Category Archives: history

Dangerous Game

Spying – Word of the Day

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Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod (nee Zelle) better known by her stage name Mata Hari (1876 – 1917), who was convicted by the French as a German spy during WW1. Historians have since demonstrated that she was betrayed by all, her lover, the French officers who recruited her, the justice system (an oxymoron if ever there was one), her fellow spies and others. She was convicted and executed even though there was no substantive evidence, other than that they said it was because as a woman she could not be trusted and she would use her wiles. She was indeed a victim, a scapegoat.

Dangerous Game

I was lost in your face,
your eyes sparkled
laughter like champagne.
You reeled me in,
my small talk generously indulged,
I thought one drink would cure my curiosity.
Besides, I had work to do,
family waiting.
But you had other plans,
your hand on mine
stroking.
Me all gibberish,
pulse racing,
I agreed.
Just how did you do that?
Furtive,
room 20,
you draped on the ottoman,
gold, bejewelled bra,
tiara.
Salome unveiled.
Beguiled, seduced,
I gave you my all.
My French for German,
secrets, unzipped,
pleasure washed over me
in waves of guilt.
Whispers exchanged,
I woke alone, betrayed.
Even so, for just one more touch,
I would trade anything.

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Tjukurpa

Harmony – Word of the Day

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Photo: Dry creek bed – the Hull River, Northern Territory. This particular spot is also the site of Kulpi Tjuntinya also called Lasseter’s Cave. The river is mostly dry on the surface, and runs underground. There are many soaks along its route. When it does rain heavily the water can be one third up the height of those trees, which given the width, is a mighty volume of water.

The Australian bush, long before white settlers, was well protected with the harmony of traditional law or Tjukurpa – pronounced Chookapah (following the Central and Western Desert peoples view). The law is an oral tradition handed on generation to generation and memorised. One of its central principles is respect for all the elements of nature because everthing is in relationship and everything has an effect. While the words harmony or balance are not explicit, the principles are evident in the way Australian indigenous peoples treat the land and each other.

 

In the Balance

Where once where trees lie salted plains
and dusty cattle ruts.
Camels, mines and 4x4s,
billabong and creek consumed.
Settlers coveted and misunderstood,
but the Anangu have wise ways,
and through their ancient dreaming,
there came ways of loving nature whole.

©Paul Cannon

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under bush walking, Country, environment, history, Indigenous, life, mindfulness, nature, poetry, Quadrille

Pure Folly

Piffle – Word of the Day

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The Folly was an 18th century English/French idea where a piece of architecture was built simply to decorate a garden or a field. While in Ireland some were used as a way of providing employment, in England they were mostly an indulgence of the wealthy. Many were replicas of the seven constructed wonders, famous castles, and other architecture. Some served a purpose, like a pavilion, but many were in fact, just decorative. There are, in my mind, plenty of modern equivalents.

 

Pure Folly

There you stand,
once as grand as Troy.
Now your weathered alabaster
and marble refinements are greyed,
pock marked, amd worn.
Your rondels as if ravens had plucked their eyes,
the adorning orb no longer shines
yet the sun has not set on you.
You look tired
ravaged by nature from whence you came.
Even so, you stand defiant
lasting testimony to decadence past,
a vision of something grand,
or, perhaps, a flight of fantasy.
As I ascend your steps to the heavens,
I hear the crowd roar and the clash of shields,
the Trojans quake,
O Helen.
Such folly in a folly.

©Paul Cannon

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under history, Mythology, poetry

Perseus

Constellation – Word of the Day

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Perseus

Son of Zeus and Danae,
sacker of cities, warrior,
hero by heart,
White Tiger of the West.
When Danae was threatened
you feted Polydectes with the head of Medusa,
that Gorgon.
And later, long before Heracles,
you rescued Andromeda from Cetus.
Many are your deeds,
and, though Homer was tight lipped,
at least Ptolemy gave you a place
after you had gone to the nothern skies.
There your light so shines,
a constellation of hope,
keeping company with your beloved,
keeping watch,
incorruptible,
lover of good.

