Monthly Archives: November 2015

World AIDS  Day

I remember these lost friends and acquaintences today.

“They sparkle like jewels in my mind, like stars at night”.

Steven Breeze

Andrew Todd

Trevor Eyden

Gavin Murdoch

Mark Silcock AKA Marcus Craig

Kenneth John Smith

Mark ‘Davo’ Davies

Geoffrey Gordon Smith

Michael Fletcher

Michael Lavis

Peter Greentree

Leslie Albert Heathfield

Glen Evans

Gary Mayall

Stuart ‘Stella’ Law

Damien ‘Alexis’ Colby aka Damien Guy

John Doyle

Allen John Deith

Peter Bringolf

John ‘Goanna’ Ellison

Peter Vanzella

Frank Currie

Jonal Fenn

Jack Allen

Gareth Paull

Michael Bradley

Philip Boyd

Shane Pascoe

Graeme Baird

Vincent Dobbin

Peter Fehlberg

Gerald Lawrence

Peter Shepherd

Ray Hopkins

Paul Costello

Michael Beazley

Michael Gregory

David Edwards aka Sr Mary Daisychain OPI

Wayne

John ‘Sway’

Kevin Bailey

Gary Salton

Steve Allen

Philip Metcalf

  

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Daily (OrWhen The Mood Takes Me) Gripe: Religion!

Only a month or so ago, a 15-year-old Muslim boy left his home, paid a fleeting visit to his local Mosque, chaned his clothes from everyday wear to a robe, then walked to the Parramatta Police Centre, and shot a non-police pencil pusher as he left the building to go home, all the time yelling religious quotes. Police officers shot him dead. Good tiddance, I say! Appears that he had been indoctrinated online by ISOS. 

The real horror of this is…RELIGION! That a 15-year-old…caught at the most confused and influential time of his life…can be turned into a religious fanatic through technology is frightening! As usual, we are told it’s a solitary event, and to get on with our daily lives without letting it frighten us…but even liberal-minded lefties like myself are getting concerned. I’m not frightened in the literal sense of the word…it’s more like a nagging, unsettled feeling. That I am now expecting all attacks like this to beMuslim-centric speaks heaps about the worrying changes in my thinking – from tolerance and acceptance, to actually siding withthose  fighting the building of Mosques in their communities. And I hate myself for even beginning to think that way. Why is it that the examples of this type of terror are becoming the predominant face of the Islam religion! Yet, now we have the Paris attacks! Even more innocent bystanders! People out for a meal in a cafe, or attending a concert are now dead, and the sheer barbarity of the attacks harks back to the dark days of the Crusades.

And therein, once again, lies the crux of the problem…RELIGION! What is it about religion that promulgates so much hate, intolerance, discrimination and death – the EXACT opposite of everything it is supposed to stand for…according to those who lead and preach it, anyway!

I’m an Athiest, as is just about everyone I know. I’m an intelligent, thinking, analytical man. After many years of blindly following theologies, tenets, doctrines, philosophies and faith that I was always sort of suspicious about, I sat down and had a good, long think about it. After getting up from this self-imposed think tank, I tossed it all overboard! What intelligent, thinking person could actually fall for that crap! A man wandering around a desert with 12 other men; dying, coming back to life (after creating a mysterifying shroud), moving a stone wighing many tons and just toddling off; flying up to heaven on a cloud; popping back down occasionally for a visit; likewise for his mother..a virgin impregnated by a spirit (a hortor movie in the making there); she seems to keep her dead self busy by appearing at the most unlikely places, usually to neurotic women or fanatical men; a Jew and Jewess who are depicted as anything but; a fierce, sadistic, demanding,  megalomaniacal God  who evidently has a very long beard, and sits around all day listening to a lot of griping, and judging people – whilst seated up amongst the clouds on a throne, reached through some pearly gates and along a gold road. He’s surrounded by all these winged people playing harps and blowing trumpets – who are also busy popping down to earth and creating a bit of havoc – and whose arch-enemy lives in this fiery place under the eath, where he is busy torturing people, wearing red outfits topped off with forked tail, horns and a pitchfork. If you believe the bible – which all true creationists do – then the earth was made in 7 days, Adam and Eve played with snakes under apple trees, and had two SONS from whom we all came…and to think – the people who follow these fairy tales obstruct marriage equality…mmmm! Then we have huge floods with two of EVERY animal, bird and insect cramned onto a boat…with no deaths, or fights…or preying. We have wine being created from water, 5,000 people being fed from one loaf of bread and a fish, some walking on water, healing some lepers and blind people by touching them…and these are just the biblical foundations of belief! No wonder I’m Athiest!

Mind you, the Muslim religion – which I confess to knowing bugger-all about – is not the first religion to try to claim world domination. The Catholic religion had dibs on that long before they came along. If you didn’t follow all the tenets of the One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church..then….well, lets have a look at that! As soon as anyone started to think outside the square – take the Cathars as an example – then the church got antsy and sent out a group of very umpleasant men called the Inquisition (or Spanish Inquisition, depending on where you lived) who, as a way of helping you back to the one true faith, would judge, torture and burn you at the stake…unless you recanted your heretical ways! Henry VIII got a bit jack of not being able to divorce his wife – who was his brothers wife originally, and who he married to keep the peace – and told the same One Holy Catholic etc etc to go to buggery, as he was starting his own church, which was going to be way better than theirs, and he’d divorce and marry anyone he liked, even if he had to lop their heads off to do it. The Catholic church got a bit miffed. And as a way of getting his revenge Henry tore down all the monasteries – who, by the way, provided most of the assistance to the poor and dispossessed, so he just added to any social problems they already had – and stripped the churches, cashed in all the art, artifacts and building materials, and killed or burnt anyone who defied him. For the next couple of hundred years, including the rise and fall of the religiously fanatical (Protestant) Thomas Cromwell, England swung between Catholicism and extremist Protestantism, with thousands of people being killed as they tried to keep up with the latest religious trend. What a fuck-up…all in the name of God! 

