Andrew James Whalan

Poet Blogger Writer

Category: Opinions-Editorial (page 1 of 11)

Horse and Carriage or Unfinished Symphony

I had to laugh (out loud on the train)! For My Dad, Kevin Whalan’s latest blog,opens with the same words as the following speech, written and delivered in 2001,  while I was going through…

“Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage “

Well, you don’t see that any more do you?

Do I mean horse and carriage or love and marriage?

There is a hidden pandemic of loneliness occurring right now.

It’s called second and third marriage or permanent singlehood.

Actually it’s really divorce.

Most marriages fail. Most second or third marriages fail. Most divorces fail too!

What is the triumph of hope over experience? A second marriage!

But all is not lost! Like flowers in the desert after a rain shower, a new industry has sprouted to upend this trend.

Books, radio shows, tapes, videos, courses, even laws and of course marriage counsellors are lining up to help you and your loved one out of your marriage! I have checked out some of these resources. Unfortunately, few have been helpful.

But I did find something. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, when you take away what’s left, whatever remains, no matter how strange it is, is the answer.

Or what I might call Whalan’s law of failure, success is the path you take when all else has failed!

My neighbour loaned me a book. The basic idea of that book was that the man is the problem. And if he helped around the house a little bit more: let’s just set the scene…

The wife has gone out somewhere or is working and has come home late. The husband has just finished washing up and is putting away the dishes. He’s a bit bald, maybe a bit of a paunch, but tonight to the wife, he has never looked more attractive.  When she comes home, she is so glad to see him… scene cuts to the flames burning fiercely in the fireplace.

So you men, if you wash up marital bliss waits. Maybe even a second honeymoon. I wonder what do I get for doing the washing and my own ironing too?

One other book, which I bought and attracts dust, also says the man is the problem. If the man stopped going to the footy or cricket, stopped watching TV, didn’t go out with his friends, gave up his favourite hobbies then marital bliss awaits. Just spend more time with your wife and family.

But I ask you, what man has enough time to do all of this and the housework as well?

And suppose women are the problem.

Yet another book says the above. Laura Doyle’s “The Surrendered Wife: A Practical guide to finding intimacy, passion and peace with a man”. Luckily for me I haven’t read it even silently or aloud to my wife or coloured in the pictures.

For instance her advice is for the woman to stop nagging the man, even covering her mouth with duct tape to do so. She should say, “Whatever you say, dear? “ Talk about the inaudible language of love!

The woman should always say “Yes” and be available for the man. What does this mean? Maybe I should get the book…

The woman should never ever tell the man he is wrong. Does this mean that I’m always right! I can’t remember that time!

Or as I saw in a leaflet which prided itself as a prescription for marital bliss. It suggested that when the husband came home from work, the wife should have all the children lined up to greet him all squeaky clean and neatly dressed. The wife should be perfumed and also neatly dressed, made up etc. She should do all the cooking and housework and hang on every word the husband says.

Obviously, the wife does not work and the children are robotic. Not even in the Brady Bunch, could they make this happen. Even with Alice and Carol Brady slaving away…

It seems ridiculous that Ms Doyle can write a book saying the way to marital bliss is to let the husband do as he pleases.  Please no cheering men, for if what she says is true, men are Neanderthals with a no thickening veneer of civilisation and have to be appeased.

It always seems to me that its either the man is the Conqueror and the wife Surrendered. The women’s liberationists hate that and rightly so!

Or the other way around. The man is submissive and the woman a conqueror.

Maybe there’s a market for a book called the Surrendered Man. It would probably sell to the sensitive new age guys (you know, the ones with boyfriends) and I would have the other copy.

Maybe we should live like accountants, counting up and valuing every task and redeeming them for prizes. Like a game show.

Is there no common ground between men and women except mutual selfishness? Its that the answer?

Or is there not another way?

Maybe there’s a market for a book, video series, etc, called the Surrendered Spouse where both husband and wife promise to live for each other alone.

Maybe they could commit to mutual respect and work together and find that two people can do more together than each alone!

Maybe instead of trying to change each other for selfish gain, they could just change themselves one day at a time.

My point is that the only person you can change in your marriage or any part of your life is yourself. How is up to you !

That takes more courage than slavishly following a reverse tit for tat marriage manual.

Perhaps then marriage (And Life Itself) be an unfinished symphony!

I am Andrew and I am an OverResearcher : Writing Out Loud #2

Messy Desk

Messy Desk

You over-research too much,” she said to me.

