Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oz Day '11

Australia Day has rolled around once again. This year with some melancholy, considering the terrible natural disasters that parts of the country have endured recently.

Some time ago I was listening to reports on the Queensland flooding and heard of Anna Bligh for the first time. She's the state's premier. Bligh? Not a very common name. Related to Capt. Bligh?

Just kidding; here's a statue of the historical Bligh, who tends to be referred to as "Gov. Bligh" in Australian sources, since he was the fourth governor of New South Wales. Another uprising happened during his watch, known as the Rum Rebellion (beginning on January 26, 1808), resulting in Bligh being illegally tossed out of office. Some managers just can't catch a break.

Anna Bligh is indeed a descendant of William Bligh, who was actually a lieutenant at the time of the mutiny on the Bounty and a vice admiral at the end of his career (kicked upstairs by the Admiralty after that incident in NSW, it seems). But history and Hollywood have made him a captain forever.

Also for Australia Day: four versions of "Waltzing Matilda" selected from among countless others. More information on the song than you'll ever need is here.

First, a video by the late and much-beloved Slim Dusty, Australia's answer to just about every North American country singer. Next, a version that's geared to children (and those who don't understand Australian English of the song) by Rolf Harris, best known in this country for "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport."

A symphonic version is next, with violin by Dutchman André Rieu, whom I understand isn't a favorite of classical music critics, perhaps because he's too popular, though I'm not competent to say. Anyway, he does a good turn on "Waltzing Matilda" and the Australian audience seems warm to it. And I have to like the Dutch description of the video by the fellow who posted it, because Dutch is so much fun to look at. It begins: Een meesterwerk van André Rieu en zijn mannen en vrouwen. Zoooo mooi. Dit nummer hebben ze gespeeld tijdens hun tour in Australië. Koop die CD. Hij is super!

Finally, Tom Waits' version of the song ("Tom Traubert's Blues"), which is mostly not the song. But any day is a good day to watch some Tom Waits.

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