My Box Brownie could do that.

Photo EBay

Talk of

Artificial Intelligence

Prompted me to read


The programmer

Obviously pressed a button

That spat out art


The work emerged

By … mathematical formula

Was named Le Comte de Belamy


Auctioneer Criristies

Listed it among the works of fifty famous artists

Proclaiming the work as new


Based as it was

On 1,500 scanned portraits

Of actual works by paint masters


Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre

Purchaser proclaimed it

“grotesque and amazing at the same time.”


Estimated to sell

As it cost time to produce

At ten thousand


It sold

With one in the room and one on the phone

In twenty eighteen


It’s Obvious

Pierre Fautrel, Gauthier Vernier, and Hugo Caselles-Dupré.

And GAN are names to watch


After all

They trousered

Four hundred and thirty-two thousand


Just think

If my little Box Brownie had taken colour prints

Before A.I. ………………My art could have made me rich.

AI was used to replicate poetry at last year’s poetry day (21 March 2019.) The photo below is one of five poems generated by artificial Intelligence to be read that day. Here is Various Weathers.

Co Plaith.com

Cash is King


I have a friend who has a dollar note, sitting in a frame on his wall.

When asked. “

Why do you keep this note?”

His answer is, “It was part of my first ever pay packet.”


My experience with money has been different. For a start the first money I saw as coming from my job, as opposed to payment I received in exchange for my time helping out as I grew up, was given to me – or so it seemed. My first payment wasn’t even cash. It was a paper cheque with my name on it. As payment it was practically useless because I couldn’t buy anything with it until I had paid it into a bank account.

I was handed my cheque on a Thursday morning. The nearest bank was about 2 kilometres from the college I attended. The bank would be closed by the time I finished lectures if I did not rush off to the bank at lunchtime. So, at lunch time I scarpered off to the bank. And so did my class mates. (All accept John who always had a £10 note (our largest note at that time). John got so used to flashing his £10 note – only to be told – “It’s too big for me to cash luv. Have you got anything smaller?” He made money out of having too much. When going to a dance – it might have cost 2/3d to gain entry – he would say, “ I have only got £10 can you pay for me?”)

I chose the Commonwealth bank in Moorabool St Geelong as my bank because it was the nearest bank I knew of in this new city. (To start an account today you have to provide a list of items that certify you are who you are.) I had none of those hassles. I had the cheque. I knew my name – possibly I had my driver’s licence. Within a few minutes all my money was in the bank. But I needed some of that money to buy the things I needed for the next 14 days. How much?

I had no idea. (My accommodation and my food was paid. It formed part of the allowance I was paid, but it was never shown as a separate amount. My cheque was for approximately £11. 4. 6p ((I am only certain of the £s I was paid a fortnight after expenses.))

How much. I didn’t need much. I didn’t drink. I had no transport costs to pay. I didn’t have to pay for utilities. Perhaps I could go to the cinema, treat myself to a coffee, buy other treats.

“ I will need £2.”

So I withdrew £2 in cash. (Within a year or so the banks insisted the cheque clear – at least 3 working days – before I got access to the money the government paid me to learn.)

I left the bank with a bank passport in my name. It showed how much I deposited and another entry showed how much I had withdrawn. The final column showed how much money I had in the bank. Any money I had, apart from the cash in hand was always in the bank. Once I had spent my £2 if I wanted more I could only get more going back to the bank between 9 am and 3pm on a Monday to Friday (excluding holidays). What a pain that became.

I have always hated carrying cash around. Yet if anything was needed the only way to buy it was to have cash at hand. If I wanted to go home (I didn’t) I needed cash to buy a train ticket. I attended church. To give to the service of the church I needed cash. Fortunately I was well, but if I needed a visit to the doctor, or dentist I had to have cash with me. The money in the bank didn’t count because unless you planned beforehand how much you might need you couldn’t get access to it after banking hours.

So I soon discovered the benefit of having a personal cheque account of my own. This meant people would trust your signature scratched on a piece of paper was worth what you said it was.

Cash was needed to go to a dance, or pay for a meal, but visits to the doctor, or dentist – when you were unsure how much they charged could be paid by cheque. Providing you had sufficient credit in your bank account. Sometimes you would read about a person who had deceived another by passing a worthless cheque to them. You would read stories like that in the newspaper yet it possibly happened only once to me – if it happened at all.

The truth is no one but a crook would pass a worthless cheque because no one used credit to buy things. They used their own money, or they borrowed money from their bank – knowing they would have to pay it back £ by £ each month as the agreement stated. Or they did as most people did and they went without until they could buy what they wanted for cash.

