What was I up to in January 2001?

These entries via the Web Archive (my old Angelfire site). Some names may be edited to conform with my later practice.

Here are January’s entries in order so you can read them as a continuous narrative.

January 3 2001

This is yesterday’s entry, put here as a test. If I (and you) like this new diary option, the rest of 2001 will appear here. This is a specialist Diary facility called diary-x.com. Let’s give it a try; I can always return to the old Talk City one 🙂

NOTE 2017:

Diary-X (commonly abbreviated dx) was the name of an online journaling service which allowed Internet users to create and maintain a journal or diary. It was launched in 2000, and between half and three-quarters of its users were between 14 and 19 years old. Basic use was free, though for a small fee users could email their entries. The creator and webmaster was Stephen Deken.

In early 2006, the server’s hard drive failed. Since there was no backup, the entire website and all of the users’ diaries were lost irretrievably.

I have checked my facts. The first Australian passports were in 1949, and were classed as “British Passport: Australia”. It was not until 1984 that the Australian Citizenship Act repealed provisions for British Subjects in their entirety, and Australian passports since then just have “Australia” on them. Meanwhile the British Government had in 1981 passed the British Nationality Act, doing away with the concept of overseas British Subject, replacing it with “Commonwealth Citizen”, a fairly meaningless category as anyone who has travelled to Britain knows.

Sitting outside this morning I was surprised to see a really cute guy go by–not that this is unusual, but this particular event was. Nice. 🙂

January 4 :Giving Up–again!

Some of you may laugh. especially if you’ve followed this diary for some time, but I have so far gone all day without a cigarette. And hope thus to continue. I simply cannot afford to smoke, in any sense of the word “afford”–and that has been the case for some time, yet since October (the last time I gave up) I have continued to do so.

In the newspaper recently someone claimed it was easier for some people to kill their best friend than to give up smoking. Non-smokers (or non-addicts) may find that rather over-the-top, but to me at the moment it makes perfect sense: so watch out!

I have been reading John Marsden (ed), This I Believe (Random House Australia 1996). When I first saw this book I have to say I was not attracted; 100 Australians of various ages and degrees of fame write about 600 words each articulating something of their beliefs. Now, I must say, I am impressed. It is a good book to dip into, or to read through. The best approach is to ignore to some extent WHO it is writing, though that becomes of interest and sometimes even surprise. Instead, let each piece be a kind of meditation. Then agree or disagree if necessary, but not too quickly. A quotation from William Yang’s contribution now heads my Home Page.

January 5: Think about these… and Amnesia:-)

From This I Believe ed. John Marsden, referred to yesterday, here are some selected gems:

“…the loneliness of the human soul is unendurable; nothing can penetrate it except the highest intensity of love… Whatever does not spring from this love is harmful, or at best useless…” — Bertrand Russell, quoted by writer Elizabeth Jolley.

“I believe we need to take time to listen to others’ stories. We have to listen to what others are telling us–to listen without judgement, without always imposing our beliefs and views–just to listen…” — Sarah Vickers-Willis, 24-year old management consultant.

“You will start to understand that everything you learned was based in fear…” — Gabrielle Lord, writer.

“In this view of the human condition, my suburban neighbour may be further back in the evolutionary journey than a distant tribesman in Afghanistan. It depends; everything is relative, even compassion.

“The question I often ask myself about human nature is why it is that one man can rip off another man’s fingernail with pliers, while another spends his life selflessly helping the sick…

“As we strive and stumble towards compassion and tolerance as individuals, it is reassuring to know that we are in evolutionary step with our entire species, however halting, faltering and hesitant that step is.” — Andrew Urban, “Front Up” documentaries SBS-TV.

“Optimists are born, pessimists learn their craft.” — Christopher Rodley, Sydney High class of 1995, winner STC Young Playwrights Award 1993.

And this one, it seems to me, says something profoundly important about love. I offer it particularly to someone very dear to me. 🙂

“Finally, I believe that learning to tolerate not knowing and ambiguity forms the basis of compassionate relationships with each other. In maintaining a position of not knowing I will, hopefully, not impose my view of the world on you and instead we will meet in the space of uncertainty that lies between us… Space between, in which we can hear the other and what they feel and believe, is akin to a sacred place, a locus consecratus, the place in which connection is formed and the possibility of love developed.” — Peter O’Connor, psychotherapist.

You may have to think about that last one, but it rang some bells for me. BTW: I corrected his Latin!

andrew (1)

Me with another Chinese friend who was once in the Chinese Air Force. Taken about seven years ago.”

From my 2001 Ninglun’s Gallery Nearer to twenty years ago now!

This next section you could call Against Amnesia.

If given the chance I would earnestly recommend that students study History. The study of History has declined over the past few decades, squeezed out perhaps by more “practical” considerations. Yet here on the Internet are many marvellous resources for the historian–archives and documents I would have given my eye teeth to access when a student myself. Why study History? Because in our age there are so many ideologues/politicians/leaders for whom falsification, distortion, and induced amnesia are stock-in-trade. “Lest we forget” is a good watchword. (Read Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting or George Orwell’sNineteen Eighty Four, just to name two.)

