Former Jets in team of the year

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 01: Nikolai Topor-Stanley of the Wanderers watches on during the round 14 A-League match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and the Melbourne Victory at Parramatta Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) WESTERN Sydney Wanderers star Nikolai Topor-Stanley said yesterday that “leaving Newcastle was the best thing that has ever happened to me” after being named in the Professional Footballers’ Association A-League team of the year.
Nanjing Night Net

Topor-Stanley and prolific Wellington Phoenix striker Jeremy Brockie, both let go by the Jets after the 2011-2012 season, were named in the PFA’s starting side, voted on by players.

With only a handful of players, a rushed preparation and a rookie coach in former Socceroo Tony Popovic, the Wanderers were tipped by all and sundry as wooden spoon favourites.

Fast forward to now and the Wanderers are the fairytale of Australian sport, claiming the Premiers’ Plate and building a passionate fan base previously unseen in this country.

As for Topor-Stanley, the 27-year-old Canberra product has found a home at his fourth A-League club and is in discussions for a Socceroos recall in time for June’s World Cup qualifiers.

“When I left I didn’t know what was going to happen, but from what I knew about Poppa and the other players he had already signed, I knew we were going to be competitive no matter what and at least capable of giving it a shot,” he said.

“I wasn’t sure how the fans were going to embrace us, but obviously that is out of this world.”

No more true than the incredible show of support at a street parade in down-town Parramatta on Tuesday.

Despite going down to the Central Coast Mariners 2-0 in the grand final 48 hours earlier, the Red and Black Bloc came out in their droves in a sign of the great strides the club has made in its short existence.

“It was a very humbling experience to see so many people turn up and it kind of put the loss of one game into perspective,” Topor-Stanley said.

“The connection between the fans and the club is something that will last a lot longer than the loss of one game.

“As a community, we’ve embraced each other and we can go to another level.”

The same can be said for the powerful central defender, who is signed with the Wanderers next season.

Having fallen off the radar for national selection in recent years, Topor-Stanley’s resurgence after stints at Sydney FC, Perth Glory and the Jets has him in Socceroos calculations.

The last of his three caps came in 2008, and the former Tuggeranong United junior says he would relish a call-up if it came his way.

“I was a lot younger then, and at the time it didn’t really sink in that I was representing my country and playing for everyone here,” he said.

“Now that I’ve kind of matured as a player and as a person, I know it’s a true honour and a pinnacle of a footballer’s life.

“I’m really happy that I have experienced it, but I’d love to do it again.”

PFA A-League Team of the Season (4-3-3): Ante Covic (Wanderers); Jerome Polenz (Wanderers), Trent Sainsbury (Mariners), Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Wanderers), Adama Traore (Victory); Shiji Ono (Wanderers), Mark Milligan (Victory), Michael McGlinchey (Mariners); Jeremy Brockie (Phoenix), Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney), Marco Rojas (Victory). Bench: Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide), Michael Thwaite (Glory), Marcelo Carrusca (Adelaide), Archie Thompson (Victory), Daniel McBreen (Mariners).

Coach: Tony Popovic

Melbourne mecca will ‘G up Liverpool

Ian Rush smiles as he looks out on the vast expanse of the MCG and says with understatement: ”I don’t think it’ll be hard to persuade the lads to want to come and play on this.”
Nanjing Night Net

Rush is in town to promote Liverpool’s historic visit to Australia, where it will play its first game in this country at the famous old stadium against Melbourne Victory in July, and is genuinely impressed by the huge arena.

He has played in many of the great stadia in the world, and, as befits a man with his legendary nose for goal, scored in most of them.

The Welsh international justifies his status as an Anfield legend, having bagged 346 goals in 660 appearances in two stints for the Reds, punctuated by a disappointing season in Turin with Juventus in the late 1980s.

Rush went on to have spells with a number of other clubs in the twilight of his career – most notably Newcastle and Leeds United, where he knew the young Harry Kewell, as well as a three-game cameo with Sydney Olympic in the old National Soccer League.

But it is for his time as Liverpool’s feared No.9 that he will always be remembered.

Rush joined the Merseyside club from lower league Chester City as an 18-year-old for a then record transfer fee for a teenager of £300,000, with Liverpool manager Bob Paisley determined that no other club should get a chance to sign the precocious youngster.

”We had a great side then. Today it’s in a transitional period, but when we played no one really knew [it was transitional] because the players that came in did exactly the same job as those they replaced. Bob Paisley was that good he managed to change the team around three times with no one really noticing,” Rush said.

”It was great but a bit daunting when I first arrived. Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen and Ray Clemence were there and it was daunting, as they were like superstars. For me to go into the dressing room with them – it took me a bit of a time to adapt.

