2 April 2015

Excellence, Endeavour and the Consolations of Parochialism

It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.
Dolly Parton
One of the minor joys one may experience when returning from la Grande Fumée is the simple pleasure of being reminded how the importance of the smaller things in life swells in the more remote outposts of civisilisation.
And so it is with my homecoming to the Blue Mountains, 100km west of Sydney, having chortled up the Great Western Highway in my latest acquisition, a tart red 2003 Maserati Cambiocorsa, procured after a year cajoling the upper echelons of the NSW Health System to part with substantial sums in consultancy fees for my modest participation in planning new health services.
Imagine the small but unalloyed delight upon my return then in realising there was a vista of excellence in this World Heritage-listed expanse of which I’d hitherto been unaware. A pleasure pure indeed, for that panorama of loveliness is not one of nature, but of human endeavour – the award known as the Blue Mountains Citizen of the Year.
How could this until now have escaped me? Well, there’s a clue in the nomenclature.  Each year, on Australia Day (or Invasion/Survival Day, as our indigenous cousins have it), local councils around NSW announce their choices for citizen of the year. These coincide with citizenship ceremonies, where those originating from all corners of our still Blueish Planet plight their troth to the Wide Brown Land.
While the term ‘citizen’ originally meant "inhabitant of a city," (from the 12th century Old French citeien, meaning "city-dweller, town-dweller”) it acquired in the late 14th century the sense of "inhabitant of a country".  Now of course, and for some time, it is only nations that have citizens. Yet local government is a construct of state legislation, with very restricted geographic and legal status.
So, in fact for the Blue Mountains Council, or any other local government entity, Citizen of the Year is a misnomer. The award should in truth be called the Blue Mountains Resident of the Year. As well as being accurate, this would handily convey the ineffably prosaic nature of this, the tiniest of gongs.
Why do I say that these are teensy, weensy awards?
Well, apart from almost no-one (until now) knowing of their existence, one just needs to cast a critical eye over the calibre of recipients. And the sparsely evaporative publicity they receive.
In January 2015 the award went to Rebecca (or Bek) Cramp, a local deaf interpreter, most notably (we are told) for her volunteer work with the Rural Fire Service (RFS) during the recent Blue Mountains Bushfires – http://www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/yourcouncil/australiadayawards2015
Recent bushfires? Oh yes, I see – the October 2013 bushfires.
During those bushfires Rebecca contacted deaf locals in the area to ensure they were safe, and filmed herself interpreting every update that was posted by RFS via Facebook and YouTube. (Why does this conjure in my mind a sort of antipodean Christopher Guest parody, a la Waiting for Guffman, but of community volunteers, rather than amateur thespians?)
But I digress. For the deaf people who did not have FB access, the Cramped videos were sent via email and SMS. Rebecca, we are told, ensured during the fires that the Blue Mountains deaf community had access to RFS updates in Auslan (the sign language of the deaf community in Australia), and was the only interpreter to do this voluntarily.
Unfortunately, we weren’t told how many deaf people benefited from this service, and especially how many relied solely or principally on Ms Cramp’s altruistic interventions; rather than, say, checking their Smartphones or tablets or computers for news, or watching TV with scrolling text; or texting or emailing family, friends, colleagues or neighbours; or…so on.
Bek’s efforts in making Auslan videos of every RFS update, which was done on an hourly basis, also led her to connections with the RFS at Warrimoo (not to be confused with Winmalee) where she managed to get their support for Auslan interpreters to be included in every RFS live TV update.
Gee. So the RFS hadn’t heard of Auslan or thought about deaf people before Bek’s intercession (despite the preponderance of deaf signing in countless public broadcasts around the world).
