From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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Brushtail Graphics

Pyrotechnics on a spring night

5 October 2000

It was a raucous crowd in the Brushtail Café on Sunday afternoon. As we waited for the Olympic extravaganza to wind up in a blaze of pyrotechnics and Avgas, one last contest was being decided by the judges -- the Individual Women's Freestyle Wealth Redistribution Handicap.

The smart money had been on Rupert Murdoch's new woman, China's Wendy Deng, who was expected to outclass even Australia's Rose Handcock/Porteous but in a surprise decision the gold went to a virtual unknown -- the American Anna Nicole Smith.

The crowd in the café went wild with delight. The feisty twenty-seven year old stripper and Playboy model had walked away with a fortune after marrying an 89-year old Texas oil billionaire who died a few months later. She beat Rose to the gold by landing $450 million following a four-year legal battle with the billionaire's family.

It was a classy performance. Although both contestants got high marks for redistribution through legal fees, the judges had clearly awarded Anna an almost maximum score for presentation and age disparity. Rose outstripped her in outrageous front, but it wasn't enough to get her over the line first and she had to be content with silver.

In the wash-up Wendy Deng limped in with bronze -- the judges apparently taking the view that her effort, while impressively ambitious, was, as yet, "unrealised" -- although the commentators said she was a talent to keep your eye on.

It was a fittingly symbolic end to the Qantas Games. The jazz band broke into the offical Sydney 2000 anthem, 'I Still Call Australia Home'. If there was a medal for stealing a march on the official sponsors, the national carrier would win it by a country mile.

By late afternoon many of the patrons were tired and emotional. There was an unfortunate punch-up among the Quadrant mob after John McDonald did his celebrated impression of Brian Kennedy, the flamboyantly Irish director of the National Gallery. Paddy McGuinness managed to smooth things over and led the the group in a wild attack on everyone else, after which they were all thrown out. The remaining patrons agreed that the gallery's new director of Australian Art should be either Ric Birch or Reg Mombassa.

When dusk fell, Joadja cajolled me into a stroll down to Mrs Macquaries Point to see the fireworks. It was a cool and clear Sydney night and the crowd was immensely amiable. I got into a spot of controversy with the security guards when I climbed a big Moreton Bay fig to get a better view of the Harbour Bridge, but Joadja half persuaded them it was my "traditional right as a possum" and they wandered off when the fireworks began.

And the fireworks were spectacular. The pyrotechnics people have it down to a fine art now. Every year you think it's the biggest and best ever, and every year they add something new.

Back at the concert in The Domain, searchlights and laser beams swept the sky and a hint of mary jane hung in the air. The Quadrant mob had turned up and they were berating a bunch of bewildered kids, claiming the closing ceremony was another sinister attack on the prime minister by the arts elite.

A chanteuse in dreadlocks strutted the stage, pumping out the sort of eclectic mush that passes for rock 'n roll these days, while the crowd waited for Savage Garden.

"I just had to come", said Jo, as we strolled back up towards Werrong Lane when it was all over. "I keep getting this feeling that we may never see times like these again; you have to savour these moments while you can."

• • •

INCLUDED in Whispers from the mean streets -- Best of 2000

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.