Monday 7 October 2013

'I will not censor myself to comfort your stupidity'

Miss Parallel Universe on the beach with Occy. Guess what we're reading on our kindles? Yep! Illuminatus! trilogy

I have been feeling very Miss Parallel Universe lately due to Absurdism – you know, the truth of existentialism that world is full of absurdities and bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  It’s probably appropriate then that Occy & I have been reading ‘the cat magic book’ whose real title is ‘The Illuminatus! trilogy’  by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. We downloaded it at the same time as ‘Schrödinger’s cat trilogy’ by Robert Anton Wilson (R.A.W.) and somehow Occy interchanged the two titles and it came out as cat magic! This book was written in the 70’s by two of the editors of Playboy magazine but due to the fact that some 500 pages were cut from it by the publisher it contains less sex than you might think. Occy loves it. The book, that is. If you’re wondering whether to read it or not my advice is do, or don’t. Do if you want a completely mind-boggling experience in alternative writing styles that skips in time frames and from first person to third person randomly and sometimes even within the same sentence! Don’t if you can’t cope with non-linear plot lines, and there about 23 different plots, talking porpoises and haven’t taken LSD beforehand and don't if you're afraid of your own intelligence. This is not for the proles!

When I first started reading Illuminatus! trilogy I hated it! Hate, hate, hate, double hate, loathe entirely! It nukes Ayn Rand mentioning her by name and as the character Atlanta Hope and it parody’s Atlas Shrugged in the chapter titled Telemachus Sneezed in which the question is constantly asked ‘What is John Guilt?’ a direct parody of ‘Who is John Galt?’  Later in the book chief protagonist Hagbard Celine makes the comment ‘If Atlas can Shrug and Telemachus can Sneeze, why can’t Satan repent.’ Now I love it with a touch of loathe ;-) The book is not afraid to take the piss out of establishments, famous people, who often make cameo appearances and even itself.  The character Epicene Wildeblood, an editor, writes a review of a book - It’s basically a parody of the Illuminatus! Trilogy:
It's a dreadfully long monster of a book… and I certainly won't have time to read it, but I'm giving it a thorough skimming. The authors are utterly incompetent—no sense of style or structure at all. It starts out as a detective story, switches to science-fiction, then goes off into the supernatural, and is full of the most detailed information of dozens of ghastly boring subjects. And the time sequence is all out of order in a very pretentious imitation of Faulkner and Joyce. Worst yet, it has the most raunchy sex scenes, thrown in just to make it sell, I'm sure, and the authors—whom I've never heard of—have the supreme bad taste to introduce real political figures into this mishmash and pretend to be exposing a real conspiracy... If The Lord of the Rings  is a fairy tale for adults, sophisticated readers will quickly recognize this monumental miscarriage as a fairy tale for paranoids.
    Epicene Wildeblood, The Eye in the Pyramid