We do know that at least two deaf people appreciated Ms Cramp’s voluntary work. Why? Because Karl and Nadine Carey appeared in a photograph immortalising (at least digitally) her award – https://www.facebook.com/bluemountainsgazette/photos/a.805125822892581.1073741969.279640655441103/805125882892575/
Alas, the image appears only on a Facebook page and not in an article…Pity. Oddly, too, the deaf folk in the publicity shot are outnumbered 3:2 by those with comparatively unimpaired hearing. For a full blown Blue Mountains media event (ie an article in the local rag), we need to go back a year to the award for the small but trim Sergio Rosato, principal of the St Thomas Aquinas Primary School.
Signor Rosato (either named after a light Rosé wine from Italy, or a member of a family with an historically prominent surname and its own crest) received the honour after winning praise in the same October 2013 bushfires for leading 550 students from the Springwood school to safety while his own home was burning at Winmalee
Now this does seem on the face of it to be a noteworthy and selfless act. Not only did it precipitate a proper (if only local) newspaper piece but, unlike Ms Crampe (from the Old French for cramp), Mr Rosato actually received his award at the first opportunity after the fires, in January 2014.
By contrast, Ms Kramphe (to use the Germanic spelling, which is related to kramph, meaning "bent, crooked") had to wait over a year – almost as if it were for a belated second prize in the local Bushfire altruism awards. And she only received it then, I hazard, because in the intervening 12 months nothing of much moment transpired and no-one else of even trifling interest had been nominated.
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Life's like a play:
It's not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
So all this invites the question; what, if anything, might be local award-worthy?
We could get a clue by examining the neighbouring metropolis to the west of the Blue Mountains, Lithgow, the good burghers of which have taken a different tack: there they are inclined to support the arts, with the 2015 Outstanding Event of the Year Award made to the Zombie Fashion Parade, held in October 2014http://www.bluemts.com.au/news/zombies-win-in-lithgow-local-citizenship-awards/.
Zombie Special Effects Workshops were held, we are told, with local children and students from Lithgow High School, who then went on to do a shoot for a zombie movie. The Zombie Fashion Show featured Lithgow youth in zombie make up and costumes and was hosted by Mayor Statham, no less.
What is it about Lithgow that tells me Zombies is just right? And yet, as meritorious as fashion and make-up for the living dead doubtless are, I have a feeling that we in the cultured Blue Mountains can trump even that. So here are a few suggestions for future Blue Mountains Resident of the Year awards of whom we could be justly proud – some of whom you may have heard of, or even know:
1.       David Stratton, AM – Film critic and television personality (Stratton – a name from various places in England, from Old English straet or ‘paved highway’, ‘Roman road’ + tun ‘enclosure’, ‘settlement’)
·         Emigrated to Australia from England in 1933, just after the introduction of talkies (oh, alright, it was really 1963) and directed the Sydney Film Festival from 1966 until 1983
·         Past President of FIPRESCI (International Film Critics Federation) and of Juries in Cannes (twice) and Venice, and a member of the jury at the 32nd Berlin International Film Festival in 1982
·         January 2001 – Awarded the Centenary Medal for Service to Australian society and film production
·         March 2001 – Appointed with the Croix de Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his services to cinema, in particular French cinema
·         2001 – Received the Australian Film Institute's Longford Life Achievement Award
·         June 2006 – Received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Sydney in recognition of his career and his contribution to intellectual life at the university
·         2007 – Received the 60th Anniversary Medal by the Festival du Film de Cannes and The Chauvel Award by the Brisbane International Film Festival; and
·         Co-hosted SBS’s The Movie Show from 1986 to 2004 and the ABC’s At The Movies from 2004 to 2014, when he retired at the age of 75
·         January 2015 – Became a Member of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours list
I mean, seriously, if he’s good enough for all these, what’s the problem with a pissy little resident of the year award? And he’s pretty old: we should award him something local before it’s posthumous.
