2020-11-04

Escape Zone (enter here to escape the tensions of waiting for election results)

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by Neil Godfrey

Before there was Trumpian fake-news there was “Australia’s most notorious tabloid”, The Truth — now the subject of a book — The Awful Truth — by one of its erstwhile reporters, Adrian Tame. If you can’t read the book then do at least have a good laugh listening to a 20 minute interview with the author: The scurrilous tabloid called TRUTH. It was one of Rupert Murdoch’s early acquisitions, and soon after he took it over the paper earned the nickname “The Old Whore of La Trobe Street”. But it also had some serious and great moments.

Here’s how Adrian got the job:

[The editor, Paul Edwards] had brushed aside my lack of clippings, telling me: ‘Doesn’t matter, mate. Wouldn’t want to read your references, you probably wrote them yourself. Same with your clippings, except if they’re any good, someone else probably wrote ’em. Start tomorrow, that’s Tuesday, and you’ve got two weeks to show me what you can do. We’ll either make you permanent, or I’ll flick you.

Another excerpt (also covered in the Late Night Live interview linked above):

On this particular occasion the three of us had, for once, too much information to play with. Too many facts to fit into the number of words we were allotted. The story involved Marlon Brando and his daughter Cheyenne. Brando was grossly overweight and due to arrive in Australia to work some of it off at a health farm. Cheyenne was arriving simultaneously for emotional counselling, following a breakdown caused by a particularly traumatic and unsavoury domestic, resulting in a murder. We were playing with puns like ‘meltdown’, and arguing over which part of the story should be prioritised in the headline. And then Thommo strode into the room.

After a quick glance at the two stories he muttered something derisory about the amount of time we had been taking, grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled the following:

The Brandos are coming
HE’S FAT
SHE’S MAD

‘Fuckin’ obvious isn’t it?’ he scowled as he left the room.

Pure tabloid genius. It was intriguing – how could anyone not want to read further? – it was wildly funny and it was to the point – all vital ingredients for a good headline. But what made it a truly great headline was its barbaric cruelty.

Excerpt From: Adrian Tame. “The Awful Truth.” Apple Books.

The interview is genuinely fascinating and informative for insights into what people who produce a paper like that think of what they’re doing and what they think of their readers.

Or if you prefer your escape from real-world political tensions to be more on cute and soft side, here is another bird photo, not from my own place this time but from my sister’s front yard:

Frogmouth parents guarding their new (fast growing) chick. No nest — everything balanced on a wide tree branch.

Not the best photo, but they are very high up in a very tall tree.

One more on that awful truth….

 

 

 

 


2020-09-24

More of Something Light

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Here are more of the birds that have graced my backyard these past few months:


(Click on the image for a more detailed view)

This is the first year I’ve seen the pale-headed rosella here. (We’ve had brilliant red rosellas here before but they have given us a miss this year. Our new visitor has a stronger yellow colour in the head feathers but they won’t allow me to get a close enough photo of them to show you that feature. Yellow off-set by the deep red, light blue underbelly and dark blue wing, a magnificent looking bird.

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Not a frequent visitor, but I love the blue-faced honeyeater when it does appear.

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Another one very familiar to Australians – the kingfisher. I am used to seeing these fellows in bushland near creeks and rivers. I was surprised to see them where I am which is well away from any natural bodies of water. Maybe I’ve been misled by the “fisher” in their name.

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The egret flies through once a year, sometimes stopping in our backyard for a bite to eat.

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The crested dove reminds me of some of those dinosaurs with odd crowns protruding from their heads. Every time it takes flight its wings make a screechy-wheel sound, presumably to put off predators.

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The magpie lark, more commonly known as the pee-wee, are very common throughout Australia. They can often be seen checking themselves out in reflections on parked car windscreens and rear vision mirrors.

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I don’t know why exactly, and I am sure if I did know I would not be able to justify my feelings, but I don’t like these currawongs very much. Maybe it’s because I see them as interlopers who sometimes take over territory from the much more interesting magpies (see the last post for those). They make a very tedious sound compared with the rich variation given by the magpie.

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2020-08-13

Something Light

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Here are the birds that have spent time in my little suburban yard this year:

 

A red wattlebird — I could only ever hear it for nearly a year before it let itself be seen. It has the sound of something from Jurrasic Park, a raucous twisted series of screeches. Suddenly it has perched quite close by where I have been able to get a very good look and I think that’s the occasion that inspired me to do this post.

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Lorikeets — magnificent colours and regular feeders in our bottlebrush trees.

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My favourites, the magpie. One of them used to regularly perch on the clothesline whenever I was hanging out washing and just watch me. We used to have long chats. They have the most remarkable sound. That youtube link gives one small sample. Google for more and if you don’t live in Australia you’ll be amazed at the range of their singing. Luckily the local magpies don’t attack us in their breeding season.

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Fairy-wrens. The male hops around and through the lower shrubs with half a dozen or more of his harem.

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The kookaburras (laughing jackass) come and go. They’re everywhere.

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Not quite sure if this is the same owl that we sometimes see on our gateway. The one we see is certainly very large, but more greyish, I think. They give you quite a start when you suddenly walk right by it at night, with it staring at you from its huge frame.

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Golden plover. I’m cheating a bit with this one. It doesn’t come to my yard but lives in a park about 100 meters away. I draw breath and walk with extreme caution whenever I pass them since the one’s I used to see in the Northern Territory were vicious — they nearly took out someone’s eye with their wingtip. The local ones here have learned to accept passersby, it seems, but I’m still wary.

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Other common visitors when they feel like it. They’re more common out west, though. My grandparents on a dairy farm kept them as talking pets.

That’s about half of them. Maybe I’ll post the rest later.


Images scanned from Peter, Slater. 2009. The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds.2nd ed. Reed New Holland.


 

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2017-05-05

Crow Smarts

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by Neil Godfrey

It’s been a long time since I bought a children’s book — until today. Or at least it arrived today. I heard about it on a science show, Kids book goes inside the crow’s smart bird brain, and could not resist.

Look at this:

The New Caledonian crow shapes a hooked tool to extract grubs from logs.

And this:

The damn clever thing shapes another digging tool by tapering it so that it has a thick end for holding and a pointy end for digging into crevices.

The crows here have straight beaks, not slightly curved ones, and eyes more to the front of their heads than do other species of crow. Since these traits enable a more efficient use of tools (more difficult to work them with a curved beak and harder to get the aim right with eyes further apart) it appears that tool use has favoured the evolution of these smarter crows.

If like me you want to catch up with what the kids are reading and learning, check it out….


2017-01-03

The Australian Magpies

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

I loved this program when it was first broadcast a few months ago and appreciated the ABC’s Radio National “re-releasing” it as a podcast. I always love watching magpies and so often notice fascinating behaviours. For some years many times I went outside to hang the washing out the same magpie would fly down and perch on the clothes line, looking intently at me as if to greet me and spend some time with me. In Australia we easily take their beautiful song for granted so I was pulled up with some surprise when an overseas tourist expressed amazement at the sound.

Anyone interested who hasn’t yet heard the program, do listen to

The colourful life of the Australian Magpie

The opening seconds is all you need to hear their sound.

Other details that fascinated me:

  • they are listening for the sounds of grubs etc beneath the grass
  • they recognize individual human faces
  • in the event of the loss of the male partner the female soon accepts another male replacement who continues to care and provide for her chicks
  • their black and white colour is no camouflage but functions as a highly visual signal for territorial purposes

 

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