So what’s the book actually about? If one can actually put this book into a nutshell which is really an exercise in self-delusion, it centres around the exposition of the Illuminati (now you’re thinking Dan Brown but remember this was written way before the Da Vinci Code) who are trying to destroy the world by spreading a holocaust-virus known as Anthrax-Leprosy-Mu in the United States and unleashing an army of Nazi zombies at a giant music festival in Ingolstadt, Germany. The only thing standing in their way is Hagbard Celine, who travels the world in a giant golden submarine recruiting revolutionaries for his own secret society, The League of Dynamic Discord. After a complex series of intertwining plots, involving biological warfare, assassinations, voodoo and numerology (the discordian numbers 5 and 23- 2+3=5 - are involved in everything), the two opposing idealists finally face each other in a massive psychedelic battle featuring loads of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. In Book 1, The Eye in the Pyramid refers to the Eye of Providence, which in the novel represents particularly the Bavarian Illuminati, and makes a number of appearances (for example, as an altar and a tattoo – at the altar we learn the Rite of Shiva and ladies if you do nothing else, you will want your husbands to read that bit!).The story begins with an investigation by detectives Saul Goodman and Barney Muldoon into the bombing of Confrontation, a leftist magazine, and the disappearance of its editor, Joe Malik. Malik is described as a transcendental agnostic, ready to embrace any insane rumour as possibly true.  His motto was “If the real is so often bizarre, then the bizarre may often be real” – hmmm, sounds like something I would say ;-).  Anyways, they discover that the magazine was investigating the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr., following a trail of memos suggesting the involvement of powerful secret societies and  a web of conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, the magazine's reporter, George Dorn—having been turned loose without support deep in right-wing Mad Dog, Texas—is arrested for drug possession. He is jailed and physically threatened, at one point hallucinating about his own execution. The prison is bombed and he is rescued by the Discordians, led by the enigmatic Hagbard Celine. Book Two, The Golden Apple, referring to Eris’s Golden apple of discord, from the Greek myth of the Judgement of Paris. In the trilogy it is used as the symbol of the Legion of Dynamic Discord, a Discordian group; the golden apple makes a number of appearances, for example, on the cover, on a black flag, and as an emblem on a uniform. Hagbard represents the Discordians in their eternal battle against the Illuminati, the conspiratorial organization that secretly controls the world. He finances his operations by smuggling illicit substances. Hagbard Celine is a mad genius who designs the world’s first Self-Destruct Mynah Bird.  “Here, kitty-kitty-kitty! Here, kitty-kitty-kitty!” the birds robotically repeat, thereby being programmed for self-destruct when he unleashes them in New York City on poor unsuspecting Siamese cats! Hagbard is also the discoverer of the Snafu Principle, which holds that communication is possible only between equals. Every hierarchy, therefore, in order to repress equality, must also repress communication. This, he claims, is the Achilles’ heel of armies, corporations, governments and other front groups used by the Illuminati in their conspiracy to govern mankind. In steps Simon Moon of the Nameless Anarchist Horde and learned of the mysterious and diabolical Bavarian Illuminati.
“Well uh Dad and Mom were both anarchists, dig? He was the Bakuninist, I.W.W., One Big Union and keep steel helmet handy, boys, the Revolution is coming any day now. She was the Tolstoyan, nonviolence, the Jesus Trip, the next step in evolution is Universal Love. So naturally I rebelled against both of them and became a disciple of Donatien Alphonse François de Sade. For a while. But then Padre Pederastia introduced me to the JAMs.”
The JAMs—Justified Ancients of Mummu—are an ancient Babylonian secret society, worshippers of Mummu, god of chaos. (“The Chinese Taoist laughs at civilization and goes elsewhere,” Simon explains helpfully, “but the Babylonian Chaoist sets termites at the Foundations.”)
Where the JAMs worship the Babylonian god of chaos, Mummu – ha! That’s what my kids call me! – I wonder why? -  Hagbard’s Legion of Dynamic Discord worships Eris, Greek goddess of confusion, who is also known in Latin as Discordia. Unknown to the JAMs, Hagbard also has an alliance with the Erisian Liberation Front (ELF), a super-Zen supersecret insurrection following a program known as Operation Mindfuck (OM) and directed by the Dealy Lama, who lives in the sewers below Dealy Plaza, Dallas, Texas.  Hagbards greatest invention however would have to be FUCKUP (First Universal Cybernetic Kinetic Uni-Programmer). FUCKUP “throws” I Ching hexagrams internally, reading random open circuits as yin lines and closed circuits as yang; these are then correlated with three thousand years of I Ching scholarship, current astronomical and astrological data, CBS news, and reports from Hagbard’s agents in world capitals, thereby combining FUCKUP’s memory-integration circuits a Worldgame Report unique in its comprehensive objectivity. “World War III is imminent,” FUCKUP reports blandly, “Prognosis: many megadeaths. No blame.”
What I love about the book is its exposition and parody of real world establishments through ‘fringe societies’ like The Church of the Sub-genius (which sound like something I would have come up with) and the Discordian Society.  The Discordians actually believe in balance but because the world has been so heavily ordered they feel obliged to promote chaos to balance things out.  They also believe in the Law of Fives and that it’s a reflection of how the human mind works, hence the frequent use of the number 5 in the book. The Law of Fives states simply that: All things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five, or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to 5. The Law of Fives is never wrong.
—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Page 00016
Appendix Beth of the trilogy considers the question of what would happen to the Law of Fives if everyone had six fingers on each hand. The authors assert that the real Law of Fives is realizing that everything can be related to the number five if you try hard enough.
The plot meanders around the globe moving along to such far-flung locations as Las Vegas (where a potentially deadly, secret U.S. government-developed mutated Anthrax-Leprosy-Pi epidemic has been accidentally unleashed); Atlantis (where Howard, the talking porpoise, and his porpoise aides help Hagbard battle the Illuminati); Chicago (where someone resembling John Dillinger was killed many years ago); and to the island of Fernando Poo (the location of the next great Cold War standoff between Russia, China and the USA). Cutting insight into global politics is delivered with witty characterisations:
He was, in fact, characteristic of the best type of dominant male in the world at this time. He was fifty-five years old, tough, shrewd, unburdened by the complicated ethical ambiguities which puzzle intellectuals, and had long ago decided that the world was a mean son-of-a-bitch in which only the most cunning and ruthless can survive. He was also as kind as was possible for one holding that ultra-Darwinian philosophy; and he genuinely loved children and dogs, unless they were on the site of something that had to be bombed in the National Interest. He still retained some sense of humour, despite the burdens of his almost godly office, and, although he had been impotent with his wife for nearly ten years now, he generally achieved orgasm in the mouth of a skilled prostitute within 1.5 minutes. He took amphetamine pep pills to keep going on his gruelling twenty-hour day, with the result that his vision of the world was somewhat skewed in a paranoid direction, and he took tranquilizers to keep from worrying too much, with the result that his detachment sometimes bordered on the schizophrenic; but most of the time his innate shrewdness gave him a fingernail grip on reality. In short, he was much like the rulers of China and Russia.’ – on the President of the U.S. and other dictators.