In 1966 Australia adopted a whole new currency. In time we got used to handling our new cash. In 1969 the banks introduced instant credit. Anyone could go to their bank and the bank would give them a Bankcard with up to $500 of credit. We didn’t because we were accustomed to paying by cash,or cheque, for the things we wanted.

The banks were on to a good thing. They continued to profit from Bankcard until Visa Card and MasterCard took over their business. Interest rates on credit cards rise, even in these days of near zero interest charges. Pay day lending, and other forms of instant credit, are available almost everywhere. People are addicted to credit.


The Covid 19 crises has now almost killed cash. Many stores now require people to use plastic cards to pay for their purchases. People with cash complain their money is legal tender and must be accepted as fair exchange, but in fact the stores have the upper hand. It turns out – so long as they display their terms of trade – they need only accept electronic forms of payment. The purchaser cannot insist they accept cash. Go figure.


That chap with the first $1 he saved now finds we have moved from paper$1 . As if nothing will ever change. It does. Cash is no longer king.

The answer to the question.

Detail Taj Mahal

The other day it was very hot. Cook an egg on the roadway hot. It was a day the advice was, “Make sure you get plenty to drink today, it is going to be very hot.” Locals, and their holidaying couch – surfing friends, went to the beach. So many went there it was impossible to park the car within a kilometre of the shore.

Jac asked if I would drive the car to Cosy Corner, and drop everyone off to have a swim – and collect them all in an hour. This I gladly did. I couldn’t think of becoming desiccated on the sand myself. When I returned we saw a man helping his intoxicated partner to somewhere safer to sleep off the alcohol she had consumed. She had taken the radioed message to drink plenty the wrong way.

To find a man lying in the gutter dead drunk was a common sight in the 1950s. Six o’clock closing encouraged people who had worked all day to swill down as much beer as time allowed after work and before six. War babies like me saw this too often when we walked past the overcrowded, noisy pubs. We smelled the beery odour as it filled the air outside. Additionally we heard the rowdy arguments that spilled from the houses when the men returned home.

Janice was the last born in our family and she became one of the cohort called the baby boomers. This was the generation born after the war. They filled the houses. They filled the schools. By the end of the 1960s they entered the adult world, and they filled the jobs.

Their numbers continued to grow and by the mid 1970s they were the dominant crowd.

They had political power and they used it for their own betterment. They were dissatisfied with the status quo. They tore apart the rules of work. People were once promoted on their seniority. They changed that. They argued and got the right to free tertiary education. This time of prosperity meant they pushed for and got many other social benefits and they pushed back on tax and saw that constantly reduced as government liabilities grew in their wake. They didn’t exclude alcohol but they turned to psychedelic drugs, sex and rock- n – roll as their cultural expressions.

Here we are these many years later with the problems their policies have left behind. As the influence of this retiring group reluctantly diminishes a new world order is emerging. It is more terrifying than the influence of beer, and psychedelic drugs.

Throughout the world the world is turning to fundamentalism.

Speaking, as I do, as someone who grew up in a Judea-Christian tradition I can see this drift to fundamentalism plainly. Those familiar with the bible stories of Revelations see the signs of the forecast plagues; earthquakes, floods, fire and famine and have joined churches promoting , The Rapture. Their belief that in speaking in tongues it will deliver them from the perils before the world is their release. They have no need to do anything. God will solve their problems for them.

(If your belief is different you may recognise other fundamentalist traits. I cannot speak knowledgeably about them. All I can see is that is what has happened, particularly in the last half decade, is a right turn to fundamentalism.)

In my three articles – Time to set things right – I highlighted just three areas where I see capitalism has let us down. (My socialist attitudes on how society would work better if the state provided the services it once did may jar with you. Horribly as soon as people see the world socialist they think communism. (Are you one of those?)

I do not propose that at all. If the state looks after security – military services – other services like water, energy, health, housing for the needy, are just as important. These are the social things it needs to do. To do them it needs cash in the form of taxes to fix thing up.)

Back in 1978 Rod Goode and I introduced a new program in social science to teachers in the Ballarat Region. The course of instruction lasted a week. It was a big ask to get teachers to leave their classrooms for a week of introduction to the course of study. In time we saw all teachers from about 70 schools. In one session , through the week, we touched on the work of Viktor Frankl. I have borrowed this explanation of his work from Andy Forcena quoted in “The worst of all possible worlds” he wrote

In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, the Psychologist Viktor Frankl posits the necessity of meaning for survival. As a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, he has a unique and first-hand perspective on suffering, horror, and evil. He notes that many of the prisoners who died in the camps (that is, those who weren’t executed outright) had lost all sense of meaning. For them, life was suffering, because they dwelt on their past experiences in the camps rather than cultivating a sense of hope for the future. Given their experiences, who could blame them for this? Frankl claims that he survived the camps because he stayed oriented towards the future, finding meaning in hope for a better tomorrow. This future-oriented outlook is inherent in all of the world’s major religions, whether the heaven of Christianity or the Noble Eightfold Path as a means to ceasing craving in Buddhism.

