US Presidential Election

Unfortunately for the 2012 election I had a class scheduled on Wednesday morning here in Singapore so was unable to follow the results live as they came out. Fortunately though after midday I could catch up and although MSNBC is not on cable here I found a web link to some dodgy rebroadcast and I could watch Rachel Maddow and her crew of commentators. Later that night I did some commentary myself on radio and then television. The sound is not the best but someone posted a clip on youtube:

Festival of Mum

On Saturday September 29 we farewelled my mother in Sydney at Camp Cove, where my father proposed to her, and then later at the Watsons Bay Hotel. The previous day my sister, brother-in-law, and I put the bulk of her ashes with my father’s. It was a poignant moment for Sandy and I since it was the first time we had ever been to my father’s resting place. As Sandy said it was mum’s first time too. Indeed the first funeral my mum went to was her own.

Woronora Cemetry

Saturday was a gorgeous Sydney Spring day. Nineteen members of the family, across four generations, gathered at the pub and made our way to Camp Cove. Annika, my mum’s great granddaughter, read a selection from Sea Fever and I gave a Eulogy. We then scattered some ashes into the sea in biodegradable containers.

Me watching ashes

We then returned to the pub for lunch and memories. My mother’s brothers Ted and Rowley were there. Norma, Ted’s wife. My cousin Moira from the Newcastle Gordons. And then a mass of folks below 70 including my cousin David his wife and boys, Mathew and Henri, their girls, Emma and Chris and their daughter and Joanne. We sat and chatted from noon until 8pm and then went for pizza. 15 of us saw out the evening. It was a wonderful celebration of a life and a gathering of the family on a scale we seldom manage.

And so that we all carry the memory a little longer Sandy and Evan arranged for commemorative book marks

A Death in the Family

My father died when I was young. My mother died today. She was 89. In May I spent her 89th birthday with her in her room in the nursing home (along with my sister and her husband) and we had meat pies for lunch and a glass of red wine. Over the last few days it’s been clear that this time she would go. She had a bad episode when I was at conferences in Bournemouth and Paris in July but after a bad day she got through that. My sister sat with her through a terrible night then and she sat with her again over the last days. This has not been an easy death and my sister has borne the brunt.

But the minutia of a life’s end is not my purpose here. I want to remember what my mother gave me as a person.

My mother loved to read. Until the last two years of her life, when she could no longer hold a book for a long period or as time went by remember what she had read, my mother always had a book at her side. I remember learning to read by reading  street signs and Disney comic books. The first my mother would patiently explain and the second she would happily get me because she believed reading them or anything would lead to wider reading habits.

My mother was a home economics teacher. She loved to cook, and was an excellent cook, but she hated the other aspects of teaching home economics like needle work. She was a great friend of Molly Breaden author of the Commonsense Cook Book, and who made a much better birthday cake than my mum. She was also friends with a good number of lesbians who (ironically?) worked in the NSW Education Dept teaching young women to be homemakers.
When I was 10 my mum explained my “Aunty” Dene’s love for her partner Phyllis.

My mum also loved music and unlike me  could hold a tune.

My mum singing the blues.

I also remember her on a packaged tour of Europe in 1965 befriending Mr Smith from Jamaica and Lily and Evelyn two African American school teachers from Philadelphia. Sure she was a white liberal, but I don’t remember anyone else happy to sit at dinner with those three, other than Pietro the Italian tour guide who had a thing for Lily or Evelyn.

When she was younger, which is to say sometime before she turned 60, she could talk to all sorts of folks and make friends quickly. As a kid I remember meeting the Australian political cartoonist Les Tanner because my mum had started a conversation with his wife Peg in a Melbourne supermarket and discovered that she too was from Sydney. Many a butcher, green grocer, and liquor licensee in Sydney, London, Melbourne, and Castlemaine, where my mum lived at various times, enjoyed a chat with her. I wish I had her easy rapport but unfortunately I am closer to her older self with a tendency to judge too quickly and perhaps harshly.

At the end she didn’t believe in heaven or an after life.  She faced death squarely having wished it seriously for a year or so. She told my sister on a Friday she was going and by the next Wednesday  she was dead. My sister was with her and told me it was a death eased by morphine and that she looked very peaceful.

Bye  mum and thank you for the many things you gave me.

Superman and Batman in Southeast Asia

Two weeks ago I was in Kuala Lumpur for a short break. I stayed on Jalan Bukit Bintang next to the Pavilion a fairly recently built shopping mall. The Pavilion is full of upscale stores like Louis Vuitton, some bars, restaurants, and also the DC Comics store. Yes the DC store. Indeed the DC Comics store is a prominent occupant of the mall as you can see in this photo taken from my hotel room:

DC Store Pavilion Mall

DC Store Detail

The Superman and Batman logos are highly visible from the street and shine brightly in the evening.

The KL store is not the only DC Comics store in Malaysia or Southeast Asia. There are stores in Melaka and Singapore.

Melaka Store

ION Orchard Mall

All of these stores are in new or centrally located malls. These stores are somewhat reminiscent of the Warner Bros stores (DC’s parent company) that used to be a ubiquitous presence in American shopping malls before mostly shutting down in 2001. I am not sure how well these stores are doing but the one in Melaka has been there two years at least which suggests some degree of success.

There is a story here about the success of American comic book characters in English speaking Southeast Asia. Indeed American comic book movies do well in this part of the world too. It would seem that the Superman and Batman logos are familiar enough signs that they can be used to draw customers to the KL store.

But another experience in KL, about five minutes walk from the Pavilion on the other side of my hotel, opens up this story a little. Here in a small shop in a very large complex of tightly packed shops and where a shopper would be more likely to find fake Louis Vuitton goods than genuine products, I discovered these tee shirts:






To me these suggest a familiarity with the characters and a playful irreverence. Although labeled as official DC product complete with copyright and trademark registered symbols I doubt these are the sort of products DC would license.

Update September 29, 2014:

But how wrong I was these are licensed. And if these seem playful then what about these tee shirts, which are over the line:

Highways and Byways of History

Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their arms in a black power salute on the dais at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

The photo of that moment is apparently one of the most remembered photos of the 1960s in America.

This recent story in The Guardian reminded me of Australian sprinter Peter Norman, the third man on the dais that day. Norman died in 2006. None of the three Smith, Carlos, and Norman went on to the fortune and fame that athletes so often enjoy today. Indeed Norman endured much hardship.

The Age‘s account of his funeral in October 2006 has a poignant photo of Smith and Carlos carrying their mate’s coffin.

As Carlos reminded Australians that day we “need to tell our kids the story of Peter Norman.” Norman’s story has been told a few times but I think it should be told more often. Still waiting too for a big screen version of Smith and Carlos’s stories.

Postscript August 14, 2012: Here is another story about Norman: