Tuesday, 27 October 2009

An Ambitious Project

I am just this day embarking on an ambitious project. Perhaps less ambitious, more time-consuming.

Let us travel back through the mists of time (we don't need a TARDIS for this). It is 1992, Perth, Western Australia, about lunchtime (sorry, pinched that from Monty Python). It is June and I have just finished my first semester at Curtin University. My first wife (let's for the sake of her privacy just call her A) and I both realise that I need something a bit fancier than an Olivetti typewriter to write my assignments on. She spies a good offer in a shop near to our home and I become the proud purchaser of a Canon Starwriter word processor (for the young readers, a sort of precursor to computers or perhaps a love child of a typewriter and a computer). It is cool! It is groovy! Suddenly I can delete text, move it around, copy and paste etc.

Fast forward to the present day, 2009. 17 years later and my Starwriter is still going strong!!! I keep thinking I must write to Mr Big Boss Canon in Japan and congratulate him. By now I have heaps of data from my Starwriter stored on floppy disks: poems, stories, plays, articles, personal correspondence. And I really do mean a lot.

But floppy disks have gone the way of the dodo and the dinosaur. It is all groovy little pen-drives or flash-drives depending on which school you went to.

So far, so good, but then a few months ago one of my floppy disks failed somehow and I couldn't retrieve the data. Fortunately, I was well -organised and kept hard copy lists of the files on each floppy disk. Also, I found that I had actual hard copies of all the data that was important on that failed disk. So remember to do what they tell you, folks, and BACK UP, BACK UP, BACK UP your data.

But I realise that my poor old Starwriter has been well overtaken on the information super-highway so before it finally gives up the ghost, I must embark on this archival project to ensure that I have a hard copy of every important file on those many floppy disks.

In case you are technically-minded and are curious, the Starwriter has no hard drive so all data created on it must be saved to floppy disk. Only its actual functions seem to be hard-wired into the machine.

So today it starts and fits around all the other pieces of my life. I must cross-reference the files on each floppy disk against the hard copies I already possess.

Wish me luck. It's not as exciting as The Matrix, but then I'm not as wooden as Keanu Reeves.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Refugee from a Rainbow - A Poem


I see you at my door,
huddled against the night
in your Kermit-green jacket
and purple pants
like a refugee from a rainbow.
Patiently waiting
for my enfolding arms,
to spirit you upstairs
for flannelette passion
which makes us feel safer
than the safest sex.

Copyright, Ben Hur. Thanks to the Valley Micropress, an Upper Hutt-based international publication in whose pages this poem first appeared.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

What we did on 350.org Climate Action Day

Well, today was Saturday 24 October in our little corner of the International Dateline so this is all the cool things we did to help our planet today and which you can do (or do other cool things) tomorrow in your side of the International Dateline.

First, it was a beautiful, sunny Spring day here in Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa and my 10-year-old son and I paddled out by New Brighton Pier for a surfers' action. We held up a banner and were photographed from the pier and then we caught a few fun waves. It was small, 1-1.5 feet, but glassy so we frolicked.
Then at noon, a large crowd gathered by the pier to hear a few local politicians speak before hanging a large banner reading: "There is no Planet B. Climate Action Now!" from the sides of the pier.

Then, after a spot of lunch, we went to Victoria Square in the central city to sing out about climate action in a massed choir. It sounded awesome!

After that, they had Frocks on Bikes with all sorts of men and women in wonderful costumes riding highly decorated bikes. Creativity was abundant!

Then we formed a human sculpture to create a big 3 out of people which was photographed from a tall building nearby. Hopefully, some or all of this will be uploaded to the 350.org website for you to see.

It was a wonderful day for showing my two sons, aged 10 and 6, the power of positive community action to make the world a better place for them and their children and their children's children.
Hey, it's an old cliche, but "Power to the People!"

Thursday, 22 October 2009

A Far Greater Nourishment - A Poem




Walking home alone on Saturday night,

social sounds spilling around me then

fading in my slipstream,

I round the corner of my street and

an image of your face rises

to combat the cold that searches for

the marrow of my bones.

Hope flutters like a wounded bird into

the pale sky of a vision desperate

with longing.


Forgive my physical hunger.

You were right to deny it

because by morning

you had given me

a far greater nourishment.


Copyright Ben Hur, Thanks to Valley Micropress, a Upper Hutt-based international poetry                                               magazine in whose pages this poem first appeared.

