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Birmingham Alabama

 

On our way east to Atlanta we had a rest stop in Birmingham Alabama.  Birmingham is a town that is familiar to my generation for often being in the headlines marked by freedom riders, rioting, and white police and vigilantes killing those black people incautious enough to stand up for their human rights. This was where Martin Luther King Junior was jailed for just such impertinence.  I had just started University and remember these events quite clearly.

 

Birmingham campaign for racial equality Birmingham campaign for racial equality
Birmingham campaign for racial equality Birmingham campaign for racial equality

Birmingham campaign for racial equality - to see more click on the ML King Memorial image in Atlanta (below)

 

Birmingham was once as industrial as any town in the Confederacy, a hub of iron making.  But after the Civil War was lost the South was economically devastated and  Birmingham was competing with the likes of Pittsburgh. It remained a place of dark satanic mills and union unrest.  It was here that black activists chose to oppose the Jim Crow Laws that replaced slavery to keep black people in their place.  These imposed strict segregation of the races, ensuring that poor undereducated whites would not be socially or materially outclassed by upwardly mobile blacks as they had already been in the north. For years these whites had resisted any change to these laws and the Ku Klux Klan and others were seen on our black and white TV, dragging black men on ropes or chains behind their utes. Billie Holliday's Strange Fruit recalls mass hangings by the Klan or informal southern militia.

In the sixties, as a result of Northern outrage and black activism, segregation was at last outlawed but in Birmingham the social fabric was seriously damaged and for three decades the city shrank as a result of 'white flight'.  It's now recovering but has a long way to go.

We were there for one night and needed to find somewhere to eat.  Google maps suggested a place.  The restaurant was well appointed with excellent food'. There was a slight pause when we asked to see the wine list.  Wine by the glass featured in the cocktail menu but we could buy an entire bottle our waitress supposed, she would have to check with the manager.  It was about then that we realised that there was not a single white face apart from ours.  But it was fine.  The manager turned up to ensure that we were happy and everyone was charming.  We could only guess what would have happened to a black couple turning up in a good white restaurant in Birmingham just half a lifetime ago, when we were young adults.  So much has changed for the better but when you drive around the back blocks you realise there's a long way to go.

 

 

 


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Travel

Cuba

 

 

 

What can I say about Cuba? 

In the late ‘70s I lived on the boundary of Paddington in Sydney and walked to and from work in the city.  Between my home and work there was an area of terrace housing in Darlinghurst that had been resumed by the State for the construction of a road tunnel and traffic interchanges.  Squatters had moved into some of the ‘DMR affected’ houses.  Most of these were young people, students, rock bands and radically unemployed alternative culture advocates; hippies. 

Those houses in this socially vibrant area that were not condemned by the road building were rented to people who were happy with these neighbours: artists; writers; musicians; even some younger professionals; and a number were brothels.  

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Alan Turing and The Imitation Game

 

The movie The Imitation Game is an imaginative drama about the struggles of a gay man in an unsympathetic world. 

It's very touching and left everyone in the cinema we saw it in reaching for the tissues; and me feeling very guilty about my schoolboy homophobia. 

Benedict Cumberbatch, who we had previously seen as the modernised Sherlock Holmes, plays Alan Turing in much the same way that he played Sherlock Holmes.  And as in that series The Imitation Game differs in many ways from the original story while borrowing many of the same names and places.

Far from detracting from the drama and pathos these 'tweaks' to the actual history are the very grist of the new story.  The problem for me in this case is that the original story is not a fiction by Conan Doyle.  This 'updated' version misrepresents a man of considerable historical standing while simultaneously failing to accurately represent his considerable achievements.

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Electricity price increases

 

 

14 April 2011

New South Wales electricity users are to suffer another round of hefty price increases; with more to come.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has announced that electricity prices for the average New South Wales resident will increase by 17.6 per cent from July.  Sydney customers will pay on average about $230 more each year, while rural customers will face an extra $316 in charges.  IPART says it is recommending the increases because of costs associated with energy firms complying with the federal government's Renewable Energy Target (RET).  The RET requires energy firms to source power from renewable sources such as solar or wind.

What is this about and how does it relate to the planned carbon tax?

If you want to know more read here and here.


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