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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas musings

Earlier this year, February I think it was, Alice, Sylvia and I were sitting in the big iMax Theatre in the centre of Melbourne, waiting to see the 3D version of Avatar. We had to plan this early afternoon adventure very carefully around my medications, appointments, food, even toilet breaks! So when the big screen lit up right on schedule, we were happy, sitting there in a completely full theatre with our 3D glasses on.
   Then the screen went blank. Finally, after nearly an hour during which attempts were made to get the movie going, management declared itself defeated, told everyone to queue for their money back, and come again another time.
   Can you imagine how long it takes to get your money back in queues from a full theatre? It was my first and last chance to see this movie in one of the best 3D movie houses in Australia. Gone.
   It’s just one of those things, just like having the brain tumour that brought us to Melbourne at that time in the first place, really. You accept it and move on.
   I did get to see it as a ‘normal’ movie a few months later – on our TV and not in a theatre. The story line had its strong points, ramming home the message of the plight of indigenous people across the earth and their ties to the land, and the relentless pursuit of profit by the ruthless baddies backed by brute force.
   Yet there was something about it that annoyed me, and I guess it was the naked truth that the victory of the indigenes in the movie would be as entirely pyrrhic as they have been everywhere in the world, whether in the Americas, Australia, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, or western China. However feelgood the movie might have made us, as the beneficiaries of the plundering of the lands of the people whose way of life was and is tied to that land, we still buy the things that are the result of the plundering. The bad guys do always win, though Avatar seems to imply otherwise.
   For Christmas yesterday, Christian and Tracey gave me a high quality copy of Avatar – the one with the extra footage and with a short documentary from the director of Avatar. We do have a nice big TV, which was useful when we were reviewing footage we had shot for our filming business, and I must say the quality of Avatar on that screen was beautiful.
   We then looked at the docco explaining why the movie was made. This was quite revealing, as the director, James Cameron, had been involved heavily in the fight by the Amazonian tribes to save their lands from the developers, the dam builders and the ‘progressive’ forces in Brazil and elsewhere aimed at extracting the riches of the rainforest and leaving it in a pitiful state of destruction.
   Having seen that, I realised my annoyance with the movie was probably misplaced. It wasn’t its fault that the baddies do always win when it comes to these things. And they DO. Regardless of the little battles that are sometimes won, the real war is lost, and you only have to see the politics (and polemics) of the climate change ‘debate’ to be aware of that.
   I guess Avatar is pretty much passé now. It would be nice to think it has had some positive effect, though I am sceptical. Used any maranti lately? It’s a rose-coloured soft wood timber that’s often cheaper than pine. It comes from tearing down rainforest, often illegally, and ending up on the shelves of your local building supplier’s wood stocks.
   Our ignorance does as much damage in the world as wilful destruction. I think of my computing gear, that big TV, medications, travel costs, power use… and can’t claim any special superiority. On the contrary.
   I daresay most of us are hypocrites in the end. At least, give us the grace to feel bad about it and try to do better by thinking about our resources and who really pays for them. If you think it's us, you're wrong. The people who really pay are the ones who can least afford to.
   Here endeth the lesson.


  1. And palm oil. Its in most manufactured foods and is the reason for much of the clearing of rainforest in SE Asia. Look down as you fly over Singapore and there it is -monoculture for miles and miles. It's also a really bad fat for the heart. If a product says 'vegetable oil' it is probably palm oil - avoid it. In a way, 'Avatar' could be sort of dangerous by assuaging people's fears, just as many environmentalists claim that David Attenborough documentaries do. 'Oh look, nature is still OK'.

    So that's my bit, and if I don't reply because no-one else is, then I miss my chance to say it :) So I'll persist, being an inveterate loudmouth.

  2. There are not enough 'inveterate loudmouths' whose voice is rarely heard above the bulldozers. I didn't know that about palm oil. Is it the basis for all fast food production? I wouldn't be surprised....

  3. We could probably use all the meranti we wanted, and the crude oil, meat, bio-diesel, avastin, etc, if there were fewer of us. We make a choice to save the planet by switching to bio-diesel and then find that we drive the price of food up by using up arable land and poor people starve. Can't win. If we all lived on organic food, didn't drive cars, or have electricity, we'd still probably exhaust the planet just by our sheer numbers.

    During my first degree in my 20s, I had to take a lab science as part of my BA. In one of our experiments we were given a bunch of fruit flies. We had to sex them and then place differing numbers of pairs into various bottles with varying amounts of food. These fruit flies didn't drive cars, but all the same, when their numbers exceeded the food supply and the available space in the bottle, they died like flies.

    Yes, palm oil is highly saturated fat. Surprising given that it is vegetable fat. Don't eat it if you can avoid it.

    Everything in moderation. Even green tea, and especially vitamin D3. It's toxic in high doses, like the sun.

  4. Is that how you spell meranti? No wonder I couldn't find it in the dictionary! Sadly, what you say is true about sheer numbers. The planet needs a good epidemic that strikes randomly and reduces the global population by about 90% - there'd still be enough people! Just as long as it's not you and me and all our family and friends, of course....
    I AM joking, in a macabre way.... though true words are often spoken in jest.
    I agree with you especially about the principle of moderation. Even a little excess, in moderation, like Christmas fare, is good for us, on the whole. Psychologically, at any rate, providing it doesn't actually kill us!
    What do we find palm oil used most in? I should research it, but am off shortly to be Avastinised!


    Alas, it's in Tim Tams and Sara Lee products.

    I had a dream about you this morning, Denis. It said you need to watch your fluids, that you are producing too much fluid. Probably all that wine you've been drinking over the holidays.

