Monday, 19 August 2013

Another week begins

Hi everyone ,

Another week begins, and I'm updating by phone.  Yesterday's springlike day morphed into wind and rain by evening.  I was cooped up in the office all day today, and tonight has turned cold again.  On the other hand, it was still kind of light at about 6pm which is a heartening sign.

The day itself was a little frustrating, inasmuch as I got about 75% of my goals met, but got bogged down in one job for a big bit of the day.

Shopping for dinner in the evening.  Dad at Flinders, so it was just mum, me and Top Gear.  Annoyed with myself that I failed to finish off the oil and gas chunk of studies this evening and let myself get distracted into drafting a casenote.  Dangerously close to that project drifting off track.  Must. Stay. Focused.

Ok: I guess that's the update.

More soon.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

I need to rant #smalltownprobs


I don't care if it's after 9am and I'm meant to be working.  I need to rant.

I was ahead of schedule this morning and off to work a bit earlier.  I decided to stop at my local Post Office to get a copy of the Australian for its Legal Affairs section, which it always runs on Fridays, and a prepaid international A4 envelope to send a copy of the Law Institute Journal to one of my contacts overseas.  I have a phone conference on the TTP project at lunch so I can't duck out to the newsagent or post office in town.

So the first thing was that they don't carry the Australian.  Sure, it's only a major national newspaper, but whatevs.  They had the Benalla Ensign, but this wasn't really what I needed.

When I asked for the international envelope, the manager looked at me blankly and said he'd never heard of such a thing.  He actually checked his own catalogue to be sure they exist and I wasn't pulling his leg.  Anyway, could I guess the weight?  I estimated about that of two packets of Maltesers.  He offered to sell me a double-strength A4 envelope and the postage for my estimate.  I didn't need the extra strength envelope but said yes to speed the process up.  As he was trying to get the computer to tell him how much the postage would be, the office's electrical safety switch cut out (he explained it'd been doing this randomly for a while) and so there was a 15 minute wait while his computer system restarted.

And the kicker?  After all this, he said "actually, it's better if I don't sell you the postage now; come back when you've put your stuff in the envelope and I'll work the postage out exactly".

Awesome: I spent 25 minutes there to buy an overpriced envelope and was late for work.

And the kicker on top of the kicker?  Because this is a relatively small town, I couldn't even tell him what I thought of his service.

Rant over.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Not enough hours in the day.

Hi everyone,

Typing this while I put off another foray into Texas oil and gas law.  I'm afraid I lost focus there for a bit.  On the other hand, I've been quite effectively networking with other lawyers through LinkedIn, GooglePlus and the Wordpress blog.

The new job is going well.  Still feeling great when I get up in the morning and drive to work.  Actually in control of things still which I find slightly astonishing.  Sometimes I need to remind myself not to let myself drift, which is my worst sin, but aside from that, I find myself energised by the coming of every new day.  The coming of every new day, and a few pots of coffee at least.

Mum and dad are both fighting off the flu at the moment, so she's mumbling more and he's even deafer than usual.  The Casa Tuck is like a Laurel & Hardy routine some days!  The flu shot I had last year with H&W seems to be holding up still, so I'm still ok.

All feels pretty good still.  Many things I want to write, and there's some short courses I'm trying to squeeze in too.  Godammit, I need more hours in the day!

Sorry.  I guess that's it for the moment.  More soon.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Opera and Genocide

I've recently been listening to some of the BBC Proms concerts on ABC-FM.  The last couple of evenings they broadcast the first two parts of Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungen (for those that don't know, they are The Rhine Gold and The Valkyrie).  They were meant to be doing the third opera - Siegfried - tonight, I thought, but that seems not to be the case.

Anyway, last night the BBC presenter was waxing enthusiastic about how this was opera for everyone, and how that was Wagner's dream in essence: that the Ring cycle would be staged at Bayreuth, at a price that the ordinary folk could afford, and provide them with a kind of mythology of their own.  I was a little surprised when I heard this.  It seemed to me that our civilisation had already *seen* such a popular adoption of Germanic myths.  It was called the Third Reich.

This got me to thinking that, perhaps, the Third Reich could not have been imagined had Wagner's music not existed.  At least, it could not have been imagined in the way it was realised.

I'm not saying that Wagner himself would have approved of the Reich.  At the least I think that, having died fifty years before its inception, he should be given the benefit of the doubt.  But his music ensured it would have a kind of monstrous majesty that comparable regimes did not.

For example, there had certainly been genocidal regimes before.  Rome's destruction of Carthage comes to mind, as does the Turkish genocide of the Armenians.  But, I think, both of those were qualitatively different.  The destruction of Carthage can fairly be seen as Rome deciding that the Mediterranean was simply not big enough for two major powers.  The slaughter of the Armenians, too, seems to have been less an ideological campaign than a empire deciding to ensure that one of its subject peoples needed to be firmly ground down.  I'm not excusing either event, or denying that they represented genocides.  But both also look like the ordinary fruit of human cruelty.

Equally, the Third Reich was hardly the only authoritarian regime of its time, but it was in a singular class too.  The administration in Imperial Japan, for example, looked like the sort of cookie-cutter quasi-military government one can find in modern history from Ghana to Chile.  The regimes of Franco, Mussolini and (maybe) Pétain were anti-democratic and thoroughly nasty, but at some level seem to have contented themselves with an ideological patina on the iron glove.

It seems to me that Nazi Germany was different in both respects.  Both in its  genocidal and authoritarian urges, it seemed to obey an internal logic whereby even the grossest crimes became right , just and rational.  My instinct (I don't think it rises even to being a hypothesis) is that the operatic order and drive that Wagner manifested in the Ring, and in Parsifal and Rienzi and Tannhäuser, supplied a kind of intellectual trackway along which along which a certain line of Germanic thought could develop.

My instinct is strengthened by an argument running the other way: one can't watch Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro", with its skewering of Count Almaviva, without seeing the deflation if the Second Estate that would eventually explode into the French Revolution.  By a similar process (in the opposite direction) one can see the Germanic, hero-worshipping drives in Wagner that would come to power in 1934.  

So where am I going with all of this?  I'm no supporter of censoring ideas, or thoughts, or music.  And I think I've fully absorbed the point George Orwell made about Newspeak, as a tool for preventing the wrong ideas even being thought.  And yet: judges by its (unintended) fruits, shouldn't the Ring and its ilk stand condemned as the midwives of a nightmare, and be decently ignored, forgotten, and not again performed?  Or am I making too much of too little?

Would love to have your thoughts.