31 May 2011

Stephen O'R's Oz

Billy Hunter has shuffled off this mortal coil.
Young Billy Hunter was a state champion swimmer with Olympic potential  who doubled for Tony Perkins in that great 1960's flick ''On the Beach' and decided to take acting. Old Billy Hunter, the country cove from Ballarat,had become a double entity. On screen he was gruff man of the people playing an astonishing
range of interesting Australian characters. Off screen he was lover of the Australian vernacular that enjoyed ordinary Australian people At the farewell to Billy Show held on last Thursday at the Princess Theatre
in Melbourne  on a wintery day in this city of toffs and lefties where the poor wear beards and the rich well cut suits. We were treated to yarns of Billy's great claim to fame as a bullshit detector without peer. Not for this nationally know screen star the coffee bars of Carlton or St Kildare but the old school worker’ pubs such as the All Nations at Richmond where those of us without wives or husbands gathered for a drink or three after the hearse had gone its way.
Billy always asked for 'walk around money' when he was on a film. It drove producers mad but fuelled a thousand friendships with strangers who approached the lone Billy at the bar. A few minutes with him made a person feel noticed and over the years there was hundreds of us on and off set who were taken in by this gruff man with a warm heart and a shallow pocket.
I remember acting in a scene with him and there was this sense of being dragged down the corridor in the wake of a dirty but powerful tramp steamer who was not going to wait for nobody so you had better swim fast if you wanted tostay in the same breathing space.
A man’s man who abandoned his loving child at four coming back into her life only to leave her again with his death. His forty-plus son mumbled drunkenly adoring the ceremony realizing he would never get Bill’s attention.
I liked him and thousands of others real, or fantasied feelings, were like mine. A good funeral with lots of good footage. Thanks Bill it was nice to have bumped into you, mate.
Stepehen O’Rourke

BBC, Radio 4 Extra

Hello again,
We've had a splendid range of guest artistes popping into our studios recently, to chat and discuss their work, whether in writing or performing.
Mark Thomas was Arthur's Smith's guest in this week's Comedy Club. Mark spoke about his upbringing as "the son of a preacher man" and also talked about his visit to the Middle East and his 750 kilometres walk along the length of the West Bank Barrier - on both sides - Israeli and Palestinian. Mark's experiences have resulted in a new one-man show, and a book which was published in April, Extreme Rambling.
Jason Byrne recently won the prestigious Sony Radio Academy Gold Award for his Radio 2 stand-up series, The Jason Byrne Show.
The Sony judges were truly won over by Jason's show, as in their opinion it was "the best use of the audience in any entry this year and by its consistent laugh-out loud moments." We have scheduled Jason's show for Friday evenings on Radio 4 Extra, beginning in July.
Jason dashed into the Comedy Club to talk to Arthur about his new tour, Cirque de Byrne and also spoke enthusiastically of his love of the work of three comedy greats Tommy Cooper, Eric Sykes and Barry Cryer. He has good taste in comedy!
The third comedian/writer to come to our Comedy Club studio this week was Alexei Sayle. Alexei discussed the difference between his quiet, real life nature and his angry, vitriolic stage persona. Alexei is appearing at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, and is also co-hosting at London's South Bank Centre, At Last, the 1981 Show, a celebration of the alternative comedy scene in the 1980s.
We've certainly been keeping Arthur busy this week.
Mike Walker is one of the top dramatists currently writing for radio. Mike's work - original drama and adaptations - covers all genres, whether science fiction, horror, historical, or the classics. He would certainly merit the accolade of "The Radio Dramatists' Dramatist"
His most recent work on Radio 4 Extra was the excellent dramatisation based on the Holinshed Chronicles, The Plantagenets, and we also repeated in the 7th Dimension his award-winning Alpha and Omega.
It’s always a pleasure to meet up with Mike, and I was delighted to see him again early this week, when he came in to be interviewed about his radio work, including his dramatisation of Neville Shute's post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world novel, On the Beach, which you'll be able to hear on Radio 4 Extra in a few week's time.
China Mieville has been described as "one of the most interesting and promising writers to appear in the last few years in any genre."
China came in to Radio 4 Extra, and amongst other things, spoke about his latest novel, Embassytown.
You can hear China's interview in next week's 7th Dimension.
Mary Kalemkerian, BBC, Head of Programmes, Radio 4 Extra

Cover caption

Photo: Roger Morton 1968 Jag poking out of the Victor Hugo carpark building in Bordeaux

23 May 2011


Uncle Sandy
Met my 91 year old grandfather
outside in the farm yard
black curly hair thinner now
 and whiter, lots of white.
We talked, jerkily, unevenly
I wanted to hug him
but never had. Not once.
My Uncle Sandy
hated my mother so much
he wouldn’t let me inside
with my young
NZ husband.
I thought of him today
when I heard President Obama
was visiting his great great great
grandfather’s birthplace in Monegall in Ireland.
I don’t even have a photo of mine
but in my mind’s eye I see him clear as day
ramrod back,  tall and slender
handsome, welcoming us,
embarrassed he couldn’t invite us in
for a cup of tea.
We’d come such a long way.
Joselyn Duffy Morton©