    We are looking for timber for the trims in our new dining room. I had some meranti moulding from a former project, so we used that for the picture rail. Feeling guilty about it, we considered Tasmania oak for the rest of the mouldings, but then, gosh, if we buy Tasmanian Oak, which is the same price as meranti, then we'll contribute to the depletion of that resource. So what's it to be? We're long past considering a room free of mouldings as we've gone down the plasterboard road.

    I actually spent a sleepless night years ago trying to decide whether to use a product that contained CFCs. I needed the product to complete a sculpture pattern for the foundry. I finally decided to use it, just the once, and design the next piece so I didn't need it. When I fronted up to the hardware store, bags under my eyes, I could still see well enough, despite the blur of sleeplessness, that the bloody product no longer contained CFCs. It seems the company had switched propellants between batches. It wasn't as good, though, but it still worked okay. What a waste of good conscience.

  6. Too much fluid! Interesting....I feel as if I am not taking in enough water and that Christmas fare makes my body absorb and retain too much fluid. My weight gain over the past six months is depressingly high.
    As to mouldings, would pine do the job? It doesn't have that subtle colouring, but it's as easy to work with tools as meranti. At least the commercial Scandinavian plantations are now totally regenerating. I heard they currently have an excess of plantation timber in fact.
    As to the CFCs, and some other items, sometimes you do have to make compromises, I believe, but that doesn't stop you planning for an alternative, as you did, so your conscience could have been reasonably clear in any case, and you would have slept better!

  7. Are you eating lots of celery, which is a natural diuretic ( celery juice would be good). Remember when we all used to do the dreaded soup diet, which was full of celery - I'm sure we lost weight because we lost lots of fluid.

    Wow, I could do with a soup diet right now -it's not going to happen rightnow, though!

  8. I have been eating plenty of spinach, but not celery, but am about to embark once again on the 'dreaded' soup diet, or our modification of it, as I feel like a blimp and look like it right now. Our variation on the diet I quite enjoy once the psychology of it is right. I am at the stage now where the extra health risks of gaining 10 kg in 6 months are focussing my mind on being sensible. With the weakness of my muscles it is stupid to be carrying round that much extra baggage, as it puts a strain on every other part of my system and is bad for balance. It like 30 kgs extra for a healthy person.

  9. It does sound as though you are retaining fluid, Denis. Probably a side effect of your medication, which can't be helped, but I do understand your concern about carrying more weight than you are used to as it puts such a strain on all your organs and blood vessels. Not what you need.

    I think my dream reflected more my anxiety about your upcoming MRI scan. You used to have a major problem with fluid and inflammation, and that could be what my dream meant. It was my dream and reflects my reality, although I have had a few prescient dreams in my life, so tend to take them a little seriously.

    You could ask Leigh at Inner Path about herbal diuretics.

    As to pine. I considered that, but I don't like pine, unless the entire room is pineish. I think my few extra sticks of meranti will not be the butterfly that triggers catastrophic climate change, but in future I will not use it.

  10. If I eat the naughty foods, I am sure my body retains extra fluid - but I am coming off those now! The one medication I am sure is worst for me in that respect is the steroid, but I can't drop it even though I think it is doing little actual good, because if I go below 2 mg daily I get seizures. I fear them more than weight gain.
    The forthcoming MRI will tell some sort of story no doubt. I am not going to try to anticipate the possible scenarios, but while there are no seizures, the inflammation at least must be being held in check. Better just to wait and see and not concern myself too much. Now it is a case of 'que sera...' By the way, did you happen to see that programme on SBS about dreams last night? Very interesting!
    I think I do have a handle on fluid retention but I will bear in mind where I can get that advice. I always have to be conscious of how any foods interact with current proprietary medications.
    No, in the grand scheme of things, your couple of metres of meranti won't matter, I am sure! There are some things we have to be a little pragmatic about.

  11. This is naughty food night around here. New Year's Eve. Hope you will have one last fling before returning to your healthy diet.

    I didn't see the SBS program on dreams, and cannot find a reference to it on their program guide for last night, either SBS 1 or SBS 2. Sometimes programs are available for download, so if you can remember the title of this, let me know and I'll look for it.

    Happy New Year Denis, Tracey, and Christian. And thanks for the lovely Christmas Card, which we have hanging on the curtain rail in the lounge room.

  12. Re food, we did indeed, though not really so naughty. We decided on an old-style Friday night fish and chips - the girls had bought a lovely salmon pate and I had two glasses of champagne by 2011 - more at one go than for 13 months!
    It was good to see in the New Year. I cannot remember seeing in 2010 at all, except for seeing the same sorts of fireworks and thinking maybe there are better ways of spending money than by blowing it up, however clever it is.
    I don't trust my memory and maybe the dream programme was on a different channel, but it was about the tests they did on people in REM dreaming and in ... the other sort - and how different they were. I'll try to check. I may not get far but you would have been very interested I am sure.
    Happy New Year to you and Carl, and let's keep dreaming. Chuang Tzu may yet be a butterfly. On a bike, balancing on one hand....

  13. I am starting to think the programme on dreams was on the ABC - maybe ABC2 - but it's not available on iView, Joan. A reference to the subject matter of such a programme is here:

    but it's not so comprehensive. Oh well - I DID try! :)

  14. At least the scientists are no longer saying "dreams are the bowel movements of the mind", as Philip Adams still insists (I still love him, anyway).

    I agree with all of these theories. Dreams are terrific multitaskers and no one has the single definitive answer on what they are for. It's like trying to decide what the mind is for :).

    We can't stop thinking when we're awake, and I presume this propensity continues when we are asleep. The mind just keeps thinking and every once in a while, it makes sense. Just like when we are awake.

  15. I like Phillip Adams very much too, but as to his comment about dreams, all I can say about that is that it is well.... crap!


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