While I am no longer Eurocentric, having been thoroughly influenced by such as Edward Said (Orientalism) and Ranajit Guha and G C Spivak (Selected Subaltern Studies), not to mention the so-called “black armband” (as distinct from “Three Wise Monkeys”) school of Australian historians, I think any Australian, or anyone with a modicum of interest in the contemporary world, should know something of English History, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Yes, of course study America, Asia, Africa–indeed the whole world–but what happened in England, and of course Europe, in the years of the American, French and Industrial Revolutions reverberates to this day. To forget these things and focus on neo-classical economics, on a bottom-line, market forces view of the world, is to lose touch with the very powerful reasons for a working-class movement, for trades unions (inspired at first very often by Evangelical Christians as well as later by socialists and Marxists), and the whole social balance we have now lost, or are in danger of losing. Through amnesia.

I reflect on this as I read a book tragically thrown out by my school library, The Age of Paradox: A Biography of England 1841-1851 by an American, John W Dodds (London, Victor Gollancz, 1953). It is a marvellous book, full of nitty-gritty detail, spanning all classes, covering the range of politics, human activity, technology, art and literature. It should be a classic. It should be reprinted!

Consider unfettered capitalism in the 1840s, and those who sought to control it, such as the great Evangelical Lord Ashley. Who knows of him today? His opponents, such as Lord Brougham, railed against his ideas as “a travesty of personal liberty. Women and young persons are capable of making their own bargains, without interference by government. The sponsors of factory legislation are victims of a mistaken and perverted humanity.” The “tough-minded” have not changed much, have they?

What Ashley was dealing with was a factory system that led to disease, early death, insanity, and all in the interests of maximising profit. To quote Dodds: “Women who worked in the mills were accustomed to leave their infants in charge of women or very young children, and the administration of opium ‘pacifiers’ was notoriously general.” The hours of work were “commonly twelve, frequently extending, however, to fifteen, sixteen, or even eighteen hours consecutively…” Ashley and others were fighting, in the 1840s, for ten hour days, and for consideration of what we would now call occupational health and safety. They had much success over the next decades, but not without a fight, and it was not until the emergence of powerful trades unions that some degree of humanity became the norm in industrial relations and conditions–in England and in due course in other “developed” nations. In the colonies and dominions things were not always done as in England, however, and we still live in a world where 1840s conditions are the norm in many countries, if not worse than the 1840s.

I can’t go on longer here, except to repeat: study history, “lest we forget”. It is all sadly too relevant. Sadly, too, the study of History at school often degenerates into trivia about Vikings or Ancient Egyptians, a kind of Readers Digest or commercial television window on the past. Not good enough; the past matters too much.

How’s that for passion?

January 6: second thoughts and a confession

Passion, yes, I did have that yesterday; but I was carried away a little, wasn’t I? I should defend my History colleagues by saying that trivia (whoever they are about) do make History interesting, and may be a means to develop skills such as locating information, evaluating sources, making comparisons, developing empathy and so on–all worth doing. My main point remains, however: we do need to recover a historical dimension in our understanding of social practices and politico-economic institutions. And it is true in this country that the study of History, especially at the Senior High School level, has dropped off alarmingly. Current HSC changes are not helping either.

And I smoked my head off yesterday; so did the Dowager Empress, who has also resolved to give up. 😦

January 9: Dinner with Kristina

The conversation between myself and K last night was long and wide-ranging. Much of it was also disquieting. As an indigenous Australian who moves in very wide circles indeed, K is in a good position to observe, and she has observed many instances of subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination, of quite august employers taking advantage of their employees in the climate of weak unionism and “enterprise bargaining”. One leading hotel has its chiefly Non-English-Speaking-Background cleaning staff sign returns of hours worked as six hours, when in fact the cleaners have worked for far more. One Islamic worker during Ramadan (fasting all day) was asked to work extra hours under such conditions, hours that she had not been forewarned of and which conflicted with her religious obligations as well as depriving her of the chance to eat for the first time that day; when she objected she lost her job.

With caution I mention that I learned a lot about Jonathan Shier, the current ABC head, and why he of all people got the job. I also learned much more about the “personality tests” ALL potential ABC employees must undergo, and something of their content. It is all very suss. Surely only a very naive person, or an ideologue, would have faith in such a “measure”. The test also originates, I am told, in England–and reflects this strongly. Possible cultural bias is surely a factor?

My cooking passed muster, and the Chinese music I selected K found most interesting, especially in the light of her having watched the documentary on SBS on the making of The Peony Pavilion with considerable interest.

