts of this book bored me to tears – I am no economist – but he writes in such a way that I could follow his reasoning and his narration of the historical circumstances all the same. Quite an achievement, really.
I wish everyone with an interest in this subject would read this book. I don’t know enough to see the holes in his arguments if there are any, so I look forward to the public discussion.

January 14, 2020

Here comes Sooty & The Coalface Crew

Their thoughts and prayers and a handshake for you,

A promise of money and their hope you’ll renew.

They’re visiting disasters for the evening news

Where drought is a nightmare, the fires are worse.

Is there more could be done? His answer’s perverse:

Our responses will be practical, like how shall we live

With disasters unavoidable, there’s nothing to forgive.

Be reassured that there’s nothing we can do

To save you from a future a lot like the news:

Shameless, not Blameless.

PS It’s doggerel, yes, poetry, no … and I am angry, yes.

January 12, 2020
Here are some angry jokes I made up. Laughter is not guaranteed. 🙂
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE TO THE PM:
Q: What is your response to the air quality issues in NSW?
A: How good are the sunsets!
 
Q: Do you consider the current evacuation centres to be sufficient for the needs of the communities?
A: How good are beaches!
 
Q: What do you have to say to the rising tide of post-traumatic mental health issues that some experts predict following this fire season?
A: How good are holidays!
 
Q: What’s your comment on the timing of the NSW Emergency Services Minister’s holiday?
A: How good are holidays in times of crisis.
 
Q: What’s your comment on the timing of your holiday to Hawaii?
A: I am sorry my absence caused some people anxiety.
January is chockers with overseas trips and appointments for me, and I had promised my two young children a holiday this summer. My kids come first in my life. Equal first, with God of course, and the Australian people. That’s a three-way tie for first place. How good are ties!
So, we went on a little secret trip overseas. The Facebook posts of me drinking with a couple of fans sort of cruelled the secrecy, and I regret any offence caused to anyone by my shirt, but it was in Hawaii after all. My girls rolled their eyes, but a daggy-dad has to do what has to be done.
 
Q: Do you think the emergency services are sufficiently resourced for the intensity of the current situation?
A: How good are volunteers!
 
Q: Do you have a message for the volunteers?
A: How good is the community spirit!
 
Q: What about the thousands sheltering on beaches from encircling fires, or tensely enduring amazing lines of crawling traffic under smoke-laden skies, hoping they will escape the danger before the road is cut again and they have to improvise shelter in an unfamiliar landscape?
A: How good are holidays, even when they are cut short! I know what it is like. I understand. Seriously I do. It’s awful. But remember, there is always a silver lining – think of all the new relationships & adventures. We Aussies have had our holidays disrupted before and we’ll make it through this one because we are amazing people.

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