I looked up from my desk, covered in academic papers. Then down at the floor, strewn with textbooks, references and more academic papers.

Do I? I suppose I do.” My wife shook her head at me.

My name is Andrew and I am an over researcher.

My affliction isn’t confined to my studies, now discontinued, it overflows into the workplace and most recently into my writing. I’m insatiably curious. My excuse, as was said to me is “But I want to know everything.”

What I don’t do is approach a topic seeking facts to satisfy a decided point of view. I can’t actually. I do have a question that needs answering. But I don’t know all the answers, even when I’m finished.

Which means the strangest things happen to me when I take this journey.

As happened when I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story competition. I was one of 3000 writers who compete in three rounds. Each writer is placed in a heat, allocated a  word limit, a period, a topic, a genre and a character. The first round required a 2500 word story in a week, then 2000 words in 3 days, then 1500 words in 24 hours. The winner was Sarah Martin’s The Undertaker. It is a gorgeous and touching story.

My first round genre was historical fiction, my character a Train Conductor and my topic was a Bushfire. I was daunted. I have never written historical fiction before. What I do know as described by Natasha Lester, author of A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald, was that it required immense and accurate research.

Not really knowing where to start, I choose an Australian angle. Surely, in a vast country, often riven with bushfires, spanned by an extensive rail network, surely there would be such a story. Surely the 1977 Blue Mountains bushfires would have such an incident. I found much about how bushfires are fought, how the technology has changed and how the railways do deal with bushfires. Surely not.

My searches kept turned up another disaster, the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894. I ignored that. I didn’t want to write about that. Meanwhile the days dripped away. But I found nothing that could start a story. My over research was now becoming an over reach.

With only a few days left, I surrendered. And found my story. In fact, two stories. One was the well-known one of  the Canadian engineer James Root and how he led a rescue train to safety. The conductor, I felt, only had a peripheral involvement. The second story is more obscure involving a rescue under the supervision of a train conductor named Powers.

Finally! I had found what I was looking for. But I had not yet completed my journey.

Then I became immersed in this story. The newspaper reports, several books and a chronicle written afterwards detailed an apocalyptic horror. The fire, or rather fires, were too extensive and fast to fight or flee. There are stories of impossible survival, people sheltering in ponds, creeks and cellars and pure tragedy where people standing side by side survived or died. Clearly, there are many, many stories that can be told of this event.

Mine went like this.

Hinckley in Minnesota was a logging town and the junction of  two railways. After two months of drought, September 1, 1894, was a hot and oppressive day. While fires were common due to thoughtless forestry practices,  a temperature inversion (cold air above hot air), resulted in two major fires becoming a firestorm. Ultimately, the town itself and a large area burnt until the fire stopped.

James Root’s train was approaching the town and had to turn back, picking up survivors until they reversed to safety. Unfortunately, not everyone survived. Powers, however, was the conductor of a train that was trapped in Hinckley when the fire struck. They couldn’t leave. Their route out was blocked by a recently arrived goods train. A decision was made to join the two trains together and flee the town. As they began, buildings and house started exploding around them. They waited, then took as many people as they could. They then backed the train at speed through the fire. They picked up survivors as they ultimately crossed a burning trestle bridge to safety.

The Suicide Express

The Suicide Express (from https://westerntrips.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/hinckley-minnesota-1894-fire-with-no.html)

That was my story. I detested it.  I had written a third-person newspaper report summary. This happened, then that happened, Powers did this, his crew did that and they made it to safety. Yes it was a story. But all the while another story was unfolding itself to me. I just was refusing to listen to it. The deadline drew nearer. I started to despair. It looked like the story would not be submitted.

I thought about my dilemma. I then looked for what surprised me. It was the incredibly strong religious beliefs of both the immigrants (mainly Scandinavian) and the first settlers. The Native Americans’ stories sadly weren’t chronicled in much detail. In recounting the disaster, every person described it in apocalyptic terms using Nordic or Christian metaphors. So often people described the fire as appearing from nowhere rather than approaching from any distance. My over-research was about to become useful.

For it was then that the story revealed itself to me. Through Power’s eyes, this would be the end of the world exactly as described from the pulpit and the Bible. And worse, he had delayed the departure of the train to gather more stragglers. And his point of decision was at the burning trestle bridge.  And it only had immediacy if I wrote it in first person.

Fifty minutes later it was written.