”After six months I realised I was good enough, but the problem then is getting the chance to prove you are. At a club like Liverpool you have to take your chance when it comes along. You don’t get that many chances to even be at the club, so when you do you have to take it.”

He did in a way few others ever have. For seven years Liverpool boasted the remarkable statistic that it didn’t lose a game in which Rush scored. That record was finally broken in the League Cup final of 1987, when Rush scored but Arsenal went on to take the trophy – something he remembers with a rueful grin. ”It was a great record while it lasted, anyway.”

Rush has been through some great times with Liverpool, winning two European Cups (as the Champions League was then known), five League Championships, a similar number of League Cups and three FA Cups.

He also endured the biggest heartbreak the club has ever known, the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, for which justice for the 96 victims has only now been delivered, and the nightmare of the Heysel Stadium when 39 Juventus fans were killed in crowd trouble at the 1985 European Cup Final between the Italian club and the Reds.

”Hillsborough was terrible, Heysel also. We weren’t really sure what was happening at the Heysel. That was probably the only game we played when we weren’t bothered whether we won or lost because we just wanted to see our families. It most probably shouldn’t have been played,” he said.

”At Hillsborough, I was on the bench that day, so much went on,” he says before falling momentarily silent.

”The thing I most remember afterwards is the cup final, which was a massive Merseyside occasion.

”People talk about atmosphere, but for me the 1989 cup final was the best atmosphere that you will ever get.

”It was Liverpool v Everton again, and normally when you walk out you see the crowds in the stands on both sides, the red of Liverpool and the blue of Everton, but all round Wembley it was all red and blue together, so nobody knew which end was theirs. They were all shouting Merseyside and that it was a city united.”

Of the recent inquiry verdicts on the Hillsborough tragedy, he says: ”Justice is the right thing. You don’t take on a city like Liverpool. Even Everton supporters got behind. It was great to see a city get behind them all together and they have slowly and surely got their rewards.”

Rush played with and against some wonderful talents, but when asked to name the standouts, a number of names come rapidly off his tongue.

”Kenny Dalglish was probably the best player I played with … he was fantastic. We had a very good team at that time [Liverpool won the European Cup in 1981 and 1984].

”You look at players like Ronnie Whelan who would most probably walk into Liverpool sides now, but they were seen as average players when we played. But they weren’t. They were special but when you had people like Kenny Dalglish, they were extra special.

”When I was at Juventus I played with Michael Laudrup. He was a great player, too.”

Defenders always knew they were in a game when they had to try to shut out Rush, who nominates two – one Irish, one Italian – as the toughest he faced.

”Paul McGrath for Manchester United. He was an excellent player, very quick. He never said a word on the pitch. And Franco Baresi [AC Milan and Italy legendary centre-back]. He didn’t really have pace, but his reading of the game was so good it didn’t really matter. That’s what makes them so good, players like him, they have a football brain.”

Rush says he looks back happily on the three matches in which he turned out for Sydney Olympic 13 years ago, right at the end of his career.

”I played a couple of games for them with a soccer school in Sydney. I scored the winning goal against Marconi, Brett Emerton scored the other goal,” he said.

”I have fond memories.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Australian frisbee fanatics put city in a spin

Don’t let the equipment fool you… they may be playing with Frisbees, but the sport of ultimate is serious stuff.
Nanjing Night Net

This weekend around 600 people from across the country and New Zealand have descended on Bendigo for the 35th National Ultimate Championship. And it was the Huntly Recreation Reserve that brought them here.

“We came because of the fact that there’s 16 fields here and we have the ability to play 16 games at once,” said tournament director John Hempel.

Over four days 16 simultaneous games lasting 90-minutes each occur three or four times a day.

“It’s really good, the weather has been perfect, we couldn’t have asked for any better,” Mr Hempel said.

He said the tournament was great for Bendigo – both financially and for introducing locals to a little-known national sport.

“There are some players who came early on Thursday who went to the dawn service and had a look around and there are definitely people staying on after the tournament as well,” Mr Hempel said.

Even though Bendigo is the base this year, only three of the 560 players are from the region.

But that could all change after this weekend.

As part of the fun there will be free come and try sessions today at 10am and 12pm and tomorrow at 10am for anyone wanting to learn about ultimate.

“We’ve done quite a bit of promotional stuff to get some interest in the local community,” Mr Hempel said.

“People can come and look at how we play and try to learn how to play ultimate for themselves.”

He said anyone interested in witnessing some gruelling competition should call in for the women’s final at 10am on Sunday and the men’s final at 12pm.

To find out more about ultimate, and the three local players, turn to page 4 and 5 of today’s Weekender.

Ultimate players warming up.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

OPINION: The great divide

It’s either a win for the community and the environment, or a threat to the economic future of the Hunter Valley. The Australia Institute and the NSW Minerals Council go head-to-head over the implications of the recent decision to overturn the extension of the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.
Nanjing Night Net

Dr Richard Denniss is executive director of The Australia Institute:

WHILE it happens in movies all the time, for once in real life David really did triumph over Goliath.

