Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Killed by helicopters... not by reality TV

Like millions of my fellow-citizens, I was shocked to learn (through an early-morning tweet) that the collision of a pair of helicopters in Argentina had killed eight French individuals who were participating in the filming of a TV show for the TF1 channel, called Dropped. Two Argentine helicopter pilots also died in this accident, seen here:

I consider that it's important to insist upon the fact that none of the commonly-criticized features of reality TV seem to have played any part in this terrible accident. It was neither more nor less than yet another dramatic aviation accident [presently inexplicable].

French people were stunned to learn of the brutal deaths of three celebrated sporting heroes, seen here:

Camille Muffat (swimmer), Alexis Vastine (boxer)
and Florence Arthaud (veteran yachtswoman).

The list of victims included five accomplished members of the TV production team, seen here:

• Brice Guibert was the camera operator.

• Volodia Guinard [professional role undefined for the moment].

Lucie Mei-Dalby was the journalist in charge of interviews.

• Laurent Sbasnik was a well-known director of TV documentaries (including several programs in the series Détour(s) de mob featuring my son François Skyvington).

• Edouard Gilles was handling the audio recording.

The names of the two deceased pilots [to be verified] were Juan Carlos Castillo and Roberto Carlos Abate.

To borrow the title of the TV series in which they were participating, these individuals were literally dropped out of the sky, to their deaths.

May these splendid and talented adventure-seekers—struck down while at work in the noble avant-garde domain of entertainment media—rest in peace.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

You can’t win

The blog post you’ve started to read is extraordinarily trivial. Besides, there’s no way in the world that you might be able to deduce anything from that stupid title: You can’t win. What the hell could that mean? I believe that this blog post will go down in Antipodes history as the dullest thing I’ve ever written here. So, you might think of it as a historic piece of shit… particularly if you happen to have masochistic tendencies. At times, in Antipodes, I’ve dealt with earth-shaking themes, such as war, terrorism and the Theory of Everything. Today’s blog post, on the other hand, wouldn’t even shake a dog’s turd, let alone the earth. But I find it funny, and mildly philosophical, evoking human drama and destiny. And I happen to be the sole boss around here. So, if you’re not happy to carry on reading this extraordinarily trivial blog post, please leave immediately.

OK, that’s got rid of all those boring folk. Now, what was I saying? Ah, yes, it’s a particularly dull blog post, and unimaginably trivial. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. The story starts with my precious pair of boots.

Now, they might (or might not) appear to be quite ordinary garden-variety boots, nothing to get excited about. But, as I tried to point out, if you’re looking for excitement, you’ve come to the wrong place. Well, the greatest merit of this pair of boots is that I can slip them on effortlessly, as soon as I get out of bed, without even bothering about putting on socks. Maybe you don’t realize that this is truly a gigantic advantage for somebody like me, who’s awakened every morning at dawn by a crazy but loveable dog who has only one idea in mind: to get out of the house as rapidly as possible, and to race around on the slopes of Gamone looking for wild boars, roe deers, pheasants, donkeys, foxes, etc… Thanks to these boots, I can safely accompany my dog—through puddles, mud, sleet, ice or snow—for the first dozen or so metres of his matinal romp… before leaving him in the hands of God, who generally gives my dog back to me, unharmed, half an hour later. And, once I’m back inside my warm house, I can discard my dirty boots and put on more sensible winter footwear such as Aussie thongs.

My dull story starts here. Insofar as my boots are wide open (even when my big feet are wedged inside), there’s ample room for tiny pebbles, which seem to enter the boots magically, through mysterious channels known only to the Holy Spirit. And I’m sure you’re all aware that there’s nothing worse than suddenly realizing that there’s some kind of a tiny pebble lodged inside one of your boots. To be precise, it was my left foot. So I made an effort to perch in the mud like a one-legged stork (maybe that’s not the right bird) and to carefully take off my left boot. With my hand, I soon located the offending pebble, and I promptly shook it out. No less promptly, the pebble fell, not to the ground, but rather into my other boot, where it was immediately lodged firmly beneath my big right foot.

