Friday, December 30, 2011

Both in Melbourne and Sydney you will find this story today. The Age which Gabbie now reads is our paper for few days Havel's New Year message: we have reason for hope
Twenty-two years ago, on New Year's Day, Vaclav Havel gave a speech to the people of Prague, who had peacefully overthrown their communist government.
In his own words: "We have to abandon the arrogant belief that the world is merely a puzzle to be solved"
Western governments, he said, are organized on a flawed premise not far removed from the Soviet system that had just collapsed. "The modern era has been dominated by the culminating belief," he said, "that the world ... is a wholly knowable system governed by finite number of universal laws that man can grasp and rationally direct ... objectively describing, explaining, and controlling everything."
These bureaucratic structures are profoundly dehumanizing, Havel believed, striving to control choices that should be left to human judgment and values. This "era of systems, institutions, mechanisms and statistical averages" is doomed to failure because "there is too much to know" and it cannot "be fully grasped." The drive towards standardization is fatally flawed, Havel believed: "life is nonstandard."

Vaclav Havel's Critique of the West

Gabbie keeps the garage door open at St Edmonds - at this all day eatery off Greville Street even when Adam and Eve conspire to sleep in Gabbie's Garage

Geoffrey Rush goes Wilde in drag-rags Our Hour With Rush

Monday, December 19, 2011

R.I.P., Vaclav Havel A hero of mine has died. Another great intellectual light has left the planet. The Czech National flag and two black flags wave in front of Saint Vitus Cathedral

I only met Havel twice and wouldn't pretend to know him well. But he mattered as much to me as my father ... I met him once in Prague after he signed the Charter 77 and again in 1995 when Johno Johnson, President of NSW Legislative Council fame, invited me to luncheon in Sydney Parliament House. But I really first met Vaclav Havel at my sister Aga’s deathbead in 1975 when I first came across his classic play, Vyrozumní (The Memorandum). He was something of a bohemian George Orwell. Like Orwell, Havel satirised the 'doublespeak' of the official bureaucratic language of the communist regime …
In 2003 I wrote a short tribute to my hero who even inspired me to grow moustache after the military service in Czechoslovakia circa 1979 to 2003 when I shaved my moustache as Havel’s political era was over Today I Farewell My Teenage Hero: Vaclav Havel
The Cold River: A Tale From My Heart
Message from Vaclav Havel

We are all hugely diminished today by the passing of a man, small of height but towering in moral stature and courage over those he called the "professional rulers" ; Cold River: The Cold Truth of Vaclav Havel’s Freedom

Havel’s talent for the theatre of the absurd, when read in the context of the communist experience, is just mind boggling

Old Mate! In the gusty old weather,
When our hopes and our troubles were new,
In the years spent in wearing out leather,
I found you unselfish and true —
I have gathered these verses together
For the sake of our friendship and you…

Isn't it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity.
- Vaclav Havel

Bells ring across country to commemorate Václav Havel Vaclav Havel: Living in truth A man for all seasons on behalf of liberty
Vaclav Havel's death is a reminder of something which parts of modern world are in danger of taking for granted, at best, and, at worst, of forgetting altogether.
Candles are placed at the Venceslav Square to commemorate the death of former Czech president Vaclav Havel, in central Prague, Czech Republic, December 18, 2011

How good a dramatist was Václav Havel? Undeniably one with a wry, sceptical, highly original voice. But he defied the easy labels we love to slap on writers. Just as Latin American novelists often claim that what we term "magic realism" is for them a truthful picture of life, so Havel made nonsense of the "absurdist" category to which he was sometimes consigned by critics. His plays are not a cry of protest against a meaningless universe. "The ultimate aim of Havel's plays," as translator Vera Blackwell wrote, "is the improvement of man's lot through the improvement of human institutions."

YOU could hear Vaclav Havel coming down the corridor of the palace a few minutes in advance. Clip-clip, clip-clop: the accelerated walk of a short-legged man in a hurry. And always the loud chatter of his political advisers, their competing voices like birdsong at dusk. Then came the whiff of cigarette smoke, and with a flourish, the man himself - a theatrical entrance for a playwright-turned-politician. As early as 1988, Havel had hatched the idea of a play about power and integrity. Then the world changed and for 13 years he was head of state, first of united Czechoslovakia and then of the Czech Republic. He moved from being a Velvet Underground fan, to being the architect of the Velvet Revolution and a reluctant co-negotiator of the Velvet Divorce from Slovakia.

