Friday, February 26, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Summer reading 2016

This might have appeared in The Albany Advertiser, but didn't. Every year the paper runs a feature on local writers and their summer reading. The West does it. The Australian does it. But this year Albany missed. Anyway, here's mine. (Oops, it just appeared, Albany Advertiser, Tuesday 26/1/2016.)
Although the Noongar season of Birak seems late this year, not so my summer reading.

As always there is a collection of fiction and non-fiction, starting with a classic, The Mask of Sanity, by American psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley who has attempted to define the psychopathic personality. Psychopaths have always intrigued me, how they are, why they are and how I can pick them before they pick me
It can be a heavy read and so I need a little light relief and for that I will be going to Poems that make Grown Men Cry, edited by Anthony and Ben Holden. This book was given to me by a motley collection of nieces and nephews who decided I needed more tears in my life and eyes.

For the laughs I will go to Unlearning with Hannah Arendt, by Marie Luise Knott, a biography of a German Jewish moral and political philosopher and holocaust survivor. Luise focusses on Arendt’s exploration of laughter, translation and forgiveness.

Finally, I will be reading the works of Patrick de Witt, a Canadian writer who will be here for the Perth Writers Festival in the Great Southern. I have already read The Sisters Brothers, about two hitmen, one a psychopath and the other a tormented soul. I will next read his latest - Undermajormo Minor.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Facing Facebook

Early last week I dropped out of Facebook. It got to me. All the clutter, the self-indulgence, the arguments, the banality. It was building but Paris blew it.

To be fair, I only went to it three times a day, unless, of course, as often happened, someone sent me a direct message, then I had to respond, didn’t I?

Did I? No, but I did, because I had the habit. Only one way to break a habit – break it.

I know this because I am an addict. My drugs of choice were hard booze, marijuana, and, in earlier times, anything around, including opium, hashish and a range of pills. But one day, in fact May the 13th, 1986, I woke up, went to an AA meeting, and never, ever, again, drank, smoked, dropped, shoved, any mood altering, mind blowing, substance.

Was it easy? Stopping it was, but staying stopped was a lot harder.

Back to the F book thing.

It started nice and easy, just a few friends, people who lived down the road a bit, people I saw often. It was just an addition really, an extension of an ongoing relationship. This is manageable, I thought. 

Then it built and now it includes ex-girlfriends, people I haven’t seen since the 1960s, people I may never see again who I met while travelling, working, and dreaming.

And now it also includes important people, people I care for, love, think about most days, even dead people. Yes, the dead people are still there with their own page, forever, and I don’t mind that, because it helps me keep them alive in my memory.

But when you add it all up, it’s a universe and we are not designed to cope with so many people, so much news, so much information. And it's every day, relentless, pounding - Paris, Nigeria, Kenya, Lebanon, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Esperance .... on and on, all the places I've been, never been but dreamt of visiting and all the places I know people from or still in.

Overload. Too much of everything, including misery. Can only take so much. Thought I was managing it. Wasn’t. So I dropped out.

And while I was out I remembered it also brought joy, comedy and inspiration. There was, of course, more to it than I thought when I dropped.

That was last week. This is a new week. And in your modern world of the WWW, a week is not a long time in politics, or any other profession, or even the privacy of your own home.

I’ll go back now, slowly, ease in over the next couple of days. Need a bit more time to settle, refocus, remind myself what is important. Reflect.

You too. Remember to take time out, from everything.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


In my town there had been a long running dispute between the city and a major local body. Nothing moved. In response, I wrote this piece and was about to offer it to a local newspaper when, wonderfully, something happened. (The only addition to the original is the last line.)
It is to be hoped that the something, the seeming breakthrough, lasts and that both parties keep to their commitments.

here it is:

Leadership has been a consuming interest of mine much of my adult life. Here are some of my favourite definitions.

"A leader is best when people barely know he exists and when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves." Lao-Tzu

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” Walter Lippmann

“The essence of leadership is the acceptance of responsibility,” General Peter Cosgrove

“The best leaders know when to lead and when to follow,” Jon Doust

And now let’s take a look at a hypothetical example and imagine what an active leader might look like.

Let’s say, for example, in your local community there is a major dispute between an important group, like a major festival committee, and the local shire.

This dispute has gone on for years and the two central figures are men who don’t like each other and can often been seen and heard yelling as though the volume, or the consistency, will change the mind of their opponent.

It never works, just like it never works when you yell at your teenage son or in the face of someone who doesn’t speak your language.

In this situation, if one of them had a solid understanding of leadership he would approach the other and say: “You know what, Fred, we’re looking like a couple of boofs with no brains. What say we find a neutral space, go into a room, just the two of us, lock the door, and we sort this mess out. Time we took the bulldust by the horns, threw out the bath water, and came to grips with the meat and gristle. What do you say?”

And Fred, because his leadership gene has been challenged, responds positively. The two boofs go into a room and come out four hours later changed, transformed, with renewed vigour and the community celebrates and moves on to more pressing issues.

Yes, I know, it seems like a dream, but I have seen it happen.

OMG, I think it just happened again.