As I said, you can’t win. Maybe this blog post might have been slightly improved (let's say, less boring) if I had decided upon a more eloquent title such as Out of the frying pan and into the fire, or Not knowing what foot to dance on. Meanwhile, for any kind readers who might still be hanging around out there, I promise to make an effort to write more interesting stuff…

Old school photos

On chilly winter evenings, my dog Fitzroy loves to sit down in front of the computer (not surprisingly, he’s a Macintosh addict) and browse through old school photos of his master.

Click to enlarge

In case you didn’t recognize us, that’s Fitzroy’s head in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, and me in the upper right-hand corner of the school photo.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

An eye on Fashion Week in Paris

I’m always amused and impressed by the surprising artistic creations of talented individuals, even when they’re relatively trivial.

Monday, March 2, 2015

First steps towards culture

The Lebanese-Swiss cartoonist Patrick Chappatte has authorized me to translate his French into English and to include here this pathetically delightful drawing published by the Swiss daily Le Temps :

Click to enlarge

Friday, February 27, 2015

My family-history books

I've written and recently published a pair of books on my family history: one about my father's side, and the other about my mother's side.

Paper copies of these two genealogical books, They Sought the Last of Lands and A Litttle Bit of Irish, published in 2014 by Gamone Press, can be obtained easily (through Amazon, for example).

Otherwise, they can be read comfortably on the Internet (so I believe, maybe wrongly) thanks to the user-friendly issu service.

Click HERE to access the above-mentioned book.

Click HERE to access the above-mentioned book.

PS For me, these issu files appear to work beautifully on the screen of my Macintosh. For the moment, their existence would seem to remove the necessity of any other solution for reading my family-history stuff through the Internet. Admittedly, this hasn't solved the e-book challenge. But, is the existence of e-books a genuine challenge as far as my family-history books are concerned? I don't think so.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Islamic achievements

The heavenly creature in this 17th-century Indian miniature is known as a Buraq (Arabic term for lightning):

This is the kind of winged steed that was capable of transporting prophets through the sky. The most celebrated air trip of this kind took place in the 7th century when Al-Buraq enabled the prophet Muhammad to travel in a single night from Mecca to Jerusalem and back. Besides, we know that, during the short time he spent in Jerusalem, Muhammad actually tied up his steed to a section of the famous Western Wall (remnants of Herod’s Temple, known as Kotel in Hebrew), which has often been designated in Arabic as the Buraq Wall.

It might be said (why not?) that modern aviation owes a great deal to the extraordinary creative thinking of Islamic scientists and engineers. So, we have every reason to listen to this brilliant lesson from the Saudi scholar Sheikh Bandar al-Khaibari. His fundamental premise cannot be denied: the possibility of getting aboard a plane and flying to China. From this unquestionable starting point, the sheikh demonstrates brilliantly that the planet Earth is perfectly stationary, and does not revolve around the Sun. In fact, our planet does not move in space in any way whatsoever. Amazing, no?

Click on YouTube to obtain an enlarged view of the sheikh's wisdom

The demonstration is clear. The part I like best is the vision of the poor old Boeing beating its guts out in trying to reach China. According to us idiots who believe that the Earth moves, China would be constantly winning the race. I believe that nothing more needs to be said. Except for one thing: I would like to promote the idea that the sheikh might be appointed immediately as the world director in charge of civil aviation. Otherwise, we'll surely run into nasty situations, sooner or later, where misguided planes full of innocent travelers simply run out of fuel and fall to earth in vain attempts to reach China.

PS Certain subtle things can only be said seriously in French:

Le regard clair et fier de cet idiot illuminé (sans parler de sa voix) donne l’impression d’avoir transpercé puissamment d’énormes couches épaisses de nuages vides, de barbe à papa islamique.
Mais ce mec reste totalement fou à lier, c'est-à-dire dangereux.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Driving in Paris

For English and Australian visitors to Paris, driving has always been been a somewhat disturbing experience, because the French drive on the wrong side of the road. Nevertheless, motoring calmly through Paris in spring or summer—maybe in an elegant open-top automobile—can be a charming way of discovering sites such as the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysées and the Moulin Rouge… not to mention the site of Diana’s car crash.