But that wasn’t even the worst of it! The Holy Roman etc etc Church was intent on displaying just how Holy and Apostolic it really was…not! One hardly knows where to start here. Well, on top of forcing itself on the poor folk of Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Holland etc etc, it decided it needed to be totally inclusive, and force any other infidels to come into the fold. Jerusalem looks good, as does Byzantium. Those pesky Muhammad-pushers are also interested..so, let’s have a war, but we’ll call it a Crusade. That way, everyone can get involved, and have a jolly good time raping and pillaging their way across Europe, and take Jerusalem away from both the Jews AND the Turks. This went on for about 200 years (1095-1291), with no clear outcome, though once again many thousands died in the name of The One Holy etc etc. Naturally, both Popes and Kings had nothing better to do with their time, and got involved. Holy indeed!

This broughts heaps of money, art and treasure into the hands of the One Holy Roman etc etc, so it got richer and richer, greedier and greedier. The richer and greedier it got, the more demanding and controlling it got. It created prelates and princes. Popes married, or were just licencious, fucked around, had kids…but…don’t do what I do, do what I say. All these Popes, and prelates and princes covered themselves in gold bling, ran around in silk damask robes lined with ermine furs…drag taken to its most devout degree! To make even more money, they promised that if you parted with some cash and bought some of their recently released indulgences…hey presto! You get to skip purgatory! Feeling a bit bored? Hey..,go for a pilgrimage to some far flung corner of the earth to pray in front of some fake blood, or fake “saints” bones, or a rigged statue that bleeds. Don’t forget to buy some souvenirs! Part with that hard-earned cash, and buy your way into heaven. Let’s create an institution….no, we’ll make it a sacrament…called “marriage”. It has no legality as it is just a ritual, but we’ll hijack it anyway, and use it as another way to control people! We’ll bedazzle you with rites and splendour, intone ceremonies in ancient language, convince you that sin is bad, gulit is good! Make women a sub-class, and deny our priests a fulfilling life by enforcing celibacy. Want to molest some children as an outlet for repeessed sexuality and control? That’s fine, as long as no one finds out. After all, you are a Cardinal, or a Bishop, or a Monsignor, or a monk, or a nun. You are way beyond reproach! Let’s totally confuse you with rhetoric and theology…words like “transubstantiation” sound so much better than “cannabilism”, don’t you reckon! Want to become a saint by becoming a martyr in defence of all this “faith”? Then get yourself spit-roasted, or pack-raped, or see visions, or get frenetic enough about it all to develop stigmata, or get burnt at the stake, or whatever…then off you go! In 200 years, after appearing on a fence post and curing someone of something you’ll be sainted! 

Books? Don’t try and educate yourself, or read anything alternative or progressive! We’re burning all those, and if we catch you reading it…we’ll burn you too! 

And with all our Catholic humanity and compassion, we realise that there are primitives and cannibals around. Look at all those tiny islands, South America and Africa…full of them! We need to make them all Catholic or Protestant so they have something genuine to believe in! Destroy their culture? Don’t be silly…they never had a culture, fucking little pagans! Some nice missionaries will knock dome sense into them! They must be saved from themselves!

Even in more enlightened times we remain in the past, locked in a time when we could influence the gullible, instil fear, create guilt. Want to take the pill, or use a condom? Of course you can’t! Nothing quire like a religion that promotes STDs, and unwanred children! Sex for PLEASURE! Who are you to even think that! Missionary position, everyone…and NO pleasurable sounds, please! This is your duty!

And that was just the Catholics! The Protestants – who broke away from Catholicism for all these reasons – were no better!  Subjugate everyone with excessive guilt! Rob them of every single pleasure and joy life has! Convince them that deprivation, hardship, blandness and fanatical devotion and zeal were the sure paths to heaven! Thousands died so that these beliefs could be upheld. 

There is not one single, solitary off-shoot of Chritianity that is redemptive, or lives up to the so-called precepts of said religion. We have Opus Dei; evangelicals; glossolalia; snake charming; Jim Jones and Jonestown; Hillsong (sing alleluia and pass the plate); Mormons…who are themselves divided; Scientologists…yeah, lets base a cult (it is NOT a religion) on science fiction; Baptists; Methodists; Uniting Church; Church of Christ; Unitarians; Westboro Baptist Church…where hate and intolerance is openly preached; Right to Life movements…who ignore the most basic of human rights…choice;  Jehovah’s Witnesses; Bahai..the list just goes on…and on…and on! A whole raft of idealogical theologies that do NOTHING but promote hate, intolerance, injustice, prejudice, stigma, discrimination…and yet blame everyone else for their own shortfallings. It  disgusts me! 

The most blatant lies of all…that the bible has the answers for starters! This heavily quoted tome is a collection of stories passed down through word of mouth, and eventually put into writing by civilisations and lifestyles long dead. And should remain so! Every single Christian religion has added and subtracred from this book…depending on what met their needs, or what was surplus to requirements. It is so corrupted, distorted and misquoted for all the wrong reasons that I just laugh when I read it being quoted…usually by half-witted fundamentalists. The other lies belie and degrade the true nature of our humanity, of how we would be if we were just left to sort out right and wrong for ourselves. After all, Christianity is only 2000 years old, and does not have the history to define the most basic of human precepts. Civilisations were doing just that LONG before the Christians came along. You see, we do not need Christianity, or any other religion, to prescribe morals and ethics. We can do that…and indeed have, in times past..as a society. We all intrinsically know what is right, and what is wrong! What we need to do to live in harmony and peace, to respect each other, to not judge, to not pontificate. Religion seems to think that without them, there would be no charity, no humanity, no help for the dispossessed or those in need. It would appear to the unthinking that we need obscure Jews wandering the deserts of the Middle East, bearded men in the sky, and fanatical prophets to achieve these things. Wrong!