In my mind we have a choice. We can remain hopeful or despairing. I think it best to remain hopeful and not to give into fundamentalism. The world certainly has some intractable problems but they will not solved by fear or hatred.

I think it is best to turn to the philosophers. Like the major religions Frankl posits, they teach us not to fear and not to hate but to reason. We also have to keep our eyes and ears open and test whether we are getting fake news.

Thank you. Please take the opportunity to comment and give me a chance to broaden my mind.

Time to set things right. Part 2

Photo NASA

These are hard days for investors looking to earn interest on their money because official interest rates are at an all time low. Somehow central banks think the economy will be stimulated to prosperity if everyone spends, and they will do that because a little debt won’t hurt. Consequently retirees are not investing in term deposits as they once did for safety, instead they are interested in company profits. We like to see big business doing well because they pay dividends, even though we might not have direct interests in them.

The last days of this decade are informative. The financial year might not be half way through , but we can spot trends. There are too many trends the writer dislikes on day 180 of 2019.

• I do not like to see companies avoiding tax. The tax employees pay is not a company payment. I dislike it when they use this an excuse/answer.

“Our company is heavily invested in the economy because we provide thousands of jobs.” This does not wash with me.

• I do not like it when companies avoid paying full wages. Companies underpaying employers this year would fill a page. (The employment legislation may be difficult to navigate but the number of workers overpaid would not cover a line, therefore something does not wash.

• I do not like it when the companies showing most growth are new companies in such smelly industries as pay-day loans, artificial intelligence, or long time companies like Aristocrat Leisure (gambling) or Domino’s Pizza (wage theft,)

• I do not like it when the board pays the CEO more than 250 times the average country wage (Qantas). Each man gets 168 hours a week. Reducing the workforce does not take brilliance. Real brilliance is required to build people, and that build business health.

• I do not like it company boards put the interests of shareholders before ethics. A principled life starts with the ethics. Boards of Banks, Gambling companies, ………… have been found wanting in the last six months. The reputation of a company is unavoidably linked to its directors

• I do not like it when multinational companies falsely invoice local entities to avoid tax. (Everywhere).

• I do not approve of companies using casualisation of the work force to reduce obligation to workers. If they only work on a casual basis they work for you.

Our government does not escape criticism.

This government is linked in its unfair distribution of water.

This government is linked to being Lassize faire with mining companies; oil, gas, minerals, coal. Gold. The resources exploited are once only sales yet the miners are excused from royalty payments while in establishment.

This is the wealth for which we are famous. The government has no plan to preserve the real wealth for future generations.

In order to deliver a surplus government is withholding payment to legitimate recipients at every turn. It could stimulate the economy with quantitate easing yet it refuses

This government has no plans for the environmental safety – including its flora and fauna.

We are open for business to anyone with the other capital because the government takes no interest in who owns what under AU $200 million.

• I do not like it when under employed people are considered to be working if they clock an hour a week at a job. In every effective way they are unemployed.

We can do our bit. In fact we must do more.

The last six months have been dry across the country. Our farmers have done it tough. Meat, grain, vegetables, farm produce of all kinds are diminished. Farm incomes are down. The real costs are being avoided by the public because our supermarkets buy from the cheapest supplier.

As purchasers we have a responsibility to our countrymen. Where ever it is feasible to by local produce we should. In the past six months many of the brands we used to buy have been purchased by off shore owners. It does not improve our economy to help boost the wealth of foreign countries. (I understand our producers, our sons and daughters are employed to make these products but I see this as only temporary. Past experience shows off shore owners like the brand they do not care how, or where it is made. )

I have written this because I have grand children. I want them to know what I have witnessed in the last six months does not look good for them and I disapprove.

If you agree please let me know. If you disagree with me please comment and I can grow in wisdom. As my writing is with the prejudice of ignorance of old age I need your help. . Please bring me up to speed where you see the chance.

Tell me I have got it wrong

Grounded Boeing planes

Today Boeing acknowledged that it had made mistakes with its MAX 737 aeroplanes. It transpires after two crashes. they were quick to blame the deceased pilots for errors they made. Now they accept they were due to the company itself underperforming. It was forced to make this announcement when their planes were grounded – literally for months. In those months the reputational damage has almost sent the company to the wall. The announcement is expected to give the company time to reverse its fortune but great damage has been done.