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Celebrating the Incomplete

Esthete -Word of the Day

Also spelt as Aesthete

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Image: thatcreativefeeling.com

Desiring to study the Way of Tea, Sen no Rikyu went to the tea-master Takeeno Joo who set Rikyu the task of tending the garden as a test. Rikyu cleaned to perfection, but before presenting his work to Joo, he shook a cherry tree, causing some blossom to fall to the ground. A little imperfection being the perfect ground. Thus began his journey into returning the tea ceremony and everything associated to its former simplicity.

It is said that the Japanese revere Rikyu as one who understood the aesthetic known as wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi emerged in the 15th century as a reaction to the aesthetic of very formal and ornate and extravagant art and design of that time. Wabi-sabi is “focussed on the acceptance of impermanence or transcience.” It speaks of “a readiness to accept things as they are.” Or, finding the beauty within imperfections.

Wabi symbolises rustic beauty and quietness, simplicity and quietness. It can also refer to flaws, quirks and abnormalities that occur during production, e.g. pottery, or, as in the case of Rikyu, the blossom disrupting the otherwise perfect garden.

Sabi refers to things whose beauty can only come with age, like weathered timber, green copper, rusted tin. Sabi is said to evoke a sombre feeling very much like autumn.

Wabi-sabi is said to be honest, authentic, organic, modest, incomplete, and where nature, even nature’s corosive power, is celebrated.

Ref: britannica.com, dt.pepperdine.edu (Richard Martin).

How refreshing! I really warm to this aesthetic, and how much we need to embrace it today. Wabi-sabi simplicity could be the antidote to our materialistic, throw-away, plasticised way of living. An acceptance of life as it is. More than cloth bags and organic soap (important as these things are) we/all living things need a modern aesthetic equivalent to wabi-sabi. More imperfection and less sculptured fruit and veg. More authenticity and less keeping up with the Jones’. More incomplete, and evoking a sense of the real. Celebrating nature by engaging nature’s needs. Being organic in every way from relationships, to lifestyle, to purchasing. Accepting things as they are from people to the cosmos. Living with our flaws (shadow aware). How refreshing. I yearn for a bit of Rikyu in all of us.

 

I Love the Flaw in You

Dead center,
on the mantlepiece,
my truest work
as yet.

Soft clay now hard as nails,
its beauty is its cleft.
Its radiance not celadon,
a muddy glaze its skin.

She sits proudly among the celebrated,
offended by their pretence –
perfect, slick, and mass produced,
with images of empire now dead.

As I contemplate my minimum,
I know she goes with me.
The others to the Op-Shop,
or some other recycle path.

This ugly piece of earth,
this imperfect lustred pot,
speaks, shouts, to me of real life,
and how to cope with love.

©Paul Cannon

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Ruby Bridges

Integrated – Word of the Day

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It’s 1960, the Kenyan Crisis ended, Kennedy announced his run for the US presidency, the Beatles haven’t yet come to the fore, Adolf Eichman is captured by Israeli agents, ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ is published, a number of former colonial countries become independent, the Civil Rights Movement was gaining ground in the US, the US sends troops to Vietnam, 100,000 people attend “Ban the Bomb” rally in London, D.H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” on sale 32 years after it was banned, Chubby Checker popularises the Twist, Sirimavo Bandaranaike – first female PM (Sri Lanka) Ceylon, folk music moves into protest, and a number of rights movements begin, and with the pill and a number of other birth control methods the sexual revolution gathers momentum. When you read the detail of the time, they were heady days, with dramatic change

And yet … we have the scene above. The beginning of integration for black and white students in American schools.  Ruby Bridges six years old, and who passed the enrolment test, was the first African- American student to be enrolled in the formerly all-white Wiiliam Frantz Elementary School, escorted to and from school by four federal marshals! Incomprehensible, despite the historical data showing how it came to be. Bridges endured running the gauntlet of a hostile white protest every day for twelve months, parents removing their children in protest, grafiti, people yelling slurs and hate. She spent twelve months alone with her teacher, Barbara Henry, and child psychologist Robert Coles. Eventually more African-American students were enrolled and the furore died down. Norman Rockwell (1894 – 1978) immortalised Bridges bravery in the painting “The Problem We All Have To Live With.”