In the recent court case between the Bulga-Milbrodale Progress Association, represented by the not-for-profit Environmental Defenders Office, and Warkworth Mining Limited, owned in part by Rio Tinto, the community did what the Kerrigans achieved in The Castle.

The court case revolved around what was ‘‘good for the community’’.

The miners wanted to massively expand a mine so that it would close a local road, destroy more than 700hectares of environmentally valuable woodlands, remove the local hill and build a giant waste mound.

The main upside to this proposal would be that the owners of the mine, most of whom live outside the community or outside of the country, would make a lot more money.

As is usually the case, the mining industry made exaggerated claims about the economic benefits to both the local and national economy, of allowing them to profit from the community’s distress. But this is where things got interesting.

Usually the claims and counterclaims about the economic consequences of mining simply fly back and forth with no resolution, but this week a judge dismissed the miners’ claims that the Warkworth mine extension was good for the community and the country.

In particular, Chief Justice Preston found that the evidence provided by the miners did not support their conclusion that the economic benefits to the owners and employees of the mine outweighed the social, environmental and economic costs to others in the community.

Further, he found that the modelling relied on by the miners was a “limited form of economic analysis” that “does not assist in weighting the economic factors relative to the various environmental and social factors, or in balancing the economic, social and environmental factors”.

Such a finding will no doubt send shivers down the spines of big developers and economic consultants around the country.

The judge also found that the claims made by the mining industry about the increase in employment that would accompany the mine were exaggerated.

In reality, big new mines

cannibalise the most highly skilled staff of other industries.

The miners are always quick to claim credit for the jobs they create in the broader economy but this week’s judgment accepted the argument that they should also take responsibility for the jobs they destroy in other industries.

I doubt it is a coincidence that a day after Chief Justice Preston’s landmark decision that the NSW Minerals Council was depicting anyone who questions the conduct of the big mining companies or speaks up for community concerns as unpatriotic.

How ironic that the Australian spokesperson for an industry that is 83per cent foreign-owned should make such a claim.

Like the minerals council, The Australia Institute believes that mining has an important role to play in the Australian economy.

But unlike the minerals council, The Australia Institute is also interested in the broader health of the Australian economy and Australian communities.

The high exchange rate and the skills shortages associated with the boom have had devastating effects on some of our most important long-term industries, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

These industries employ millions of Australians, while mining, which is highly mechanised, employs around 2per cent of the Australian workforce.

When the mining industry wants to expand at the expense of the broader economy, it is important that we have open and fair decision-making processes.

While mining booms come and go, good farmers usually think in terms of protecting their land for future generations. New mines might create jobs in the short term, but when the mines go the houses in the communities that are left behind become worthless.

The mining industry’s TV ads suggest that what is good for mining is good for Australia but this week’s court judgment found that this is not always the case.

Who knows how many other mines have been approved on the basis of dodgy economic modelling?

David Moult is the chairman of the NSW Minerals Council:

AGRICULTURE, tourism and mining are the three crucial economic pillars upon which the Hunter was built and continues to thrive.

Despite what anti-mining activists who run The Australia Institute would have us believe, removing any one of those pillars will have deep and lasting detrimental impacts on the economic and social fabric of the Hunter Valley.

Research undertaken by the University of Newcastle highlights that the 21 largest mining members of the NSW Minerals Council directly employed 10,842 employees in their mining operations alone in the Hunter Valley during 2011-12.

A total $1.29billion was spent on wages and salaries for these workers over the same period.

In terms of direct injection into the Hunter economy, these companies spent $3.3billion in contributions and purchases of goods and services from local businesses.

Our mining employees live and raise their families in local Hunter communities like Muswellbrook, Singleton, Maitland and Cessnock. They spend their money in local shops and use local services.

That’s why NSW mining engages so closely with the Hunter community, because our workers are part of that community.

Through programs like the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue, we regularly engage with key community stakeholders including business chambers, local environment groups and health advocates.

All this presents a clear picture of what’s at risk if responsible mining is not supported in the Hunter.

The current lack of certainty and a lack of confidence in the NSW planning system will threaten thousands of mining jobs in the Hunter and across NSW, as well as see vital investment diverted from regional communities.

The level of scrutiny applied to mining applications is intense.

The process takes between three and four years and millions of dollars in assessments that are required by the government.

Added to this are a number of independent processes designed to provide transparency and ensure that all of the benefits and impacts are properly balanced when making the final determination about the project.

This process includes independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) reviews, PAC public hearings and PAC determinations.

This independent scrutiny and oversight, which has been ramped up in recent years, significantly increases the time taken to assess projects.

