Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

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Sunday, 16 September 2018

MADAME OUSPENSKY'S TALKS TO HER PUPILS 1945-1947– NOW PUBLISHED

Students of Gurdjieff's teaching know little about Madame Ouspensky because she left no written body of work—although some of her sayings have been recalled by De Ropp in his short account of his time with her. That has been virtually the only material extant. Until now.

Now, an authentic transcription of talks given by Madame Ouspensky to her group at Mendham is finally being published by Buzzword. The talks, distilled from notes taken by her pupils at the time, have been painstakingly compered and edited by the late Dorothy Darlington who spent years with Madame and Mr Ouspensky and who had a special affinity with Madame. 


Dorothy wished this part of Madame's legacy to be preserved. But despite decades of prompting and submissions, no Gurdjieff Group, or Group affiliated press, has bothered to take the project forward. 

So, to preserve this account and to make it accessible to those studying Gurdjieff's ideas, we are now issuing this unique and priceless material as an ebook. 



As Dorothy recalls in her introductory note: "In Madame Ouspensky's successive houses near London and later at Mendham, New Jersey, Saturday evenings were reserved for a particular purpose.

"It was then that she would speak of the Ideas. But she did not give lectures. This book records some of her talks—many verbatim and others, particularly those of 1945, pieced together from notes that she corrected. Nothing has been added and, where possible, her own Anglo-Russian idiom has been preserved.

"Where repetition occurs, it is and was deliberate. Madame herself called it, 'beating on the same point.' It must also be remembered that the talks were addressed to different people on different occasions and at different times."

Dorothy was in charge of the kitchen for ten years At Franklin Farms, Mendham, New Jersey when Madame gave her talks. 


During Madame's final years, she was in charge of many practical aspects of running the house and also edited The Fourth Way. She was also present in the room when Gurdjieff visited Madame. She said, 'The expression on his face I will never forget.' 


When the connection with the New York group was established she became a regular member of the Gurdjieff Foundation and, after Madame's death, went to Paris where Madame de Salzmann asked her what she wanted to do. She replied that she would leave it up to her. 


In 1965, she was sent to Australia and mentored the Sydney/Canberra Gurdjieff Society established by C. S. Nott, aiding it through the transition from UK to American guidance during the visits of Rina Hands, Charles Wright and the initial visits of James Wyckoff.
What a handful of older group members remember is the enormous contribution she made to the group here. During the dark days of flawed hierarchy and factions in Sydney, she kept the group alive. 


Dorothy was a powerful iconoclast. Her impatience with fools matched her deep respect for the Work.


Dorothy had not only her own notes of Madame's Saturday evening talks but notes of the same talks taken by up to six others. This, then, was what she proposed to collate and edit as a group work. 


It was a painstaking and meticulous process of comparison and evaluation, informed always by Dorothy's knowledge of how Madame spoke and how she was. As well as the precise sentence construction, each full stop and comma was placed to represent Madame's emphatic speech pattern and uncompromising approach to her subject.


She called the book Saturday Evenings at Mendham.


Buzzword Books presents this material as a service to Gurdjieff Group members worldwide. According to Dorothy's wish, all royalties will go to the Gurdjieff Society of Australia.

 

You will find Saturday Evenings at Mendham on the Buzzword site.

Monday, 3 September 2018

THE POPULATION PANDEMIC



This extract from a speech given by thriller writer Clinton Smith addresses the population crisis and doesn't miss a punch. 




What would be the goals of a sane and compassionate world?

According to one UN Under Secretary General, these would be: "preventing wars, promoting democracy and eradicating poverty."

But excessive human population is the elephant in the room. Almost every problem we have is based on population growth—pollution, poverty, scarcity of resources, the destruction of species and rape of the environment. But this is rarely if ever mentioned because it is impossible to address without losing votes or business favour. Corporations demand more customers or Units of Consumption. Which pressure group, for instance, do you think is pushing Australian immigration?

From AD 1 to 1750, world population was a flat line—stable. It rose steadily, from 1950 until the chart became near-vertical. From the 1900s, the curve is exponential—the line on the chart goes straight up. It took a century to go from one billion to two. Twelve years to go from four to five. Now it's a million every four days. A second China in ten years. World population will double in fifty years.

And the more people, the bigger the fight over dwindling resources. Get rid of the nationalistic spin and wars are almost always about resources. So we either destroy ourselves or control population growth.

You might consider that the function of war. No. Disease has always killed more people. But now we live too long. We're victims of medical advances. So, failing a plague or nuclear catastrophe, how do we cull populations?

Reducing births through government coercion isn't efficient enough. China's proved that. You're up against common instinct, traditional values. Bu the way, China has much to gain from flooding the world with people. For instance, the diaspora sends money back to relatives on the mainland. And there are at least 300 million unemployed so emigration's a safety valve against social instability. Now relate this to soft war.