(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_737_MAX_groundings)

If this company was alone it would be shocking. I am not a shareholder in Boeing, but likely as not you might be. If you have superannuation you might indirectly have an interest in this and many hundreds of other companies. I have a small shareholding in some companies, and is in my interest the shares do well. This is the lot of retirees. We all want the biggest return we can get from whatever money we have put aside, yet I believe, none of us want the companies we are invested in to cause harm.

Perhaps the reason they do is the understanding directors have a moral duty to put the interests of the shareholders first. However if directors do this without consideration of the social responsibility their companies have then they are complicit in the destruction of their community and need to be held to account. How else can the Fair Work Ombudsman have collected fines of over $200 million in the last twelve months from other unscrupulous companies?

(The story of industrial relations in Australia is long and tortuous but it is worth reading. However it is too difficult to weave into this simple essay – of how greed now determines action.)

I have worked for the government, and I have worked for major corporations. When I was working I wanted (my) business to succeed. I still want business to succeed today. Despite this when it comes to business I am totally lost as to what has happened to institutions the community once implicitly trusted. ( I no longer trust business to do the right thing, and I have learned governments put the interests of business petitioners before voters.)

What has happened with Boeing might just be a blip, but when multiplied by all the other blips in business, as it is practised today, it becomes a flood of bad practice. In Australia we are working through the damage a Royal Commission into Banking has uncovered. The right wing government we have, argued for years an inquiry was not going to find anything. It could all be corrected by regulation they said. In the end to appease the middle ground they were forced to agree to one. Since the Royal Commission they have had to limp along through the embarrassing findings against banks and recognise its worth and condemn the businesses they said poised no difficulty.

The banking royal commission is a big sign all is not well. Despite this the government believes, when big business does well everyone does well. Their argument is the profits earned by business will flow through the economy to the meekest of workers if it is unregulated.

Regulation today is a bad word, and yet it was once considered necessary because it harmonised the world we knew. When I paid attention in my Economics class we were told the government worked for its populace. It provided housing for the homeless. It provided water and power. It played a significant part in communications. We had the Postmaster General Office – from that service we got telephone and mail. Government regulated the price of basic food including milk and bread. The opposite view is “ let the market decide” and it gives no thought about basic human needs.

Wage theft

You don’t have to be an economist to see things are broken. The news that one of our largest companies Woolworths Ltd has underpaid workers, perhaps $300 million over nine years, is hot on the heels of the news a couple of celebrated chefs have been caught doing the same thing for $7 million and $10 million. The argument used is they were too busy to understand the complex employment rules.

I can go on and reference Seven Eleven, Retail Food Group, and even the Australian Broadcast Commission itself has failed in the same way. Each claims the underpayment to their workforce was an unprecedented error. Surprisingly the underpayments were as a result of accounting mistakes. Not so astonishingly no major company appears to have made an error of magnitude where mistakes have lead to overpayment.

With the demise of the unions we have seen a casualisation of the work force. When companies chose executives without life experience, staff are seen as a cost of production. When that happens the contract between labour and production is broken. Loyalty unrewarded means a loss of pride in staff output. Work becomes a means to an end to employer and staff. Jobs are lost. People are under employed and those that are not can have their work terminated simply by falling off the work roster – especially if they cannot work whenever it suits the employer.

Surprisingly the world has returned to the inequalities of the period the Austin women, especially those books of Jane and Honore de Balzac, as they wrote about in the early eighthteenth century. Their world was a period where wealth was concentrated in the hands of few. Since the end of WW11 the spread of wealth has reduced. Today less than 1% of the people on earth control almost half of all the wealth. In reverse – about 70% of the global population have less than $10,000 in assets. Is it any wonder the Panama Papers uncovered so many people and companies hiding their wealth from regulators rather than do the correct thing and pay taxes?

At the time of the Austin’s and Balzac the country of Wales produced Robert Owen. He was an industrialist with extreme wealth, yet he understood if he improved the lives of his workers it would not cost him but reward him. He started schools for his workers. He built a model town. (It stands today as New Lanark in Scotland.) This model town showed wealth was best spent on improving the lives of people. (His is a life worth understanding.)

The first fifth of the twenty-first century is gone. The world needs a new Robert Owen much more than it needs weapons and nationalism. It is my belief wealth is not wrong but it would be better if it reverted to the state at the end of life. Inherited wealth is a curse to mankind because the beneficiaries lose. What they lose is an understanding of the equality of mankind.

I have had my say. I will remain ignorant there are other sides to my statements if you do not tell me. Write a few words and explain where I have got it wrong. I will thank you.