The mining industry is not afraid of additional oversight, however it should lead to greater certainty. Unfortunately the industry is facing greater uncertainty through projects that have already been thoroughly assessed, analysed and independently determined subjected to a further legal appeal process.

This uncertainty hangs over all new and current mining projects in NSW.

It puts thousands of jobs at risk, and makes NSW an uninviting place to invest.

There is no doubt that extreme green groups are using the legal process with the single aim of disrupting the mining industry.

In 2012, the Australian Anti-Coal Movement produced a clandestine document, outlining its strategy to ‘‘disrupt and delay key projects and infrastructure while gradually eroding public and political support for the industry …’’

The Australia Institute, among others, was acknowledged as contributing to this document.

The NSW government must realise that these extreme green activists do not have the interests of local communities at heart, but rather are pursuing a blatant anti-mining agenda that will result in significant job losses and leave many of our workers and their families without an income.

NSW Mining does not operate in a vacuum. We compete with other mining states and internationally for mining investment dollars.

If the burden for mining becomes too great in NSW, we will see jobs and billions in revenue flow away from our state.

The real victims of this will be the workers and their families in communities across the Hunter, not just in mining, but in almost every other sector as the impacts flow on.

Rushworth woman, 71, sentenced for attack

A 71-YEAR-OLD Rushworth woman who stabbed her husband after she wasn’t invited to his birthday party has been jailed.
Nanjing Night Net

Pamela Turner went to her estranged partner’s house and attacked him with a sledge hammer and a knife when he arrived home on September 13 last year.

The Bendigo County Court heard Turner had drank a “significant amount of red wine” before she stabbed her partner multiple times in the stomach on the night of his 78th birthday.

Turner pleaded guilty to intentionally causing serious injury.

She broke down in tears yesterday as she was sentenced to three months prison and placed on a Community Corrections Order for three years.

The court heard Turner had gone to her partner’s house armed with a knife, a meat cleaver, a stolen sledge hammer and a bottle of wine.

She had earlier called him on the phone and was enraged to hear he had gone out to dinner with their daughters.

She drove to the restaurant to confront him about why she was not invited, but was told to leave for “creating a scene”.

From there she drove to his home and hid in the darkness waiting for him.

In the confrontation that followed, Turner struck him from the side with a sledge hammer and used a number of weapons, including a knife and a frying pan.

Her partner suffered serious injuries from the attack, including cuts to his stomach and abdomen.

Judge Duncan Allen described the offending as an “ambush in horrific circumstances”.

He said it was clear she had “completely lost control” on the night.

The court heard Turner had been battling drinking problems since the age of 40, and her alcohol abuse “had escalated even further in the 12 months before the offending”.

In 2012 she spent five weeks in a Bendigo psychiatric ward for chronic depression and alcoholism.

At the time of the stabbing she was on anti-psychotic medication.

Turner and her partner were married for more than 40 years and had three children together.

Judge Allan said he accepted Turner was coping with ongoing problems of alcohol abuse but said it did not excuse her “extreme outburst of violence”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Win a Japanese study trip

NLA FELLOWSHIPS
Nanjing Night Net

Applications for the 2014 National Library Fellowships close on April 30, 2013. Recipients receive travel funds and an allowance, as well as special access to research the library’s facilities and collections. Harold White Fellowships support established scholars and writers researching any discipline within the library’s collections. Japan Fellowships support established scholars to undertake research in Japanese studies, using the library’s Japanese and Western language collections. For more information, a link to the online application form and contact details, see nla.gov.au/services/awards.html.WORKSHOPS

Two workshops are coming up at the ACT Writers Centre. A creative non-fiction masterclass with Kim Mahood is on May 4 and 5 from 10am to 4pm and is directed towards people who have a non-fiction work in progress, which they want to develop. Participants should bring extracts from a work in progress. Venue: ACT Writers Centre workshop room in Gorman House Arts Centre, 55 Ainslie Avenue, Braddon. Cost: $220 members, $190 concessional members, $280 non-members (includes 12 months of membership).

Bookings: 6262 9191, actwriters南京夜网.au or at the office. Payment is required at time of booking. And Straighten Up and Playwright with Genevieve Kenneally, on May 25 from 9am to midday at the same venue, is a short-play writing workshop open to all writers under 30 years of age. Cost: $30. Bookings: 6262 9191 or at the centre.WOMEN & POWER

Join editor Julianne Schultz and contributors to Griffith REVIEW 40: Women & Power Christine Wallace and Mary Delahunty as they discuss the unexpected tensions that come to the surface as women exercise more power – in politics, business, social enterprise and in the home. It’s on Thursday, May 16, at 5pm in the Conference Room, National Library of Australia, and is free. Bookings: nla.gov.au/bookings or 6262 1271.WHAT’S ON

Saturday: To celebrate the release of The Invisible Thread, an anthology of 75 Canberra writers, NewActon is bringing together three leading authors – Alex Miller, Alan Gould and Sara Dowse – who have each chosen musical compositions to bookend their poem or prose readings. 7.30pm, tickets $39, available from newacton南京夜网.au/wovenwords – seating is limited.