• Vaclav , shy and bookish, with a wispy mustache ...Vaclav Havel's Lasting Words ; Google on Havel [The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less Quotes ; Cold War icon Havel dies ; To lose either Christopher Hitchens or Vaclav Havel would be burden enough to bear but to lose them both in the same week is cruel punishment, indeed. ; His home village of Hrádeček Images of Vaclav; As a practical politician and playwright, late former president Vaclav Havel would most probably carefully watch who will come for the funeral ]• · The dissident playwright who wove theatre into politics to peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia and become a hero of the epic struggle that ended the Cold War ; Vale Václav Havel ; Czech pay tribute to revolution icon Vaclav Havel ; Havel, a playwright, spent a ton of time in jail for his political writings
• · · Twenty-two years ago, almost to the day, thousands in Prague's Wenceslas Square roared, "Havel to the Castle." Days later, like a house of cards, Moscow's puppet government collapsed. On December 29, 1989, Vaclav Havel, the dissident artist who had begun the year in prison, took the oath of office as president of Czechoslovakia We will live in an indifferent, demoralized and undemocratic society ; The surrealism of encountering Mr. Havel and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright at the tiny Brick Theatre will NEVER leave my mind.
• · · · Vaclav Havel personified the “power of the powerless.” He understood — as John Paul II understood – the value of integrity, the value of truth. Vaclav Havel: I Was Told in 1968, "You Must Become President"*; When Václav Havel and 241 others signed Charter 77 during the Cold War in 1977, they were denounced by the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia as "traitors and renegades" and "agents of imperialism." Such were the epithets by which some of the most courageous Europeans of the 20th century were known
• · · · · In the spirit of the season, and in honor of Vaclav Havel, who died Sunday (and whose life I’ve remembered in another post), what follows is a top-ten list, the first entry being Havel’s greatest hits, and the rest books and writers whom Havel admired—contemporaries or near contemporaries who lived in the same region and under similar regimes. (I am sticking here to non-fiction prose.) They, like Havel, are men and women who lived, and wrote within the truth ; The more platforms we invent, the more stories we need. Stories are critical to winning in the "Lifestream" we are in. When you're a marketer with an annual sales target to hit, stories are your best friend for connecting with consumers. Stand Up The Storytellers - New Havels Wanted Openness is fundamental to representative government. Yet the congressional process is replete with activities and actions that are private and not observable by the public. How to distinguish reasonable legislative secrecy from impractical transparency is a topic that produces disagreement on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Why? Because lawmaking is critical to the governance of the nation. Scores of people in the attentive public want to observe and learn about congressional proceedings. Openness is fundamental to representative government
• · · · · · Organised crime has long been big business in the country. But are mafiosi now enjoying protection by the state Who runs Russia? ; News of the deaths of Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il hit Burma at high speed this week, and many Burmese rushed online to share their thoughts about the leader of the Czech people, who they admired, and the oppressor of the North Korean people, who they disdained. Kim Jong Il and Vaclav Havel: Two leaders a world apart = Farewell to a Revolutionary, Good Riddance to a Despot

Every man should have a fair-sized cemetery
in which to bury the faults of his friends.
- Henry Brooks Adams

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it.
- Joseph Conrad, born on this date in 1857

Many characters paid tribute to Tony , a man who has dedicated the better part of three decades to public service, and who has never failed in all those years to put the taxpayers ahead of himself. Tony is a role model for bright young Australians who wish to heed the call to service of President John F. Kennedy in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

There are times when speakers fight to find the right words, but at Tony's farewell, they flowed like water from a spring - Tim with significant others drowned in extraordinary stories...

Extracts from Tony's Reflections … You could see the years of reflection flashing before his eyes ...

The Union
I was signed up in the union in my first week. Terry …in Expenditure was also a union delegate. I got more and more involved in the FCU TOB… Conference delegate and up to National deputy president … Wonderful people and all were committed to improving the circumstances of their fellow tax officers. Some hilarious and embarrassing moments in the union…
• At my first national Executive meeting I drank a bottle of port with dinner… I was sure my eyeballs were on my cheeks the next day…
• Doing the worm on the roof of a hire car at Hume Weir…
• The behind the scenes discussions and preparations when the FCU TOB merged with ACOA to form the now CPSU…
This created a solid foundation on ensuring that all individuals in the [the agency] were valued and respected.

Office liaisons
I started my romance with Narelle, and informed a mate that I was dating this great “chick”, he of course wanted to meet her so next time he was visiting me I took him around to Narelle’s desk… She was not there and before I could say anything my mate said wow your dating a chair… The people I had to put up with …

Things I will not miss
Looking back on a career of 33 years it has been a wonderful journey and has included meeting many great people, but like all journeys there are bits that I will not miss:
• Meeting report deadlines… In fact any urgent report, minute or briefing, especially senate estimates and QONs.
• The frustration of putting forward an innovation or change.
• Governance
• …Internal spin… If we say it often enough we might believe it.
• System instability
• Funding reductions and doing the same output with less. This in itself was not so much the problem as also being hamstrung by being required to use existing procedures.
• Agency Agreements
All of these things make it a pleasure to be walking away and not looking back. I look forward to doing something different.

What I will miss
The downside is what I will miss… The people I have worked with. It is the people that make it a pleasure to work in the (office) and it is the people I have worked with that have helped me to get to 33 years of service. This experience has gone through a range of feelings including: serious, fun, pressured, sad and memorable. It is the people that I will miss. Fortunately I will still catch up with the Sydney and St Leonards golf groups and with those that attend the [sport] Carnival.

It is strange when you think about it. We are a service organisation. It is the “value add” of our people that makes the difference to our outputs. Yet we seem to have an inordinate obsession with our systems and practices. It seems to me on reflection that in an organisational sense we should be putting the emphasis on the people in the organisation. A happy and engaged workforce is a productive workforce… Whilst the intent is to have engaged staff there is no

I look back on my career in the [public service], it is with satisfaction that I reflect on my achievements and joy at the people I have worked with on that journey.

Good luck to all and enjoy the people you work with.

As you all know I like to finish with a quote - I am also a big fan of Richard Bach and he provided this famous goodbye quote:

Don't be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends.

A collection of colourful movers and shakers and friends of Tony and Johno Johnson:


Once was Camelot in Canberra? Reflections on public service leadership

Dare to be Different

What happens when you gather the world’s most imaginative minds under one roof?
The Idea Factory

Sunday, December 04, 2011

... The Rise of the Fifth Reich?

...  it is clear that too many American policy makers and opinion makers live in a bubble of conventional wisdom, comfortable assumptions and complacent ignorance.  Articles like this one are a useful corrective to that complacency, and even readers who end up thinking Corn goes a little over the top will appreciate the guided tour of European strategic analysis he provides amerika mmxi