Check this out for some great videos about Climate Change

This is a good link too:


Apparently this does something to help 350.org too

Links to tie in to 350.org day - Climate Action Day

This is a link to the Action Map of worldwide activities for 350.org Climate Action Day, October 24:

View Actions at 350.org

Endangered - A Poem





There he is,

between the Siberian Tiger and the Maui's Dolphin,

Homo Mobilis Nullius.

She does not own a cellphone.

Text for her is the letters and words

that make up a book.

If he wants to take a picture,

he'll use a camera, thanks.

She doesn't want to download, upload,

freeload, overload,

girl, you've got to carry that load

of debt to the telco company.

He watches movies in the cinema

and he doesn't want to be hooked up

to the internet

or caught in the ever-widening net of commerce.

She's happy with the ancient ways,

songlines on the landline

lines on the land

where a woman can walk away

and hear only the ringing

of bird song,

lines on the land

a man can follow to the heart

of somewhere lost

and know only peace.


--- Copyright Ben Hur, reproduced with kind permission of Presto magazine, Christchurch in

                                                  whose pages this poem first appeared.

350 Climate Action Day Worldwide

Hey, folks, on October 24th wherever you are in this world, do something for your planet. Lots of folks are doing something to show our out-of-touch, in-the-pocket-of-big-polluters politicians that we want to get carbon in our atmosphere down to a more safe level of 350ppm (parts per million).

They must listen or you and I will be drowning down her on Earth while John Key (Prime Minister of New Zealand) and Mr Toyota and Mr IBM and Mr General Motors and Mr Rio Tinto et al are floating around on a space station somewhere, smoking cigars and sipping brandy and saying, "Well, looks like we f**Ked that planet, let's find another one to rape and pillage!"

In our neck of the woods, we're having a mass paddle out of surfers (most surfers are keen on the planet as it gives them beautiful waves to ride) followed by a huge 350 message banner to be videoed and sent to a live streaming in Times Square, NYC and then a mass choir in the central city and lots of other fun and vital stuff.

Go out and do it where you live, people!

Tonto and the Lone Blogger

I posted my blog for Blog Action Day, feeling like a big part of a big blogging community driving community awareness and action, only to find that when you tried to trace my blog from the site an error message came up.

Eeeeek! Was I blogging out in space, all alone. Nobody loves me!

So if anyone is reading this out in the blogosphere, sing out and let me know I'm not a sad old sausage talking to myself.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Climate Change

Please excuse me blog readers, but I seem to be a day out of sync with Blog Action Day. Probably due to New Zealand being a day ahead in the International Dateline.

So this is a repeat blog, I'm afraid.

Linked to: www.blogactionday.org

I have just learned that today, October 15, is World Blog Action Day.

All bloggers are uniting to speak out about Climate Change.

Tell your leaders: "Only a 40% reduction in global emissions will do!" As Greenpeace's Sign On campaign says: "There is no Planet B." We must make of this Earth the paradise it can be. We must learn to live within our means, to respect the oceans, forests, deserts and all the wonderful wildlife that lives on our planet.

I have two sons. I don't want them to inherit a planet we have ruined through our blindness and greed.

You don't need an IPod, a 50-inch plasma TV, a holiday home, a huge 4-wheel drive and everything that opens and shuts. It won't make you happy no matter what the Saatchi's would have us believe.

We can make a global community where cultures respect each other, where war is history, where no one nation tries to impose its power or will upon another. It is not just some unattainable fantasy!

All we need is the willpower to change our ways and the desire to save our beautiful world. As the Native Americans once said: "When the rivers are poisoned and the sky is choked with smoke and the earth is dying, then will you eat your money?"

Those people had wisdom and we need to get it back. Come on, people of this planet, it is not too late, but tomorrow it might be.

A Mixed-Up Shook-Up Boy

The singer, Willy De Ville, had a song called "Mixed-Up Shook-Up Girl" so I paraphrase him to muse on religion/spirituality. The "What's it all mean?" or "There must be more than this" perplexities of human life.

This morning I did a yoga class with a Tibetan Buddhist nun. She is a Kiwi, I think, but she has been a follower of Tibetan Buddhism for many years. I find myself more and more drawn to Buddhism. It just seems to make such good sense!

My Mum is a Catholic and my Dad, now dead, an Anglican, but he had to sign a paper saying that his children would be brought up Catholic. How well I remember seeing Dad sitting up in bed in his pyjamas reading the Sunday newspaper while Mum prepared my little brother and I for church at 7am! We used to say, "Why can't we be Anglicans too?"