Sunday: The Fellowship of Australian Writers’ April Meeting is in the Brindabella Room, fourth floor, National Library of Australia, 1-4pm. All welcome. The chosen topic is ”I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”. Shared afternoon tea. Gold-coin donation. Further inquiries: Adrienne Johns, 6231 2470.

Thursday, May 9: An exhibition opening and book launch for Faces of Canberra by Barbara van der Linden, 6pm. Guest speakers: Frank Arnold, Helen Musa and Sylvie Stern. M16 Gallery, 21 Blaxland Crescent, Griffith.

Litbits submissions should arrive by 9am on Wednesday to be considered for publication. [email protected]南京夜网.au

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Criminal minds

Disgraced former Queensland police commissioner Terry Lewis with wife Hazel in 1988.THREE CROOKED KINGS
Nanjing Night Net

Matthew Condon. UQP. 346pp. $29.95.

The rising popularity of the true crime genre means that the current generation is much more likely to learn about the vices of earlier Australians than it otherwise would. Yet investigative journalists who write in this style know that the genre should come with a user-warning for intending authors. By wrapping a bright cover around it and slapping the words “explosive true story” on the front, the publisher of true crime promises titillation as well as the facts. The journalist who ventures into true crime continually juggles the roles of investigator and entertainer.

Inevitably, the genre adds lustre to the criminal legend, since its conventions dictate that “bad guys” are humanised while their crimes are objectified. Thus in chapter one of Matthew Condon’s Three Crooked Kings, the story of police corruption in Queensland from the 1940s to ’70s, we meet a police cadet “with the face of a hurt, vulnerable boy”. This is Terry Lewis, abandoned by his unloving mother at the age of 10, and estranged from his father, a humble storeman, by the time he joined the force at just 20. The young policeman becomes an overachiever: “Deeds, he believed, were more important than words. He proved his worth by doing.”

Terry Lewis rose to be police commissioner before revelations at the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption in the late 1980s led to his trial and conviction. The charges against him included accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to protect vice and illegal gaming. He was sentenced to 14 years and served 10. His appeals failed. Some readers might think such facts warrant mention in Three Crooked Kings but they do not appear, beyond a reference in the back-cover blurb to Lewis as a “deposed and jailed former police commissioner”.

Apparently this part of the story must wait for Condon’s sequel, which the last line of the final chapter tells us is “coming in late 2013”. Delayed revelation is the stock-in-trade of crime writers, but its use in such a serious context is questionable. It highlights that Three Crooked Kings is a genre-bender rather awkwardly positioned between true crime and traditional journalistic expose.

The book came about after Condon was introduced to Lewis, who “decided, at the age of 83, that he wanted his story told”. The two men embarked on a series of interviews lasting almost three years, an author’s note tells us. Lewis also gave the writer access to diaries and other materials. Condon, a journalist as well as a talented novelist, obviously struggled conscientiously with the burden of this unlooked-for opportunity, interviewing hundreds of other people: “On several occasions, Lewis’s version of events and my own research took different paths.” Perhaps it’s as a result of his endeavour to present “a balanced story” that the playful, vivid prose of Condon’s fiction is largely absent here. Much of the narrative unfolds in the style of an extended police-rounds feature, with the hedges, clumsy segues, elisions and repetitions inherent in that type of journalism. One senses the reporter looking back over his shoulder respectfully towards the journalists who blazed the trail he pursues and who, between them, have already covered most of its territory: the Dickies, Masters and Whittons.

In its most accomplished writing, Three Crooked Kings paints a compellingly dark picture of the backwardness of Brisbane 60 years ago. The theme of recurrent police corruption in Queensland has previously been exposed by historians (and by the Fitzgerald Report itself). Here, Condon brings it to life memorably, most enjoyably in the story of corrupt police commissioner Frank Bischof’s campaign to stamp out rock’n’roll culture in the early ’60s – something that Brisbane fans of punk music in the early ’80s would relate to.

One might hope that three years of interviews with a convicted cop would yield more of his personal philosophy, and some fresh insight into how the persistent rumour got started that he was Bischof’s bagman. Instead, there is unreconstructed self-justification. Lewis was waiting outside [in the car] when his corrupt colleague went in and told the prostitute the price of police protection was going up … and so on. The most significant revelation he makes concerns Brisbane’s infamous National Hotel in the early 1960s, and scandalous extracurricular police conduct there – none of it his, of course.