Bridge’s father lost his job and the family were refused service at their local store. Though neighbours organised another job, and some white people stood with the family, it was a tough year. But everyone involved in the integration praised Ruby for her bravery.

Ruby Bridges became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, the brave child who survived the hostile resistance to integration. I certainly feel inspired by her stance and determination.

If you read her story and watch the archive footage on Youtube, you can see the determination on her face, which tells me she was integrated psychologically. Carl Jung argued that maturity at core was individuation – the ability to separate oneself from others as an identity. Clearly six year old Ruby was able to do that. If only we’d follow suit. How wonderful it would be to lived in a world where skin colour, language, religion/philosophy, culture, nationality, were of no significance, but where the freedom to be yourself, where communities are integrated and psychological maturity are the mark of every person, imagine that!

Gray is not an option, colour is to be celebrated, melanin is no measure intellect, spirituality, ability, or the right to exist, we are people, varied and beautiful, let’s live that.

“No one (man, sic) will ever be whole and dignified and free except in the knnowledge that the people around them (men, him) are whole and free and that the world itself is free of contempt and misuse.”  Wendell Berry

“The world does not need white people to civilize others. The real White People’s Burden is to civilize ourselves.” Robert Jensen

offensive by day
colour is perception and light
darkness cured blindness

©Paul Cannon

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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That Dress

Amorous – Word of the Day

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‘The Kiss’ by Gustave Klimt (1862 – 1918), born in Austria, Klimt was part of an era of radical social and cultural challenge, as an artist he was deeply influenced by Freud and became a symbolist painter, though far from subtle. His paintings are deeply erotic. He was a founder of the Vienna Secession movement which was ecclectice – it had no proclaimed style but rather welcomed all to coexist. He was considered ahead of his time.

 

That Dress

So still, the noise has gone, replaced by the beating pulse in my temples. It’s so warm in here, I loosen my tie, anticipation, my breathing shallow. A smile creases my lips. Wow, that dress, a cliche no more. Black, which looks stunning against your pale , soft skin. That alluring dip draws my eyes to the equally glorious rise, how a necklace would grace that. A length to show off your legs … I take your hand, so cool compared to mine. Time is warped, everything a blur, the air is electric, but you say nothing. I’m shaking inside as I reach out and touch your dress, a subtle swish as I graze the fabric. My heart leaps, dizzying, a kiss, surely yes …

“Can I help you sir?” “Wha … What?” I stutter. Jolted, stung, it wasn’t you. Who? My hand leaves yours, a smear of sweat remains, so hot in here. “Can I help you sir?” I blankly stare. “Are you looking for a gift for someone, your wife perhaps?” Noise rushing in, lights, sounds, movement, confused I shake my head. My ardour dampened, I leave the dun, and muted mannequin and retreat, but oh my, that dress.

©Paul Cannon

 

Donna Summer “I Feel Love”

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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John Adams

Independence – Word of the Day

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Eurasian Coot, Big Swamp, Bunbury. Alone again, naturally. This one had set a course for herself, away from the others.

The stories of other nations and communities are always interesting to me, how they evolved and what are some of the key historical points that have become the DNA of the nation, and who are some the characters in nation building.

It is July 4th, the celebration for Americans of their independence from Britain. One of the things that always intrigues me, is the story within the story. Eventual political independence came as a result of independent people. One such person was John Adams (1735 – 1826).

