Replica of The Matthew, ship sailed by John Cabot from Bristol to North America in 1497. (Photo from BBC.)
Archive for the 'Post-Industrial Nomads' Category
Wilfred Burchett (1911-1983) was a brave and intrepid Australian journalist who mainly reported from the other side in the Cold War. He was the first western reporter to visit Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped on the city, something he did without permission from the US Occupation authorities, and was thus able to counter attempted US military lies and disinformation about what we now know was radiation poisoning; he did this most dramatically at a US military press conference in Japan immediately after his visit to the city. For many years in the 1950s and 1960s, conservative Australian Governments refused to renew Burchett’s Australian passport, something only remedied by the incoming Labor administration of Gough Whitlam on 6 December 1972, four days after Labor’s election win.
Another Australian journo, John Pilger, wrote a preface to a collection on articles about Burchett, edited by Ben Kiernen in 1986. On the second page of his preface, Pilger quotes from Burchett’s autiobiography, and then commits a schoolboy howler. “Soon afterwards [Pilger writes, page x], Wilfred went ‘on the road with a swag’ and in Queensland was adopted by a group of cane-cutters . . . ”
No, Mr Pilger, no! Although Burchett is careful not to name the location of the sugarcane farm he worked on, he says (page 62) it is on an arm of the Clarence River, upstream from a sugar-mill whose chimney effusions he could smell and possibly also see, on a large island bisected by a canal with horse-drawn barges transporting bundles of cut cane. The mill would be the one at Harwood (still in operation today, thanks to former state MP, Don Day), and the island most likely Palmers Island. Other large islands upstream of the Harwood Mill would be Harwood Island itself or Chatsworth Island, but these are not bisected by canals. But all of these, including the entire mouth of the Clarence River are in New South Wales, Mr Pilger, not Queensland.
Burchett is briefly mentioned as a social acquaintance of Guy Burgess in Moscow in the 1950s in the recent biography of Burgess by Andrew Lownie, reviewed here.
Wilfred Burchett : Passport: An Autobiography. Melbourne, Australia: Nelson.
Ben Kiernan (Editor) : Burchett Reporting the Other Side of the World 1939-1983. London, UK: Quartet.
At the first Internet of Things and Distributed Ledgers Hackathon, Barclays Rise Hackspace, Notting Hill, London, 7 November 2015.
From sometime before 1933 right down to the present day, members of my family have had on their walls reproductions of George Lambert’s 1899 Wynne-Prize-winning painting Across the Black Soil Plains, and so this image is part of my cultural heritage. (Image due to AGNSW.)
George Washington Thomas Lambert (1873-1930) was an Australian artist born, after his father had died, in St Petersburg of an American father and English mother. The family emigrated to New South Wales in 1887. In Australia, he is most famous for his painting, Across the Black Soil Plains, now in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which was based on his time living at Warren, NSW. During WWI, he was an official Australian war artist.
George’s son, Leonard Constant Lambert (1905-1951) was a jazz-age British composer and conductor, and co-founder of Sadler’s Wells dance company.
Constant’s son, Christopher (“Kit”) Sebastian Lambert (1935-1981) was a record producer and manager, and part-creator of rock band, The Who.
Sad that son and grandson both died in their 46th year.
Eggs William S. Burroughs
Chop one onion and place it into a pan with 1 tablespoon of butter. Brown it.
Take the green part of 1 chicory salad (keep the white part for a salad). Chop it fine and add it to the onion. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add 4 chopped hard-boiled eggs, 1 clove of garlic that has been crushed into a little chopped parsley, 2 chopped peeled tomatoes, 1 more tablespoon of butter, 1 teaspoon of meat stock, 1 pinch of pepper, one pinch of salt, and one sherry-glassful of claret. Cook for 5 minutes.
Boil 2 handfuls of noodles for 15 minutes. Strain. Be sure they are free of all water. Place them on the bottom of a baking dish. Cover with the chicory, etc., and bake in a preheated moderate oven of 350°F for 15 minutes. Season to taste.