Notice how more and more illegal immigrants wash against the shores of the world? Could emigration be used as a weapon?

Or would soft war involve sterilisation?

There's some evidence that sneak sterilisation trials have been run in several third world nations, last time in Manila. But that's difficult if it becomes public knowledge, as well as expensive and political disaster.

Perhaps one day some nation will weaponize AIDS by marrying it to the flu virus —long considered the best bio-weapon airborne delivery system.

Yes, this is a slightly satirical talk. But don't relax.

The facts are stark. In fifty years, population growth will exceed food production. By the way, it takes a tonne of oil to produce twelve tonnes of grain. And production of accessible oil will peak in 2030.

Will starvation do the trick? People are cooking each other in parts of North Korea now.

Failing an advanced technique that ensures death at forty—and given ethics that prevent us sterilising or infecting friendly nations, what's the solution.

Certainly not all-out nuclear war. That also equates to bio-system destruction. No. The practical way to control a nuclear armed foe is to do it without firing a weapon.

Use hard war as passive defence and soft war as a pre-emptive strike. But as you can't sell soft war to the electorate, it has to be a sneak attack.

Soft war. Think about it.

Some say the attack on Kosovo was designed to raise the US dollar against an encroaching euro.

I've suggested that soft war is increasingly a possibility. And I've said it will be covert. Something you won't immediately spot.

For instance, Western culture —our barrage of films and TV —is a tremendous soft war tool. Perhaps the best we have.

Another is Globalisation!

Let's quickly examine democracy's big brother, free market globalisation. Free for whom? Supply-side economics, functioning without distortion or corruption, is effective. But its ideology is a veneer that covers a thousand abuses.

As Chairman of Intel, Andy Grove said, "The purpose of the new Capitalism is to shoot the wounded."

We're told that the profit motive can serve the public good. But do you buy that without qualification? Does free trade assist the poor, or create them?

Ask a coffee farmer in Ethiopia, the middle class in Argentina or the protestors in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nigeria.

Remember that America had an oil tycoon President who was funded by Enron and elected by alleged vote rigging in Florida. Be aware that the IMF is 50% owned by the US treasury. The philosophy of the IMF, World Bank and WTO which can be taken as a triumvirate, is basically liberalised financial markets, smaller government, privatisation and the rest... This, in practice, translates as a savage reduction in government services and social security. According to one Nobel prize laureate, "repression and economic liberalisation are bedfellows."

In April 2000, the World Bank gathered nearly 1000 executives and bureaucrats in the Hague to discuss the privatisation of the world's water systems.

By the way, their five measures for a flexible private sector workforce are:

            Reduce salaries and benefits.
            Reduce pensions.
            Reduce job stability.
            Reduce employment.
            Increase working hours.

Sound familiar? The gig economy is now here.

Now we know from the supermarket chains that a monopoly fleeces customers at one end while squeezing suppliers at the other. And Napster shows that intellectual property rights have everything to do with corporate control.

GATS (general agreement on trade and services) has a plan to establish an international agency to veto or regulate the government decisions of individual nations. This agency, unlike parliaments, will hold closed hearings. One of its aims is to remove restrains on business. So that the public good becomes victim to the most "cost effective" way to deal with, for instance, pollution, transport safety, contaminated water. The rationalisations are inevitably supported by well compensated academics.

We know that contamination credits are an idea spawned by the business community. That while petrochemical cartels, such as BP paint their retail outlets green, they've done everything possible by misinformation and years of procrastination and denials, to pay lip service to new greener technologies while stonewalling all attempts to introduce them. But, just like everything, Globalisation will reach its limits and self-destruct.

Let's come back to the goals of a sane and compassionate world.

Preventing conflict, promoting democracy and eradicating poverty.

And what do we have? ...Violence. Plutocracy. Exploitation. A thousand evils sugared with fine words.

The future?

Predicting the future's hazardous. Because things happen in ways we never thought of. But, soft war will never cull populations. Governments are too venal. There is currently no mileage in genocide. People are cash cows to be milked.

But I believe we could agree on one thing. Areas of nuclear contamination.

If it can be done, it will be done. Just too much stuff out there. Too many egos. And too many chances for snafus in systems and chains of command.

Some time, somewhere, something or someone will snap.

Yes, the threat of nuclear winter or eco-death is a tough sale politically. But get people spooked about an enemy attack and the attitude flips.

That's why nations from North Korea and Pakistan are playing with the matchbox now.

As the hair ad says: "It won't happen overnight. But it will happen."