2.       Adrian d’Hagé AM, MC – Retired military officer and novelist (D’Hagé – of unknown origin. Hage or Haag is an east Frisian town and Den Haag is a Dutch surname. As it rhymes with Targét, possibly a somewhat pretentious Francification)
·         Served in the Vietnam War as a platoon commander (with the Australian Army, not the Vietnamese), where he was awarded the Military Cross
·         1980 – Awarded the National Medal and served as Director of Joint Operations for Defence
·         1990 – Promoted to Brigadier, Head of Defence Public Relations
·         1993 – Became a Member of the Order of Australia
·         2000 – Head of Defence Planning for security of the Sydney Olympics
·         The author of five published novels: The Omega Scroll (2006),The Beijing Conspiracy (2008); The Maya Codex (2011); The Inca Prophecy (2012); and The Alexandria Connection (2014)
·         Currently a research scholar at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University, and
·         Most importantly, also completing a degree in Wine Science.
Geez, thus guy could march on in anytime for Blue Mountains Resident of the Year. He looks a bit younger than Stratton, so he’d probably beat him in an arm wrestle, if they needed a wrestle-off.
3.       Tony Trimingham, OAM – Founder and former CEO of Family Drug Support (Trimingham – English, origins unknown; a Norfolk place name suggests it may be a habitational or origin surname – does not necessarily connote that one is trim)
·         Formed Family Drug Support (FDS) in 1997 after losing his son to a heroin overdose and becoming frustrated by the general apathy and ignorance of his own experience – FDS was formed after holding a public meeting with hundreds of people attending
·         A 10 Pound Pom, he arrived in Australia in 1968 and worked for 30 plus years as a counsellor, group leader and psychotherapist
·         In 1999 awarded an Australian Day Medallion by the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia for outstanding achievement in the reduction of alcohol and drug related-harm
·         Named as one of 20 Compaq Computer Community Stars in December 1999 for his selfless dedication to community work
·         In December 2001 the Australian Drug Foundation presented him with an award for the overall Outstanding Individual Contribution to the Field of Alcohol and Drug Education
·         In April 2004 awarded The National Rolleston Award by the International Harm Reduction Association in recognition for his outstanding work in supporting families
·         In 2005 honoured with an Order of Australia award for his work in the community and in August 2005 presented with an award from the Humanitarian Society for his work in Social Justice
·         In June 2008 Tony was a joint winner of the 2008 Prime Ministers award for Excellence and Outstanding Commitment to Drug and Alcohol Endeavours
·         Author of Not My Family, Never My Child: What to do if Someone You Love is a Drug User, published in 2009.
·         In 2009 he was a NSW finalist in the Senior Australian of the Year Award and a 2010 Australia Day Ambassador
Mon Dieu! I thought the Blue Mountains Council loved volunteers. Have they really passed this guy over? If so, is it because his work is all about yucky drugs and addiction? Or is he a dud arm wrestler? Seriously, if you want to recognise people who give to the community, match this.
4.       Larry Buttrose – Writer and comedy producer (Buttrose – of unknown origin; Butt, possibly Old English for thick end, or Germanic for flatfish, or from the old French bot for liquor barrel, or early 17th C, the target of a joke, or perhaps, w Rose, for the renderer of spanked buttocks)
·         Published a collection of poems, One Steps Across the Rainbow, in 1974 at the age of 21, a major collection of poetry, The Leichhardt Heater Journey in 1982, and co-edited the Number 3 Friendly Street poetry anthology with Peter Goldsworthy
·         In the 1980s performed in comedy at the Gap Cabaret (which he co-founded) and Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Theatre, and produced Comics in the Park at the Harold Park Hotel
·         Wrote radio plays for the ABC – Santo (1986) and Complaints (1993) – and contributed to a variety of journals and radio shows over the years
·         Works for the stage include Pallas (1987), Kurtz (1991), and a stage adaptation of Don Quixote, as well as co-writing the hit musical Hot Shoe Shuffle (1992) and Complaints (1996)
·         Author of travel books The King Neptune Day & Night Club (1992), and Cafe Royale (1997) aka The Blue Man, and the novels The Maze of the Muse (1998) and Sweet Sentence (2001)
·         In 2004 collaborated on the memoir of Michael Hutchence, Total Xcess, followed by Tales of the Popes (2009) and the satirical graphic novel, Finding the Shelf Within (2009)
·         Awarded a PhD from the University of Adelaide in 2011 and teaches at the University of Western Sydney.
