The current government has recognised that there is great public concern about corruption in politics, and sincerely want to do something about it. About the concern, that is, not the corruption. Hence the proposed legislation that would deal with accusations in secret. That way they can say they have a watchdog, but ensure it barks silently and nips rather than bites.

GetUp, as usual, is alert to the threat, and intends to fight it. If you want to see political corruption effectively prosecuted, think about chipping in to help.

“The Cheat” by Hon. John Collier, a painting depicting four people playing cards, ca.1900

This large and gloomy engraving used to hanging in my grandmother’s sitting room. Even as a child I wondered why she had chosen that particular picture to decorate her room. It shows two men and two women dressed in Edwardian evening clothes, around a card table. One of the women is standing and both look cross, each in their own way. Research shows this to be an engraving of ‘The Cheat’, by John Collier. When first exhibited around 1905 it was much discussed as a ‘mystery painting’ and it aroused great indignation amongst women who saw in it a libel on womanhood.

As there was at least one other picture of symbolic significance in the flat I assume that this one, the most prominent, was also symbolic. But symbolic of what?

My grandmother remains something of an enigma, and her relationship with my grandfather more complex than the surviving evidence can uncover.

The story below appeared in the Register, an Adelaide newspaper. The inspiration is evidently Collier’s painting, though we will never know if it was the event, or the story, that was inspired by it.

The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), Thursday 4 May 1911, page 3

Tale Of The ‘Cheat.’

Great Picture Realized By Living Personages. Girl Whipped By Guests.

That the Hon. John Collier, when he painted his famous picture of ‘The Cheat’ had justification for doing so is proved by a Story told by ‘Elizabeth of U.’ in The World.

The story concerns a woman who was discovered by two other women cheating at bridge, and who was not only forced to disgorge, but received personal chastisement at the hands of the self-appointed judges. The woman’s consistent winning, it is said, was greatly commented on, and many a hint was thrown out as to the lady’s fairness at the bridge tables. Two ladies of title, who had been staying at a certain country house, first detected this petite madame deliberately cheating. Naturally they avoided playing with her again, and what follows really sounds far more like fiction than plain fact, and yet it is true. It so happened that these three ladies again met at another house party; the two honest dames avoided as far as possible playing at the other one’s table. They congratulated themselves, and (in the secrecy of confidential bedroom chats at night) each other on the deftness with which they had managed to hold aloof from the cheating one and her play, and at the same time prevent their host and hostess from noting the fact.

One night, however, their wrath rose at the sight of the distress this unscrupulous little person was causing a young girl who was her opponent. The two wise ladies watched the small innocent-seeming dame cheat time after time and win. The girl was very unsophisticated; she continued playing, although her face grew white and drawn, for she was losing more than she could afford. Several times she attempted to leave the table, but each time the other three players persuaded her to play on. At length the game ended, and the girl stood up the loser by a sum that ran well into three figures. Like a thorough little sportswoman she made no outcry about her losses, but the other two — the lookers-on — knew what they meant to her; they knew the girl, and they knew her family a great though not wealthy one, one which, even in these censorious days, no scandal had heretofore touched. After the girl had left the room and gone to bed the two who knew hastily held a secret consultation, with the result that they invited little madame to the room of one of them for a midnight chat. She was flattered at their invitation, and readily agreed.

“Midnight Whipping”

Both of them accompanied her to the room of the one guest whose room lay furthest from those of the other members of the house party, and something very like the following took place — ‘You are a cheat,’ one haughtily contemptuous dame asserted as soon as the bedroom door was locked on their victim. ‘We, Lady Barbara and myself, have watched you on several occasions; for the sake of your poor unfortunate husband’s name we have remained silent, but tonight was too much. First of all, you will return to us all you have won from poor little Laura tonight, and also give back to us her I.O.Us. We insist.’ After a feeble and frightened protest the money was handed over, and the pieces of paper signed by the little dupe were quickly placed on the red hot coals and burned to ashes. ‘Now we will see that Laura receives the money which you fleeced her out of, and also we will guarantee that from us she will never learn the truth.’