Henri Charpentier : Food and Finesse: The Bride’s Bible. Privately printed, Chicago, IL, USA. Recipe here. From Charpentier’s and Burroughs’ time in Chicago, in the early 1940s.
Following my recent post on the meaning of life, I recalled Georges Perec’s great novel, Life: A User’s Manual, which I first encountered in a 1987 book review by Paul Auster in the New York Times, here.
If anyone can be called the central character in this shifting, kaleidoscopic work, it would have to be Percival Bartlebooth, an eccentric English millionaire whose insane and useless 50-year project serves as an emblem for the book as a whole. Realizing as a young man that his wealth has doomed him to a life of boredom, Bartlebooth undertakes to study the art of watercolor with Serge Valene for a period of 10 years. Although he has no aptitude whatsoever for painting, he eventually reaches a satisfactory level of competence. Then, in the company of a servant, he sets out on a 20-year voyage around the world with the sole intention of painting watercolors of 500 different harbors and seaports.
As soon as one of these pictures is finished, he sends it to a man in Paris by the name of Gaspard Winckler, who also lives in the building. Winckler is an expert puzzle-maker whom Bartlebooth has hired to turn the watercolors into 750-piece jigsaw puzzles. One by one, the puzzles are made and stored in wooden boxes. When Bartlebooth returns from his travels and settles back into his apartment, he will methodically go about putting the puzzles together in chronological order. By means of an elaborate chemical process, the borders of the puzzle pieces have been glued together in such a way that the seams are no longer visible, thus restoring the watercolor to its original integrity. The painting, good as new, can then be removed from its wooden backing and sent to the place where it was originally executed. There it will be dipped into a detergent solution that eliminates all traces of the painting, yielding a clean and unmarked sheet of paper.
In other words, Bartlebooth will be left with nothing, the same thing he started with.
The idea of wasting the second half of your life trying to make sense of all you did in the first half I have found to be increasingly insightful as I age.
FWIW, Auster’s 1987 review appears to have been plagiarized, without any acknowledgement, in this 1999 post.
This week the death was announced of The International Herald Tribune, and her replacement by the International Edition of The New York Times. Born in Paris in 1887, the deceased reached maturity in 1967, when she became jointly and equally owned by The Washington Post and The New York Times. From then to 2003 were her glory years, perhaps because neither newspaper parent was able to impose their own, provincial culture on the cosmopolitan IHT editorial team in Paris. Here is Hendrik Hertzberg:
The first time I ever went anywhere outside the United States was in 1960. I was seventeen, I was by myself, and I was in Paris. At the earliest possible moment, I did four things. I sat down at a little table at an outdoor café. I ordered a glass of red wine. I lit a Gauloises. And I opened up my copy, freshly bought, of the Herald Tribune. Only then did I no longer feel like a tourist or a high-school kid. I was suddenly something better: an American in Paris.”
But no marketing manager can stomach a brand he does not control, so the NYT broke up the marriage with The Post in order to take full control of the IHT in 2003. The IHT was never the same since. Editorial control seemed to shift from Paris to Manhattan. The content seemed suddenly to be centred on events in New York, instead of on the world itself. New Yorkers don’t like to think of themselves as provincial, but they often are. The arts section is now a mash-up of the NYT arts section, for instance.
And for all their prizes, the editors of the NYT seems to lack some basic newspaper management skills. Why change the font? Why, one has to ask, must the cartoon page shift its position in the paper from day to day, like some permanent floating crap game? Now, in just a few days under its new name, the newspaper’s op-ed page has shifted elsewere in the paper. It seems that the editors mis-understand the nature of a newspaper – indeed, THIS newspaper – in the life of its readers, if they think we don’t care about such matters.
Now, instead of a paper written for and by English-speaking readers around the world, it has become a paper written by journalists in New York City for readers from New York City. The world’s loss, alas.
UPDATE (2016-07-31): And now? From buying it every day, now, I hardly ever do. The newspaper is a poor skeleton of its former fleshy self, and shamefully provincial.