Britannica.com describes Adams and his wife Abigail as fiercely independent. Adams was an early advocate for independence. His father had hoped he’s follow in his shoes as a church minister. Adams trained with that in view, but on graduation from Harvard spent three years teaching at a grammar school. He eventually determined to do law, and set up practice in Boston. It was while in Boston that his independence came to public prominence. Eight British soldiers had fired on a crowd in Boston – the Boston Massacre -and were on trial for murder. John Adams decided to defend them. He believed that they had the right to legal representation (and for a fee no doubt), and his view was that the soldiers had been provoked. While it was an unpopular thing to do it showed that Adams was a principled person, and it also showed that Adams was one who could think and act independently.

In 1765 Adams wrote a dissertation against the Stamp Act, He went on to oppose the Townsend Act (import duty). In 1774 he was elected to the delegation to represent Massachusetts at the First Continental Congress. In 1775 he published his “Novanglus” essays arguing that Britain had no right to legislate for the colony. He attended the Second Continental Congress in 1776, and was nicknamed “The Atlas of independence” surely an irony? He dominated debate and made crucial nominations – George Washington as comander of the Continental Army; and Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence. His list of achievements is long, and include a term as ambassador in both France and England, two terms as Vice President, and one term as President. While his political philosophy is much debated and some of his views unpopular, Adams has been hailed as a patriot and revolutionary who spurred a colony to nationhood.

No matter what you think of him, you can’t deny that he was indeed and independent thinker and activist who worked for the nation’s own independence. Perhaps in that light we might say that America’s independence is an outworking of the independent-mindedness of its founders, especially John Adams. I note though, that Adams was not a one-man-band, he ably delegated, deffered, and encouraged others to do their bit, not wanting to hog the limelight, but rather to share it. Independence doesn’t mean solo, or maverick, though it doesn’t exclude those labels those labels are not the principal defining behaviours, it means appropriate dependence and independence in synergy. A bit like co-dependency is not all bad, we all have a positive level of dependence and co-dependece in our lives, if we didn’t we’d have sterile relationships and bland communities and not a lot would get done. We also need a positive level of independence in our lives too, without it we are not an identity, just a name, alone. I like to think I have a bit of John Adams in me, an independent thinker and activist, but also one who can function in and for community. I hope you do to.

many fine new branches
a multitude of blossom
the trunk is solid

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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I like Your Angle

Obtuse – Word of the Day

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Photo: decophobia.com/prodimg/marcelbreuer-knoll-bauhaus-chaise-lounge-chair(1).jpg an obtuse angle if ever I saw one, and indeed, geometry was critical to Bauhaus thinking.

 

In 2019 Germany will celebrate 100 years of the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus school of design, a modernist movement,  began in Weimar in 1919, so immediately post WWl. It moved to Dessau in 1925, and in 1933 the NAZI regime forced it to close, citing that it was an enclave of communism. It lasted fourteen years in Germany, then as the NAZIs forced it to close the leaders of the movement took their ideas to other countries. Its influence has continued to the very moment, finding expression in art, design and architecture all over the world.

Bauhaus translated means  house construction, so it was The House of Construction. As a movement it completely transformed art, design and architecture. It was an attempt to reunite art and manufacturing, to reintroduce in manufacturing and construction an aesthetic, a form married to art, and quality. It was an arts and craft approach. Their belief was “Less is more.” Those who joined were known as – Master of Form.

There are three identifiable principles in Bauhaus:

  1. As Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said “Honesty to construction, death to decoration.” Form follows function is rule one.
  2. Typography was important: Bauhaus was instrumental in changing typography thinking – they used simple clean and lean sans serif fonts, they began to use text wrapping around objects, using text vertically and diagonally as well as horizontally. Words simply and clearly put communicate meaning.
  3. Geometry is supreme: simple geometry was the order of Bauhaus achieving a minimalist style. Hence the chair in the photo above.