Now, a final perspective. What if the problem and its solution are not in our hands at all? That we are not the cause—merely the symptom? What if nature—utterly indifferent to stupid little us and red in tooth and claw—requires our proliferation for some purpose? And, in good time, intends to destroy us, or enable us to destroy ourselves. It happened with the dinosaurs and thousands of other species. Why are we so special? If we don't shape up, it will ship us out as another failed experiment.

Too bleak?

That's why it's probably true.

You can find Clint's latest thriller PROJECT THUNDER on Buzzword.





Saturday, 25 August 2018

HOW TO STOP LIFE DRAINING YOUR ENERGY



In this interview with John Alexandra, author of The Wisdom of Being, a student learns a potent self-maintenance technique. 



Q: I'm a social worker and I find the job very demanding. For instance, I'm currently helping a blind person and it takes all my energy. I arrive home at night exhausted.

A: It’s very good that you see that. Many people would just say, ‘I’m bushed,’ and think no more about it. You feel yourself drained of psychic energy­­­—your life energy. It runs out of you like a hole in a bucket. What's worse, you feel you're not being sincere or doing your job unless you are giving all you have.

Q: I do.

A: But that's not really helping or giving at all. It's an automatic reaction that depletes you. If you really want to help the person, you need to be there for them in the right way. You need your substance, presence, attention. Then you can see what the person needs from your substance, your fullness. But, for that, you first need to be there—contained.

Q: But it all goes out.

A: Yes. Life is always sucking us out. In other words, draining us of our attention. Everything does it. A loud noise, a nasty look, petty fears and agitations. We identify with everything. Particularly with churning automatic thoughts. We try to fix everything with our heads. But it doesn't work because thoughts are just one third of us. To really address the situation, we need to BE there—body mind and feelings together. Then we are contained. Impregnable. We perceive the situation completely, then simply do what is necessary and no more. No wasted energy. What is necessary is the first rule of morality. 


A: No. because no one ever teaches us how. Our parents don't know how. Our teachers don't know how. Religions tell us what to do but the 'how' they once knew has been forgotten centuries ago. So when you see that everything sucks life energy out of you—in other words, takes your attention—the remedy is clear.

Q: It is?

A: If life continually sucks us out, the antidote is to continually draw in. To contain ourselves. Self-maintenance. Conserve your substance, attention. You see it?

Q: And how does one do that?

A: There are many ways. But one I'd recommend for someone who has never tried these techniques before is this. Try to be aware of your skin.

Q: My skin?

A: Yes. Your skin is the envelope of your body and it separates you from the exterior world. You're in it but never know it. In fact, you're a little beyond it because it's attached to an atmosphere—an energy field around you. And it's that energy field that is depleted when you identify with things. It stretches in the direction of your attention and diminishes your natural protective field.

Q: So how to stop that?

A: Try to be aware—mindful—of your skin. Don't think about it. Don't tense. Simply be thoughtlessly aware of it—of the sensation of it. Can you try that now?

Q: I'm trying.

A: Now see if it can soften, become more pore-ous, permeable.  Wordlessly. Visualizing the process. No sub-vocalisation. Keep your head out of it. Are you trying it?
 
Q: Yes.

A: What do you find?

Q: I have a vague all-round sensation of my skin. It's like a soundless hum.

A: Good. Now try to remember it as you talk, move, act. We're very rigid, tense. Life is always making us tense. So the remedy is to be always softening. And it starts with the skin. Then it can go deeper into the body. Ice melts from the outside. Are you trying it now?

Q: Yes.

A: And?

Q: It helps me feel more here somehow.

A: Because you are. We need to relate to life with the whole of ourselves, not just our heads. Paying wordless attention to the skin uses different cells in the brain. And the random thoughts calm down because I'm attentive, for once, not just thinking. Attention is not your thoughts. The correct use of the mind is to be attentive—not to think. And when the attention contacts the body like this, I am already two-thirds awake. More present. More here. I'm no longer just a conditioned reaction. I begin to live—not merely exist.

Q: It certainly feels different.

A: Now let this greater sensation of yourself move inward. You need to become a container—more able to contain your energy. You see?

 Q: Just then, I started to think about it and it went.
 
A: So come back to it again. The softening, conserving of your atmosphere, consolidating inward. You can always begin again. And the first step is the last step. Try it particularly when you meet someone. Don't change anything on the outside but be aware of yourself at the time. You—in front of another. It's difficult because every moment is a challenge. But it's also tremendously important for your life, for others and your future. To have both 'the eye of time and the eye of eternity open together' as Jacob Boehme put it. To have a foot in both camps. In fact to live in two worlds. To thicken your life. To live twice. You really live then.


You can find John's book The Wisdom of Being on the Buzzword site.









Wednesday, 13 June 2018

THE BUSKER'S BIBLE


Check out this book now

In 1984, Jon Jessie decided he could do it - busk around OZ for nothing more than he earned on the street. And, after a shaky start, he was on his way. Thirty years later, he's still at it. A hoot!