If we cannot achieve morals and ethics through our own humanity, through our own sense of self worth,through a sense of justice that is all encompassing, through our collective belief in the good that is inherent in all of us (and acknowledge that aberrations exist, for better or worse), that I cannot help and support my friends and family as part of a living, thriving society that does not need to resort to fallacy, misconceptions and gobbledygook for its existence…then perhaps we don’t deserve to exist at all!

I am not sure why we fail to acknowledge that almost every single genocide, mass instances of torture, sadistic, unnecessary deaths, indeed most wars are religion-based. Millions have died in the name of religion! Millions! And still are! Isn’t it time we grew up, and admitted that as an institution, religion has failed! The current Royal Commission into institutionalised child abuse is one of the most horrifying instances of religious and secular abuse imaginable. All the disgraceful hush-ups, turning a blind eye, shuffling the problems around, and disbelieving everything that was being said by the victims is staggering! Many committed suicide, many others live every day with the aftermath of this abuse. It hasn’t been going on for decades, it has been happening for hundreds of years! Every single religion, every single religious order, every single charity is involved! To be on the commission panel must be heartbreaking! To sit through every day listening to that horror!

It is time to say…enough is enough! Begone religion! Leave us in peace!

Tim Alderman (C) 2015

  

Australian Icons: Henri L’Estrange – the Australian Blondin

  Portrait of Henri with waxed moustache, sitting backwards on a chair, 3/4 to camera, wearing a formal jacket and white bowtie. Studio portrait of Henri, 1876

Henri L’Estrange, known as the Australian Blondin, was an Australian successful funambulist and accident prone aeronautical balloonist.[1] Modelling himself on the famous French wire-walker Charles Blondin, L’Estrange performed a number of tightrope walks in the 1870s, culminating in three walks across Sydney’s Middle Harbour in 1877. He remains the only tightrope performer ever to have walked across a part of Sydney Harbour.[1] L’Estrange was an early balloonist, and attempted a series of flights in the early 1880s – one being successful, one ending in Australia’s first emergency parachute descent, and the last culminating in a massive fireball causing property damage, personal injury and a human stampede. He tried to return to his original career of tightrope walking but, with new forms of entertainment, humiliating falls and other Blondin imitators, he found success elusive. Public benefits were held in his honour to recoup financial losses and he dabbled in setting up amusement rides but ultimately he faded from public attention and was last recorded to be living in Fitzroy, Victoria in 1894.
Contents

Early performance

Henri L’Estrange was born about 1842 in Fitzroy, a suburb of Melbourne.[2] Little is known of his early years, family or private life. He first came to public attention in 1873 as a member of a Melbourne performance group, the Royal Comet Variety Troupe, a gymnastic, dancing and comedic vocal combination with Miss Lulu L’Estrange and Monsieur Julian. As part of this troupe, L’Estrange performed in Melbourne and Tasmania throughout 1873 and 1874, with Henri and Lulu performing together on the tightrope.[3] In 1876, L’Estrange performed solo for the first time in Melbourne, and quickly gained a reputation as a fearless performer.
Tightrope walking had grown in popularity in Australia through the 1860s, following reports reaching the Australian Colonies of the exploits of the great French walker, Charles Blondin, who crossed Niagara Falls in 1859. By the mid-1860s, Australian wire walkers (funambulists) were modelling themselves on Blondin, copying his techniques, with several even calling themselves “the Australian Blondin”. The popularity of the name surged after the original Blondin visited Australia in 1874, performing his highwire act in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. By the mid-1880s, there were at least five “Blondins” performing regularly in Sydney and elsewhere.

L’Estrange began using the moniker “the Australian Blondin” from early 1876. Arriving in Sydney from Melbourne, L’Estrange erected a large canvas enclosure in the Domain and began a regular series of performances on the tightrope, copying the location and stunts of the real Blondin who had performed there in August 1874.[4] His opening night on 26 January 1877 attracted a reported crowd of between two and three thousand people. Newspaper reports commented that his performance was so like that of the original Blondin that people could be forgiven for thinking they had seen the world-renowned rope-walker. With his rope suspended 40 feet (12 metres) above the ground, L’Estrange walked backwards and forwards, walked in armour, walked covered in a sack, used and sat on a chair, cooked and rode a bicycle, all on the rope. His show also included a fireworks display for the public’s entertainment.[5]
L’Estrange performed in the Domain from January through to April 1877, but not without incident. On 7 February 1877, as L’Estrange neared the end of his wire act, sparks from the fireworks going off around him fell into the nearby store of gunpowder and fireworks, igniting them. The store’s shed was demolished, a surrounding fence knocked down, part of L’Estrange’s performance tent caught fire, and two young boys were injured.[1]

Sydney Harbour crossing

 L’Estrange, the Australian Blondin, crossing Middle Harbour in the Illustrated Sydney News 28 April 1877.