Stephen O'R's Asia, Part 2

Good evening reader from Saddleback Mountain overlooking a golden Pacific Ocean under a yellow moon.  Last week you may have caught the thrilling episode where I wander through ignorance before my epiphany and the long crusade to bring the good news about Europe’s love affair with Asia; from receiving its name right through to Asia funding  the smart fools of English business, the good burgers of Amsterdam and their knowledgeable Sephardic Portuguese Jewish money minders watched over by the proud and lusty French and the childish Spanish murderers not yet enlightened by Lorca who they shot and buried in a ditch.
Food Clothing and shelter.
For thousands of years mankind has engaged in trading, buying and selling stuff. Mai Mai the Chinese call it. You can buy and sell anything from your body or even parts of it, to a seat on a flight into space (you are only limited by your or the local shopping centre’s imagination –you big souks) but there are three things that everybody on the planet must have - food, clothing, and shelter.
I’ll start with Indigenous people around the world  (such as the 500 indigenous nations who had been occupying Australian for around 50,000 years before the first Europeans went to live there in 1778: The Kouris (southern )and the Murris (northern) lived a relatively materially free life living with the land rather than off it. They read their countryside like a library but they also used it as a source for, food, clothing, and shelter.  Their material needs may have been simpler that Ivana Trumps but their intellectual life was more complex. 
In Australia, the many ceremonies of the indigenous required white clay and yellow ochre. As these were not to be found in every part of that huge Island continent the first Australians had to trade. There were trade routes that ran thousands of kilometres over land.  Murris such as the Wik people had contact with other indigenous people from the islands that lay over the horizon. Boats from Makassar came to buy and capture Trepang, a sort of sea cucumber that was a delicacy for the Chinese.
I remember a photo of a huge refugee camp in Africa - in the foreground was a woman behind a little stall with a tiny collection of articles for sale including one large shoe. Now we have ebay and online shopping where we can buy from all over the world. My wife paid $600 for an Italian-made bookcase online that retails for $600 in Sydney. 
In the late 19th century construction work in Egypt in the area of old Cairo uncovered an underground room that had been part of a synagogue. In it were over 400 scrolls, written in Hebrew and Arabic from the 8th to the 13th centuries. In the 1960s an historian, Solomon Goitien, spent 27 years translating these scrolls (thanks a bunch Solly) and his work shows a very detailed picture of life in the region for that period including the business correspondence from Jewish merchants in old Cairo to fellow Jews in places ranging from Morocco to the Iberian Peninsula to Italy and Aden.
“I am sending you these bales of linen flax. Sell them for the best price you can get and use the money to buy for me goods that are a good price and send them to me”
Relationships between merchants had to be trusting ones when slow travel was the tyranny faced by all in long distance trade.
Traveling by land was hard as there were no Range Rovers or Humvees and there were few roads - whereas travel by boat under the command of a skilled captain offered traders more flexibility and longer distances could be covered.  The trade routes of the Indian Ocean stretched all the way from the red sea and the Persian Gulf in the west, to China and Japan in the East. The goods trade sometime went much further. The Venerable Bede died leaving a handful of pepper to his friends. The markup on pepper by the time it got to the Notre Dame was over 5000%.
The trip from the West would pick up the monsoonal winds at Aden that took them directly to the West coast of India then a few weeks later another monsoon took the Arab and Indian boats through to the Melakan Straights. Once again there was a wait for the change of wind that would take the ships all the way through to China.
On the international sea route, Port towns such as Aden and Basra in Arabia, Surat in Gujurat, Calicut and Cochin on the Malabar coast in South West India, Melaka and finally Guanzhou in China were hubs for more localized trade.  Because the international trade operated on the highly predictable monsoon winds the entire region had a seasonal rhythm, which provided for a regular supply and distribution system. The goods that were offloaded in Cochin where replaced with goods that had been prepared weeks ahead and brought down rivers so that they could be ready and  loaded in the space between winds.
You can go to ‘old’ Kochi today and see the warehouses from the 15th century on the edge of the water still stocked with some of the goods that were traded in the 15th century. A big rainy season in the early 14th century opened the vast inland water system to the Arabian sea. Today you can sit by the pool in a converted British shipyard and watch the range of traffic pass through the heads on one of the strongest flows of water I have seen.
Although demand for tourist accommodation and condos for the wealthy middle classes has taken pride of place in most of these trading ports, some are still laid out in the way they were 500 years ago, Hoi An in Vietnam just south of Danang is another good spot to see the remains of the old trade. Hoi An became silted up when the French ran Vietnam.
Have lunch at a rooftop restaurant near the Tokapi Palace in Sultanmehet, Istanbul and you will witness the never ending movement of cargo ships down the Bosphorus coming and going from the Black Sea through to the Marmara, and Aegean Seas. Singapore,  the contemporary version of  the  great trading entreport Melaka offers safe anchorage to thousands of ships at a time.
Next week we will begin with China and work our way back to London and Amsterdam.
Stephen O’Rourke

