Earlier this year I wrote an extremely negative prediction on the outlook for Afghanistan...

Frank Avis by | October 13, 2021 | 2020s Music

Earlier this year I wrote an extremely negative prediction on the outlook for Afghanistan after the planned Allied withdrawal. Now, in the light of what we've seen recently, I realise it was nowhere near negative enough. We went there remember after 9/11 in order to subdue the Taliban and their cronies so that the country couldn't be used as a base for terrorism again. But when we got boots on the ground two things became obvious: 1) that the majority of Afghanis hated the Taliban rule – especially the women – and; 2) that the country had virtually no political or public service organisation and no way of defending itself against a Taliban revival. So we all stepped up and assisted the locals in establishing a government and began organising a defence force.

Billions of dollars were poured into the country with over 30,000 army and police armed with the best kit on the planet. We fought and died alongside them over 20 years so that when it became time to leave most of our seasoned service personnel were convinced Afghanistan would be defended... that the local soldiers would give their lives for their country. When the Taliban returned and the provincial centres started to collapse there was shock – genuine shock – amongst the Allied soldiers and politicians at the rate of the enemy advance. I kept hearing official reports of the Afghan soldiers fighting valiant battles to defend their cities but increasingly, after dissecting all of the information from the front, it became clear that the defenders were basically throwing down their arms and running in the opposite direction at the sight of the Taliban. These "battles" were in fact the odd brief "skirmish." Most trained armies when they retreat take as much gear as possible ready for the next battle. At worst the troops do their best to render their weaponry unusable. It became obvious to all that all this military hardware – weapons, armoured vehicles, even helicopter gunships – was being left intact. Indeed, by the time the Taliban had swept through three provincial centres they had been essentially re-armed with some of the most potent weapons available in the world. I remember going to bed one night listening to my favourite BBC RADIO and hearing an interview with a leading government minister. The enemy by this time were basically just hours away from Kabul but this Minister was resolute. "Don't believe all these reports," he told the interviewer, "you will see shortly how our plan will be put into effect. A massive counter attack is about to be launched to force the Taliban out of Kabul and away from all the provincial centres. We are about to regain full control of our country." I drifted off to sleep thinking, "Wow, this bloke is so convincing that clearly there is something afoot." I'm not absolutely sure of my maths here but I think Kabul collapsed in five minutes. It lasted 5 minutes! That was the sum total of 20 years of weapon supply, of some of the most elite military training available on the Earth and of those thousands of Western soldiers who died or suffered horrendous injuries, genuinely believing they were playing a major role in the re-building of Afghanistan. This I believe is a fair and honest summary of what we've just seen in Afghanistan. It remains one of the saddest things I've ever had to report.

The latest Sydney radio survey confirms the impact of COVID with audiences continuing to move across to 2GB and ABC, as the News and Information format rules the roost. Most of the FM-ers felt the impact with KIIS and SMOOTH slipping to 8%, well adrift of the AM leaders.

For the last 50 years I've been agonising over one of the most puzzling mysteries in early Australian history. But in recent times I think I've connected the dots and found a tenable theory. First I'll have to fill in the background. If you have no interest in our history please move on to something else. When the early ocean explorers sailed around the tip of South America into the Pacific they began hearing the same story. When they spoke to the tribal elders and the story tellers from all the tribes in the continent they heard the same thing: "Follow the sun," said all of the Keepers of Knowledge, "head out across the Ocean," pointing to the west, "where there is a great Southern Land." The story – told originally to those Portuguese, Spanish and English adventurers, became one of the Great Myths, like Atlantis, and for over 200 years sailors searched the Pacific for this Great Southern Land this Terra Australis. Eventually, the English, Dutch and French explorers actually discovered it was true... there was this massive continent deep in the South Pacific. Which took us to the great mystery... HOW DID THE ANCIENTS IN SOUTH AMERICA KNOW IT WAS THERE? That's where I've been hammering away at history since the 60s and 70s. Now I see a hint of light in the distance and the key plank Involves the Polynesians. 2,000 years ago we had the mighty Phoenician "Boat People" who opened the trading routes in the Mediterranean. 1000 years later came the Polynesian Boat People, who emerged from Melanesia to sail from one end of the Pacific to the other. They headed south and populated New Zealand, East and colonised Hawaii and finally, in an astonishing piece of seamanship, made it all the way across to Easter Island. The people of Easter Island always said their ancestors came not from South America, but from islands far away to the West. The latest DNA research shows this to be true. The Polynesians are the connecting link between Australia and the ancient historians of South America. It's impossible to believe these boat people didn't manage to go west and find Australia as well. The trouble would have been that they would have been repulsed by the indigenous aborigines. There was no way the Polynesians would have been able to mount a big enough expedition to capture the continent: they would have been left to occasional raids along the East Coast. But they would certainly have carried the story of the "great south land" all the way across the Pacific where they would have met and swapped many stories with the sailors from South America.