In late March 1877, advertisements began to appear in the Sydney newspapers for L’Estrange’s proposed harbour crossing. The first public performance was set for Saturday 31 March, with L’Estrange having organised 21 steamers to convey spectators from Circular Quay to a special landing stage close to his performance area. L’Estrange advised those wishing to see his performance to travel on his steamers as they were the only ones with permission to land passengers. This, of course this did not stop other entrepreneurs and captains from carrying spectators of their own.[2] Whilst the event was profitable L’Estrange considered that the majority of viewers were non-paying “dead-heads”.[6]
Prior to the public performance, L’Estrange undertook the crossing for a select audience including members of the press. That crossing was a success, and was well reviewed in the papers, no doubt adding to the crowd’s anticipation for the Saturday show.[7] Sadly, bad weather postponed the performance, which did not go ahead until 14 April.[2][8]
At 1 o’clock on Saturday 14 April, the steamers began leaving Circular Quay, conveying 8,000 of an estimated 10,000-strong crowd to Middle Harbour – a large crowd considering the alternative attractions that day of Sydney Royal Easter Show (known then simply as “the Exhibition”) and horse racing.[2] The remainder were reported to be walking from St Leonards, with a toll being collected along the way. Spectators clambered up the sides of the bay for vantage points, while hundreds more stayed on board steamboats, yachts and in row boats below.[2] The rope was strung across the entrance to Willoughby Bay, from Folly Point to the head of the bay, a reported length of 1,420 feet (430 m), 340 feet (100 m) above the waters below.[7] The distance meant that two ropes were required, spliced together in the centre, to reach the other side, with 16 stays fixed to the shore and into the harbour to steady the structure.
Everything being ready, precisely at 4 o’clock L’Estrange come out of his tent on the eastern shore, dressed in a dark tunic and a red cap and turban. Without hesitation or delay he stepped onto the narrow rope, and, with his heavy balancing-pole, at once set out on his journey across the lofty pathway. As has been before stated, the rope is stretched across the harbour at a great altitude, the width apparently being three hundred yards. At the western end it is higher than at the eastern, and as the weight of the rope causes a dip in the centre, the western end is at a considerable incline. Starting off amidst the cheers of the spectators, L’Estrange walked fearlessly at the rate of eighty steps to a minute across the rope, until he reached a spliced part near the centre, some twenty feet in length, which he passed more deliberately. Then he stood on his right foot, with his left resting against his right leg. This feat being safely accomplished, he dropped onto his knee, and afterwards sat down and waived [sic] his handkerchief to the crowd of spectator. Next he lay on his back along the rope. Resuming the sitting posture, he took out a small telescope and for a moment or two surveyed the onlookers, who warmly applauded his performances. Raising the balancing pole, he lifted one foot onto the rope, then the other, and continued his walk. He took a few steps backward and then proceeded up the inclined part of the rope steadily to the western shore, at the slower speed of about sixty steps a minute, the rope swaying considerably as he went. The remaining part of the distance was safely traversed, the last few steps being walked more quickly: and the intrepid performer stepped on terra firma amidst the enthusiastic cheers of the spectators, the inspiring strains of the bands of music, and the shrill whistling of the steamers.

— Sydney Morning Herald, April 16[2] and 4 May 1877[8]

The successful crossing was greeted with enthusiastic cheers, the tunes of the Young Australian Band, the Albion Brass Band and Cooper and Bailey’s International Show Band, who had all come to entertain the crowds, and the shrilling of the steamers’ whistles. L’Estrange soon reappeared in a small row boat to greet the crowds, although many had already rushed the steamers to leave, resulting in a few being jostled into the harbour.[2]
While the Illustrated Sydney News proclaimed it a truly wonderful feat, performed with the greatest coolness and consummate ability, not all of Sydney’s press were so enthusiastic. The Sydney Mail questioned the worth of such a performance beyond the profits made, commenting that it was, “…a mystery to many minds why such large concourses of people should gather together to witness a spectacle which has so little intrinsic merit. There is nothing about it to charm the taste or delight the fancy.”[9]
Despite the criticism, L’Estrange performed at least once more at Middle Harbour, although crowds were down to a few hundred, requiring only four steamers to transport them. The same night he was guest of honour at a testimonial dinner held at the Victoria Theatre where The Young Australian Band played “The Blondin March”, a piece composed specially by their conductor Mr J. Devlin. He was presented with a large gold star, engraved with a scene of his latest triumph, the date of his public performance. Measuring 3 inches (76 mm) across, it was centred with a 1½ carat diamond and suspended by a blue ribbon to a clasp featuring the Australian coat of arms in silver. An illuminated address and a bag of sovereigns, collected from his admirers, were also given.[10] L’Estrange thereafter took his show on the road, going first to Brisbane in May 1877,[6] and reportedly afterwards to Singapore, England and America.[1]

Ballooning

In April 1878, L’Estrange reappeared on the Australian scene with a new performance – gas ballooning. The first balloon ascent in Australia had been made in Melbourne in 1853, with Sydney following five years later in December 1858. The idea that people could be lifted from the ground to fly and return safely fired the imagination of the public, and the novelty of balloon ascents continued to draw large crowds through the 1860s and 1870s. No doubt the very real chance of disaster and injury added to the crowd’s keen interest, as mishaps were not uncommon.

L’Estrange came to Sydney with his balloon in November 1878, accompanied by reports of successful flights already made in India.[11] In a confident appraisal of L’Estrange’s new venture, the Sydney Morning Herald wrote:
[L’Estrange’s] balloon has been fitted with the newest applications, amongst others a parachute, which in the event of anything going wrong, would prevent the too rapid descent of the aerial voyager. Another novelty is the fixing of bags of sand round the mesh which covers the balloon, the principle of which is that by emptying these, and so lessening the weight, the balloon will ascend. The process is chiefly intended to be an easy method of avoiding buildings… He is perfectly confident that he will prove successful in travelling amongst the regions of the clouds, and, if so it will prove an agreeable variety after the many failures we have had.

— Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 1878[11]

In a letter to the Sydney City Council, L’Estrange sought permission for the use of the Exhibition grounds in Prince Alfred Park, behind Sydney Central Station for his first attempt.[12] L’Estrange struggled to fill the balloon through the afternoon of 17 November 1878, with gas supplied by the Australian Gas Light Company. By 5pm, the crowd was getting restless and L’Estrange decided to attempt liftoff, despite the balloon not being fully inflated. To lighten the load he removed the car in which he was to sit and instead sat in a loop of rope. The balloon managed only to drag him across the park before clearing the fenceline and landing on a railway truck in the yards of Sydney’s Central railway station next to the park. L’Estrange blamed the failure on having been supplied with “dense” gas and a filling pipe that was too narrow and leaky.[13]
L’Estrange wrote to the Council again, this time asking for permission to use Belmore Park for a second attempt.[14] Much like his first attempt, the second ended in failure. Once again the balloon took much of the day to fill, with the lift going ahead at 5 pm on the afternoon of 7 December 1878. The first attempt dragged him approximately 100 yards (91 m) through the crowd. Returning to the start point, L’Estrange tried again, shooting up into the air approximately 50 feet (15 m) and sailing away towards the south, before descending again and being dragged across the park. The crowd feared the balloon would crash but once more it lifted, up and over the roof of Carters’ Barracks. L’Estrange, realising that the balloon was not going to lift higher, threw out the anchor, which caught in the spouting of a building and threw the balloon into the drying yard of the Benevolent Asylum, where it caught in the washing lines and wires and was practically destroyed.[15] Still, L’Estrange’s place in Sydney hearts had been established and a well-attended benefit was held at the Theatre Royal on 19 December 1878.
L’Estrange survived an even more disastrous attempt in Melbourne less than six months later at the grounds of the Agricultural Society in a balloon named Aurora. Having been supplied with a much higher quality gas from the Metropolitan Gas Company he miscalculated the speed at which the balloon would ascend. Having floated much higher than originally anticipated the balloon greatly expanded and a weak seam in the calico fabric suddenly burst. L’Estrange had the presence of mind to deploy the silk parachute which slowed the rate of descent. His landing was softened by a tree and although severely shaken, L’Estrange was uninjured. The whole journey took nine minutes.[16] The “catastrophe” was widely reported with the story appearing in local newspapers in Adelaide,[17] Canberra,[18] Sydney[19] and Brisbane[20] within the week. This was the first emergency descent by parachute in Australia,[21] predating the Caterpillar Club by over 50 years.
Despite these setbacks, L’Estrange persisted, returning to Sydney in August 1880 to prepare for another attempt. Success finally came with a flight on 25 September 1880 from Cook Park, Northwards over the Garden Palace and Sydney harbour to Manly.[22].

  
  
Final balloon flight

 Buoyed by his achievement, L’Estrange set himself a second flight day in March 1881. With his reputation already well known in Sydney, and a successful flight on record, a crowd of over 10,000 turned up in the Outer Domain.
As a result of high atmospheric pressure and heavy dew weighing down the balloon, inflation took longer than anticipated, and the crowd grew restless. The officer representing the company supplying the gas also refused to provide a new supply. L’Estrange was presented with what was described as a “Hobson’s choice”,[23] “…either to abandon the attempt and risking being seriously maltreated by the mob, or proceed heavenwards without the car, accepting the attendant [risks] of such an aerial voyage.”[24] He chose the latter and the lift commenced at 9.30 pm with L’Estrange sitting in a loop of rope much like his attempt three years previously. At first all seemed well, as the balloon lifted above the heads of the crowd, hovering for a moment before first heading over Hyde Park. He described the rest of his voyage in a letter to a friend:
I then got into a westerly current that took me out to sea, on which I determined to come down to mother earth without delay, but picture to yourself my horror when I found the escape valve would not act. I tried with all the strength of the one hand I had to spare to move it, for with the other I had to hold myself in the loop of rope, but all to no purpose, it would not budge an inch. In sheer desperation I took the valve rope in both hands, and it opened with a bang ; but in the effort I had lost my seat in the loop, falling about six feet, and there I was dangling in mid air, clutching the valve rope, the gas rushing out of the balloon as though she had burst…

— printed in Illustrated Sydney News, 23 April 1881[25]

Managing to right himself, he became faint from the escaping gas and lashed himself to the ropes to prevent a fall. Realising the attempt was now a danger to himself and the balloon, L’Estrange set out the grappling hooks to catch onto something and bring the balloon down. However the ropes had become tangled and the hooks were too short.[23]
L’Estrange’s balloon descended rapidly over the rooftops of Woolloomooloo, slamming into a house near the corner of Palmer Street and Robinson Lane. L’Estrange managed to disentangle himself and fell first onto a chimney then a shed 25 feet (7.6 m) below. He scrambled down from the rooftops to a waiting mob, who whisked him away to Robinson’s hotel on the William Street corner and would not let him leave.[25] At the crash site, during an attempt to free the balloon, the escaping gas was ignited when the resident of the house opened a window to see what the commotion was and the gas came into contact with the open flame of the room’s chandelier. The resulting fireball destroyed the balloon, burnt a number of bystanders and was bright enough to “…cast a brief but vivid illumination over the entire suburb”.[24] A panicked crush developed as groups tried to both flee from and rush towards the brief, but extremely bright, conflagration while those further away at the launch site assumed L’Estrange had been killed.[23] Several people were injured in the crush or burned by the fire with one lady reportedly being blinded.[26]
Although a Masonic benefit was held in his honour to try to recoup some of his financial losses, the fiasco spelt the end of L’Estrange’s aeronautical career.