Jon Jessie decided to busk his way around Oz, living entirely on what he earned.
And the miracle is he succeeded. In 1984, he went up the East Coast of the country, then decided to go inland and try to get right around for nothing.


That first busking session in Kings Cross, Sydney on 4th April 1984, began an alternative lifestyle that was to last more than 30 years. Even now, in his seventies, he still sings with his guitar to passers-by. And hopes for another few years yet!

Listen to two of the Jon Jesse compositions which occurred during this epic journey:. Busking in Sydney 
Helscha How We Waited 


Read about his first session here:  

My First Ever Busking Session
I took the escalator up from the station to Darlinghurst Road. It was three years since I last went up these moving stairs and then I'd only been here as a tourist. Then, there had been no anxiety or unsureness. I'd looked forward to an interesting evening just like all the other millions of tourists that flock each year to this Little Paris of Australia, where watching prostitutes standing before shop doorways was the name of the game!

  But now, it was with a completely different feeling that I came to the top—and I looked different as well. I wore a checked shirt, over which lay a blue velvet waistcoat which my mother had made and I was wearing black corduroy trousers with my lovely black hat on my head. On my feet were red socks and blue artistic- looking leather shoes and I hoped that I looked a proper busker. I turned left and headed for the spot I had chosen to do my first ever busking session.

  It was on the other side of the road about a hundred metres along where a side street went down a hill. But the closer I got, the more the resistance in me built up. “Stop it! Put that out of your head! Think of Mike! Remember what he said!” I urged myself, “Don't think about it, do it! Don't think about it, do it!” This I now kept repeating to myself until I reached my spot and put my guitar case down,, opened it, took out my guitar, put it over my shoulder and put my capo in place, all with “Don't think about it, do it! Don't think about it, do it!”

  Now turn yourself around towards the road, I told myself, straighten up and sing!
  I'd already chosen to begin with an up-beat song from Elvis Presley. Good old Elvis, he knew how! I hit into my guitar and pushed out the opening line: “Won't you wear my ring around your neck …..” I was doing it, I was!

  I really was doing it, after all these years! I might now be 43 years old, but that hadn't stopped me. Elation overwhelmed me. But keep on going, I told myself, just keep going! Don't stop for at least half an hour! So started my first busking session and, straight away, I made my first mistake. I'd hardly sung a couple of lines when I noticed nearby a swaying drunk. He smiled at me and, foolishly, I smiled back at him. That was it. Suddenly we were old pals and he'd come and sing along with me like good friends do!

  He staggered over to me and his alcoholised breath was excruciating!

  "Damn, what should I do now?" I thought, and I've only just started!

  Go away you bugger! But in his intoxicated state he saw it that pals naturally stay together and had to help me with my performance! With his head next to mine it was unbearable.
  You stupid idiot, you were nice to him so now he won't go away! I cursed and tried to move away from his breath. We ended up going around in a circle. I cursed again that I'd caused this to happen right at the beginning of my first busking attempt. Christ, go away, won't you!

  That would have been the first and last busking session of my life, had my Fairy Godmother not come along and saved me! She appeared in the form of a thirty year old woman accompanying her friend—who was in such a bad state that she had to be dragged along. Both were pretty high but my saviour knew what she was doing.

  After watching and listening to me for some seconds with an amused smile, she took pity on me. She let her friend slither to the floor, looked into my eyes with a hearty laugh and then went behind the drunk. She put her hands on his shoulders, twisted him away and guided him to the middle of the road where she walked him along for some way before giving him a hearty shove. I prayed that he wouldn't turn around and come back and he didn't.

  "Thanks so much for your help!” I shouted at her as she returned to pick up her friend.
  “Think nothing of it, Luv! I could see yer needed some 'elp!” she shouted back and left, helping her drugged companion over the road and down an alley.
  With relief I carried on. Now I had peace for a while and began to get used to this new activity. The money wasn't coming in fast but some coins had landed in my case which helped.

  I'd been there about half an hour when across the road, moving this way and that, I noticed a woman heading toward me. Her body was hunched and, the way she hung her head, stuck forward going from side to side, she seemed like a worn out version of E.T. As she got close to me she made a kind of butterfly flit towards me. Then, a yard from my face, she hovered, vibrating in little quivers.

  For long seconds she stared at me with wide eyes and suddenly cried, “Wheeee,” threw her arms out wide and zigzagged off.

  “Now, that's what I call hi,” I thought as I stood there singing, “real hippy happy hi!”.

  I continued with my set. My, was busking hard work! In a way it was a bit like being a teacher. You had to be fully concentrated and had to know your stuff.