This guy hasn’t got an AM, or even a more modest OAM. No National Medal or Centenary Medal or Military Cross or Croix de Quoi Que either. Plays squash and badminton, so not sure how he’d go in an arm wrestle. But what’s wrong with a Blue Mountains Punter of the Year award?
Well, there we have four perfectly suitable nominees; the last of which appears to have received naught in the way of honorary awards or recognition. And I could go on…so I will. In no particular order, here are another six local worthies – there are doubtless more, and I’m not even counting ex-politicians – who have, as far I know, thus far been ignored by the Blue Mountains Council on Invasion Day each year:
5.       Tiriel Mora – Actor (Mora – from German Jewish, Morawski; itself from the Polish place name, Morawy [for Moravia, in the east of the Czech Republic], thus providing 50% of his distinctive vocal timbre and solid visage)
·         A total of 65 film and television credits since 1984, including  four in 2015 alone (so even in middle age he’s doing pretty well)
·         Best known for his TV role in Frontline, as the hard-nosed journalist Martin Di Stasio; and in the film The Castle as the local solicitor, Dennis Denuto, featuring in the memorably amusing scene in which he dictates a letter and then turns around and types it up
Seems to play Italian-Australians quite a lot, which is a little odd given his mother, the well-known artist Mirka Mora (nee Zelik) is French born and his father was of German origins. Looks like he could arm wrestle with aplomb. Surely a trifling local recognition wouldn’t hurt his career?
6.       Jody Graham – Artist (Graham – Scottish surname, originally derived from the English place name Grantham, which probably meant "gravelly homestead"; Clan Graham had territories in both the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands and fought in the Scottish Wars of Independence.)
·         At the core of her practice is drawing (including with charcoal, but not with gravel as far as one knows) – she enjoys the directness of plein air sketching on site as the basis for larger works in the studio and loves to make candid pen studies of people in public places
·         Participated in over twenty-five solo and group exhibitions across NSW since 2003, and the recipient of 16 art awards in that time, with works held in five public collections
·         Probably the finest artist based and/or working in the Blue Mountains – improving year by year and with every exhibition
Slender physique suggests arm wrestling might not be her long suit; would also probably be faintly embarrassed with a nomination for the Blue Mountains Minor Personality of the Year Award, especially as, despite retaining local property, she for now lives mostly in Inner Sydney.
7.       Ian Swift –Artist and sculptor (Swift – from the Middle English, nickname for a rapid runner, often given to a messenger or courier; alt. from the Irish, anglicisation of the Gaelic, Ó Fuada [or Foody], meaning hasty or rushing)
·         Renowned for his ability to create unique sculptural works – utilising recycled materials and commonly discarded items such as industrial moulds and patterns, furniture parts, wood, plastics – often simultaneously humorous and pointed in their commentary
·         Participated in over thirty solo and group exhibitions across NSW since 1990, and the recipient of seven art awards
·         Featured in Sculpture by the Sea eight times since its inception in 1997 and produced a range of art publications, not to mention much vengeful wildlife and many quixotic dogs
Not sure how hasty he is; but Swift is highly productive and doubtless quick-witted. Arm wrestling skills unknown, but he’s a country boy who can turn his hand to all manner of materials. Give him a break – hand him a gong before he fabricates one of his own…
8.       Stephen Measday – Author and scriptwriter (Measday – meaning and origin unknown; possibly from the Old English, meaning ‘meaning and origin unknown’)
·         In addition to being an award-winning scriptwriter, has written novels for children and young adults, including the Simon Savage and Bacon series that have been published internationally
·         At sixteen he was appointed ABC correspondent for Crystal Brook, in South Australia and as a youth co-founded the poetry magazine Dharma (later titled Real Poetry) with his friend Larry Buttrose (see above)
A genteel chap, unlikely to triumph in many arm wrestling competitions; but an affable and faintly scruffy Labradoodle of a writer and chair of the local amateur theatrical group who might well be mildly chuffed with an admittedly insignificant parochial award.
