Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cash In Hand

In the middle times of the Asian Financial Crisis, I arrived in Hong Kong for I had found my way.

It was just under a year since the Great Handing Over of Hong Kong to the bosom of the middle kingdom, and things were looking decidedly shaky in that little island in the South China Sea.

A few months after I arrived, the Hang Seng Index starting dropping suddenly. Nothing to do with me. It was under pressure from those fucking hedge funds (George Soros, etc...) who for some reason felt like taking immensely leveraged incremental profits by laying short trades in Hong Kong stocks.

The HKD would have to be unpegged from the USD in order to save the market, cried the Chicken Little hand-puppets of the hedge funds, the media.

This fight had started earlier, in 1997, but it was a poor effort in the Yen that triggered this more urgent one, which hit its peak velocity in August 1998.

And it was happening very quickly, like, REAL fast, and what if the ultra-laissez-faire government did nothing? Everyone knew was that the Yuan WAS going to be unpegged from the USD any day now, then for certain the HKD could not be saved...

So those HK financial authorities made a crucial decision to get some good old (and hypocritical - to them) intervention going. They pumped money into the market, buying blue chip stocks to stop it up quickly, huge amounts (by those days' and my bank account's standards) of money flying around, staggering at the time.

Then someone heard: Hey, the Russian Rouble is going to be the next to fall! Look out! (All these rumours that, rumour has it pinned, Soros and the hedge funds had started.) Once again, for the second time this week the Hong Kong market was on the verge again of going into a tail-spin unless - Soros rubs hands - the HKD was sure to be unpegged.[*]

So the financial authorities pumped even more money in! Would it work? It couldn't be sustained, could it? HK would go broke!

It was en edgy time, to say the obvious.


So meanwhile, my flat-mate Scott, a young risk analyst with one of the big multi-letter companies, was watching this on his computer screen at work and on CNBC's Squawk Box, and got so spooked that he transferred all his money into USD before what he was certain was going to happen, did happen - the HKD crashing...

All of his money. He emptied everything in his HKD accounts in order to not lose a single penny when this impending disaster hit.

I do mean ALL of it. He had no HK money at all. He had also emptied his wallet of whatever cash he had and bought USD notes.

Can you imagine what that implications of that would be?


Next morning:

"Hey E@L, can you lend me some money for my taxi?"

[*thinks*] No fuckin' way, banker-wanker risk-idiot. Why don't ya walk, it's free. And its not far, we're in Hong Kong, not the Aussie outback, everything is 15 minutes walk away. It's stinking hot, it's raining, humidity 1G%... walk! You sell all your money and then you bot of me because you haven't any cash for a fucking taxi! Are you a moron? Do you think I am the moron? Why the fuck would you jump out the window to get rid of your CASH? You still have buy things in Hong Kong, idiot. Even if it crashed last night, it's not like the HKD$25 in my pocket is suddenly not going to get you into town this morning. Hand, forehead, slap. Total incredulity...

"Sure Scotty. Here ya' go. Okaaaaaaaaaaay... You buyin' the beers tonight?"


(some prescient words at the end of the linked article: " hunch tells me that the battle is not over and that a next attack is very likely, unless U.S. government realizes the danger of hedge funds to the world economy and set some regulations to control them." Ha!)

* [sorry first draft of this had an ellipsis of the crucial word "not" - the HKD was never unpegged.]

Every Stroke I Paint Will Be Alive

“Nothing I did before the age of 70 was worthy of attention. At 73, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am 86, so that by 90 I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At 100, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at 130, 140, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive.”
Katsushika Hokusai

Inspiring words. But how can we ever come to grasps with our true understanding of what it means for us to be alive when hardly any of us have time free from the immense struggle of day to day survival to think beyond our next step, beyond the next school lunch for our children, the next dollar to cover health care, the price of a tank of petrol. Philosophising is great for those with the luxury to sit back and contemplate. All the platitudes about stopping to smell the roses,

Obviously this does not apply to me. My issue is too much time on my hands and too much money in them.


Little Murders

Perhaps deep down in the hidden, reptilian parts of their brains, some of the gun-nuts in America are sort of hoping that the world will keep on its slide into an even greater nightmare of school-shooting rampages, stand your ground blasts to the body, babysitters with handguns, and concealed weapons legislation relaxation, etc, because...


Because they have this little grin-fucking idea that, you know...

It would make a fucking great movie!


