The Lower Karakorum Highway: Our Trip 1

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Featured Image: Harvesting Wheat Taxila, near the Museum & archaeological site, lower KKH, 1995

Featured Image: Harvesting wheat, Taxila, near the Museum and Archaeological Site, Lower KKH, 1995

ORT_Logo Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  3 May 2021

The Lower Karakorum Highway: Taxila, Abbottabad, Khagan Valley and the Alai Valley

Background

I wrote in the last article The Karakorum Highway why it was still important to write about a trip undertaken in 1995. It was soon difficult and dangerous to travel the KKH after 2001 until not that long ago. The landslide in 2010 that created Attabad Lake closed the KKH and made it difficult to travel on the KKH for some years. The changes in Kashgar covered in another article on the Kashgar Sunday Market and China’s repression of the Uyghur population have made Xinjiang problematical for the responsible traveller. And, eventually the new upgrades to the whole KKH may make the trip no longer adventurous. The towns mentioned are no longer the same, whereas in 1995, they still retained some of the flavour of the 19th century British colonial entry into the region.

As I concluded in my last article, 1995 was a more innocent era and we need to remember rather than to lose reminders of our recent past.

The Trip

We flew to Lahore from Thailand on 28 April, 1995. I’d encouraged Denise to undertake the KKH when we took a year of in 1995. As I said in the last article:

I‘d done this firstly because I’d always been fascinated by Hunza and Nagar kingdoms when I first heard about them in 19th century British colonial writings. Although not in Tibet, they symbolized a sort of Shangri-La beautiful, remote and exotic. Subsequently, I’d heard about the Karakorum Highway or KKH and thought it would be marvelous to travel up it to China.

Naran, Looking Upwards
Naran, Looking Upwards

We both subsequently read William Dalrymple In Xanadu for inspiration though we didn’t stay with British ambassador’s or the Wali of Swat while setting out.

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The Karakorum Highway KKH

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Featured Image: Nanga Parbat, Killer Mountain, KKH 1995

Featured Image: Nanga Parbat, the ‘Killer Mountain’ 8126 metres, from Fairy Meadow, 1995

ORT_LogoBreadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 2 April 2021

The Karakorum Highway (KKH) in 1995

The Karakorum Highway (KKH) runs from around Rawalpindi in Pakistan to Kashgar in China a distance of about 1300 km, through some of the highest mountains and deepest valleys in the world.

The KKH is sometimes called the eighth wonder of the world as a tribute to the engineering feat when it was constructed. Like similar roads in similar regions, for example Nepal and China, the KKH requires extensive maintenance to keep it open. Nowadays, in China there are endless spectacular engineering feats high bridges and roads that make the KKH seem old-fashioned.

The KKH threads its way through a ‘knot’ of four great mountain ranges: the Pamir, the Karakorum, the Hindu Kush and the [western edge] of the Himalayas, all of them part of the vast collision zone between [the Asian and the Indian tectonic plates]. (Lonely Planet)

Chinese Danyor Bridge, Constructed 1960s, Gilgit, KKH, 1995
Chinese Danyor Bridge, Constructed 1960s, Gilgit, KKH, 1995

The highest peaks near the KKH are Nanga Parbat (Himalaya 8126 metres or 26,660 feet), Rakaposhi (Karakorum 7790 m), Batura Peak (Karakorum 7785) Mt Kongur (Pamir 7719), un-named peak at the head of the Passu Glacier (Karakorum 7611), Muztagh Ata (Pamir 7546), Malabiting (Karakorum 7450), Haramosh (Karakorum 7400), Ultar Peak (Karakorum 7388).

There are many others slightly lower. In the Northern Areas of Pakistan there are about three dozen peaks over 7000 metres. K2 (Karakorum 8611 m or 28,250 feet), the second highest mountain in the world, near Skardu is not far from Gilgit in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

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The Last Five Years: Global Threats 2021

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Featured Image: Car in Garage, South Canberra, Canberra Bushfire 2003

Featured Photo: Five hundred homes were lost in Canberra in 2003; the whole coastal and near inland of south-eastern Australia was aflame in 2019/2020.