9.       Claude Hay – Blues/roots musician (Hay – Scottish and English: topographic name for someone who lived by an enclosure/enclosed forest; from Middle English, hay(e), heye (Old English (ge)hæg; Clan Hay played an important part in the history and politics of Scotland; alt. may be a habitational name from various places named Haye; nothing it seems to do with feeding horses
·         From Katoomba, so a true local artist – looks the part too with long muso-like hair, funky hat and on-line pictures of him plucking guitars and playing sundry instruments
·         Perhaps the world’s ultimate soi-disant Do-It- Yourself musician – forges his live sound on the back of looping technology, which allows him to create a band vibe without the band – very popular in the Netherlands …is also in a band of actual live musicians, the Gentle Enemies
·         Albums include Kiss the Sky (2007 - Independent), Deep Fried Satisfied (2010 - Ingot Rock) and I Love Hate You (2012 - Independent [Australia], 128 Records [Rest of World])
·         Deep Fried Satisfied elicited very positive reviews in the USA, with Hay charting in the Top 10 of the Billboard Blues Chart in 2010
·         Won the Best Male Vocalist Award at the Australian Blues Music Chain Awards in 2013
As a younger artist, maybe an encouragement award of some description might be apt. Best Local Rising Talent of the Year, perhaps? Does the Blue Mountains Council go for this kind of thing? Hope he’s a canny arm wrestler, as he may be in wrestle-off with no 10:
10.   Matt Drummond – Film-maker and special effects artist (Drummond – from a Scottish placename meaning "ridge"; also a Highland Scottish clan – legend has it that the first nobleman to settle in the village of Drymen adopted the name of the parish and this evolved into Drummond. However, not all Drummonds are noble.)
·         A local Leura lad, although also spends time carousing in his villa in Vanuatu (except when cyclones are forecast)
·         A big year in the last 12 months with an Emmy award for documentary work on the History Channel, collaborating with various palaeontologists (mind you, he didn’t bother turning up to accept it, as he ‘wouldn’t board a plane to LA for anything less than an Oscar’)
·         Now esteemed after the successful launch of his first feature film, Dinosaur Island, which he wrote, directed and co-produced, and for which he produced the special effects
·         This has generated near mass hysteria in the Blue Mountains, with minor luminaries falling over themselves to be associated with something of even passing renown and regard – http://www.bluemountainsgazette.com.au/story/2871647/dinosaur-island-on-debut/ , and with reportage in an un-esteemed Sydney tabloid –
·         The film’s main claim to fame is the modern research and imagination Drummond employed to revolutionise the way filmmakers look at – now very colourful and partly-feathered – dinosaurs
·         Blue Mountains Mayor Greenhill, who attended the premiere, was moved to opine that ‘Matt and [co-producer] Megan Williams have shown us that creative industries are very much where the Blue Mountains is going’
·         The film has been sold to 60 countries around the world and the self-taught visual effects pioneer already has finance for a sequel, and another feature film – big things are now expected of Drummond; though he hasn’t yet moved up into the Zombie flick market, and I understand he is still to purchase his first Maserati
Will another award help? Oh, a nomination can’t hurt. After all, he might turn up to receive it if he only has to drive to Katoomba. If it came down to an arm wrestle, however, he would almost certainly be disqualified: he is an inveterate cheat, and has been slapped in the past for tickling.
PS You will note that just the first three of my nominations have received Australian Awards and only one is in the main a volunteer. Of the six non-recipients other than Mr Drummond, who, I wonder, is not doing creative work that is very much where the Blue Mountains is, or should be, going?


Anonymous said...

Just wondering who comprises the committee that makes the award decisions. It may or may not be important. Or can we all vote?

Self awarded Manastash Canyon Citizen of the Year.

Dr Enrico Brik said...

Oh, its still the local Council, regrettably