‘No! you cannot go yet.’ as the little terrified madame turned towards the door, ‘and it is useless your trying to escape, for, I have the key of the door. Painful as it is to us, we have determined to teach you a severe lesson. We are going to beat you. If you scream you may attract the attention of some other guests; if they come and demand au entrance they shall be admitted; if they inquire the reason of such drastic treatment we will tell them the truth. I should advise you not to to scream. Now, are you ready?’

Without more ado one lady held the wriggling, sobbing small person, while the other administered a sound and well-deserved whipping.

The little lady did not desert the house party; her two detainers were sweetly amiable to her for the remainder of the visit, and to their delight, and every one else’s amazement, she quietly refused to play cards again during the remainder of her visit at that country house.


The original article, along with an OCR rendition, may be found at

Women are Angered by a Painting, Denounce It as a Gross Libel on the Sex

Hon. John Collier’s Remarkable Academy Picture. A Marked Card.

Narrating Modernity: The British Problem Picture, 1895-1914

Earlier this year at the hospital, where I am in training as a psychiatry resident, some colleagues were discussing the case of a young woman who had presented with worsening headaches. On CT scan she

Source: Healing Spirits

Miles Ahead

Jennifer Harrison reviews Miles Ahead for Australian Book Review’s Arts Update

Beautiful film. How accurate? Don’t know, don’t care, just glad I saw it.

Source: Miles Ahead

“To make people feel dread, you have to put darkness in the frame.”

Love Revisited

Remember 7 and 7 Is? In 1966 it was a hit for the Los Angeles band Love. Dramatic as the song is, with a driving rhythm and ending in a thunderclap, it is unrepresentative of their work, at that time or in the future.

The band dominated the local scene, but Arthur Lee, the idiosyncratic leader, refused to tour or play anywhere but California, so Love never had the exposure it merited. One way or another, the band fell apart, leaving behind an album, Forever Changes, ranked as one of the highlights of the era, and still regarded as an all time great today.

By the time I bought their compilation album, Love Revisited, off the second-hand stall on Cambridge market, Love was effectively in the past, but new to me.

I found many of the songs fascinating, some puzzling, and one confronting. That was Bacharach and David’s My Little Red Book, rendered with a then unfashionable vigour and urgency. I gather Bacharach didn’t like it either. Apart from 7 and 7 Is, the only other song on the album that most people will be familiar with is Hey Joe, but in an interpretation as different from the familiar Hendrix version as you can imagine. Possibly derived from an arrangement for The Byrds, it is, like My Little Red Book, fast, urgent, and, unlike Hendrix’s version, appropriate to the lyrics.

Scrolling through the comments on a article on the ABC News website on songs that should have been hits, or some such, I suddenly remembered my long unplayed Love LP and how much I had enjoyed it. Gone they may be, but not forgotten. I bought the remastered 2 CD collection under the Definitive Rock banner that includes all the tracks on Love Revisited plus seventeen others. Having listened to them all, I would say that the selection for Love Revisited packed in as a good ‘Best of’ as an LP will hold. For my car MP3 player I have added two more.

Song writing credits go about half and half to Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean. Initially MacLean was the more accomplished, but later, after he had moved on, Lee came up with some truly great songs.

Long ago I played Love Revisited to a friend who was a Country and Western fan. I told him I couldn’t make my mind up if this stuff was really good or really bad. ‘Really bad,’ he said. Which suggested to me that it was actually ‘Really good.’

Music is so subjective, and how we feel about it always dependant on factors of memory and association that are quite unpredictable and unclassifiable. As I played my new CD I found tears coming unbidden to my eyes. Good or bad, these songs are etched into my soul.