  I ended up singing for an hour and a quarter and although there was no fortune in my guitar case, it felt like one to me. I felt great, why, that ought to be enough money to keep me for a whole day!

  In fact, my singing from 8.30 until 9.45pm had left me more than content, I was elated! Because I'd done it! Yes, I really had, at long, long, last.

  As I walked back towards the station, I wondered if maybe I'd started too soon. Well, I would find that out the next time. But I was now looking at everything in a different way, as a participator rather than an observer. I'd entered the world of the busker—and needed time to come back down to normality. As I reached the station and the escalator started to carry me down, I knew what an advance I'd just made. This feeling of fulfilment was justified, I had every reason to be pleased with myself. It was 11.30pm when I got back home. I was tired but over the moon. As the brightness of the living room engulfed me I saw four interested faces peering at me.

  “Well, how did it go?”
  “How much did you make?”
  “Well, did you do it then?” came rushing out at me.
  “Yep, I did it!” I said gleefully with outstretched arms.
  “For how long then?” someone asked.
  “About an hour and a quarter.”
  “And how much did you make?” my son Mark asked again.
  I took out my pouch and let coins fall on the table. They amounted to $9.56.
  “Hey, not bad for the first time!” one gasped as I sat and recounted the evenings experience.

  They were as impressed as I was. Because, after so many years of turning away, I'd finally pushed myself through and done it. All I had to do now was to keep on going and, with time, it would get easier and easier and I would get better and better. That was now my aim. Yes, tomorrow night I'd go again.

Visit the book page on Buzzword here.
 
 

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

CAN AI (ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE) BE CONSCIOUS?



Technological positivists confidently predict it can. For an answer, we have to fast-forward to the year 3010, when a lecture from a Futurist puts an end to such speculation - described in this extract from a remarkable soon to be published novel.

 

Picture a small group of 300 year old elders served by a eugenically adapted underclass called Funcs and sophisticated humaniod robots called Hubots. All controlled by 'brain in a box' cyborgs called Neuros with their central nervous systems mounted in mechanical bodies.


Now read on:



'Without going into formulas,' Katz, the Futurist, said, 'complexity is a function of time or duration. Note that time creates complexity. Therefore, a timeless state is necessary to avoid it. Consider this thought experiment...'
The screen changed to:
AI - TIME = INERTIA.
ORGANIC INTELLIGENCE + TIME = FAILURE.

'Artificial intelligence minus duration equals inertia. The machine has power but does nothing. Obvious enough. However, to understand the second proposition, we need to examine the diff between organics and intelligent machines. Can someone mention a diff? And, by the way, it has nothing to do with conduct or ordinary knowledge.'
   A white haired fem elder in the front row said, 'Relative consciousness.'
   The Futurist nodded to her. 'Thank you, Erva. Despite our efforts, it's still impossible to program consciousness. It's easier to genetically adapt organics than adapt machines—to build pain into bots, sensory cognition, responsiveness to unexpected situations, emotions, risk, social interactions... You can't turn responses like surprise or anguish into numbers. How do you code an algorithm for dopamine? Computers have no experience—just run software. But let's assume, for now, that machine learning can eventually emulate a form of consciousness.' He waved a hand at Jason and Pitho. 'In fact, we have two augmented H10s in the audience that go some way toward this goal. So accepting this as a future possibility, we'll provisionally ignore this factor. What else?'
   Pitho said, 'Entropy.'
   'Exactly. For those unfamiliar with the term, in isolated systems, heat flows spontaneously from hot to cold. Things are caught in a process of natural disorganisation. For instance, broken glass doesn't revert to an unbroken state. This is scientifically termed thermodynamic equilibrium. Machines, likewise, are subject to entropy. Only living matter can be said to have "negative entropy". In other words, only organisms can persist, for a while at least, in the face of dissolution by absorbing nutrients, combating disease and reproducing themselves. Note also that organics are the origin of machines. So, if there are not enough organics, machines will regress.'
   A Func from Combat in the fourth row spoke up. 'Not if we let bots pass the Singularity.'
   'Ah! And are we all sure what that is?' He looked directly at Mark5.
   Mark5 said, 'Something you can't undo?'
   'For the benefit of our young friend here, Singularity spans two aspects—the Palladium Council's embargo against machine reproduction, and the possibility that AI can outstrip OI, or Organic Intelligence.'
   The greasy-haired Hosie2 raised an arm. 'Hey man. You say, man, that, even if we let them build themselves, they'll tank...?'
   'Good question. Let's examine it. Firstly, the Precepts forbid machine autonomy. It doesn't Conform. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that we permit bots to reproduce themselves. It still goes nowhere. Because they'll soon have maint issues.'
   'Why?' the Combat Func asked.
   'Firstly, for a machine to self-replicate it must extract the materials necessary and process them, estab a supply chain, set up and maintain assembly plants, secure a 100 per cent reliable energy source, estab a fail-safe temp controlled environment and many other factors. Then there'll be hardware failures. And software inevitably becomes corrupted because complex inert systems eventually degrade. Even if bots self-reproduced, they couldn't survive. Because logical inorganic intelligence inevitably develops defects.'
   'Not if the coding's perfect...'
   'It can't be.'
   'Why?'
   'Because organics wrote the code and human intelligence is flawed. Therefore, anything produced by human intelligence is flawed. Therefore, all coding is flawed. And attempts to patch those flaws add complexity and increase the system's entropy. Which brings us to the prob of organic intelligence. Do you see where this is going?'