The book is also laced with hilarious characters like Markoff Chaney (a play on the mathematical random process called Markov chain) who exemplifies the key Discordian practice known as "Operation Mindfuck". The world has pronounced him a random factor so ‘…in the depth of his soul he declared war on the statuatory ape, on law and order, on predictability, on negative entropy. He would be a random factor in every equation.’ He is an anti-social dwarf who engages in subtle practical joking in a deliberate attempt to cause social confusion. One such joke involves the forging and placing of ‘improved surrealist signs’ that are signed by "The Mgt." (leading people to believe they are from "The Management" instead of "The Midget") that contain absurdities like Midget who is sexually frustrated because all he wants to do is fuck a real life giantess so he takes out his sexual frustrations by sabotaging store signs to create chaos. Absurdities like ‘Slippery when wet. Maintain 50mph.’ and ‘No salesperson may leave the floor or go to the door without the authorisation of the MGT.’ Everyone thinks these are signed by the management because he’s abbreviated it to MGT but actually it stands for Midget.
A spoof of James Bond known as ‘Fission Chips’ a.k.a.  00005  is also interlaced in the plot and at one stage has him talking with the Dealy Lama (you can guess who that’s meant to be).
’I say,’ he ventured, ‘you’re not some sort of mystic, are you? I must tell you that I don’t intend to convert to anything heathen.’ 
‘Conversion, as you understand it,’ the aged figure told him placidly, ‘ consists of pounding one’s own words into a man’s ears until they start coming out of his mouth…’
The evil scheme uncovered late in the tale of Book 3, The Leviathan,  referring to the Biblical sea monster Leviathan, which is a potential danger to Hagbard's submarine Leif Erickson (from the name of the Icelandic discoverer of America), is an attempt to immanentize the eschaton (a catchphrase coined by Eric Voegelin), a secret scheme of the American Medical Association, an evil rock band, to bring about a mass human sacrifice, the purpose of which is the release of enough "life-energy" to give eternal life to a select group of initiates, including Adolf Hitler. The AMA are four siblings who comprise four of the five mysterious Illuminati Primi. The identity of the fifth remains unknown for much of the trilogy. The first European "Woodstock" festival, held at Ingolstadt, Bavaria, is the chosen location for the sacrifice of the unwary victims, via the reawakening of hibernating Nazi battalions from the bottom of nearby Lake Totenkopf. The plot is foiled when, with the help of a 50-foot-tall incarnation of the goddess Eris, the four members of the AMA are killed: Wilhelm is killed by the monstrous alien being Yog-Sothoth, Wolfgang is shot by John Dillinger, Winifred is drowned by porpoises, and Werner is trapped in a sinking car. The greed of capitalism and inequality of a hierarchical societal system is consistently and disarmingly dismantled. This is one of my favourite passages:
‘ And the gorillas themselves are too shrewd to talk to anybody but another anarchist. They're all anarchists themselves, you know, and they have a very healthy wariness about people in general and government people in particular. As one of them told me once, 'If it got out that we can talk, the conservatives would exterminate most of us and make the rest pay rent to live on our own land; and the liberals would try to train us to be engine-lathe operators.  Who the fuck wants to operate an engine lathe?'
The major protagonists, now gathered together on board the submarine, are menaced by the Leviathan, a giant, pyramid-shaped single-cell sea monster that has been growing in size for hundreds of millions of years. The over-the-top nature of this encounter leads some of the characters to question whether they are merely characters in a book. This metafictional note is swiftly rejected (or ignored) as they turn their attention to the monster again. The threat is neutralized by offering up their onboard computer as something for the creature to communicate with to ease its loneliness. Finally, Hagbard Celine reveals himself as the fifth Illuminatus Primus; he has been playing both sides against each other in order to keep balance. He is a representative of the "true" Illuminati, whose aim is to spread the idea that everybody is free to do whatever they want at all times – yes bring on the existentialist anarchy!
I’m now reading Wilsons follow up book Shrödinger’s Cat trilogy which develops the alternate-universe model of quantum physics using permutations of the same characters and settings in Illuminatus! Trilogy and in which most of mankind fails to realise that he is in fact just another primate.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Bats - a Matter of National Security

