Monday, October 24, 2011

Just sing it.

The recent Rugby World Cup has led to the enjoyable spectacle of several international teams proudly belting out their national anthems. Unfortunately it has also led to the usual, predictable and, frankly, boring complaints about the fact that the Australian national anthem is so [insert your favourite complaint here. Choose from: incomprehensible, boring, difficult to remember, embarrassing, outdated, etc].

There is nothing more wrong with our national anthem than any other. For example, the Marseillaise is a war chant that talks about raising blood-stained flags over the mutilated bodies of women and children; the New Zealand national anthem (while I love the Maori version that goes with it) is an old European hymn that basically asks God to protect the land from all those nasty people who might sail across the Pacific to try and take their country; the Spanish national anthem doesn't even have any words; and even the Star-spangled Banner, for all its victorious chord progressions, celebrates a battle that neither side really won. I won't even discuss God Save the Queen.

The main problem with the Australian national anthem is that no-one sings it. When the French rugby players all lined up they sang the Marseillaise with lungfuls of air; the Kiwis belted out the song in both languages and then launched into their wonderful and inspiring haka; and you can't fail to be moved by a Welsh male-voice choir. Now watch the Aussies: if they sing at all, they barely move their lips and keep their eyes averted (all except Quade Cooper who doesn't sing and stares straight ahead).

I believe we're actually ashamed of singing our national song out loud for two reasons. One, we're afraid that if we do sing, people might realise that we know all the words and think we're showing off. This is ludicrous: apart from the fact we've had more than 40 years to learn it, it's not that hard to remember four lines of verse, especially considering that there's rhyme and rhythm to help you remember. Even a five-year-old can remember all the words to Superbass, so I'm pretty sure even you could recall the words of our national anthem if you wanted to.

I know you hate saying "girt", but you really can't tell me you don't know what it means any more, can you? And is it any better than having to say "God of Nations at Thy feet" like the New Zealanders?

Secondly, we're afraid that if we sing the anthem out loud, people might find out that we can sing and think we're showing off. All those nights singing karaoke at the pub or shouting along to "Am I ever gonna see your face again?", all those thousands of hopefuls lined up outside the auditions for the X Factor or Australian Idol, but ask them to have a go at their national anthem and they avert their eyes, mumble something about the word "girt" and whisper along with the tune... if they sing it at all.

What it comes down to, is that our national anthem is perfectly fine by international standards: it's a good tune and a simple rhyme. All we need to do is stop whinging about it and start singing it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


In case you're curious about why this blog is not being updated regularly, please check out my other blog, linked to my work as artist-in-residence at Culture at Work. Thanks for your interest!

Monday, May 24, 2010

An absolutely ordinary rainbow

It wasn't the first poem I read, and loved, and felt. But I still recall with perfect clarity the tingle of wonder invoked when I, at the age of fourteen or so, read Les Murray's An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow.

There's a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can't stop him.

Two plain sentences. Using simple words that a child could read and understand, Les Murray opened a door in the world. This one line, at the end of the first stanza of the poem, is the heart and soul of it. It encompasses all the meaning that is supported and explained in the rest of the 45-odd lines.

It's a poem about Sydney, about being Australian and being human. It describes a singular man, and every person. It's about living and loving, lachrymating and laughing all at the same time. Thirty years after I first read it, that line still gives me goosebumps.

I write this now, because I heard Les reading some of his new poems on the weekend, at the Sydney Writers' Festival. He's still got it:

They explode the mansions of Malibu
because to be eucalypts
they have to shower sometimes in hell.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The importance of good spelling

I'm still blogging at Kingdom of the Blind with my friend Adam, but I couldn't resist sharing this photo with you.

We were excited when we heard that Crust Pizza were moving in to the empty shop next door. Then we saw what the builders had spray-painted on the window:

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Temporarily blogging elsewhere...

For the next two months I am embarking on an amazing artist-in-residence project for an organisation called Culture at Work. I will be blogging daily at the following blog: Kingdom of the Blind. Please feel free to drop by and comment.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Part 10 of 10: the Nelly Zhang bag is complete!

The Nelly Zhang flea market shopping bag is complete. I have to confess that it looks completely different from the original I imagined when I read Michelle de Kretser's description in The Lost Dog. Some of the changes were made because, when I bought the materials and started working with them, they seemed to lend themselves to particular shapes and forms.

The handle changed at the last minute, for practical reasons, but I am extremely pleased with this gorgeous bone buckle I found at the marvellous King Street emporium All Buttons Great and Small. I think the little eyelets I stitched are neat, too.

Now I'm off to the flea market (not at Camberwell, unfortunately. Perhaps Glebe markets this Sunday?)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Nearly the Nelly bag, part 9

Here is the Nelly Zhang bag, stitched together with the lining ready to be attached.

And here is the almost-finished bag, lined and ready. The only thing remaining is to find a buckle for the strap, to make it adjustable. That wasn't in my original plan, but I think it needs the option of being worn over the shoulder, as well as tucked into the elbow.