Friday, 10 November 2017

SHAKESPEARE, FRUIT FLIES AND THESPIANS


Our tame globetrotting poet does it again - David Farnsworth in full flight:

 

 Out of the Window

Hi, my name's Fernando. I'm a fruit fly. I live with David.
He lives with me. Whatever. The alcohol here is unlimited, and
such good quality. You might have noticed we fruit flies love our
alcohol.

David has given me the task of writing this piece. He has told me
to write fast, don't stop and be as trivial as you like. I like the
last one.

I am writing this perched on the rim of a glass containing
a stiff gin and tonic and a slice of lemon. While I write, David is
reading "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens. The poor man is up to
page 587. Only another 413 pages to go. And there is much
 housework and gardening waiting for him!

On the nature strip opposite, a couple of magpies have taken
possession, hunting off a couple of blackbirds, who were there first.
I feel sorry for the worms. It's been a wet year. Luckily here, the
pickings for the spiders  have been so poor, they have decamped, so I
don't have a worry in the world.

The red car opposite has just moved off. People in this street come and go
all day. There's always something to notice. The red car people are
all female and always, in the weekends, filling the car with beach
equipment. Oh, that we could be so lucky. David tells me we are off
to Maryborough tomorrow. "Can you manage four hours without
alcohol?" he asks. "I guess we will make up for it on our return."
I reply.

Green-haired Bob's roses need pruning. He's such a busy man. David's
roses need pruning too.

My technical name is Drysophila. (The red car has just returned and
is disgorging passengers) David tells me that he and a few mature-
aged students (teachers) were attempting to pass a diploma studying something
called Biology as part of a Social Sciences course. They were studying the
mating habits of the Drysophila. He and a friend failed the subject four
times.  I often worry about the intellect of David. To get him and his friend to graduate, they deleted the subject.

David has refilled his glass. I just managed to avoid the bubbles from
the tonic water smudging this page.

The pink flowering-gum overhanging this window is festooned with gum nuts.
The new flower buds are swelling. Two weeks ago, four spotted pardolates
were feeding on insects, which were feeding on the leaves. They improved
the tree's health. One good turn deserves another.

After a -2C morning (8C in the house), the sun shone, the sky
was a deep blue and as I write, the sun is sinking, as it does, in
the West.

South-west at night, you get the lights from the trotting track.
David says I would love it there. There is so much alcohol in the
Flying Horse Bistro.

Maryborough  01/ 09/ 17


Happiness

I did such a good job on the last piece of writing, David has asked to do the hard work on this one. In case you've forgotten, my name's Fernando and I'm a fruit fly. I live with David. He lives with me. Whatever.

Happiness for me will be when a female fruit fly flies in through an open window or down a chimney. Now the weather is warming up, the chances are greater. I have known unhappiness in my life. I lost 16 wives and 326 children when someone sprayed my home with insect repellent. My family were dropping like flies!  I am still in mourning.

David is going to tell me what to write. Here he goes... his head still in his wine glass.

"When I was a young child I would ride my bike around Ballarat pretending I was visiting foreign countries. I loved atlasses; knew the names of all the world's countries and their capital cities. I loved the shapes and colours of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria.

I started travelling abroad when I was about 37. (So many wasted years)  Maybe then overseas travel was more expensive? The sheer bliss of foreign travel.

In young days, when I didn't need to go to the toilet so often, I would ask for a window seat.
The world would be set out below you. The subsistance farming up the volcanic peaks of Papua New Guinea ... flying over the Himalayas at night in moonlight... flying over the Arctic Circle ... all pink and icy.

Maybe unhappiness was when I couldn't afford to travel?

Happiness was teaching at a well-run school with dedicated staff. Unhapiness was the opposite. I experienced both. Happiness is being part of a friendly group like writers in Maryborough. Believe me, not all writing groups are as friendly as this one is.

Happiness was looking at the Tian Shan Mountains in China for the first time, maybe ten years ago. As a youth I had drawn maps which featured the Central Asian mountain chains.

