Posted by: jkirkby8712 | March 15, 2011

Monday, 14th March 2011 – Labour Day Weekend in Victoria

As indicated by the title, it was a public holiday in Victoria today – some other states also, but this particular weekend is not always the option followed by the whole of Australia. It is also the time when there are various festivals going on throughout the state, including Melbourne’s Moomba Festival today, in which activities attracting thousands of revellers, occur in the vicinity of the CBD of Melbourne and the Yarra River/Southbank area. I guess in my younger days, I would be a part of all that excitement, and do recall taking the children to events at different stages of their young lives. These days, I tend to stay well away from such events!

Meanwhile, over in Japan, the threat of a nuclear disaster, arising out of Friday’s earthquake, and regular ongoing aftershocks since then, is building momentum. Some of today’s reports from that unfortunate country included reports that  this afternoon  –  about 200 people have been dealt with for possible exposure to radiation and another 600 residents within a 20km of the plant were ordered to stay indoors;   Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the blast, at the number 3 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, was believed to be caused by hydrogen;  live television footage is showing large plumes of smoke rising from the building;   the explosion at the plant, which is 250km northeast of Tokyo, has raised fears of a mass radiation leak, but authorities say there is a “low possibility” or a serious leak   “We believe it was a hydrogen explosion. It is not immediately known if it affected the reactor,” said government spokesman Ryo Miyake.   The drama unfolded after false alarms over a reported 3m-high tsunami heading for Japan’s northeast coast.   Sirens went off in the town of Soma as the order to evacuate went out over public address systems.  The wave was reported by a fire department helicopter and the sea reportedly was seen retreating off Iwate prefecture in the northeast of Honshu island, a phenomenon that occurs before a tsunami hits.   But authorities have now cancelled the tsunami threat, saying there are no signs indicating another powerful wave is on its way’.

I read an excellent blog by another writer through one of these ‘blog formats’ today –  basically an eye-witness account from an area some distance from the epi-centre of the earthquake, but nevertheless and obvious frightening experience. Would love to share that piece of writing here, but perhaps that is not appropriate, but it was certainly worthy of retaining. While I have not had any direct response from the person concerned, I had made a general enquiry of them, as to their welfare after the earthquake. The blog answered my queries in any case!  

Though it was not to the degree I had originally planned for the weekend, I did manage to get as bit of work done in the back garden this afternoon, but as I often say, a lot of work still requires my attention! Continued with some more work on my family history’ book’ this afternoon.

Tonight, I went to see a movie at the local ‘Arthouse Cinema’ here in Sunbury – a beautiful movie, though also very tragic, daunting, confronting and sad –  story from the view of an American woman living in Paris, who is researching the arrests of Jewish families in 1942 in Paris, and discovers that she shares a connection with a 10-year old Jewish girl, and their stories unfold in parallel. Or, as in the words of film reviewer, David Stratton,

 ‘Julia [Kristin Scott Thomas], an American journalist married to a Frenchman and living with their teenaged daughter in Paris, becomes obsessed with the story of Sarah Starzyniski, as Jewish girl who in July 1942, at the age of 10, was rounded up by French police and, with her parents, confined with 13,000 others in a sweltering sports arena while waiting to be sent to concentration camps. Sarah is particularly anguished because when the police came she locked her little brother in a secret cupboard in their apartment  –  the same apartment that, in 2009 , Julia’s husband is renovating.’

This film has a heart-rending conclusion following some brilliant acting by Kristin Scott Thomas, as Julia. The film was based on a best  selling book by Tatiana de Rosnay which was published in 38 countries and sold over 2 million copies world  wide.  The movie  moves between two worlds: Julia’s 21st century world and Sarah’s world of 1942. Julia becomes obsessed with finding out what the outcome of Julia’s and her family’s situation was. What she discovers changes the way she sees her own family and her roles as wife and mother. Her discoveries make her take stock of her own situation and make her think about her future. As Julia learns more about Sarah’s family she learns more about some awful truths about France’s past.

 

I agree with one reviewer, who noted that certain members of the film  cast are magnificent: from Mayance as the young Sarah to Niels Arestrup, who plays a grouchy farmer to a French policeman who is kind to young Sarah. There were many touching moments, others that left you feeling desperate at the heartless attitude of humankind to it’s own. Early in the film, Julia is explaining the 1942 event to some young associates who are claiming never to have heard of  it  – as one says, the Nazis used to document everything, why is so little known about this event. The response is that it was not the Nazis in this case – but the French authorities, acting against their own people who were part of the French Jewish community.

This movie  –  ‘Sarah’s Key’   is a poignant and in many ways, a painful  memoir of a not so long ago time that still has repercussions on family’s of today, and as an important contribution to our learning of recent history – irrespective of the fact that ‘Sarah’ as such did not exist individually, but is representative of the hundreds of Sarah’s that would have gone through the initial part of her experience [most of them didn’t escape] –  I think it’s a film we all should see. But don’t expect it to make you feel happy or good about things!