Return to tightrope walking 

In a change of direction in March 1882, L’Estrange applied to the Sydney City Council to establish a juvenile pleasure gardens at the Paddington Reservoir. The fun park was to have a variety of rides, a maze, merry-go-round and a donkey racecourse. L’Estrange proposed the park to be free entry with all monies being made via the sale of refreshments on site. While he was given permission, the park does not appear ever to have opened.[27]  Studio portrait of L’Estrange demonstrating riding a bicycle on a tightrope

Following the disastrous balloon attempt and the failed pleasure grounds, L’Estrange decided to return to what he knew best, tightrope walking. In April 1881 L’Estrange, given top billing as “the hero of Middle Harbour”, performed at the Garden Palace on the high-rope as part of the Juvenile Fete, with other acrobats, contortionists and actors.[28] With proof of the continuing popularity of the rope act, he decided to return to his greatest triumph; the spectacular crossing of the harbour in 1877 which had still not been repeated. On 23 December 1882, L’Estrange advised the public that he would cross the harbour once more, this time riding a bicycle across Banbury Bay, close to the site of his original success.[29]
As with his previous crossings, steamers took the crowds from Circular Quay, although this time only four were needed, while another 600–700 people made their own way to the site. The ride was scheduled for 3 pm on 23 December, but delays meant L’Estrange did not appear until 6 pm. Although the length of rope was over 182 metres, it was only just over nine metres above the water. The stay wires were held in boats on either side, with the crews rowing against each other to keep it steady. L’Estrange rode his bicycle towards the centre, where, with the rope swinging to and fro, he stopped briefly to steady himself but instead, realising he was losing his balance, he was forced to leap from the rope and fell into the water below. Although he was unhurt, it was another knock to his reputation. A repeat attempt was announced for the following weekend. Again steamers took a dwindling crowd to Banbury Bay where they found L’Estrange’s rope had been mysteriously cut, and he cancelled the performance. The Daily Telegraph reported that many in the crowd, who had paid for tickets on the steamers, felt they had been scammed.[30]

Late career 

With his reputation in tatters after the balloon crash and the attempted second harbour crossing, L’Estrange slowly slipped out of the public eye. In December 1883 he was reported as performing again on the highwire at the Parramatta Industrial Juvenile exhibition. While his act attracted favourable publicity, “his efforts were not received with the amount of enthusiasm they certainly deserved”.[31]
In April 1885 a benefit was held for L’Estrange, again at the Masonic Lodge, like the one held after his balloon misadventure. It was advertised that the benefit, under the patronage of the Mayor and Aldermen of Sydney, and with Bill Beach, world champion sculler in attendance, was prompted because L’Estrange had “lately met with a severe accident”.[32] The nature of the accident is unknown, but it is speculated to have been a fall from his tightrope, explaining the end of his performances.[1]
His apparent decline in popularity may have been as much a reflection of the public’s changing taste for entertainment as it was a comment on his act. By the time L’Estrange returned to Sydney to attempt his second harbour crossing in 1882, the city was awash with Blondin imitators performing increasingly dangerous, and probably illegal, feats.[33] At least five were performing in Sydney from 1880 under variations of the title from the “Young Blondin” (Alfred Row) to the “Blondin Brothers” (Alexander and Collins), the “Great Australian Blondin” (James Alexander), the “original Australian Blondin” (Collins), the “Great Australian Blondin” (Signor Vertelli), the “Female Australian Blondin” (Azella) and another “Australian Blondin” (Charles Jackson).[1]
In 1886 L’Estrange again applied to the Sydney City Council for permission to establish an amusement ride called “The Rocker” in Belmore Park. The Rocker consisted of a boat which, propelled by horsepower, gave the impression of being at sea. Permission was granted but like his juvenile pleasure grounds, there is no evidence that it was ever erected.[34] After this, L’Estrange slipped from view in Sydney. In 1894 Edwin L’Estrange “who a few years ago acquired some celebrity as the Australian Blondin” appeared in court in Fitzroy, Victoria having been knocked down and run over by a horse and buggy being driven by a commercial traveller. The driver was fined and L’Estrange’s injuries are not recorded.[35]

   
    
   
References 
^ a b c d e f Mark Dunn (2011). “L’Estrange, Henri”. Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ a b c d e f g “(?) ROPE-WALK OVER MIDDLE HARBOUR.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 16 April 1877. p. 5. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ The Mercury (Hobart). 28 February 1873. p. 2. Missing or empty |title= (help)

^ “BLONDIN’S FIRST APPEARANCE.”. The Empire (Sydney: National Library of Australia). 31 August 1874. p. 2. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ “CRICKET.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 27 January 1877. p. 3. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ a b “Intercolonial News.”. The Queenslander (Brisbane: National Library of Australia). 28 April 1877. p. 27. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ a b Town and Country Journal. 7 April 1877. p. 540. Missing or empty |title= (help) Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

^ a b “SOCIAL.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 4 May 1877. p. 7. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ Sydney Mail. 21 April 1877. p. 496. Missing or empty |title= (help) Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

^ “The Sydney Morning Herald.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 24 April 1877. p. 4. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ a b “The Sydney Morning Herald.”. The Sydney Morning Herald date=1 November 1878 (National Library of Australia). p. 4. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ City of Sydney Archives, 2 November 1878, Letters Received 26/154/0981. Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

^ “AMUSEMENTS.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 18 November 1878. p. 5. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ City of Sydney Archives, 21 November 1878, Letters Received 26/154/1044. Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

^ “AMUSEMENTS.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 9 December 1878. p. 5. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ “A BALLOON CATASTROPHE.”. The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 15 April 1879. p. 5. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ “A BALLOON CATASTROPHE.”. South Australian Register (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 18 April 1879. p. 5. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ “A BALLOON CATASTROPHE.”. Queanbeyan Age (NSW: National Library of Australia). 19 April 1879. p. 3. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ “VICTORIA.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 16 April 1879. p. 5. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ “Melbourne.”. The Brisbane Courier (National Library of Australia). 16 April 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ Frank Mines. “A Draft History Of Parachuting In Australia Up To The Foundation Of Sport Parachuting In 1958: The First Emergency Descent”. Australian Parachuting Foundation. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ “L’ESTRANGE’S BALLOON ASCENT.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 27 September 1880. p. 6. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ a b c “L’ESTRANGE’S BALLOON ASCENT.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 16 March 1881. p. 6. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ a b “L’Estrange’s Balloon Ascent.”. The Queenslander (Brisbane: National Library of Australia). 26 March 1881. p. 406. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ a b “The Ballon Explosion in Sydney.”. Illustrated Sydney News (National Library of Australia). 23 April 1881. p. 14. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ “DISTRIBUTION OF AWARDS AT THE EXHIBITION.”. The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 9 April 1881. p. 113. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ City of Sydney Archives, 22 March 1882, Letters Received 26/183/475. Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