And then there's Edward Snowden and the Angela Merkin fiasco to consider...


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Diary Of A Drought Year

In my sister's garden shed last week my son found several nylon bags of my books. They just have been there for 10 years or so. The bags had degraded and other stuff had been tossed on top - fibreglass insulation batts (thankfully not asbestos), cushions, ceiling fittings, a lawn-mower....
Rain had obviously seeped in underneath on the filthy concrete slab and so many - very many - of the books were destroyed by mould and insects.

The pile of to be discarded mush included several first editions and some otherwise collectible editions. I asked him to just throw out whatever books were beyond repair and only keep those that had survived the trauma in an OK condition as to be able to be placed back on shelves, and those which had been only minimally damaged but seemed important or precious stuff - he knew what I meant. One of the items he found in the shed was this once black notebook (lower two pictures), and he thought it worth a look from me.



Just to make it clearer, we are cleaning out my sister's house and yard during her divorce - I am buying the place, partly to help her out and partly as an investment and partly as I have no base in Australia. As Mum's house is soon going to be sold, I can't continue to have my "c/o" mail sent there. So we had been clearing out that house as well, therefore my sister's place was doubled up with stuff - we are all hoarders too which doesn't provide my help... Long story - will save it for another series of blog posts.

So I opened the note-book (and I think from the look in my son's eye as I did so he might have already perused it) and I found five, seven pages (my hands are now dusty after putting it away and I don't want to extract it from the plastic bag again to confirm the count) of my usual left-handed scrawl. What had I been writing about? And when was this?

The year was 1983. We were four of five years into a long period of El Nino induced drought in Australia. Water usage restrictions were harsh. No watering during the day. All our lawns were dead. You couldn't use a dish-washer (not that we had one) and washing machines were frowned upon. Trees were falling apart, falling over, brittle and withered. We lost a lovely old peach tree (good Darwin the fruit had been luscious, but they only ripened on the branches over the garage roof.) Large bushfires had been ripping though the country. Nat was six at the time, and so I was 26. My wife and I were saving money to go to Europe. It was to be our final fling as a married couple, or so we thought. She was working as a Nursing Aide (the role doesn't exist anymore, nurses have to do it all the shitty stuff themselves these days) and I was working part-time doing holiday relief. I wanted to write something, some stories and god the attempts were awful - pretentious and ignorant.

I think I had bought a book about journal-keeping as I would have been skipping through Anais Nin's diaries at the time I think. What great idea. You're a writer young man. Writer's write. Rather than continue to fail to think something up, write about what you think, what's happening. Don't think of any audience, or think of yourself as the only reader. This is memory jogger, but a confession as well. Do it which ever way you want. Letters. Q&A. Whatever. Just write.


So now, more than 30 years later, rather than write anything new, I type this (relatively) juvenile drivel up instead. I haven't changed anything. These are real names: Patrick White, for example.


Journal Of My Thoughts Diary Of A Drought Year

I am unsure of who I am, if I have a genuine personality - something more than a series of characterisations to suit particular audiences. Who (I groan inwardly as I write this, it sounds so dumb) am I?

Am I that very intelligent person which Gerald and Mrs Sheriff say I am? Gerald when he wants to cut me down, Mrs S. when she tries to egg me on to write something?

Am I the stummble-tounged fool who can't make a simple comment about the weather without a grammatical faux-pas, a malapropism.

Am I the scared and lazy lover, reluctant to start sex, fearing rejection? No, not that. Fearing acceptance. Yes. Why so?


I: Sex, why do I fear you?

S: You are cautious, but it is merely that you are once-bitten.

I: Twice shy. Why can't I respond willingly when Chris is horny? Why can't I be eager without faking?

S: You can.

I: Occasionally. Rarely.

S: You don't like to hurt people.

I: Yes Chris is almost always disappointed. Don't laugh. If I try and try, she gets bored, she says "Don't touch my boobs tonight, just fuck me." What's the use, I can't please her, she's too fickle. I'd rather sleep.

S: Or masturbate.

I: "Sexual intercourse is a poor substitute for masturbation," says Quentin Crisp.

S: You quote a homosexual's philosophy, are you homosexual?

I: I... I... I don't think so. What do you think?

S: You have an eclectic eros which is perfectly natural: You are part female, part male, both in the same body, in the same mind.

I: … [?]


Who am I?

Am I the forgetful and lazy student? (Lazy twice already.)

Who Am I? A list.