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 March 2021

The Last Five Years, Global Threats in 2021: mass extinction, climate change, human population, refugees, Covid-19 and the Internet

 

This article is a companion to my last article Killing Osama bin Laden, Update 2021 in which I also covered what has happened in global politics in the last five years.

Climate change is now becoming front and centre in global politics as has been predicted for some time. Many countries are beginning to treat climate change as an emergency that must be solved, but are not to date doing anything much about it.

Australia is coming to the issue late, neither major party in Federal politics is doing anything and will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table. The less significant National Party is still in denial. Yet, the corporate sector, business, non-government agencies and to a lesser extent State governments are beginning to act, as is much of the corporate sector around the world.

In my view this is all too little too late. I am reminded of the trope in cartoons and elsewhere of the gloom-laden man holding up a sign that reads the end is nigh! I am not going to present arguments here. The facts are too self-evident.

Let’s look at the last five years and forward to the next ten.

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Killing Osama bin Laden, Update 2021

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Photo: Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer, 4.06 pm EST, 1 May 2011, Situation room

Featured Photo: Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer, 4.06 pm EST, 1 May 2011, Situation room

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 February 2021


The Killing of Osama bin Laden, Update 2021

Introduction

In July to September 2015, I wrote three articles on The Last Days of Osama bin Laden. These were: 1 Abbottabad, 28 July 2015; 2 9/11, 9 August 2015and 3 The Killing 8 September 2015.

(For some reason article 1 was inadvertently erased (my incompetence), and I reposted it immediately on 19 February 2018, in case you are confused.)

Denise and I had spent a couple of days in Abbottabad in 1995 and knew a bit about the location. Osama bin Laden’s residence and compound was constructed in 2005. Osama bin Laden lived there from 2006, until the raid on the compound by a covert team of US Navy SEALS (from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan) and the ‘killing’ of Osama bin Laden on 2 May 2011.

The reason I wrote the articles in 2015 was that I had been uneasy about the US claims about the death of Osama bin Laden since 2011. In particular, I thought that it was impossible that no one in Pakistan knew bin Laden was there, as Abbottabad is a major military cantonment. I also thought it most unlikely that the US would have mounted the raid, without some type of approval from the Pakistani military or ISI (Pakistan Inter-services Intelligence Service). President Obama didn’t strike me as that gung ho.

I decided that having begun a blog in 2015 I should investigate and at least decide for myself what had happened.

I’ve reread the three blogs and don’t really think that there is anything that I would change. Nevertheless, a lot has happened in the past five years and an update is warranted.


Seymour Hersh

Seymour Hersh is a senior and respected investigative journalist who exposed the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1969 and the mistreatment of prisoners by the US military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004. Coincidentally, Seymour Hersh, published a bombshell expose entitled The Killing of Osama bin Laden in the London Review of Books on 21 May 2015, just as I was beginning my task.

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Life Fragments

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Life Fragements I, Feature 2
Life Fragments I, Feature

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 2 January 2021

Life Fragments I

A work by Tony Stewart in September 2002.


Introduction

One of the pluses and minuses of making photomedia artworks on the computer — as well as not enough time in the fresh air — is that it is possible to make very large works that will sit in cyberspace for years, before you have enough money or a convincing enough reason to print them in hard copy.

In the next few articles on my making art, I am going to describe and attempt to show large works – some of which I have exhibited and some of which I haven’t. The latter I have only viewed as small-scale versions and as details.


Terms for Digital Works

In my article Pandemic Art Update is used the word cartoon as a description of a small-scale physical print of a much larger work. This isn’t an ideal term as cartoon in art used to refer to a full-size drawing or modello (model) for a painting, stained glass, or tapestry. Cartoons are particularly relevant to frescoes, but also to tapestry, where pin-pricks can be used to transfer the design to a wall or pattern.

There are no new words for these words in digital art. A sketch is traditionally a rough drawing or painting, in which an artist explores preliminary ideas for a much larger work to be made with much more precision and detail. My friend Allan Byrne suggested digi-sketch. In one sense digi-sketch is appropriate because the smaller version, together with details (a blown up specific area of the work) may suggest changes before the larger work is printed, but in another it is not because the digi-sketch is an exact copy of the final version of the artwork.