^ “Advertising.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 16 April 1881. p. 2. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ “Advertising.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 23 December 1882. p. 2. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ “The Blondin Fiasco”. Daily Telegraph. 1 January 1883.. Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

^ “PARRAMATTA INDUSTRIAL JUVENILE EXHIBITION.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 31 December 1883. p. 4. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ “Advertising.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 14 April 1885. p. 2. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

^ “DANGEROUS SPORTS.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 19 February 1880. p. 8. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

^ City of Sydney Archives, 12 January 1886, Letters Received 26/209/0105. Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

^ “FITZROY.—THURSDAY.”. Fitzroy City Press (Vic.: National Library of Australia). 28 September 1894. p. 3. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

This Wikipedia article is substantially built upon the essay “L’Estrange, Henri” in the Dictionary of Sydney

written by Mark Dunn, 2011 and licensed under CC by-sa. Imported on 18 December 2011 (Archive of the original)

The Hidden Faces of Domestic Violence

Sometime, I just don’t get the one-eyed views of our modern world, how we discern that one aspect of an issue is important, but other aspects aren’t! Our current anti-domestic violence campaigns are a classic example of blinkered views. The whole domestic violence issue, which for many decades has been a problem swept under the rug, has recently – thanks to a public outcry, and government incentives – had one corner lifted for a good spring clean.

Let’s get one thing straight right from the start – I am not trying to trivialise domestic violence! I detest any “man” who raises  a hand to a woman, or a child! It is the ultimate abuse of trust, and power! It is pure cowardice! I grew up in a generation where this just did not happen – or so we thought, as it was either well hidden, or people just turned a blind eye! 

What I don’t get is – why are we only focusing on one aspect of domestic violence…that of men-to-women! Why is female to male, female to female, and male to male domestic violence been overlooked? Surely that ANY form of domestic violence happens should be of concern to all of us! That one woman a week dies as a direct result of domestic violence is a frightening statistic. However, the fact that the “One In Three” site exists – dedicated to female to male domestic violence – speaks loudly that the problem is a lot bigger than that being focused on. The definition of domestic violence from their site is “Family violence and abuse is a serious and deeply entrenched problem in Australia. It has significant impacts upon the lives of men, women and children. It knows no boundaries of gender, geography, socio-economic status, age, ability, sexual preference, culture, race or religion. Domestic violence between partners, boyfriends and girlfriends (also known as intimate partner violence or IPV); violence between other family members (siblings, parents, children, aunts, uncles, and grandparents); most elder abuse, child abuse and sexual abuse are all different forms of family violence. Thankfully reducing family violence against women and children has been firmly on the agendas of government for many years. Now is the time to move to the next, more sophisticated stage of tackling the problem: recognising men as victims as well.” (http://www.oneinthree.com.au/).

According to their statistics, one in every three instances of domestic violence is a male. 94% of these instances is committed by a female. Between 2010 and 2012, 75 males were killed as a result of DV by a woman. This equates to one death every 10 days. Yet these acts of DV are neglected by government agencies such as Our Watch, and ANROWS. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, 30 May 2015, same-sex violence in relationships is a “silent epidemic”. Roughly one in three lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) couples experience domestic violence. Those statistics are echoed among the general population. (http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/domestic-violence-a-silent-epidemic-in-gay-relationships-20150415-1mm4hg.html#ixzz3sTIxDpWL). 

Imagine this personal scenario from the early 90s. I was picked up one night in a local gay bar my a guy – Graeme, who I fancied – and his partner Peter – who was okay – for a threesome. Everything went fine back at their home, with no indication of any undercurrants…until breakfast the next morning. Right in front of me, as if I wasn’t there, Peter openly abused and humiliated Peter almost continually. It was incredibly uncomfortable, and not just for me. After breakfast, Greame drove me back home, apologising for the incident almost as if it had been his fault. When I asked him in for a coffee, he declined, saying that the clock was on him, and he had to get home to avoid any further problems. I was staggered that I had actually witnessed these events. Fortunately for Peter, the relationship did end. Funnily enough, we ended up as fuck-buddies for the next five years. In that time, he never discussed that issue with me, nor did I ask.

The statistics all round are frightening. No one – adult, child, male or female – should ever have to suffer violence as a way of control, or power play, or anger outlet. It is time to shift the focus from male-to-female violence, and rackke the oroblem in its broader context.

Tim Alderman (C) 2015

   

Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe: Christmas In July!

I must confess to not understanding the whole ‘Christmas in July’ thing, or why people go ape over it, trundling themselves off to the coldest climes to celebrate something that has no relevance here whatsoever. This is Australia, and Christmas means heatwaves, bushfires and flies. If you are an American, or English, it kind of makes sense to want to have snow for Christmas, but if you’re an Aussie, and only ever associate Christmas with summer, it just doesn’t work. And apart from that, it is hard to imagine Christmas happening in the middle of the year – snow or no snow.The whole Christmas thing in Australia has always been too tied up with English and European traditions, and catering to our climate at this time of the year never seems to be something anyone used to consider. I remember my mother slaving over hot stoves months before Christmas even started to get the cake and pudding done on time for it to mature before being reheated and eaten with hot custard in steamy 30-odd-degree heat. Everyone sweated in the hot house, just wanting it to end so that they could kick back with a cold beer. When I lived with my stepfamily back in the 70’s, I remember my poor sister-in-law catering a hot lunch for twenty people every Christmas day. Her reward was a stinking headache, and near dehydration. You have to query if this is the right way to celebrate Christmas day in Australia, especially with our tradition of breaking traditions, and our usual irreverence for anything considered over-the-top.