What’s your favourite animal? (Leave me a comment in the comment box at the end of this blog) Mine is the Bat! In China and Japan, bats are symbols of happiness. In Chinese, the words for “bat” and “good fortune” are both pronounced “fu.” I just love bats, all bats but in particular the Spectacled Fruit Bat (Pteropus conspicillatus) which is lucky because my house in Far North Queensland is in the direct twilight flight path for the colony that by day hangs out in the giant fig tree outside the city library. (Groups of animals usually have special, rather bizarre names - a group of bats is called a “colony”, a group of crows is called a “murder” and a group of giraffes is called a “tower.”)
There are two types of bats, microbats and megabats, of which the spectacled fruit bat is a member. Megabats are believed to be more closely related to primates (that’s us, monkeys and apes) than they are to other microbats! Megabats have better developed brains than microbats and rely more on their sense of sight and smell than on echolocation like the microbats do. In fact, on moonless nights fruit bats cannot fly and stay hungry. A roosting megabat will bend its neck toward its chest and look at the world upside down. A roosting microbat will bend its neck toward its back and look at the world right-side up. What’s really interesting about the spectacled fruit bat is that, unlike other bats, they have both rod AND cone photoreceptors - the cones are for daylight vision and colour vision! Most bats have only the more sensitive rods –the photoreceptors in the eye that is used for night vision. The flying fox species have two spectral cone types, blue cones that detect short-wave light, and green cones that detect middle-to-long-wave light. With these two cone types, flying foxes have dichromatic colour vision – they don’t have red cones like we do for our trichromatic vision, but it does mean that they are certainly not 'blind as a bat'! Bats have excellent hearing and can hear frequencies between 20 Hz and 120,000 Hz. Humans hear between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. Dogs hear between 40 Hz and 60,000 Hz. Bats that feed on frogs can tell the difference between safe and poisonous frogs by listening to the male frog’s call.
Flying foxes often hang out in exposed treetops during the day where they have a clear line of sight with their cone photoreceptors to any potential predators like birds of prey. Spectacled flying foxes have one pup annually. They pretty much have sex continuously from about January to June. Conception occurs in April to May and they give birth after 6 months in October to December. The young are are nursed for over five months, and once weaned they congregate in nursery trees in the colony. These little cuties fly out for increasing distances with the colony at night and are 'parked' in nursery trees, often kilometres distant from the colony, and are brought back to the colony in the morning.
Oddly, another type of fruit bat, the female short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx) performs oral sex, or fellatio, on males to prolong copulation. If you read my blog on the bonobos you’ll know that fellatio has also been observed in juvenile members of the chimpanzee-like bonobo, but this is the first time fellatio has been seen in adult animals other than humans. Apparently researchers argue that for bats, fellatio likely has evolutionary benefits – if you can work out how, please let me know!

I first became enamoured of bats after reading Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula when I was 14 (not that I was 14 in 1897!). Stoker combined the discovery of vampire (“blood drunkenness”) bats in the New World with Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476) stories, to create Count Dracula. (Dracula, by the way, has never been out of print). People have been fascinated with the mystique and horror of vampire bats ever since. In the 1941 movie The Devil Bat, that actor we love for his Nosferatu character, Bela Lugosi, plays Dr Carruthers, a mad scientist with an even madder killer bat! Lugosi is out for revenge against the men he believes swindled him out of a cosmetics fortune. By applying electric current, he makes bats grow to the size of a ferocious wolf. He discovers that if he adds a rare Tibetan herb to his latest after-shave lotion formula it turns the bats into vicious killers. Vampire bats do not actually “suck” blood. Instead, they typically “lap” up two teaspoons of blood a night with their tongues. The blood moves through the bat’s mouth in two channels under its tongue. Only the red blood cells are used and within two minutes of starting to eat, the bat’s body rids itself of blood plasma in the form of urine. Some white-winged vampire bats snuggle up to hens and pretend to be chicks. Once in position under the hens, the bats feed on their blood – sneaky!
It is very rare that a vampire bat will bite a human, but if it does chances are it will likely come back the next night to feed again from that same person. How does it find the right person? Vampire bats can tell people apart by the way they breathe. A vampire bat that has found a meal may sometimes share the blood with other hungry vampires at the vampire roost. The vampire that found the blood vomits it to feed its friends. As a useful aside, scientists have been able to use the anticoagulation agent in vampire bat spit to treat human stroke victims and human heart patient victims.