Sybil Nolan covered the Fitzgerald Inquiry proceedings as a journalist. Matthew Condon will be a guest at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, May 20-26.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Vignettes of modern despair

THE SECRET LIVES OF MEN
Nanjing Night Net

By Georgia Blain. Scribe. 256pp. $27.95.

After five novels, including Candelo and Darkwater, and a memoir, Births Deaths Marriages, which dealt in part with the consequences of the fraught and sometimes violent marriage of her parents, Ellis Blain and Anne Deveson, Georgia Blain has turned to the short story.

There are 13 in her new collection, The Secret Lives of Men. That is the title of the first story here, but the material that follows is more varied, as Blain explores the pain of an unfulfilled desire for children, the over-protectiveness by some towards the children they have, the dire and comic complications in the relationships of mothers and daughters. All this is beside the great staple of realist fiction for 200 years – adultery. By implication, a larger social portrait emerges of contemporary Australia – one marked by betrayal, narcissism, despair, valiant but often unavailing acceptance of responsibility. All this is in a secular and far from hopeful world.

Blain is skilled at brisk beginnings and the first line of the book is ”We always knew the locals hated us.” The locals belong to a seaside town that is the holiday resort of rich kids from the capital. When the latter clash, more than one life is ruined.

The ”secret” business of the story is the revelation of how one of the characters has made private and protracted attempts at amends for his guilt. This is a dense short story that gives the impression – as do several others – of being a compressed novel. There are tendrils of narrative that might have grown further had Blain opted for the longer form. Here, as elsewhere, her technical striving and struggles are admirably apparent. Sometimes they can lead her to a programmatic grimness, as in Enlarged + Heart + Child. In that story, and others, she also fails to untangle the welter of names with which we are greeted.

In the world of these stories, women – whatever their professional standing – often find themselves solitary and bereft. They may have been betrayed or deserted, as in the case of the narrator of Intelligence Quotient, who – having just lost her mother, ”the only other member of the family still alive” – confides in despair that ”the desire for a child crippled me at times, particularly now I was completely alone”.

Murramarang, told from the point-of-view of the architect Eloise, concerns broken friendships and failed marriages. As in The Other Side of the River, it is a story of adultery – so everyday from outside, so terrible and particular from within. Blain gives energy and originality to this time-worn material. Her style is most affecting when plain: ”Hamish had told [Eloise] that he was leaving and she had thought she would die.”

Often Blain challenges us to care about the characters whose lives she interweaves. The Bad Dog Park gives us the widowed teacher, Peter, and Doris – a diabetic dog foisted on him by his daughter – and Marnie, the dog walker. To a point, the damaged console one another. There is no easy resolution.

Mirrored opens with Blain’s typical brio – ”For three weeks we had been travelling through Rajasthan” – but this treatment of the travails of a mum and daughter seems done by the numbers. On the same matter, but nearer to home, Her Boredom Trick is layered and assured. In Escape (another novel that might have been), a vain and selfish father, given access to his children, takes them from Dullsville ”off to the land of pot, lissom young women, meals when you felt like it and six weeks of parental neglect”.

Bad faith and ensuing disappointments frequently set the dark tone of Blain’s skilled reckoning of the way we live now.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

The numbers to the masses

The Universe Within by Neil Turok.THE UNIVERSE WITHIN
Nanjing Night Net

By Neil Turok. Allen & Unwin. 304pp. $27.99.

Our oldest creation stories try to describe the universe in the language and ideas available to our ancestors. Later ancestors developed ways of thinking more systematically, some of them developing descriptions of the universe that relied less on metaphors drawn from human society.

They wanted rules of explanation that could apply universally in the known material world, as well as providing some order to the inferred spiritual dimensions that we use to fill our gaps in understanding.

This quest has never ended, though cultures often try to defend orthodox cosmologies based on theories and methods that have been superseded. Scientific cosmologists can be almost as stubborn as religious conservatives in denying new ideas. When the shouting dies, it all comes down to physics.

How readily our eyes sparkle with awe when we look at a starry sky on a clear night, or view vivid images of near-infinite space captured by the latest space telescope. But how rapidly they glaze over when a beady-eyed enthusiast explains how every phenomenon can be described as an interaction of cosmological forces that, though barely understood, can be described in mathematical formulae. Are you still with me?

I once read Professor Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and thought I understood most of it, then fled the topic, never to return. As a young publisher’s assistant, I proofread another professor’s book on Einstein’s theories of relativity. I thought I understood that, too, but wouldn’t claim to now.

Neil Turok has taken on a much wider topic than Hawking. Turok held a chair in mathematical physics at Cambridge and published, together with Hawking, a theory on how universes come into existence. That’s universes, plural. He now heads the Perimeter Institute in Canada, which supports the study of theoretical physics and campaigns for wider community understanding of what physicists are on about, and why it matters.