Role - [neg] +[pos]

radiographer: - indifferent, helpful
writer: - untried, aspiring
husband: - inadequate, patient
father: - uncertain, learning to care
intellectual: - laughable, not much competition
music lover: - behind, eclectic
musician: - failing, flashes of skill
driver: - careless, lucky


SU 27-2-83
I am disgusted with the weather.- it refuses to give rain in any useful quantities. This morning at 5:00am I was at work, feeling dirty and sweaty due I suppose to being up at such an ungodly hour, and I said to one of the nurses: "I wish it would rain."

"You and a thousand others. What' so special about you?" she asked.

"My soul," I said, "is desiccated. not only my liver."


TU 8-3-83

Came home with a one-legged taxi-driver, his money-pouch hanging in the place where his thigh should emerge. It is raining a bit, but limply, and there is no wind. The air is like marmalade. Sweat oozes at any slight exertion.

Passport has arrived. Mine only. The others should come tomorrow, soon.

Saw Karen Burkett at work. She has just come back for a year and a bit in Europe. Worked in England, travelled a bit: Ireland, Majorca, Turkey, Jugoslavia, etc…

Last night waiting for the bus I saw Mark Bell. He is just home from sailing around the Pacific and Australia (I think).

It seems like the auguries are coming thick and fast - go to Europe, got to Asia, go go GO.

If I could just get clear of this Australia: it's just bullshit. I need money though. I would feel secure if I had $15,000 before we left.

Karen said she was burgled twice in Dublin - car broken into… bad omen?

I have been thinking of Dublin, boisterous, dirty, dear Dublin. Would like to see it - pubs, etc… Soon enough, soon enough.

Q: Why did I say Australia was bullshit?

A: I am ever wary of nationalism - this is a small planet - and it is getting a bit feverish here lately. Buttons, pins, T-shirts, bumper-stickers, are appearing everywhere - buy Australian goods to support Australia. I am wary of that too. Witness a bit in the Age a while ago where a student told that his 'work experience' consisted of replacing "Made In Korea" stickers with "Made In Australia" stickers. Hmmm. Just who are we professing to support!?

This country is not so hot for the liberal-mindind really.We couldn't get a motivated political group like the "Greens in Deutschland. We haven't got a socialist press. We can't even get good books. All the major magazines are unashamedly anti-left, pro-royalist, they campaign for the nauseous [sic] causes and the 1 ½ million housewives believe it because they can't get contradicting ideas into their homes let alone in not their skulls



After several months of slog I have finished 'The Vivisector.' [1st Edition. Common as muck in Australia. Can't confirm that it survived, but I think it was in a different place. Am hopeful.]

White demands time - commitment - both of which are in short supply. I burnt through the last 100 pages in a day and naturally my mind was reeling with the images of Duffield and particularly his paintings, so much that when I went to bed I found myself dreaming about them. When Christine came to bed I was asleep but she brought [me] about ¼ out of sleep so that I was only vaguely aware of her and my body. She lay on top of me, and I was dreaming we were in the paintings - abstract and surreal - entwined yet dismembered - mostly indigo blue - very dark and angular, with a Cuttbush [?] moonlight. My cock was hard and burrowing into her belly as I turned and she rolled across, but it was a long mast, and she a billowing canvas, painted in black against an indigo dream night and Sydney Harbour sparkling with semen. We were the two lovers in the park - the fleshy rocks - distorted, half absent or more than half - and particularly on the left was a darker patch - but a bright triangle as if light from a streetlamp in a bayside park illuminated things obliquely. I was the park, the tree, the light, the moon, the ground and still the lovers - through I can't remember if the fucked - perhaps not. This odd sensation of dreaming yet being partly aware of your body is a dislocating experience, It felt strange but nice, though I wish Duffeild's paintings were more cheerful.

Speaking of dreaming, Cindy told me a dream she has last week in in which her father (estranged is, I believe, the expression [step-father anyway]) had died and her brother had to identify the body. Next day [awake] she visits her mum who says causally, "Your father died last night. P**** (brother) had to identify the body."…….

Is there a God? I ask myself.

Superluminal communication. Happens to selected people. I told Cindy she is probably an alien awaiting fulfilment - a la Doris Lessing [her Shikasta series] - when the New Age begins. Joseph [another friend] is probably one as well, as he seems so in tune with the cosmos… must explain this one day - now I must defecate. ---


A young E@L

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