In Far North Queensland there is always talk of culling the bats because they destroy farmers crops or spread the Hendra virus to horses but seriously, if you touch my darling little sweetheart bats then you endanger the region. Biologists and ecologists describe the bat as a linchpin of ecosystems. Why? Because the bat is a natural pest control agent and crucial pollinator. Bats eat literally tons of insects every night. Some seeds will not sprout unless they have passed through the digestive tracts of a bat. Bats spread millions of seeds every year from the ripe fruit they eat. Approximately 95% of the reforestation of the tropical rainforest is a result of seed dispersal from bats. Some people don’t like the bat droppings. Whenever we go into our pool shop to have our pool water tested and the levels are out, we will invariably be told ‘Probably bat droppings upsetting the pH levels’. However bat poo is an excellent source of fertiliser with a high nitrogen and phosphate content. In fact, during the U.S. civil war, bat poo was used to make gunpowder, so it could actually be in the interests of national security to maintain our bat populations! Actually I popped down to the RSL (Returned Servicemens League) club today and found this mascot up on their wall!

Fruit bats are a traditional food source for the Chamorro tribe of Guam, eaten with such relish as to put the poor bat on the endangered list. Served at weddings, fiestas, birthdays, and alike, the etiquette of bat-eating and preparation involves rinsing off the outside of the animal like you would a cucumber and tossing it in boiling water. The animals are then served whole in coconut milk and are consumed in their entirety. Meat, internal organs, fur, eyes, and wing membranes are all eaten. In revenge the Chamorro are quite likely to develop dementia and a rare neurological disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-Parkinsonian dementia complex (ALS-PDC), or "lytico-bodig", due to the toxic effects of the cycad plant which the bats like to eat, the toxins of which are stored in the bats fat and when consumed by humans is toxic to them.
Authentic Bat Soup Recipe
• 3 - 4 fruit bats, well washed but neither skinned nor eviscerated
• water
• 1 Tbsp. Finely sliced fresh ginger
• 1 LARGE onion, quartered
• Garlic and lots of it !!!
• Sea salt to taste
• Chopped spring onions
• Soy sauce and coconut milk/cream
How to make it
• Place the bats in a large kettle and add water to cover, ginger, onion, garlic and salt.
• Bring to a boil and cook for 60 minutes.
• Strain broth into a second kettle.
• Take the bats, skin them and discard the skin.
• Remove meat from the bones and return meat, and any of the viscera you fancy, to the broth.
• Heat.
• Serve liberally sprinkled with scallions and further seasoned with soy sauce and/or coconut cream.
• Makes 4 servings.
  • (From "The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook" by Jean Hewitt (c) 1971, Quadrangle Books, Inc. NY.
  • NOTE: A final word about the Jean Hewitt cookbook. It is now out of print.

Saturday 27 July 2013

Homage to my dad - memories from my childhood - happy 70th dad!