In the middle of The Empty Hearse, the first episode of season 3 of Sherlock, after a couple of trivial clients pass before our eyes, Sherlock bundles an elderly couple out of the door. He admits that they are his parents. In fact they are his parents. That is, they are Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents, Timothy Carlton and the gorgeous Wanda Ventham, who I have lusted after since 1972 when I saw her in The Lotus Eaters. After a lead role like that I would have expected her to have had a more glorious career than she did. Maybe she was a bit too overwhelming. As it is she looks to have been consistently busy until 2014, with Sherlock and an episode of Holby City. Maybe at the age of 80 she has decided to slow down and watch from the sidelines.

The other night I had a really nice idea. It was beautifully circular and would have made a great post. But rather than flesh it out in my head, and risk spoiling it, I decided to leave it until the morning. Of course, by then I had forgotten everything about it. I have pen and note pad ready by my bed, I should have written it down. Now the world has been denied a sparkling gem of wit, or wisdom, or whatever, and I spent the day distractedly trying to put something together.

But I got distracted. Did you know that the late Arnold Ridley, who played Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army, was the great uncle of Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Neither did I, but I do now. And so do you, so my day was not entirely wasted.


Victoria in 2050

At the end of an Environment Victoria survey I was asked:

“Imagine that you are living in the new Victoria. We made all the right choices in time and we are now living in a truly sustainable society. What is daily life like?”

An offer too good to refuse.

In 2050 Mooroolbark is still my home, and remains, for me at least, as ideal and practical a place as any I have lived in. My roof is now painted with solar cells, connected to a battery in a small box under the eaves. There is no mains connection. Gas has become too expensive, so my only connections are for water and data.

I own an autonomous electric vehicle, the entire body surface, including windows, is covered in solar cells. The vehicle acts much as a chauffeured car would, so most station car parks have been shrunk, and medium to high density housing built on them. There are still a few city car parks, but for places and events there most people either use VR (Virtual Reality), or Park and Ride mass transit. I’m old fashioned, I like to be there in AR (Actual Reality) as the VR tech to organic interface is still bodgy and imprecise.

My own vehicle could be dispensed with, autonomous hire cars work out cheaper than owning your own. But as I am still living (at 99) thanks to manufactured replacement parts, cloud storage of much of my memory, and plug-in cognitive functioning, in the same house with on-site parking, and I keep stuff in the vehicle, I’m still an owner.

Much of my time is spent in a VR, as I have re-invented myself as an Immersive Experience visualiser and scriptwriter, specialising in life, particularly maritime and naval life, during the reign of Queen Anne.

As a devout romantic, I do not go in for virtual sex, except in the course of research for my work. I am in an enduring non-residential relationship with a lady I have known, off and on, for decades. We do sometimes meet in virtual realities, through necessity, but prefer our own AR.

The local climate has changed significantly over the past few decades, it is now drying out and warming after a cold, wet and wild era that came with the failure of the Monsoons and a serious disruption of the ocean currents of the hemisphere. The humanitarian catastrophe that followed, and the final disintegration of the Chinese Empire it precipitated looms large over the nation’s consciousness, and conscience.

Only a fraction of the billions displaced found a home in Australia, and the strain they placed on the social fabric would have led to rapid and total collapse had the secret of fusion power not been, accidentally, uncovered. This enabled water desalination on a titanic scale, and what amounted to the terraforming of the vast deserts of the interior, refilling ancient lakes and bring alive rivers that had been dry for tens of millennia. The full repercussions of this work are still unclear, but millions of lives have been saved by it.

Fusion power has been the game changer. While solar and battery storage has allowed residential housing and light industrial and office premises to go off-grid, fusion has taken over from fossil, solar, wind, and geothermal as the primary industrial supplier. Air pollution, already much improved, is now rapidly declining. Fusion power has yet to be scaled down enough to be used in aircraft, but it is being fitted to new shipping and retrofitted to recent builds, reducing both air and sea pollution. Research into extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is attracting massive funding, as is a UN project to increase the oxygen content to boost crop yields, although scientific opinion is sharply divided on the issue.