The story didn’t go beyond the first round. However, the judges’ feedback was deeply appreciated. And I had learnt immensely.

Here is the Great Blow.

My name is Andrew and I am an over-researcher. I’m also a curious and reflective one.

 

 

 

 

The Space Between Feminism and Neo-Masculinity

An Open Letter To Neo-Masculinists, MRAs, And General Dudebros Everywhere

Hardly a call to feminism is it? With a title like “An Open Letter to Neo-Masculinists, MRAs, and General Dudebros Everywhere”, it just has to be click bait. Besides what the heck is a Dude-Bro? I checked the Urban Dictionary and its not me!

But Oliver Chaseling make his point. If you’re a man who is afraid of feminism then you are afraid of your own masculinity.

Then I don’t know what is wrong with me. Did I take the Blue Pill?  The one where “You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.”  Which isn’t me I’m afraid.

Perhaps it’s Mum’s fault. But then my brother is the same. We were brought up to treat women with respect. We were never brought up to control them.  And in the falling forward that is life and learning to walk, I found that I had one job.  That job is to ensure others gain their absolute best potential and that others don’t lose out to the worst one has experienced.

Which isn’t masculinity.  Masculinity sadly is limiting. Chaseling  calls it a tower. Masculinity separates men from women.  Women on the other hand see feminism as unifying and freeing.

Fortunately, some men  (#notallmen!!!) see feminism as an alternative. One where they can truly be themselves without having to fake masculinity! How do you fake something you’re not good at? That’s masculinity defined!

Besides I’m exasperated with people who focus on those differences alone. They have the same arguments over and again. See any random sample of social media (even the Quasi-Presidential tweets!) for verification.

Yes its Us versus Them.  Feminism versus Masculinity. Left versus Right. Winners versus Losers.

Conflict is so boring that I’d rather explore the horizons that we have in common. I’d rather stop yelling. Listen a little. Learn a lot. And wait for the time (like Chaseling) until the barriers dissolve. Then we all can do some good and have some fun! Sounds like anti-masculinity, doesn’t it? I’d rather call  it compassion.

Blue Sky Mine : The Wittenoom Tragedy

Every time I hear Blue Sky Mine by Midnight Oil,  about the Wittenoom mining tragedy, I’m taken back in time.

By <a href="//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Five_Years" title="User:Five Years">Five Years</a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en" xml:lang="en">Own work</span>, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0" title="Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12650545">Link</a>

Asbestos Warning Sign

To 23 May 1988, to probably the saddest TV interview I have ever seen.

The interview featured on the ABC Four Corners episode called Blue Death.

Blue Death was about the Wittenoom tragedy in Western Australia which was built around a blue asbestos mine (hence the Midnight Oil song title).

Unfortunately, miners were exposed to asbestos and started becoming sick and dying.

Sadly, as this interview illustrated, they weren’t the only ones.

I can see her now. In a hospital bed being interviewed. Her thoughts are on the lingering death of her husband.

And in tears she says, “No-one should die like this.” Sadly that was her fate too.

Out of 20,000 workers and residents, over 2000 have died (See http://www.asbestosdiseases.org.au/the-wittenoom-tragedy.html).

Despite the authorities being aware of the dangers, they didn’t have the power to shut down the mine. Nor did the owners (CSR through its subsidiary Midalco)  itself comply (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSR_Limited#Wittenoom_controversy ).

The Four Corners story was about the fate of miners and residents taking action against the company. The story stated that the company delayed legal action for as long as possible. In the hope that the litigants would not survive.

The most upsetting aspect to me was how the company stayed only focused on shareholder value only.

What worries me  is that this could happen again. And then I read and listened to this…Four degrees should be ok!

 

 

Everyone Failed Social Media : Except Mark Colvin

I knew Mark Colvin (and his kidney!) purely through Twitter! And sad at his loss.

I did read some of his interview transcripts: a gentle questioner able to get a better answer! But in the maelstrom that is Twitter, he came across as funny, intelligent, curious, never ever patronising, clever and subtle, a joy to read.

And his last tweet!!

I think every one failed social media except for Mark Colvin.

Learning Disagreement Skills

Go on, click the angry icon. Share the negative post or tweet.

Slip in and quickly criticise. Tell the other how they got it completely wrong.

They lack intelligence. Common sense. Logic.

Sit back and easily insult the unlike you.

They can’t even think. They’re Inhuman.  We should wipe them out.