His title, The Universe Within, tells us this book addresses a vast topic from a human perspective. It is about the ways that generations of scientists have revised and renewed theories and observations on what governs the past, present and future of our universe. Within, it is about how human minds grapple to understand the infinities and imponderables of all matter and energy, from smallest subatomic energy states to the possibly infinite multiplicity of universes that share time and space with everything we humans are able to observe.

There is a quick review of ancient philosophical ideas about the universe, and of the development of mathematics as a way to describe and analyse observations. Mathematics, applied to physics, then allowed philosophers and scientists over the centuries to develop and extend theories into concepts for which there was, as yet, no evidence.

Newton’s physical laws were, and remain, good enough for most earthbound mechanical purposes, but later discoveries about the nature of light, electricity, magnetism and gravity added vital dimensions to speculation about space, time and infinity. Einstein and many others could describe fixed mathematical relationships between fundamental matter and energy, seeming to explain most of what was observable in human experience. Einstein determined that energy and mass are locked in a relationship governed by the square of the speed of light, but this is far from the only foundation formula.

Turok puts forward a far longer formula that ”summarises all the known laws of physics”, in symbols only a mathematician could love. The secret is that, like the pronouncements of ancient oracles, the relationships within the formula are generally accepted, but the values represented by most of the symbols are themselves often contested or unknown.

The one principle that nobody challenges is that no theory is beyond challenge.

The latest and best observations support the theory that our universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, having started as a microscopic dot of unbelievably compressed energy some 4 billion to 5 billion years ago. The expansion, and therefore the entire universe, is probably powered by the dark matter and ”vacuum energy” that was validated by our local Nobel hero Professor Brian Schmidt and his colleagues, perhaps prompted by the very Higgs boson particles that have recently been validated by the Large Hadron Collider experiments in Switzerland. It is not the job of physicists to ask why this happened, but they are increasingly confident that they know how it happened. There are still strenuous arguments among physicists, but Turok inclines to the view that our current expanding universe is just one instance of an infinite number of expansions, followed after a few billion years by contraction, and then another Big Bang to start the expansion again.

A lot of this seems disconnected from human experience because mathematical reasoning is not the same thing as common sense. Indeed, Turok explains that much of the essential theorising depends on the use of special numbers and terms that are themselves ”irrational” or ”unreal”: for example the letter i, representing the square root of -1, is essential to the resolution of many critical formulae, though you could never find such a value in daily life. Similarly, the theory of infinite bangs and busts depends on a concept called ”imaginary time”.

The greatest conceptual leap takes us from classical physics to the realm of quantum mechanics. In this framework the world, indeed the universe, is in constant flux and the state of everything is in constant change. There is no truth, only probability. There can be no absolute measurement, only observation. The job of physicists is to provide, from their observations, theories with reasonable probability. In some such theories, the existence of our own universe is almost at the lowest level of probability. However, because the number of possibilities is infinite, sooner or later our universe would be bound to pop up. After some moments of horror, I received this with relief. Probability makes more sense than certainty to the human brain.

Turok suggests that the application of quantum principles to computing will multiply the subtlety and speed with which future machines can make calculations on our behalf. They really will be more like human (analogue) brains than those relatively moronic binary computers we now use, that must build every step of their logic from choices of absolute yes or no. For quantum computers, every value will always be ”somewhat”. I think I can relate to that.

The bravest thing about this book is that it comprises the scripts of five orations originally broadcast as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship Massey Lectures for 2012. Neil Turok has done his best to leaven it with anecdotes and metaphors. I was baffled by an explanation of gravity using an image of two people standing on ice hockey pucks – in space. How such dense and often challenging material can be absorbed via hour-long radio lectures must be a matter of quantum uncertainty. For a lay reader like myself, the material is hard work but definitely rewarding.

Richard Thwaites has maintained a cautious interest in scientific cosmology since reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost as a teenager.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Rich humour in life and weather

NEW AND SELECTED POEMS
Nanjing Night Net

By Chris Wallace-Crabbe. Carcanet. $39.95.

In Time magazine a couple of years back, the American poet John Ashbery claimed that when it came to finding things to write poetry about ”there’s love and there’s death and time passing and the weather outside”. He could have been talking about Melbourne’s Chris Wallace-Crabbe, whose own poems (less opaque than Ashbery’s, but no less energetic) are characteristically concerned with those four elemental things.

The weather is, of course, not only elemental but also profoundly quotidian, the most ”everyday” of everyday things. The everyday occupies Wallace-Crabbe’s poems like a form of weather itself.

The Bits and Pieces, for instance, is an A-Z catalogue of ordinary objects – such as the artichoke, the yam and the tin opener – made remarkable through the poet’s estranging eye. The artichoke, for example, is ”a green knight’s club / or else an absolute rose”.