Incidentally, the first "official" use of the word "Australia" as our country's name that I can find, comes from an entry by Lachlan Macquarie to his Clerk on September 30, 1816: "...for a correct and impartial 'History of New South Wales', alias Australia, and he has promised to take this subject into serious consideration."
– The Cambridge History of the British Empire, Volume 7.

Now allow me if you will to indulge myself in another one of my favourite TOP TEN LISTS which are almost certainly completely irrelevant. You already know I'm a Broadway "tragic" so it's no surprise I'm planning the TOP TEN ALL TIME BROADWAY SHOWSTOPPERS. I'm actually putting them in order to attract even more criticism...

  1. "Send In the Clowns" (A Little Night Music, 1973)
    Stephen Sondheim was apparently shocked at the astonishing success of this duet but Glynis Johns and Len Cariou give us one of the greatest moments on the Broadways stage. That music... those anguished lyrics ("an anthem to regret"}... I'm rating it as the ultimate highlight that defines the magic of Broadway.
  2. "Some Enchanted Evening" (South Pacific, 1949)
    Ezio Pinza,a retired Opera Star, signs a contract to do a musical in which he only has to sing TWO numbers. Are you kidding me... How's that going to work? But then one of them is "Some Enchanted Evening" – I rest my case!
  3. "Ol' Man River"(Showboat, 1927)
    The show that introduced the Broadway Musical as we know and love it and one of the great, majestic masterpieces about the mighty River that just keeps rollin' along.
  4. "Wouldn't it be Loverly" (My Fair Lady, 1956)
    One of several classics from MFL – the Greatest Broadway musical of them all. But this is the one where we meet Eliza and are prepared for the journey as Professor Higgins turns her into a Lady. Julie Andrews is absolutely wonderful.
  5. "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" (Oklahoma, 1943)
    It was as if Spring flooded into the streets of New York ushering in a whole new era of Musical comedy. This is the classical opening Broadway song but – just to confirm that things are changing – Curly actually starts singing off-stage.
  6. "Tonight" (West Side Story, 1957)
    Romeo and Juliet set to music and you just know things are going to end badly. But before the tragedy comes this lyrical duet from the two lovers. They're from opposite sides... they shouldn't be together but not just now please... give us at least "Tonight".
  7. "There's no Business Like Showbusiness" (Annie get Your Gun, 1946)
    Buffalo Bill, the Indians, the sharpshooters and the whole Wild West shebang... she's all there in this absolute Broadway classic.
  8. "Oklahoma" (Oklahoma, 1943)
    One of the most stunning songs ever... a mighty chorus that brings the house down every time. The corn is high and the farmers and the cowmen are ready for a boot scootin' hoedown.
  9. "Don't Cry for me Argentina" (Evita, 1978)
    I'm not into Andrew Lloyd Webber but I've got to say he nailed this one. The turmoil, the drama, all the angst. The audience can virtually SEE IT on the stage. Evita puts it all out there.
  10. Stranger in Paradise (Kismet, 1953)
    I just couldn't help myself. The rich melodies of Borodin re-engineered into a modern Musical. 583 times New York audiences applauded this gorgeous song in the Production's original run. I wonder do they realise how lucky they were?
Finally a little bit of classic Australiana:

"We are the sons of Australia,
Of the men who fashioned the land,
We are the sons of the women,
who walked with them hand in hand;
and we swear by the dead who bore us,
by the heroes who blazed the trail,
no foe shall gather our harvest,
or sit on our stockyard rail"

– Dame Mary Gilmore (1865-1962)

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This is the history of radio newsman Frank Avis who worked in the Australian electronic media from 1954 to 1996.


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