I was home tonight in time to see  tonight’s episode of  Q & A on the ABC  –  the sole panelist tonight was Prime Minister, Julia Gillard – which I found disappointing – it is a panel program, yet when she appears, it is always a sole appearance! Anyway,. As always, the PM managed to address most questions put to her in a reasonably competent manner, although, as with last year’s pre-election appearance, she has this annoying habit [to me] of laughing [I call it giggling] before she answers most questions!!! The following isa sample of some of the questions put to her, just to give readers some ideas on how she was challenged by the live audience:

  • In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, will the labour party continue to entertain the idea of nuclear power for Australia?
  • Is it time for Australia to have a future fund against catastrophe and if so what form would it take?
  • In your gushing speech to US congress last week, you tearfully proclaimed that America “can do anything!” Millions of Australians cringed. In the year 2011, can we really not have a relationship with the United States without paying lip service to the myth of American exceptionalism?
  • Prime Minister, following Wikileaks publishing of classified documents in December of last year, you labelled the organisation’s actions “illegal”, despite being unable to identify any law which had been broken. Given the increasingly vocal support for Wikileaks, do you now regret such comments?
  • Since becoming foreign affairs minister, Kevin Rudd has become ‘Eddie Everywhere’, providing media commentary at seemingly every given opportunity. Today an opinion poll has Mr Rudd ahead of you as preferred labor leader…
    How do you explain his rise in popularity among voters and you feel threatened by the fact that he might want your job?
  • Is a no-fly zone over Libya an integral part of Australia’s foreign policy, and something which Cabinet has decided? Or is Mr Rudd “once again off on a frolic of his own”?
  • How much of your recent poor opinion poll figures do you attribute to your lie on the carbon tax?
  • Is the proposal for a carbon tax coming from the REAL JULIA and was it from the OTHER JULIA that said before the election “there would be no carbon tax ?”
    All Australians are totally confused in regard to your two personalities.
  • The language used by The Opposition and their supporters to criticise your Government, and you personally, continues to be testosterone fuelled, macho and crude. When people like Alan Jones use words like “Ju-liar” what would you REALLY like to say in response?
  • Much of the scepticism surrounding your carbon tax proposal has to do with household cost of living.
    Have you made any concrete decisions on who will be compensated and by what means?
    And will household compensation be the feature of any upcoming ad campaign?

I think that question which proved to be the most challenging however, and which in the view of many people and the media the following day, was a low act by the ABC – an attempt to set up the PM in a forum where she could not avoid answering the challenge, came from a video question sent in by Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, who asked the Prime Minister:    “ you just got back from Washington, but what Australian citizens want to know is which country do you represent? Do you represent Australians and will you fight for Australian interests? Because it’s not the first time that you or a member of your cabinet has been into a US government building and exchanged information. In fact, we have intelligence that your government has been exchanging information with foreign powers about Australian citizens working for wikileaks. So Prime Minister, my question to you is this: when will you come clean about precisely what information you have supplied the foreign powers about Australian citizens working or affiliated with wikileaks? And if you cannot give a full and frank answer to that question, should perhaps the Australian people consider charging you with treason?

Tomorrow, the ‘Australian’ newspaper would accuse the ABC of engaging in ‘an ambush, a travesty of politics and news reporting’, and I actually tend to agree – it was an ambush of sorts!  In her answer to Mr Assange, Ms Gillard said she had no idea what he was talking about. The ABC would later admit that it had sought out the Wikileaks founder to get him to question the PM.  Overnight, we would even have members of the Opposition criticising the ABC for their action. As the ‘Australian’ would note tomorrow ‘The ambush of Gillard, with no warning from the program, which claims to provide unscripted questions from ‘you the audience’ was worse television terrorism than the Seven Network’s ‘shit happens’ ambush of Tony Abbott by Mark Riley. At least Gillard knew from experience that silence was not the answer’.

In response, Julia Gillard  said the Australian government exchanged intelligence with foreign governments on criminal matters but did not allow the extradition of Australian citizens to jurisdictions that allowed the death penalty. However, she said that she had no idea what Mr Assange was talking about with respect to disclosures about exchanging information about people who work for Wikileaks because to her knowledge, it hasn’t happened.

While all this was going on, I was enjoying a ‘three way Face Book’ conversation of sorts with a couple of friends about the program, although as I graciously retired for the night, I noticed on with their online debate which seem to drift onto other matters beyond my comprehension.

And so ended another Monday night. But not before some World Cup cricket scores –
Match 32 [Group B]: Bangladesh 4 for 166 defeated Netherlands 160,  and in Match 33 [Group B], Pakistan 3 for 164 defeated Zimbabwe 7 for 157. Getting close to the Quarter Final stages, finally!

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