In Afternoon in the Central Nervous System, which begins ”Eating raw cabbage at a paper- / littered table at autumn’s end”, Wallace-Crabbe also uses the everyday to rehearse another favourite, and cognate, theme: identity. Despite a marked poetic identity (Wallace-Crabbe has an instantly recognisable style that mixes ”high” and ”low” linguistic registers), his poems are fascinated with the contingencies of identity.

In The Idea of Memory at 33 Celsius he asks: ”Who then is it speaking through me / in shorts and T-shirt, padding at ease / over the faintly dusty floorboards.”

Interrogatives – such as ”who?” – litter Wallace-Crabbe’s poetry, while agnosticism and bemusement is that poetry’s characteristic stance.

As he writes in Afternoon in the Central Nervous System, ”I am bemused by how / the musing of the world thus chose me here / out of, say, Scottish tribes and the plaited rush / of history from Plato down to NATO”. As the rhyming of ”Plato” and ”NATO” suggests, there is a great deal of comedy in Wallace-Crabbe’s ode-like poetry (just as there was in the work of his late contemporaries, Peter Porter and John Forbes).

Much of this comedy is verbal play. He asks, for instance, of the telephone ”Why does it drive me up the pole?”.

In The Thing Itself such verbal play is seen as the raison d’etre of poetry, the poet wishing to devise a sentence of utter originality, ”like nothing on the planet: / a structure of brackets and cornices, / twigs, pediments, dadoes and haloes and bells, / full of nuts, butter and flowers!”.

As well as a source of such aesthetic (or political or philosophical) play, Wallace-Crabbe’s distinctive comedy is always shadowed by an equally distinctive elegiac sensibility. As New and Selected Poems shows, Wallace-Crabbe has become simultaneously grimmer and lighter during the course of his career.

One might ascribe a biographical source to the grimness (the death of his adult son), but even in his first elegy for his son – called, without adornment, An Elegy – there is a hint of the comic in the poem’s final, tragic (and weather-filled) lines: ”So that I wish again / it were possible to pluck my son / out of dawn’s moist air / by the pylon-legs / in that dewy-green slurred valley / before he ever hit the ground, / to sweep under his plunge / like a pink-tinged angel /and gather him gasping back into his life.

The comic image of the poet as a pink-tinged angel of life returns us to a pre-modern sense of comedy, in which restoration and redemption are at the heart of the genre, as the title of Dante’s The Divine Comedy suggests.

In New and Selected Poems, Wallace-Crabbe evokes Dante, as well as the poet-priests Gerard Manley Hopkins and Peter Steele (the latter a close friend of Wallace-Crabbe’s), but his interest in religious matters generally concerns God’s absence.

As Wallace-Crabbe writes in Squibs in the Nick of Time, ”Approving mystery / with all my heart / I practise disenchantment.”

God or gods are therefore present in Wallace-Crabbe’s poetry only as remnants: the ”murmuring” of the first gods heard in Timber, or the assertion that ”God allegedly knows” at the end of More Loss.

In God, Wallace-Crabbe voices the divine father himself: ”I gave a big party / and the name of the party / kept slipping clean away / from my wooden tongue / but I reckon it was / called history.”

This selection, part of Carcanet’s Oxford Poets series, is Wallace-Crabbe’s third ”selected poems”. Having to jam in so many years – his first collection appeared in 1959 – gives the work an impressively Tardis-like appearance: it seems bigger on the inside than it does on the outside.

Wallace-Crabbe’s early years are, perhaps not surprisingly, dealt with efficiently, though poems like Citizen and The Wife’s Story show how early he was attracted to the strangeness of the everyday and comedy.

The poems from the 1980s and ’90s show what important decades these were for Wallace-Crabbe, but as the generous selection of his penultimate collection, Telling a Hawk from a Handsaw (2008) suggests, some of his most impressive work comes from this fecund ”late period”of his.

The many new poems presented in New and Selected Poems are characteristically catholic in tone and style, including The Poem of One Line; the surrealist statements of The Dream Injunctions (presumably gleaned from that eponymous state); verse essays on salt, skin, insects, torture and air; and a long elegiac sequence on politics, The Troubled Weather of Humanity.

As New and Selected Poems illustrates, Wallace-Crabbe has long been aware of how humanity’s weather is ”troubled” by the body’s frailty, the bloodiness of history and mortality itself.

But in his valuing of both the aesthetic and the ordinary as the realms of humanity, he always reminds us – despite what the end has to offer us all – of a different kind of weather, one where, even as darkness is falling, ”the lit clouds yet / sail sweetly over us / inhabiting a daylight of their own”.

David McCooey’s latest collection of poems, Outside, was short-listed for the Queensland Literary Awards as well as the Melbourne Prize for Literature’s best writing award.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.