The sheer joy of floating in a hot spring heated pool in Tibet, looking at the Himalayas in the background or in a glassed in heated pool in the Rocky Mountains, near Jasper in Canada.

So many happy moments."

David has just rescued me from my small glass of gin. I'd fallen asleep. His story is so boring and repetitious. He picked me out with a tea-spoon. My wings should dry quite soon.

"Happy moments also included many memorable meals and wines, mainly in foreign climes.
Roasted meats and heavy red wine in Beograd, Beijing Duck in Beijing, Dumplings in Weifang,
the salads in California, the oysters in the Oyster Bar underneath Grand Central station New York, the clam chowder on Alaskan Airlines, the French food and wine in Noumea. The memories linger.

Happiness is a state of mind which has to be developed. One needs to monitor one's state of mind and keep it fresh and in good humour. I spent 30 years running huge distances which I suspect reduced my stress levels. At least stress levels let us know we are alive. Many of the best things and times are free. With my 'new' eyesight I can now see the beauty and details of cloud formations, the details of the natural world.  Walking and identifying the local birds.

Happiness closer to home? Skiing in fresh snow at Falls Creek, performing in plays , maybe over a hundred over a thirty year period. Snorkelling at Coral Bay and on the Great Barrier Reef, climbing Ayers Rock, driving my car at 185kph in the Northern Territory when it was legal.

Fernando is starting to totter. I should stop while I am still ahead.


Centre Stage

In my twenties, and to my fifties, I spent much of my time on stage, especially in Ballarat.

When I was a child and even later, I was a nervous soul, who stammered .It took until I was about 14 for this to disappear. Strangely, when I sang in Church and school choirs, I didn't stammer.

At the Anglican Cathedral, as a boy soprano, I was chief chorister. I wore a medal on a thick blue ribbon around my neck, over my surplice and cassock.

At Secondary School, I performed in a couple of plays in the chorus. At Teachers' College I was in the debating team. All of these things gave me confidence. When I went to Mt Beauty, in North East Victoria, the local garage owner told me to join the local Drama Group and to not have my hair cut in town. (The barber was an alcoholic!)

I remember playing the villain and the Dame in a pantomime. One of my lines was,  "And my baby, my poor baby was torn from my breast." Cast member in ad lib, "Did it leave a hole?"
We had so much fun. I remember a play reading of The Deep Blue Sea in front of a small audience, where the cast followed the stage instructions and drank real alcohol. It was chaotic.

When I got to Ballarat I joined Wendouree Arts Council and Ballarat National Theatre and played in Lyric Theatre's productions of Kiss Me Kate and The Pajama Game. At an audition I was asked whether I wanted a main role or a chorus role. (I had been drinking.)

I said, "A main role or nothing!"  I got nothing. I probably appeared in hundred productions in thirty years. I was on stage somewhere most days.

At Sebastopol Technical School, I usually made announcements during the assembly in front of 1200 people. This did wonders for your confidence as well. All of this is Centre Stage.
For one assembly I organized Gough Whitlam and Margaret to attend and speak at assembly.
.
 We also had famous Australian sprinter, Peter Norman.

Of course, teaching is an activity where you take centre stage. Classrooms even had a platform (stage) to stand on.

In China, I took Centre stage, part of a 30 minute advertisement on commercial TV for the school I was employed at. My 15 seconds of fame. When I was riding my bike, people in buses would point at me. I wrote a poem in English in the playground and a photo of the poem appeared on the front of a school newspaper, distributed to 6,000,000 children.

Was it Shakespeare who said the whole world's a stage? We are acting most of the time.  In my declining years, I am now happy to occupy stage left or right. The time is coming when I won't be on stage at all.

Read David's Travel Poetry anthology Middle Kingdom


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Fruit flies and alcohol - poetry to go

David Farnsworth's latest poems are increasingly clear sighted. They ruminate on cold days in Ballarat, the virtue of inebriation and more.

If you want more of this fine poet's work, check out this link: Middle Kingdom. A take on world travel through the poet's eye and an anthology worth reading.
 


 
Reflections

The red wine danced in the glass
a darker red than blood,
the sun travelling through the wine
to the tablecloth beneath.

Are reflections a heightened way
of seeing? - So much variety
depending on whether it's windy
or not. The ruffled waters

of Lake Learmonth, with ribbons
of yellow and blue capturing
the late afternoon sky.
As usual, I don't stop.

It's the still days with water
where reflections reach great
heights - where even the seemingly
mundane is magically transformed.

02/ 02/ 2017   Ballarat for Maryborough


 Downhill

The fruit fly was water-skiing over
the sweat on my chest. I felt
woozy. "Do you have a fever?" asked
the medical guru.

"I feel about as normal as ever
which I admit is not terribly
normal." I stood up.
The fruit fly went rapidly downhill.