The population of Victoria has more than quadrupled since 2016, leaving native English speakers as a small minority. English, however, is the common language, as resources are not available to translate between a dozen or more disparate tongues. This population increase has not led to a decline in standards, as it has been successfully spread across the state. This would not have been possible without fusion power to enable industrial development, plus fast mass transit and freight systems. The extinction of the Chinese economy, unlikely to be revived in the foreseeable future, has had both positive and negative effects for Australia and Victoria, too intricate to examine here. Reforms following the decline of mineral exports in the early century had strengthened the domestic economy and diversified the export market, and forward thinking by both Green and Social Democrat governments stood the nation in good stead when the effects of climate change made the tropics and some other secondarily affected regions virtually uninhabitable.

Through a combination of virtual reality and cheap, fast, comprehensive mass transit, our lives in the outer suburbs of Melbourne are, after a patchy period, richer than they were in 2016. Access to music, theatre, cinema (not as you know it though), and art productions in media I won’t try and describe, is far easier, either via VR or mass transit, which is now a state-wide web, and no longer a radial feeder to the city only. If I want jazz I can as easily go to Bendigo as to St Kilda. We now have wall-sized 3D screens and holographic projectors, though most people don’t have room for the latter at full scale. Holographs work well in the cinema, 3D is better in the domestic lounge.

Food is now more varied and of higher quality than ever, after a really boring period a decade ago, and specialised restaurants are doing good trade. Local culture has been much enriched by this trend, as well as by the live music that often comes with it.

Education is again totally free for anyone who wants it. There are several levels and styles of qualification, ensuring that each is a meaningful indicator of achievement and knowledge. Nobody needs to be employed, as the state pays a living wage to everybody. But you can’t have much fun on that so almost everyone works, if only part time or as a semi-hobby.

Sport is as popular as ever, but more diverse. Cultural activities are all pervasive, choirs, orchestras, bands, dance groups, the influx of exotic influences has had an enlivening an effect on the arts as is has on cuisine. Religion is also thriving, but this has led to a diminution of its political influence as the numbers of adherents to any one faith have fallen dramatically. Some of the imported faiths have changed significantly as a consequence of the circumstances that brought them here. People have recognised that the disasters that befell them were common to all the faiths they now find around them, that styles and degrees of adherence to doctrines have had no effect at all – the laws of physics do not bend to the supernatural. It was initially hoped by some that this would lead to the demise of religion. It has not, instead faith traditions have looked inside themselves to find their philosophic bases, and have largely discarded any claim to temporal power.

We live in a society that generates a kind of amorphous cohesion. This has been the subject of much academic investigation, with, as yet, little result. It has been speculated that it is the net result of a multi-layered culture, in which one person may have many cultural identities and attachments. These may operate like the laminations of a composite material, making it both light and resilient, or like the leaves of a spring. There is a feeling of all being a part of one thing, while maintaining personal individuality and cultural loyalties. This effect was first identified as the Bataclan Generation after the 2015 attacks in Paris. It has persisted and become entrenched, even in the refugee populations.

The future of humanity is on everyone’s horizon these days. Not because humanity is threatened, quite the opposite. Fusion power, self-evolving systems, and analogue quantum ‘computing’ to use an obsolete term, together promise to open up the future, but in ways we cannot predict. My lady and I have signed up for the Upload project, which will free us from our residual organic components, and allow us to interface directly with tech systems and sensors, allowing access to data of a far wider spectrum and vastly finer grain than the organic body can deliver. The project also frees us from the limitations of the fragile and temperamental organic body, an important consideration for what is widely seen as the most significant development in the history of life on this planet – the move off the planet. Some have seen the Upload as a terminal decline into decadent and sybaritic irrelevance. But mostly today it is anticipated as the beginning of an era so unlike any we have known as to be beyond prediction. A Singularity, as Kurzweil put it so long ago.

After having got so much so wrong for so long, are we about to get something right?

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