But there’s always the risk of meeting up with a reckless and ill-mannered driver, such as this young fellow in his red Mini... who appears to be some kind of a tourist.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that a fellow who drives like that in the lovely old streets of Paris is frankly—to my mind—a public nuisance. Who does he think he is? And I can’t understand why the French police wouldn’t simply confiscate his license, and force him to move around Paris on a bicycle, or on foot, for that matter. Allowing such an individual to remain at the wheel of an automobile is—to my mind—simply outrageous, and proof of laxity. The people in charge of Paris ought to do something about it.

Back to the apes

The domination of the power of fire was a huge step in the history of humanity. Today, alas, certain barbarian brutes are setting out backwards along the evolutionary path.

Biographical notes from the website of Cartoon Movement: The Egyptian Doaa Eladl worked as a cartoonist in Al Dostor newspaper, Rose Al Youssef Magazine and Sabah El Kheir Magazine. She currently works at the prominent newspaper Al Masry Al Youm. In the field of illustrations for children, she contributed in Qatr El Nada, Alaa-ElDin and Bassem Magazines. In 2009 she received the award of journalism excellence in Caricature.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Yes please, a bit more of that

Let’s face the facts. If we humans intend to survive on the lovely little planet Earth, then we’ll need to be imaginative.

JOKE: In a besieged village in ancient Gaul at the time of the Roman invasion, the chief addresses his citizens: “I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news. The good news is that, since the beginning of the siege, we’ve accumulated a huge pile of shit at the back of the village, which you’re invited to eat. The bad news is that, according to our calculations, there won’t be enough shit for everybody.”

To find edible proteins, we might call upon the delightful tiny creatures that thrive in flour.

Once the bread’s baked, who would dare question its origins?

What was that old saying about the proof of the pudding? To be truthful, I’ve never yet tasted a loaf of bread made from flour weevils.

Blog post for the donkeys

When my computer beeped, a minute ago, I found that my surveillance camera had sent me a nice photo of my neighbor Jackie bringing back a trailer full of hay.

My immediate reaction, as an Internet user, was to say to myself that I must forward this photo to the donkeys, who’ll be so happy to discover that Jackie has a delicious big gastronomical surprise in store for them: a stock of fresh hay! Then I realized that this was a silly idea. I’m not even sure that the donkeys are picking up the Internet at present, because the phone lines are sagging under the weight of lots of snow. Like Jackie and me, the donkeys don’t yet have fiber-optics links.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pathetic end of a pioneering era

I don’t know whether many of my compatriots have ever heard of a NSW rural township named Breeza. Here’s a wonderful photo of the Breeza landscape from Ian Stehbens:

Breeza is surely one of the loveliest names you could possibly imagine for a hot flat place out on the Liverpool Plains. One imagines sea breezes floating in magically from the distant Pacific! I heard this name constantly during my childhood, because my grandmother Kathleen Pickering [1889-1964] was born in nearby Quirindi and brought up in Breeza, on a sheep station named Currabubula. What fabulous place names! If you’ve got a map—or, better still, Google—you’ll find that the municipalities named Breeza and Currabubula lie in the middle of a triangle whose corners are Gunnedah, Tamworth and Quirindi.

I’ve just published (through Gamone Press) a family-history book, They Sought the Last of Lands, presenting pioneering stories of my Australian ancestors.

If you’re interested, I invite you to click here to download the chapter in which I speak of my grandmother from Breeza.

Now, some of the few remaining flimsy threads that tie me to my native land are about to be destroyed forever. A Chinese company named Shenhua has apparently received approval from the NSW state government to build a gigantic coal mine on the agricultural lands of the Liverpool Plains near my ancestral township of Breeza. Astounded and shocked by such a scenario, I hardly know what to say.
Australia is selling off to China
 the lands and spirits of her pioneers.
The souls of my ancestors.
Click here and here for press stuff on this unfolding tragedy.

Meanwhile, as usual Down Under, where life is casual, nobody seems to give a coal-mine fuck. Is our Australian people really as apathetic and indeed pathetic as that? Yes, no doubt. I would love to be contradicted...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Love letters to Richard Dawkins

This is the second video instalment of Richard Dawkins reading some of his hate mail. It’s hilarious.