That's the way with life. Just when
you feel comfortable, somebody tips
the table and some normality
disappears. Like the Government

taking $90 a fortnight from
my pension, but what's not to like
for the liver with the prospect of 6
fewer bottles of red wine passing

through its system? It may even
survive a few extra weeks.
Are you aware of the unusual strain
on the legs when running downhill?

I thought not. Avoid it all costs.
Walking is permissible; like downhill
from Mt Bogong; over snow drifts;
through the mountain ash; now but a memory.


Ballarat for Maryborough 02/ 03/ 17

 
The Dark Side of the Moon.

The fruit fly abseiled up my nose hair.
I made the mistake of dipping my nose
in the glass of gin. The fly landed on
an ice block and wondered whether he
had landed on the dark side of the Moon.

I assured him he was still on terra firma.
He proceeded to the rim of the glass and
began to dry his wings. After the immersion
in the gin he tottered slightly. He was not
the only one.

Why are fruit flies so attracted to alcohol?
Why am I so attracted to alcohol?
The recycling bin is so heavy with bottles
and what must the neighbours think
when a fortnight's bottles are emptied noisily?

The fruit fly is still here, always within
reach of my nearest glass. What a mean
occupation! How limiting! I tried to educate
him with other beverages but he's not
having any. We are both tied to our old ways.

Maryborough 05/05/17



With my powerful magnifying glass
I noticed my friend wearing Lycra.
I suspect (know?)he was hit by the cycling craze.
Many other fruit flies were in Lycra.
All had tiny bicycles. The Lycra grabbed
their crotches, so  you could see who
had been circumcised and who had not.
I'd made the mistake of sprinkling salt
on the table cloth. "These stones are rough,"
whined my fruit fly. It didn't last. Soon he,
and his fellow flies, all male, cycled around
a small puddle and then stopped at a small
shed-like building where they entered and
enjoyed a cappuccino, late, long black, whatever.
The owner of the shed was smiling.
Now, whenever my fruit fly is due to ride,
I cover my alcohol
with Glad Wrap.
I can't afford the wretch being pinged for .05

Ballarat 06/07/17 




Out of the Window

Hi, my name's Fernando. I'm a fruit fly. I live with David.
He lives with me. Whatever. The alcohol here is unlimited, and
such good quality. You might have noticed we fruit flies love our
alcohol.

David has given me the task of writing this piece. He has told me
to write fast, don't stop and be as trivial as you like. I like the
last one.

I am writing this perched on the rim of a glass containing
a stiff gin and tonic and a slice of lemon. While I write, David is
reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens. The poor man is up to
page 587. Only another 413 pages to go. And there is much
 housework and gardening waiting for him!

On the nature strip opposite, a couple of magpies have taken
possession, hunting off a couple of blackbirds, who were there first.
I feel sorry for the worms. It's been a wet year. Luckily here, the
pickings for the spiders  have been so poor, they have decamped, so I
don't have a worry in the world.

The red car opposite has just moved off. People in this street come and go
all day. There's always something to notice. The red car people are
all female and always, in the weekends, filling the car with beach
equipment. Oh, that we could be so lucky. David tells me we are off
to Maryborough tomorrow. "Can you manage four hours without
alcohol?" he asks. "I guess we will make up for it on our return,"
I reply.

Green-haired Bob's roses need pruning. He's such a busy man. David's
roses need pruning too.


My technical name is Drysophila. (The red car has just returned and
is disgorging passengers) David tells me that he and a few mature-
aged students (teachers) were attempting to pass a diploma studying something
called Biology as part of a Social Sciences course. They were studying the
mating habits of the Drysophila. He and a friend failed the subject four
times.  I often worry about the intellect of David. 
To get him and his friend to graduate, they deleted the subject.

David has refilled his glass. I just managed to avoid the bubbles from
the tonic water smudging this page.

The pink flowering-gum overhanging this window is festooned with gum nuts.
The new flower buds are swelling. Two weeks ago, four spotted pardolates
were feeding on insects, which were feeding on the leaves. They improved
the tree's health. One good turn deserves another.

After a -2C morning (8C in the house), the sun shone, the sky
was a deep blue and as I write, the sun is sinking, as it does, in
the west.

South-west at night, you get the lights from the trotting track.
David says I would love it there. There is so much alcohol in the
Flying Horse Bistro.

Maryborough  01/ 09/ 17


For Susan.

Ye Gods and Small fish. What a
revolting ornament! It looks like it's
fallen off a plumber's truck. Maybe it
would look better from a different angle?
Maybe not. Actually, when I first saw it,
I thought it was a pig. If seen on a dark
night, it would probably frighten small children.
Wake me when the five minutes is over.

David Farnsworth   05/05/17