Bauhaus boasted a collective whose names are now famous: Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Joseph Albers, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Walter Gropius (the founder), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer (whose designed the chair as shown above), Carl Fieger, Anni Albers, Johannes Itten, and Herbert Bayer. Student Eliot Noyes went on to develop the corporate identity of IBM. Some 1,250 students went through the Bauhaus School and they took its principles across the world, no small feat.

What I love about Bauhaus is its freedom of thought, it wasn’t governed by executives or shareholders, it wasn’t sponsored by governments, it initially had no commercial traction (that came later), the movers and shakers of Bauhaus were simply committed to their craft and its form. I think that’s why it became popular later on, they had integrity and they stuck with what they believed even when they were all separated by the events in Germany. Even the National Socialists couldn’t stop them.

Life, I think, is about experiencing as much as we can in the time we have, and making our contribution too. But at our core I also think that one of the keys to success is staying true to self and staying the course on what is key for us, going the distance, that’s my angle, but its not obtuse! It can be powerful to live what you believe.

Paul Klee’s painting: “Castle and Sun”

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the tree is tangled
weed and vine overrun it
but the buds will bloom

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Possessed by Desmothenes

Vehemently – Word of the Day

th.jpeg Desmothenes (385 – 322 BC) the man who rallied Athens as the forces of Philip ll of Macedon approached the city state.

Desmothenes was a lawyer and an orator, and clearly a persuasive one. The people of Athens had become indifferent to Philip’s ambitions to conquer the city states and control the whole region. They scoffed that they would be disadvantaged by Philip’s rule. The city would not marshal its army, they preferred to enjoy life instead. Desmothenes could see the problem clearly, could see Athens was doomed if nothing was done and done quickly. Desmothenes also knew enough about Philip to know that he was a tyrant and would not respect their democracy nor their Athenian culture.

What did Desmothenes do? He gave a vehement and rousing speech that rallied Athens to mobilise and defend itself. It was no rhetorical speech, it was a passionate call to arms for the sake all Athenians. Desmothenes believed in democracy and the rights of city states. He was able to point out that all this would be lost under Philip. Well, he achieved his aim, his speech won the day and the defence of the city, the cry went up “To arms, to arms.”

Winston Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons in 1940 “We shall go on to the end … We shall never surrender.”  Churchill’s speech is passionate and rousing, he is credited with drawing the nation into action after a period of apathy and fear. Churchill’s speech is often compared to that of Desmothenes. William Wilberforce speaking in the House of Commons in 1789, was vehemently opposed to slavery, and battled passionately to have a Bill passed to end it. It took nearly twenty years but he finally achieved that goal.

Tyrants are not always easy to read or detect. Some come as the very saviour, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Franco, Mussolini, Pinochet. Some present as good leaders, Peron, Nixon, Reagan, Thatcher, Blair, Bush Jnr., Putin. But all have been tyrants in their own way, disregarding democracy, human rights, and sovereignty. Sometimes the wolf is circling the camp and we cannot see it, and because we cannot see it we deny its existence. What exposes the wolf more is the lack of argument for a credible enemy or crisis (so usually they invent one, much as Putin is busy inventing reasons to remain illegally in Ukraine, and Trump militating to rile Iran). We need to be a little demosthenic, as the term goes, to be like Desmothenes and vehemently oppose such tyrants whether their tyranny is armed force, legislative force, or propaganda (or all of these) and to draw attention to enemy at our gates.

But to return to my favourite theme, the person, each of us needs to step up and deal with self first. It’s no good railing at politicians if we live as tyrants ourselves, hypocisy is corrosive in any society. If we do make like Desmothenes, as with Churchill, Wilberforce, or a Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, we may effect change for the good. Desmothenes singlehandedly turned a city state, imagine what four, five, or twenty Desmothenes could achieve with passion. There are plenty of things requiring our desmothenic attention, the environment, human rights, refugees, corruption, militarism, greed … but with vehemence, with passion, we can do just that.

Canned Heat: “Let’s Work together” 1970, not just another love song!

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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