On July 31st seven decades will have passed since my father, Michael Kosewähr, first entered this world.  His arrival was heralded by a bombing raid over Berlin in the last years of the war by the Allies. Those same Allies would later mould and shape his life in unexpected ways. Later in life he would marry one of those ‘bloody Poms’ and acquire a son-in-law of Pommy stock.
As a young boy my father grew up under the stalwart care of my diminutive grandmother, Omi, and his older by seventeen years sister, Tante Gisela. My grandfather died in a Russian concentration camp in Buchenwald when my dad was two, leaving Omi to fend for the two of them in post-war Berlin. My aunt became a school teacher and when my dad was old enough he had the (by his accounts dubious) pleasure of having her as his teacher. She showed him no favouritism and one day kept him in after school for detention. Leaving him alone in the classroom to write out ‘lines’ he hastily scribbled his lines – his hand writing still carries that forward slanting speed as though his hand can’t match the pace of his brain fast enough to convey his thoughts on to the paper – he then proceeded to hang out the window, chatting with the gardener, that is, until he was sprung! Tante Gisela dragged him home to Omi whilst my dad landed a sound kick to her shin and declared, ‘You’re so mean! I’m telling mum on you!’ For picture and more stories see my dad's post here
Food was fairly scarce in post-war Berlin so on one occasion Omi was forced to catch the train far into the country to go digging for potatoes for their supper, leaving Gisela in charge of my dad. As the day drew to an end and there was still no sign of Omi returning, Tante Gisela fretted over what might be delaying Omi. My dad however, looked up hopefully at Tante Gisela, and with the logic of every small child said, ‘I hope mum doesn’t come back tonight, then we can have noodles for dinner every night!’ His passion for noodles over potatoes carries certain symmetry now that he’s at the other end of life – he is renowned for his homemade pasta! Sometimes I think he does this to prove once and for all that Germans are NOT ‘potatoe Germans’, which in true neighbouring country ridiculing, is what the Danes call the Germans and the Germans call the Danes. This very argument would, with great regularity, arise when I was growing up, my mum being Danish. She would start a sentence with ‘You potatoe Germans …..’ when she wanted to emphasis the fact that she thought my dad didn’t know what he was taking about, and he would counter with, ‘No, it’s you potatoe Danes that haven’t got a clue….’ Which would always make me giggle because even I knew the Germans (in the north at least, where it’s closest to Denmark) ate lots of potatoes (in the south towards Italy the staple is noodles).
My dad as a teen in West Berlin
My mum and dad before I arrived
After building of The Wall commenced, Omi decided to flee to West Berlin with my dad. Tante Gisela decided to stay in ‘East Germany’ having since married and secured a good home and job. In West Berlin my dad spent summer weekends ‘sailing’ his boat on the nearby lake and when he finished school he apprenticed in a hardware store. On one his holidays, he backpacked up to Denmark. He spotted a lovely girl wearing a green skirt printed with camels sitting outside the youth hostel he was staying at. In a modern variation of ‘How many camels for your daughter?’ he approached her and asked, ‘How many camels are on your skirt?’  As they talked he told her he owned a boat. She was most impressed - that is, until he showed her a photo of his ‘boat’ – a rubber dinghy! Luckily she was so impressed with the camel-line and the promise of bigger boats yet to come that a few years later I appeared.  
My dad with me and my mum at the zoo in Czechoslovakia
As my dad quickly adjusted to married life in Copenhagen, one of his early jobs was working for a ships chandler. There’s nothing quite like the dockside for picking up the essential elements of a new language and my dad soon became proficient in Danish swear words. On a visit to the doctor one day, the poor doctor nearly fell of his chair when he asked his patient, ‘And what seems to be the problem today?’ to which my dad replied in his best Danish, ‘I have a pain in my ARSE!’ Not the polite ‘bottom’ or ‘backside’ or even ‘bum’, which would have been within the realms of acceptability, but ARSE!  Having equal disregard for formal protocol regarding anything to do with Danish royalty, my dad one day on his delivery rounds for the chandler had to return a van load of smoked cod, which had gone off, to the supplier. The rotten cod stunk to high heaven and the less time spent in the van the better, so my dad quickly calculated the most expedient route – this involved a shortcut through Hillerød castle! He thought he would drive straight up to the castle, veer off to the ‘tradesmen’s entrance’ leading around the back and continue on out through the back of the castles grounds, thereby cunningly cutting kilometres off his route – the royal guard on duty had other ideas. He stopped dad’s delivery van and said ‘No unauthorised vehicles past this point!’ My dad said ‘If you would be so kind, I need to return this delivery before I die and this is the quickest route.’ The guard then made the dreadful mistake of sticking his head in the window of the van to see exactly what my dad was going on about and nearly fainted and vomited at the same time. Clapping his hand over his mouth and gasping for breath he waved dad on like the Furies where after him, anything to get rid of the stinking cod!
Hillerød castle
Soon after this, in an effort to escape the lingering scent of rotten cod, my dad took a course in the fledging science of computer languages and went to work for NEUCC (Northern European University Computer Centre) back in the day when a computer would fill an entire room and people were astonished when the thing, after grinding away all night, would eventually spit out the answer to a fairly basic calculation. This gave him unparalled experience in computing science, so when our little family finally decided to set sail aboard the ‘Ellinis’ for Australia, he quickly landed a job with American company Kodak, heading up their fledgling computer division. Kodak sent my dad off on many overseas reconnaissance trips, and on his first expedition to the States he arrived at his hotel, the Avery, that Kodak had booked for him, and presented himself to the receptionist. 'Good evening sir, how many hours are you booked in for?' the man enquired. ' Three days,' my dad replied. 'REALLY?!!' An astonished receptionist replied, 'Sir, we normally only book by the hour here!' looking at dad like he must be in possession of quite some stamina! Yes, unbeknown to Kodak it was THAT sort of hotel!
With his innate ability to quickly assimilate into a new culture, my dad soon embraced Nino Culotta’s ‘They’re a Weird Mob’ Australia. He learnt a ‘tinnie’ could be either a boat or a can of beer, to ‘bring a plate’ to a party did not literally mean just the plate but something to eat, that shortening people’s names was a form of endearment –so my dad who was Michael soon became Mike in his new country-and abbreviating any word and adding an ‘O’ on the end of it showed you had a strong grasp of the language. The milko would drop the milk off by horse and cart in the mornings, the garbos would collect the rubbish, he’d check the speedo on the way to the servo to get petrol and in the arvo at work he’d take a smoko break and talk about the Girl Friday who was probably a lezzo and remember he had to pop in to the police station to pay his rego on the car – a Holden, mate!
Me on top of the beaut Holden station wagon
He built a holiday house up ‘in the sticks’ in Flowerdale and when we went to the outdoor dunny (toilet) we had to check under the toilet seat for redback spiders. One day when he was framing the roof he stuck one leg of the ladder in a bull ant’s nest (those mothers are huge with a bite to match). The bull ants eventually found their way up the ladder and up one of my dad’s trousers – my mum said she’d never seen anyone descend a ladder and whip of their trousers so fast.
BBQ at the front of the house my parents built myself in Flowerdale
Some lessons about the new country were learnt the hard way, like when we took a trip up to ‘the snow’ on Mt Bulla. My dad thought he knew all about snow being from Europe and thought ‘No worries mate, I’ve got this!’ He didn’t account for the fact that the snow in Australia is not soft and powdery like it is in Europe but hard and hence slippery. The old Holden soon slid off the road into a ditch that required my dad to get out and push it out of the ditch. As he strained to push the Holden out of the ditch, a ominous loud ripping noise issued from the region of his 'arse' -yep, he'd split his trousers!
My dad sking on Mt Bulla
We had a Swedish friend Peder Kristensen who had married an Australian girl, Judith. One Christmas when Peder’s parents were out visiting from Sweden, we had them up to stay at Flowerdale so they could experience the ‘real Australian bush’. My mum had bought a smoked leg of ham and hung it from the ceiling, mistakenly thinking that because it was smoked the flies wouldn’t get to it. When she went in to prepare the dinner the ham was crawling with maggots. Not having anything else to give the guests she scraped off the maggots and then proceeded to boil the hell out of the ham – yep, everyone ate the ham, blissfully unaware! The following day we took the Swedes to the local pub and my dad, recently returned from a work trip to America, said to the barman, ‘We’ll have 6 Rusty Nails please’. The barman looked at him like he was joking, saw that he wasn’t and replied, ‘Okay mate, I’ll just have to go get them from the shed out the back.’ My dad had to hastily explain that a ‘Rusty Nail’ was a cocktail of Scotch and Drambuie over ice with a twist of lemon. After a pub lunch accompanied by numerous Rusty Nails,  Peder’s mother was poured back into the Holden for the drive home, singing praises about the marvellous Australian pubs, the marvellous Australian bush, the marvellous anything else she could think of. My dad in fact, enjoyed being a sneaky little drinks saboteur! He had a secret recipe for punch which involved soaking the fruit for several DAYS in brandy or vodka, before topping it up with the rest of the mixers. All the ladies at parties would go for the fruit in the punch thinking that was the harmless part and end up terribly sloshed! We had a mad Egyptian friend Kemi, who brought two girls up to Flowerdale for a visit. After a few ‘harmless drinks’ to stave off the cold winter he started the drive back to Melbourne with his two ladies. Noting that something seemed to be rattling under the car, he stopped the car and in the freezing cold got out to take a look. He slid under the car and about an hour later the girls were like ‘What’s happened to Kemi?’  They got out taking a look and there he was, the poor guy had fallen fast asleep under the car!
Tanja with the pup Wolfy
At this time in Melbourne my dad also indulged in his love for German Sheppards. We had a female called Tanja whom dad used to show. He mated her and we ended up keeping the youngest pup, Wolfy. 
Dad 'showing' Tanja
In our backyard my parents along with all the other migrant Italian, Greek, Australian and Yugoslav neighbours kept ducks and a white chicken. One day the black chicken, belonging to our neighbours over the back fence, decided it would prefer to come and live with us and hopped over the fence. That black chicken knew exactly how long the chain was that Tanja was leashed to and it would strut around just out of reach, winding the dog up constantly. One night Tanja managed to escape her leash whilst we all slept on blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding in the backyard. That black chicken had strutted its last tease and the dog had its day. By the time we awoke the next morning the entire backyard was covered in black feathers and one solitary chicken leg with foot was left sticking up out of the ground. The way to cope with this sort of brutality in 70’s was to sequester oneself in the living room with the sliding doors shut and smoke a joint, which my parents duly did. Tanja was in the hallway outside the living. As the living room filled with smoke it also began to seep under the gap in the sliding doors and Tanja in true sniffer dog style wasted no time in sniffing out this most unusual smell. By the time my parents emerged from the living the dog was walking up and down the hallway on her back!
In the mid-seventies my dad was seconded to set a new ‘microfiche’ company in sunny Western Australia. As he left Kodak and cold Melbourne behind his colleagues presented him with this cartoon which showed the awe he inspired with his computer knowledge. (The cartoon shows 3 men in a computer lab where the size of the computer engulfs the entire room and one of them is saying, ‘You mean it’s going to take two of these things just to replace Kosewähr?’)

