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Monday, 16 May 2016

Poems from China

Yes, our resident travelling poet, David Farnsworth, has been at it again. Here are poems fresh in from The Middle Kingdom, where, incidentally, exotic food has given him a bad case of the trots but has not blunted his dancing pen. (We've included one of his more outlandish publicity shots.)


At the Pullman

Back at the Chenlong International Hotel
I look through a heavily dusted window
to see construction workers, on a nearby
apartment block, moving across the
forecourt, their shadows extended by the
late afternoon sun.
I am reminded of the workers in Eisenstein’s
‘Battleship Potemkin”.

At the Pullman we all relax, Two Jackys,
Leo, Krzysztof, Andrzej and me. We are
settling in to a buffet. Such a variety of
food! Has anything been overlooked,
I wonder?

We are in French Week (Flags – red, white &
blue in stripes .)
We are in Polish territory (Flags
red-white in stripes.)

Andrzej’s son is a script-writer
so naturally the conversation turned
to film. So many memorable lines.
From “Pulp Fiction”.’Did you notice a sign
put in front of my house that said
 “Dead Nigger Storage”?’ ‘No, I didn’t’
‘You know why you didn’t see that sign?’
‘Why?’ ‘’cause it ain’t there.’
and from “Casablanca” – ‘Round up
the usual suspects!’ The Police Chief;
but a sentiment widely applied in
committees and Royal commissions.
I mentioned Andrzej Wadja, one of
Poland’s foremost  film directors, “Kanal”
& “Ashes and Diamonds”. And no, I have not
seen either.

Yugoslavia was mentioned and Andrzej
had been there in 1990, at the start of
the Balkans War. I was there in 1995
at the climax and we mentioned the
film “Underground” by Emir Kusturica;
optional title “Once Upon a Time There
was One Country”. It was a time when
brother fought brother and neighbour
fought neighbour, which I guess has
been the case in Europe for centuries.

Pablo Picasso was mentioned and we
reminded each other how when his
painting, “Guernica” returned to Madrid
the airport was cordoned off. What a
powerful and political statement it is.

On ABC Classic FM this week the
featured composer is Frederick Chopin.
I was assured he died from pneumonia
while living in poor circumstances in Paris.

Mount Kosciusko was mentioned
but I missed the Polish connection.
Yes. it’s just over 2,000 meters.
And yes. I have walked over it.
Tadeusz Kosciusko was the Supreme
Commander of the Polish National
Armed Forces and fought in the
American Civil Revolutionary War
for the Continental Army He is remembered
with town names from Alaska to Mississippi.
How did he achieve so much?

Mount Kosciusko should be bracing for
its first snow-fall just about now –
the summer white snow daisies
withered and brown.

I inquired about Jews in Lodz
today and Andrzej told how he
had returned to Lodz & he and his
cousin, from Israel, had found the graves
of both their parents and had a rabbi
say prayers for them. Before
World War II there had been 235,000
Jews in Lodz; or 35% of the population.
Lodz was considered the “Promised Land”
for thousands of Jewish families
escaping pogroms in Moscow.
74,000 Jews from Lodz were sent to the
gas chambers. Today there are only
300 Jews in Lodz. As they say “All
the time (we) try to prove ... that we are still here
and we cultivate our traditions.”

Meanwhile, here in Melbourne, Jewish schools
are the only ones to have armed-guards
on the schools’ perimeters, protecting students.

Chenlong International Hotel, Weifang    30/4  - 3/5   2016
Poet’s Notes
(i)  In this longish poem I tried to recreate some of the excitement
with a tiny bit of research.( I’m not big on research.)
I love those conversations which bounce around, not following
and set order; where people say what they think. First-hand
accounts from the frontiers of the world, are so important.
(ii)  Many thanks to Krzysztof who tireless and happily
translated from Polish to English and back again for 150 minutes!
How many people do you know who are fluent in Polish,
Mandarin and English?
(iii) Perhaps check out “The Man from Snowy River” by
A.B.(Banjo) Patterson set in the Mt Kosciusko area.

Mt Macedon, Recollected, Early Spring.

A couple of maidens and I were
sussing out a walk from the
Tea Rooms Car Park and the Camel’s Hump.

I have mostly unpleasant memories
of camels. There was Cable Beach where
our camel was not well

It stumbled when walking through a
dry creek bed. My partner was not small.
I was behind her. “I can’t see a thing!”

Then there was a camel tethered
half-way up a hill in Northern China
hoping some of the 50,000 visitors

would accept an invitation to have
their photograph taken while on its back.
But I prevaricate.

The air was chill. Snow flurries
covered my furry hat, clung to my
 beard, while frozen snow drifts crunched.

The path was wet. The local leeches
 hadn’t seen this much blood on the move
since the last kangaroo.

One small leech latched on but found
my blood too alcoholic. Why would you
risk cirrhosis on a such a small liver?

It dropped off the pace. I found
a drunkard further on, attached to my
ankle, horribly bloated.

Always carry salt on bush walks.
“So stretcht out huge in length the
Arch-fiend lay.”

I demolished her between two rocks
My life’s blood flowed out of her.
It twitched.

Scarcely knowing tother leg from twitch
I made it to the Hump. How pleasant
the view! How sweet the water in rock cavities!.


What a great restaurant. The Jimmy
Woodsers occupy a tall bar stool,
the bar-flies cluster at the bar.

Mine Host keeps the wretches happy.
“It’s his playground!” he tells me. The
waitresses are all care, polishing

the water glasses until they shine. Then the
plastic-covered menus get the treatment.
This is a seriously good bistro/bar.

Where else can you get an incredible
pasta dish and seriously good wine
for $15.00?

The Main Street, Woodend.

We’re in an environmentally friendly town.
Hessian bags are de rigeur. Shops offer
gifts from your worst nightmare.

Aficionados buy metal parrots and
old wares that their great-grand
mothers may have discarded years ago.

The junk goes into the car, it goes
onto the roof, At Home they have
serious problems deciding where it all should go.

Click this link to read David's book of travel poems.

Saturday, 7 May 2016


A rave from Buzzword Books author, Clinton Smith about what must be a crash-hot film.

There are many fine films but few work on all levels. For instance 24 HOURS with Charlotte Rampling is a searing insight into emotional betrayal but moves so slowly that the less perceptive become bored with it.

Most films in fact lose momentum about three quarters of the way through. There seems to be a screen Sargasso where the start of the implicit third act structure becomes predictable.

For a film to grab, it needs to work on many levels - progression, engagement, commercial interest, production values, authenticity are some. Few can sustain all these aspects but some do.

For instance, THE LIVES OF OTHERS, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. Earlier examples? MARATHON MAN. STRAW DOGS. A recent example? THE KING'S SPEECH. These are perfectly constructed and realized. They tick all boxes.

Which brings us to EYE IN THE SKY. This extraordinary effort is, in fact, a psychological drama based on the age-old philosophical dilemma of the means justifying the end. Namely, if you had to kill someone you know and care for to save six others, would you do it?

In this case, an entire government and military establishment intent on killing insurgents is brought to its knees by one small girl in Kenya who is busy selling bread for her mother in the street.

This brilliant set-up results in ever increasing tension through a series of impeccably realized and meticulously juxtaposed scenes that mine the misgivings of everyone involved. The cast, production values, writing, execution are faultless. And the end effect is shattering. Yet all is achieved without sacrificing entertainment value.

Perhaps there are political implications to the story. To my mind, these are subsidiary. The theme is the philosophic dilemma and this is masterly cinematic drama.