Life Fragments 1, Detail 1990s to 2000
Life Fragments 1, Detail 1990s to 2000

In other words a smaller-version in digital art is useful in the sense of creating a model that one can use to examine and correct, before embarking on the final printing of the large-scale version. Another concept that of a detail, a blown-up or expanded part of the whole, is also incredibly useful in the decision-making process. And, is a term that is both useful in conventional and digital art. (The use of details is important in describing paintings: see my article on Hieronymus Bosch.)

Thumbnail is another concept that though useful and important does not describe what I am talking about, either. However, let’s not get caught up in semantics. It is the process that is important not the label.

Another way of looking at the issue is to think of postcards and larger catalogue prints of major well-known artworks (let’s not worry about the issue of colour reproduction and assume that the colours are a perfect representation of the original).

Unless, you know the original painting — a knowledge based solely on a postcard or even a good catalogue print, often means that you are completely surprised when you finally view the original artwork, because it is not at all what you had expected.

The problem with a digital ‘cartoon’ or a digi-sketch for a much larger-scale work is that it does not really reflect what the work is going to look like in a much larger size. In my work this is sometimes not a problem, but sometimes it’s a major problem.

Continue reading “Life Fragments”

AA Gill British Pubs

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ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 December 2020


AA Gill & British Pubs

AA Gill & Jeffrey Steingarten

Two wonderful food writers are the late AA Gill, UK and Jeffrey Steingarten, USA. Both have a unique voice and have brought something special to ‘foodie’ writing. Both writers have created a persona, which whilst probably not true adds something immeasurable to their style.

AA Gill seems to be an angry, sardonic working or lower middle class intellectual with a ‘chip on his shoulder’. Although, this is not an adequate description. It is superficial, and certainly not true. He was upper middle class from a happy background.

What is true is that he spent his late teens and the whole of his twenties as a drunk.

Jeffrey Steingarten presents the persona of a New Yorker with obsessive compulsive behaviours. It is also probably not true, but adds an energy to his writing. I’ll cover him in a later article.

Steingarten tends to give you more information than you ever wanted to know, but in a very entertaining way. AA Gill gives you less than you want (fewer column inches).

I’ll concentrate on AA Gill, who wrote a few short articles on the British pub amidst a massive oeuvre of food and travel writing. Although he offended many people constantly, it was an integral part of his style. The quotations below are from Table Talk 2007 a collection of his column articles from the Sunday Times.

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The Coal Curse Judith Brett

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Feature: The Coal Curse Cover, Judith Brett, Quarterly Essay #78, 2020

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 November 2020

The Coal Curse Judith Brett, June 2020

Judith Brett The Coal Curse: Resources, climate & Australia’s future, Quarterly Essay 78, 2020. The Coal Curse is the following Quarterly Essay to Cry Me a River by Margaret Simons which I used to give a 2020 update to my essay on the Murray-Darling Catastrophe. I am using The Coal Curse by Judith Brett in a different way.

It is not my intention to summarise Judith Brett’s essay but more to highlight the salient issues and to focus on a couple of the corespondent’s responses to the essay in the following Quarterly Essay 79. I gave a general background to the Quarterly Essay and Black Inc. in the 2020 update, if you are interested.


Preamble

The Coal Curse Judith Brett’s Essay

Introduction

Judith Brett is emeritus professor of politics at La Trobe University in the essay she says:

I am a historian, so I look for explanations not just in the perfidies of the present, but in the decisions and events of the past. … This essay is about the history of Australia as a commodity-exporting nation and its political consequences. Economic history is unfashionable nowadays… Economic history is dry and hard to narrativise. But how a country makes its living can explain a lot.


Resource Cursed

Judith Brett says:

In 2018-19, Australia’s top exports were iron ore, coal, natural gas, international education and tourism in that order. Coal became our top-earning export commodity in the mid-1980s and has been at number one or number two ever since, vying with iron ore, which needs metallurgical coal to be transformed into steel. The production of LNG has increased rapidly over the past decade … and it is now our third-largest commodity export and rising fast. Between 2018-19 and the previous financial year, its export value grew by 60.9 per cent. Coal, LNG, iron ore: in 2018-19 these three earned 41.8 per cent of our export income.