Around the age of fifteen, I said to my Mum who was a regular church-goer, "I think I'm old enough to decide now and I don't want to go to church any more." She was very disappointed, but she respected my decision. I think for my Mum she was an old-style churchgoer. The weekly ritual gave her comfort and solace and a time perhaps for quiet contemplation or meditation. That was her spiritual method so I didn't scorn her for it, it just wasn't for me.

What I didn't bother to tell her was that I thought some of the churchgoers were terrible hypocrites. We were living in a sort of middle-class dormitory-type suburb and even as a teenager, I had discerned the personalities of some of the local businessmen and women. Some of them were terrible, money-grubbing shysters who'd think nothing of stabbing their neighbours in the back metaphorically and then on Sunday they would come to church and play the part of fine, upstanding citizen of the community. To my idealistic teenage outlook, this seemed the worst hypocrisy - to be a bastard six days a week and then think that one hour in church could wipe the slate clean for another week of reprehensible behaviour.

There were many good, well-meaning churchgoers who tried to lead good lives, but this painting on the pious face sickened me and I wanted no part of it.

But I always had a spiritually-seeking component to my nature. Like many teenagers and young people during the 70s, I read a lot of books by Herman Hesse. "Siddharta", the thinly-veiled fictionalised life of Gautama Buddha, was probably my favourite, but I enjoyed many of his other novels as well.

Then when I was 20, I set off for some overseas adventures, starting in Australia, but then travelling overland from Bali through Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. I met many wonderful people, but I observed that the generally most tolerant and mellow people were the Thais and Sri Lankans. Both countries were predominantly Buddhist. Coincidence? I think not.

After 9/11, there has been a lot of suspicion of and distrust surrounding Islam. I think this is largely unjustified. One of the most spiritually beautiful people I ever met was a devout Muslim fisherman who lived in relative poverty just outside the township of Singaraja on the northern coast of Bali.

I think it was the Buddha who said, "There are many paths up the mountain." So it probably doesn't matter what spiritual path you follow as long as it feels right to you.

I believe that all religions seem to share the same basic tenets: love and tolerance for your fellow humans and all the creatures who share this planet with us. It seems to be the human interference after the scriptures leave the mind and mouth of the master eg. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Yahweh etc. that taints the religious practice and pollutes it with human failings. How many wars have been waged in the name of God?

So follow whatever guru you must or follow your own heart, but try to love your fellow humans, try to foster peace, try to be kind to animals and to our Mother Earth who gives us life and nurtures us.

As the wonderful Irish comedian, Dave Allen, used to say at the end of his TV programme, "May your god go with you."

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Gaia, New Age mumbo-jumbo or spookily real

After the devastating tsunamis in Samoa, Tonga and Sumatra, I have been musing about the concept of Gaia, the earth as an organic entity, a living creature. Now, with utmost respect to those who have lost loved ones in all these countries, is the Earth/Gaia becoming angry and striking back because we are stressing it and abusing it? Is it climate change, global warming, over-population or plain dumb luck?

Are there more huge natural disasters in recent years or do we just hear more about them because of the speed of global communication?

We seem to stumble on blindly, trying to have all the luxuries, the modern conveniences, all the while pretending stewardship of the Earth is somebody else's problem. Politicians and businessmen would have us believe that economic growth can just continue unabated in some infinite upward trajectory with no limit, but it is a damn lie and they know it!

We all have to stand up and be counted. We have to start saying, "No, I don't need a 50-inch plasma TV, a huge gas-guzzling 4-wheel drive, a holiday home, a private school education for my children, blah, blah, blah, and on it goes."

We have to say instead, "I need a strong community where I know all my neighbours. I need social justice for all so everyone on this planet can have healthy food, clean water, decent housing, good education and a sense that he or she is a valued member of society. I need to live simply and feel incredibly blessed that I live on a planet that can be a paradise for all if we have the will and desire to live in peace and harmony. What is important is people not money."

In New Zealand where I live, a great Maori chieftain once said, when defining what is important in life, "he tangata, he tangata, he tangata" ("it is people, it is people, it is people"). 

A Brave New (10 Years Old) World

Hello out there in the blogosphere,

This is my very first post. I heard on that ancient media, radio, today that blogging is 10 years old today or thereabouts.

I am a complete novice at blogging, but I hope to get up to speed fairly quickly. Will I have time to blog regularly? I hope so.

But for now, my ten-year-old son is champing at the bit to get on this computer and play games so I must away for now.

On my next post, I will explain why my blog is called "Bigger Than Ben Hur". A small clue: it stems from irony.

Until next post, be kind to each other, all other creatures and this precious planet we live on.