Yes it’s so easy to disagree and oppose.  And easiest to offer no solution.

I thinking this as I read each tweet storm. And think even more as I click through each Facebook outbreak outrage.

I realise it is so familiar. For it was exactly the same as my experience.

For at quite close range and for quite a long time, I heard the same words for the same reason.

For to disagree, even silently through to mildly evoked white-hot anger.

Sometimes in despair, I joined in and fully embraced the proferred down spiral.

Until somebody asked, “So how did that work for you Andrew?”

I’d shake my head silent. I said no, it didn’t, it didn’t at all, it made things far worse.

“So what are you going to about it Andrew?”

(How can you make it better?).

There was the beginning of an answer.

I was learning disagreement skills.

Not the “let’s agree to disagree” cliche. That only suspended hostilities for now. And led to a ever widening DMZ!

Be silent Andrew.  Don’t interrupt the the other. Listen to the person behind the words.

Sit stock still Andrew. Don’t move and distract the other. Don’t insult them for not thinking like you.

For no-one thinks like you. Which is a wonderful thing! For everyone and you too.

Ask the question that goes beyond the question. Wait for the answer that reveals another’s truth. Not to you. To them.

Listen and bide your time, then you’ll find that it’s  the time. For the quiet and thoughtful ones to be heard.

Who speak without the intent of crushing free speech. Who speak and listen to encourage freedom of listening.

To enable those who accept truth without question (as you once did) to find their own. And others find theirs.

Otherwise it gets too dark when we all agree not to look for the light.

 

 

Freedom of Speech Doesn’t Exist

Freedom of speech belongs to the loud and aggressive.

Freedom of speech is their cacophony of voices shouting all at once.

Freedom of speech is their smothering words that silences all  other.

Freedom of speech is the preserve of  the crowd that excludes all but them.

Freedom of speech is not our freedom extended to the foreign other.

Freedom of speech is not  our freedom to accommodate a new point of view.

Freedom of speech belongs to  the true listening of the quiet and thoughtful, the ones crushed underfoot.

All The Religion I’ll Ever Need

I’m wasting yet another Monday night Instead of doing the housework or nursing the baby, I’m in a baptism class. If I had my choice, I would be in neither place. I’m not that welcome at home.  I already know what’s being taught here.

I’m the Catholic in the family, I received the religious education.  First at infants, primary then high school. Every Sunday I listened to the sermons. I even read the relevant texts.

And it’s not me being baptised.  It’s his Lordship, my first son.  And attending class is necessary for both parents to understand the ceremony.

Now I’m currently sitting in a primary school classroom. On a plastic chair behind a flat desk. And our teacher is a nun.
I’m now back in school being taught what I have already learnt in advance. Again I’m half-slumped in a semi-listening stupor.

Until I’m woken by the teacher’s voice.

Someone has asked a question. The one never asked in baptism class.

“What happens if the baby dies beforehand?”

“A loving God wouldn’t let that happen,” she replies.

That was when I found all the religion I’ll ever need.

Just Grandma and Me: A Reminiscence

Perhaps I should have bought the game and computer too!

It began with Nicole Matejic. She was reminiscing about her old Apple personal computer experiences. In passing she mentioned the children’s game Just Grandma and Me (based on a popular children’s book).

 

Just Grandma and Me

Just Grandma and Me

And the next thing I remember is my daughter perched on a stool playing that game forever…

I was working in Canberra. At that time, I wanted to buy a PC or perhaps an Apple Mac? Part of my role was supporting PCs, yes 286s, XTs and ATs!

Our company owned one Apple, a soothing relief to support as it ran Adobe Pagemaker, a desktop publisher (DTP), one of the few pieces of software that made me look good. So began my fascination with DTP but that is many blogs away! My workmate too was an Apple evangelist.  Which left me wavering. Macintosh_Color_Classic

To resolve my dilemma, I decided to check the PCs and Apples out. That particular Saturday afternoon, my wife and new son needed sleep. So I took my opportunity. I thought I could take my three year old daughter, do my research, and bore her with tech stuff till she falls asleep on the drive home. That was the well thought out, yet to be well executed plan.

The last shop was an Apple shopfront near Woden in Canberra. I park the car, open the back door and unstrap my daughter. It’s late Saturday afternoon and she should be showing the first signs of fatigue. Not now, not ever as it turned out. We sidle into the shop hand-in-hand and I ask the tech guy  about the merits of the Apple! Of course he told me in detail. But I say, there aren’t enough Mac applications versus PC.