This is why Morrison [Australia’s current Prime Minister] brought a lump of lacquered coal into parliament in February 2017. “Don’t be afraid don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you,” … The point was to ridicule the Opposition’s support for renewable energy, and it was a stupid stunt. But it put on full display how impossible it was for many of our political leaders to imagine Australia’s future without fossil fuels.


Continue reading “The Coal Curse Judith Brett”

E M Foner Union Station Series 1: Overview & KDP

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ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 October 2020

EM Foner Union Station Series & Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)


Preamble

EM Foner Union Station does not fit my normal Classic SciFi inclination. As you would know from my Classic SciFi series, ten to date, I am a fan of old-fashioned classic science fiction and also would like to remind or introduce people to some of the best books.

My series of Classic SciFi is 1. James Blish A Case of Conscience, 2. Daniel F Galouye Dark Universe, 3. Avram Davidson Rork! 4-7 William Gibson Trilogy 4. Neuromancer, 5. Prophecy, 6. Count Zero, 7. Mona Lisa Overdrive, 8 Ursula K. Le Guin The Word for World Is Forest, 9 Isaac Asimov I, Robot & Killer Robots, 10 Arkady & Boris Strugatsky Roadside Picnic. There are many more to get around to.

In the articles I try to do slightly more than a conventional book review by providing a deeper background and some analysis.

Roy Lewis The Evolution Man is also labelled by Penguin as Science Fiction. I would label it more as humour and not what I call Classic SciFi; though I’d highly recommend it as a must read.

E M Foner Union Station 4My preferred science fiction and use of the word classic are those books from the 1940s on that try to advance novel ideas and a theme that is plausible and pays lip service to scientific rigour whether from hard science or the social sciences and psychology.

Nevertheless, there are other genres and I have read works from many of them, including the occasional fantasy novel.

My liking of and slight addiction to EM Foner’s Union Station Series does not fit this model. It is unusual for me. Akin perhaps to an otherwise intelligent reader’s attraction to Mills & Boon or Westerns but this does not do justice to EM Foner. The categorisation with Mills & Boon and Westerns is also important. The story or the clothing of each type of writing falls within similar forms of ritualised convention. In EM Foner’s case this is quite clever, if somewhat unusual. The Union Station books are funny and subversively intelligent but quirky.


Union Station Series

There are 18 Union Station books to date published over the last six years. They are all of similar quality and their ratings average over 4 on Goodreads, which as a reader tends to be my preliminary criterion of excellence these days. When browsing books on secondhand shelves anything over 3.75 tends to be a reliable guide to my giving new authors a go.

I’ll cover the individual books in another article. Continue reading “E M Foner Union Station Series 1: Overview & KDP”

Pandemic Art Update

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Featured Image, Tony Stewart, Pandemic Print Exchange
Featured Image, Tony Stewart, Pandemic Print Exchange

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 September 2020

Pandemic Art Update 2020 — work in progress

Preamble

I don’t know how many artists consider the process of their art and their art practice and how many never reflect upon it. When I was involved in science (biology), I was very interested in the process of how science works. Indeed, I was interested in the philosophy of science and science practice.

Most scientists, however, didn’t give a hoot about the process or philosophy of science other than learning to conduct their work as a rigorous practice that would pass muster under the peer review system. This approach didn’t have any direct negative consequences. Except in biology, I thought occasionally the gung ho approach led to an indifference to statistical processes and sometimes to poor and even wrong analysis. Most scientists, however, didn’t give a hoot about the process or philosophy of science other than learning to conduct their work as a rigorous practice that would pass muster under the peer review system. This approach didn’t have any direct negative consequences. Except in biology, I thought occasionally the gung ho approach led to an indifference to statistical processes and sometimes to poor and even wrong analysis.