Photos Min Valentine: present day river scenes in Ho An, Vietnam

22 May 2011

BBC, Radio 4 Extra

Hello again,
When rebranding Radio 7 to Radio 4 Extra, we were keen to retain the popular zones stripped across the week such as Classic Comedy, Crime and Thrillers, Classic Drama, and of course the 7th Dimension  which has always been one of our most popular genres.
With the 7th Dimension running at one hour every day and repeated at midnight, it is quite a challenge to track down enough archive material to include in this slot.
The Doctor Who dramatisations are an excellent addition, and I'm pleased that we have acquired some ‘new to the network’ Doctor Who dramas, featuring Peter Davison as’ The Time Lord’.
From your feedback, Peter's debut on Radio 4 Extra is clearly being enjoyed, and I liked the following tweet from one of our listeners: "Right. A large gin and tonic; Peter Davison's Doctor Who On BBC Radio 4 Extra (iplayer) All is well again."
Presenter of the 7th Dimension, Nick Briggs is, as some of you may be aware, the "voice of the Daleks", and sundry other Whovian monsters. This week, one of our studio guests was Dr. Robin Bunce, who has contributed to a recently published book,  Doctor Who and Philosophy.
Dr Bunce is Director of Studies for Politics at Homerton College, Cambridge, and his chapter in the book is called  The Evil of the Daleks.
This seemed an appropriate opportunity for the Voice of the Daleks to meet and interview an academic who is obsessed by them.  I was just hoping that Nick would go easy on Doctor Bunce and not attempt to exterminate him!
The interview turned out to be absolutely fascinating, and you can hear it serialised in the 7th Dimension next week, at 6.30 p.m, repeated at midnight.
Mary Kalemkerian, Head of Programmes, BBC Radio 4 Extra

Cover caption

We have been adopted by a beautiful moth.
Photo Roger Morton.

14 May 2011


The herbicide, Glyphosate is widely sold under the brand name Roundup
The Monsanto Company is a US -based  multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world's leading producer of the  herbicide glyphosate marketed as  Roundup. Monsanto is also the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed; it provides the technology in 90% of the genetically engineered seeds used in the US market. It is headquartered in  Creve Coeur, Missouri. Agracetus owned by Monsanto, exclusively produces Roundup Ready soybean seed for the commercial market. In 2005, it finalized purchase of Seminis Inc, making it the world's largest conventional seed company. Monsanto's development and marketing of genetically engineered seed  and  bovine growth hormone as well as its aggressive litigation, political lobbying practices, seed commercialization practices and strong-arming of the seed industry, have made the company controversial around the world and a primary target of the alter-globalization movement and environmental activists. As a result of its business strategies and licensing agreements, Monsanto came under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department in 2009.


This is a vital interview with Professor Huber who wrote the following letter to American Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack last month.
The video is highly educational and REALLY repays a viewing.  Please watch and distribute.  There is convincing evidence from America that Glyphosate also kills bees through direct,  acute poisoning.



 Dear Secretary Vilsack:
    A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn-suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!
    This is highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies. On the other hand, this new organism may already be responsible for significant harm (see below). My colleagues and I are therefore moving our investigation forward with speed and discretion, and seek assistance from the USDA and other entities to identify the pathogen's source, prevalence, implications, and remedies.
    We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of RR alfalfa. Naturally, if either the RR gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity. Based on the current evidence, the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does.
    For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks. Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman's terms, it should be treated as an emergency.
    A diverse set of researchers working on this problem have contributed various pieces of the puzzle, which together presents the following disturbing scenario:
    Unique Physical Properties
    This previously unknown organism is only visible under an electron microscope (36,000X), with an approximate size range equal to a medium size virus. It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.
    Pathogen Location and Concentration
    It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.
    Linked with Outbreaks of Plant Disease
    The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income-sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy, and Goss' wilt in corn. The pathogen is also found in the fungal causative agent of SDS (Fusarium solani fsp glycines).
    Implicated in Animal Reproductive Failure
    Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.
    The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%  and  spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%. For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlege, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.
    In summary, because of the high occurrence of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA's participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.
    It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts.  It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defences by chelating vital nutrients and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders. To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.
    I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.
    COL. (Retired.) Don M. Huber
    Emeritus Professor, Purdue University
    APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS)


A Marilyn Monroe of a rose

Hot bothered rose
lays layered head
on sun-heated stone wall
drooping ball frock attire
puffed exuberance expired
presentable still with the
paleness of spent youth.
Delicate limp pink
blowsy satisfied satiated
in summer splendour
lazy luscious languid beauty
a Marilyn Monroe of a rose
exhausted loveliness
wilting in the heat of the moment.

Joselyn Duffy Morton ©