He can’t counter my point. We both look down and see that her ladyship isn’t too interested in these finer technical details. He says how’s about trying out a few children’s games. Sounds fine and fair enough to me.

I sit her on a stool while the tech guy runs up Just Grandma and Me. This shouldn’t take too long, I think. But in the moment, I was worried.

Not at how precarious her perch was. She wasn’t moving so it didn’t matter. No. It was that dreadful moment when  two eyes turn towards me and ask, “Daddy how do you work this?” That moment would have to wait until she was running Windows Millennium on her laptop!

But that didn’t happen at all. For now the mouse was gliding over the game scenes like thread through silk. Each  click on each character brought joyous laughter at each unique antic. And then she would click through to the next part of an interesting and engaging story.

Wait a minute! I have to back up and take stock now. For I’m not watching this from afar anymore. I had been taken in too. Yes there was the easy technology. But the story within the game had fascinated me (as good stories still do…)

But her ladyship didn’t care for such thoughts of philosophical grandeur. She was signed up for life. As I was just about to find out.

For it was now closing time. And time to go home. No. No. No. Yes (Me!). All right I’m lodging an official protest. And an official request. For the game and a Mac.

I relented.

I bought a PC. Windows 3.1 and Dos 3.22 powered by a 386  hamster wheel topped by 2 mega dabs of Ram.I used it to play Tetris and log in to work via terminal emulator and attached modem. ZZzz….

I relented again. I  bought the PC version of Just Grandma and Me. It was probably more to assuage my guilt as the original protest had been withdrawn or forgotten. But somehow it didn’t have that beyond cardboard cutout charm of the original…check out the interactive YouTube version!

 

Movie Review : Love and Friendship

Midway through watching this movie, I came to two realisations (and then some more). The first was had the purists been present they would have glared me down to stop me from laughing. For Jane Austen isn’t universally acknowledged as the provider of a wholesome laugh. While I do acknowledge there are many sophisticated, clever and witty conversations in her other books, she unleashes her inner cynic in “Love and Friendship“, based on her  early novella Lady Susan.

The second was the familiarity of the main character, Lady Susan Vernon. Played with the right blend of known selfishness and feigned selflessness by Kate Beckinsale, she is a brilliant case of rampant narcissism. Even a small sampling of her words (of which there are many) and actions (disguised and self-justified) would have psychologists running for their notebooks and chairs. Widowed too early and with a daughter, as she constantly reminds us, she lives intermittently with her nearest relatives until she quickly dilutes their welcome. And then moves onto the next, with as little notice as possible to evade her increasing followers, debtors and lovers alike.

She is a grifter (probably not a word associated with Jane Austen), seducing and manipulating men and women respectively, with the aim of gaining a husband for herself and one for her daughter. She despises true love, as according to her, the only part of a man that makes a husband is his income, although even those words are not reflected by her actions at the conclusion of the movie!

Her plans are encouraged and abetted, by her best friend, Mrs Johnson played by Chloe Sevigny, one of the few characters in this  movie that is developed to any depth, though similar in nature to Lady Susan. Which brings me to my third realisation…

That Love and Friendship is filmed in vignettes. And each set of characters was introduced beforehand. Even so, in truth, I wished I had a libretto or the novel itself so I could keep track. Consequently, I realised that midway through the movie, perhaps with less characters, those remaining could be more deeply drawn rather than being a sequence of walk on extra special guest star roles!

As for the plot, it demands to be followed carefully! For as Lady Susan is the driver of the story, one quickly learns that her versions of events aren’t always strictly true.  Even when cornered and caught in untruth, Lady Susan dissembles brilliantly, that is, until people and events are further examined and the lie is exposed. Then suddenly, she moves elsewhere to avoid the consequences and responsibility of her actions. Much like the classic narcissist!

Beautifully filmed, but not in the overly worshipful way that plagues other Jane Austen films, Love and Friendship does through its scenery, of course, provide an ongoing insight into the successful upkeep of Great Britain’s stately homes.

But what most appealed to me was the wit of the script. It was replete with lines so wicked and cynical that the small crowd (from different walks of life by the way), all laughed uproariously!

Finally, while this film may be set in nineteenth century England, Love and Friendship could easily be transplanted into modern times. A self indulgent heroine greedily grabbing and grasping at every opportunity to make money and further her cause? Never, say the purists! All she would need is her own reality TV show!

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