With reference to art, some artists are interested in the process of how they make art and why, while others just get on with it. I naturally fit in to the former camp and because of this I tend to see some benefits, though not enough to justify any artist from changing their natural inclinations.

Untitled 1, November 2018, Linocut, 30 x 30 cm
Untitled 1, November 2018, Linocut, 30 x 30 cm

The benefits I see are that you are at least aware of the flow of your work and its direction. While you may not pay much attention to your process when the flow is energetic, creative and satisfying. And, you have barely enough time to make the work you are driven to create. When things change, you may be more able to understand.

You may be frustrated that things aren’t the way they used to be, but you also have the tools to analyse why. You can either accept the hiatus; or you can seek out reasons and techniques to cope with change. You are more likely to be experimental and to seek out new directions.

This is not meant to be overly philosophical, but I am interested in my own practice. For ten years, I became what I termed an accidental artist, but I was inspired by what I was doing and powered ahead without thinking more than necessary about the process. The period was creative and immensely satisfying. Then came the hiatus. I basically stopped what I had been doing and for a long time engaged in what I thought of as mucking around, including going to basic courses with my partner Denise.

More recently, I taught myself linocutting and joined a print making cooperative called Megalo in Canberra to learn how to print my works professionally. I still haven’t explored the extent of my potential relationship with Megalo Print Studio.

Also recently, I have done several more courses and joined a Thursday art group hosted by artist Jenny Manning, which I have found both inspiring and stimulating. Because of this group, I have begun to place works in exhibitions and have expanded my repertoire. Continue reading “Pandemic Art Update”

Murray-Darling Basin Update 2020

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Home   about   contact   travel   food   books   art   the rest   galleries  navigationCry Me a River, Margaret Simons, Quarterly Essay, #77, 2020ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 3 August 2020

Murray-Darling Basin Update 2020: Cry Me a River by Margaret Simons


Introduction

Since I wrote my article The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe, which has attracted attention and good feedback, the problems with the Murray-Darling have become even more prominent.

The issue has risen in the public consciousness because of prosecutions of cotton growers in the northern basin, more evidence of corruption, criticism of government waste of money, many more articles on different aspects of the Murray-Darling Basin in newspapers and more stories on Australian ABC radio and ABC TV.

Publicity that water entitlements in Australia, based on 2018 figures, are 10.4% foreign-owned and that Chinese interests own 1.9% (with the USA about the same and the UK 1.4%) has recently enraged people against China on Facebook. Publicity that most water entitlements are owned by large agribusinesses, those with the deepest pockets, and those whose crops make the highest profits has never gained the same traction.

Concern about the Murray-Darling Basin, however, appears to be growing.

Margaret Simons has written an excellent Quarterly Essay called Cry Me a River in 2020, which has ignited more public debate on the Murray-Darling Basin, even under the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown.

The remainder of this article concentrates on Margaret Simons’ essay. I can’t summarise the essay here and I assume most of you haven’t read it. Nevertheless, I think you’ll find the information contained rewarding. It may also inspire you to buy or borrow a copy of the essay. Cry Me a River is the most current, clear and detailed overview of the Murray-Darling Basin crisis currently available.

I hope you have at least read my article The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe, which is a succinct 3500 word description of the tragedy!


Quarterly Essay Background

We live in an environment, where I’d contend, there has been no clear political direction on a future for Australia in twenty-five years. The political class — particularly the conservatives — tends to obfuscate debate on crucial issues and to obscure prioritising on where the money is spent. The general media, which is in decline (and dominated by News Corp), doesn’t cover broad topics well or in-depth. The ABC, despised by conservatives, struggles on — despite ongoing funding cuts.

In this environment, Morry Schwarz and Black Inc. have introduced the Quarterly Essay (2001), the Monthly Magazine (2005) and the weekly Saturday Paper (2014) as independent commentary on deeper issues concerning Australia.

The Quarterly Essay is printed in a book-like size. Each issue comprises an essay of at least 20,000 words, which is followed by correspondence on the previous essay. Hence the correspondence to Cry Me a River is contained in The Curse of Coal by Judith Brett, Issue 78, 2020.

Continue reading “Murray-Darling Basin Update 2020”