This meant seaside living and of course more boats – this time real ones. The first boat was a stinkboat (petrol powered) and it took dad a few goes of running past the fuelling dock before he worked out he had to go against the current not with the current to avoid over shooting the dock. The same boat sprung a leak from the head (toilet) on the way back from Rotto (Rottonest Island) one day and mum and I had to bail like crazy to void sinking in the middle of the ocean. The next ill-fated boat was an old fishing boat and the day after my dad bought it he got a call from the police, ‘I’m ringing to inform you your boat’s just sunk on its mooring in the Swan River’. Then came another yacht and this time whilst my dad was busy playing captains at the wheel with his captains hat on and pipe smoking, he neglected to notice that the mast WAS NOT going to fit under the Canning bridge – oops! When they finally made it out into the ocean on this one my mum, who was fishing, proceeded to haul in a huge blowie (blowfish or puffer fish), landing it much to my dad’s horror in the middle of the cockpit at his feet. According to my mum, Nek Minnit he was half way up the mast.
Taking a break from yachting, once I had finished university my parents decided to pack up and spend a year overlanding it back to Europe.
My dad travelling
My mum had never seen my dad, who is renowned for his patience and sense of equality and justice, hopping mad before, but by the time they reached the Indian city of Lucknow, she could actually say she had witnessed this rare phenomenon. It happened at the Lucknow railway station. They had stood in some semblance of a line for several hours, surrounded by a heaving mass of humanity. Finally it was their turn to approach the ticket counter. As people tried to crawl under my dad’s arms, around him and in between his legs in order to reach the ticket counter ahead of him, my dad was having none of it and as forced his way onward to the ticket counter. The ticket master wobbled his head and said, ‘I am very sorry sir, there are no more tickets available!’ It was at that precise moment that my dad flew into a rage, throwing his bags on the ground, shouting and stomping his feet. This brought a bevy of concerned station officials who escorted the irate foreigner into their offices, offered him tea whilst telling him to ‘Please calm yourself sir!’ and informed that if he wanted tickets all he had to do was slip someone some baksheesh and no problems!