When I lived in Darlinghurst, I used to cater a orphans Christmas lunch on Christmas day, for anyone who had nowhere else to go. I used to do the full traditional thing for anywhere from 12-15 people, with glazed ham, pork, turkey and pudding. I used to get to bed at about 3am on Christmas Eve, to be back up again at 7am to finish all the prep work. After my last of these – many years ago now – and finding myself with a migraine, I decided it was time to change my approach to Christmas eating.

My partners mother was quick to realize the advantages of having a chef in the family. She swings a couple of hundred dollars my way, and I do the whole thing – but not the old way. I have started a tradition of fresh oysters in the half-shell, with various toppings arranged in small bowls, as an entrée. Everybody in his family – bar his Grandmother – loves them. We go to the fish markets about 10pm on Christmas Eve to get them – take this as a time hint. This is followed by cold ham, cold lamb and cold chicken with a range of salads, and finished off with an ice cream fruit pudding. On a hot day, this is a really refreshing meal, and no one has sweated themselves into oblivion to put it all together. I still do mince fruit tarts, a cake and shortbread but this is all easy to do, and involves little stress on my part. If you are still doing it all the traditional way, I suggest you consider a rethink, and start your own Christmas traditions.

I hope everyone else can enjoy a stress-free and refreshing Christmas day.

Tim Alderman (C) 2015

  

Political Snippet: Paris & the Facebook Flag.

I have chosen to NOT nake my Facebook profile picture a French flag. I wasn’t surprised to see it appear on FB profile pictures only hours after the Paris violence. This is a typical social media response to what is a huge tragedy. But there is more to this than an apparent simple, empathetic responce from social media, and those who use it.

Mark Zuckerberg posted an opinion on the FB flag app that, whether you like the man or not, pretty well hit the nail on the head.

  
My nterpretation of the above is:  It is the response tothe Paris attacks that is part of thethe problem. We are so selective in how we – “we” used in the universal sense – chose which tragedies are important enough to warrant a widespread response – or a FB flag app – and which aren’t. It is a response that is basically saying only certain human lives have value. Other deaths due to extremism of any – and many – types happen every day, and yet go unacknowledged both in news services…and on social media! The incidents are either too remote, or victims too poor, or of no political value, or of no financial value or – horrifically – insignificent! The whole world doesn’t revolve around iconic cities, which is how it could be viewed, though knowing that, I also live in a city that is a potential target. Surely in a world where we hope for universal compassion, universal responses to terrorism of ALL types, universal sorrow and empathy…even the death of one bystander would be considered too many, and worthy of a universal response. Unfortunately, thousands die, and go unacknowledged…by FB, or otherwise. 

In another article I read – which was empathetic, but realistic – they stated that “By making ISIS go viral, we are helping them promote their own sadistic ends” which was exactly my initial thinking a day after the tragedy, when the blanket reportage ramped up to hysterical levels. They don’t need a PR machine – they have our nedia to keep their name up in lights. The ISIS hierarchy must be clapping each other on the back, and saying…job well done! 

 Sometimes I wonder if we are not our own worst enemy. Reporting the same information over and over infinitum dulls us to the impact of it, as we change channels again, as yet another news service blanket covers the event. The dead of Paris deserve better! 

Facebook blows with the wind. If it’s a gay issue, create a rainbow flag app. If it’s a sensationalist terror attack, create a flag app for (insert name of country here)! What of Kenya! Palestine! Beirut! What of the “collateral damage” in Syria and Iraq! Perhaps multi-flag profile pictures will come next! 

Despite my assumed cynacism of how we now approach tragedy, I do send my heartfelt sympathy and empathy out to Paris. I would be a poor example of humanity if I felt otherwise in the face of so many innocent people dying. It is just that my FB profile picture will not indicate so!

Liberty; Equality; Fraternity!

Tim Alderman (C) 2015

Life in Kellett Way, Kings Cross, 1985.

A 1985 fluff piece by Adam Carr for “Outrage” magazine. Adam was visiting Sydney to report on Mardi Gras, and was a friend of my boyfriend at that time, Damian Guy. We were living in Kellett Way in The Cross at the time, behind a strip club. He came to visit us for dinner, and the next thing we knew…we were an article! Again, a lot of editorial license is used, and it is quite a funny piece. For the record, there was NO pink in the flat – it is one of my hate colours – and NO mantelpiece of tiny ornaments lol. For the sake of identification, Damian became “Shane” and I became “Tony”. We had no idea he was writing it, and the look on my face when reading it in Outrage, and the dawning on who it was about, must have been priceless.
  

   
Tim Alderman (C)2015

 

Living with HIV – 1987 Style.

This is an interview on “life” with HIV that I did back in 1987 with “The Bulletin”. When I read it now, I cringe, as it seems so naive. The reporter, whose name I can’t remember now, knew absolutely nothing about HIV…or the gay lifestyle! As you can tell, his grasp of it was no better after talking to us, and editorial license is in full bloom, with distortions, misrepresentations, and fact twisting the order-of-the-day. However, the thinking of the time is evident if you read between the lines. At two years after official testing was introduced, none of us really expected to survive. It was party, party, party! At this time, I had already lost several friends. It was very scary times. Just part of my lived history now.
   
   
Tim Alderman (C) 2015