The ill-fated Betty, me with black hair and my dad
In Germany where my dad landed a plum job, they were visited by Australian friends Ted & Betty. One night dad 'cooked' his favourite dinner for them. Everyone really enjoyed Mikes steak tartare, that is until Betty asked for the recipe, discovered the meat was raw and promptly went to the toilet and vomited the whole lot up again! After three years of living in Germany getting paid lots for a job that my dad declared he was never quite certain what it was he was being to do, my parents decided to move back to land of Oz and further yachting adventures, the most infamous of which was reserved for dad’s last yacht, appropriately named ‘Delinquent’
My dad captaining Delinquent
Mum and dad had set of for a few weeks of sailing on a Monday and told me they were heading north for Jurien Bay and would call when they got to port to let me know they’d arrived safely. By the Saturday there had been no phone call, so I figured that seeing as 5 days had passed, it wasn’t unreasonable to be a bit worried and called the police. They promptly initiated a sea search & rescue AND informed the papers – the headlines read ‘Missing Perth Yacht Riddle’ and it was all over the TV and radio. The next day the headlines read – ‘Couple under Fire as ‘Lost’ Yacht Turns Up’. They had set sail northward bound but the winds where playing havoc and not cooperating so my mum and dad decided they would just sail over to Rotto instead (a few hours’ sail west of Perth). They’d been happily moored in one of the bays when they heard on the Sunday morning radio that they were ‘missing, with fears for their safety’. Dad dutifully rowed ashore and with his usual tongue-in-cheek, said to the coast guard, 'My good man, I am here to inform that we are not lost! We know exactly where we are and we have been here all week. You may call the search and rescue off now!'

Not long after this, my parents separated and I acquired a new brother & sister and stepmother.(See my post 'How to get a sister & brother in 10 easy steps) Poor old Delinquent was sold and swapped for a farmlet in the middle of Woop Woop – Popanyinning. Every Australian knows that there’s a universal place called ‘Woop Woop’ located in the middle of nowhere and now my dad had moved there! Strike-a-light Mike – what was my dad thinking? He now had 5 sheep all with pet names who had to be ‘shorn and weathered’, he owned R.M. Williams moleskins, oilskins and boots, cut firewood with a chainsaw for the barbie (BBQ) and road around on a ride-on-mower cutting the firebreaks. Two decades on he still resides in Woop Woop, has just retired from working for the ‘Germans’ (a German company called Inotec who manufacture the world’s best and largest capacity scanners – and who, by the way, love visiting dad in Woop Woop to see the kangaroos and play a round of golf at nearest golf course with its dry bush setting and sand greens – not a skerrick of green in sight) and I hope he can now get on with amusing us with interesting tales of his life and times at his blog and writing that novel! Love you dad, life sure has been entertaining with you! xxx

Picnic in the Pine forest - a family tradition