January 22: Ninglun goes to the theatre

I’m just back from seeing Stones in his Pockets by Marie Jones in a Sydney Theatre Company production directed by Garry McDonald, previously better known as a fine comic actor on stage and television. His first effort at direction, and very well done I must say. The play concerns a village in County Kerry where an American/Irish film is being shot with the locals acting as extras. There is plenty of opportunity for comedy, but the play has a serious core in that the suicide of a young villager casts a pall over things and awakens the central characters to the need to tell their story in their own way without grovelling to Hollywood. Actually it is not a first-rate play; it is all a touch obvious. However, the cast (two of them!) play all the villagers, the film crew and the female Hollywood star! It was a brilliant display of acting.

I scored the tickets yesterday through Simon H. Kris, the actress, was meant to go with me but was unable to–a shame, as one ticket went begging. I know who I ached to share it with, but that was not possible–maybe some day 🙂

A number of cute young things, and outrageous young things too, in the audience, but mostly blue-rinse. A student was there–we teachers never escape!

It was something of a triumph for me too, as (some know if they know me or have been following this diary) I do suffer from agoraphobia, but tonight worked. It is also great to think I could walk back through the city at night without fear–Sydney is a pretty peaceful place comparatively. From the city centre I caught a bus home. BTW–does anyone else think McDonalds buns have got thinner? They are certainly half the thickness of the ones on the posters–not to mention the exaggerated filling that graces the posters as well. Could that be misleading advertising? Hmmm.

January 26: Australia Day/Invasion Day/Indian Republic Day

A conversation last night, as well as I can remember it. PLACE: a sacred site–the unofficial throne room of the Dowager Empress on Oxford Street. PARTICIPANTS: Ninglun, and Y, a twenty-something Korean who once displayed a surprising interest in Ninglun’s body and continues in touchy-feely mode during this conversation. He is, I should add, not totally ugly. Several others were present, including *, hereinafter (at his request) known as Sirdan. Please remember Ninglun is really a Caucasian.

Y: New Year yesterday.
N: Chinese New Year?
Y: No, Korean New Year. Why do people always call it Chinese New Year?
N: There’s more of them. And yes, I know–there was a late phone call to Shanghai last night.
Y: Was it noisy? Chinese are so noisy, and rude. You walk through Chinatown and they push you.
N: No, not noisy. Isn’t that a bit racist?
Y: Australians are racist.
N: Really? Am I racist? You’ve experienced racism?
Y: Oh yes.
N: But Koreans are racist.
Y: That’s true. We don’t like Chinese, or Japanese…
N: Well I can understand the history behind that one…
Y:..or blacks. Koreans really hate blacks…
N: Well yes, I did read on the net about a black American teaching in Korea. He went to the swimming pool and everyone else got out. He couldn’t believe it… Everyone’s racist really. Chinese can be racist, and Japanese definitely…
Y: Koreans don’t really like anyone, but Caucasians are OK…
Sirdan: Why did you leave Korea?
Y: Too competitive, too stressed, too polluted…


Ah, multicultural Australia: what an interesting place you have become!

Reading at the moment a book whose title got to me, not that this is a problem that besets me too frequently: Gaby Hauptmann, In Search of an Impotent Man(Germany 1995; Virago 1998). It is quite fun so far, but with real issues to raise (no pun meant!) about sexual demands and relationships. A successful thirty-ish woman tires of relationships that come down to constant humping, so she advertises in a newspaper for an impotent man. The novel is about what happens as a result. There is a nice bit of moralising I shall now quote; from my perspective it is delightfully offensive and very relevant to gay men:

She opens the envelope. It contains another four letters. Among the names of the senders is that of a woman… It’s a very Christian lady who wants to explain the meaning of life. Christ’s bequest to mankind is not that he should indulge in deviancy; rather that the duties of man and woman lie, as decreed by His representative on earth, the Pope, in ensuring that they create descendents. And this calling could not be fulfilled with an impotent man and would therefore be blasphemy. Carmen puts the letter down, her fingers twitching to phone the woman immediately and ask her various questions. About the Third World, for example, about children in dustbins, about children as living organ donors, about the female babies left to die in India…. She’ll show the letter to Elvira (an elderly neighbour who lived a long time in Africa). Elvira doesn’t have children either, so she’s living in sin too. What would Gerda H. have said if Elvira had obeyed her duty as a woman and given birth to a mixed-race child? Receive him into God’s mercy? Or put him in a home?

January 31: Back to the salt mine

Yes, the second day back at work, and the first that students were there. I was expecting a base two days a week ESL (you could say I am a free-lance) which is barely enough, but today it blew out to 3.5 days which is much healthier.

Two of last year’s students, Boris and Stasi, turned up today. Stasi had been to Greece for the first time in his life, with his father who had not been back for over twenty years. What he had to say about his feelings was very interesting; it was a real sense of homecoming, although he had never been there.

Among the items that occurred yesterday was a session updating our understanding of the child protection laws. There was a video reporting research on what environments were best and worst for a young person to grow up in, and it struck me that it has application to relationships and friendships too. Apparently the worst possible environment is one which has low warmth and high criticism the best, as one might expect, offers high warmth and low criticism. This is not to say “anything goes”, but in such an environment conflict causes less psychological and emotional damage and advice is best received.

Clearly such a difference of environment can be critical when a gay person comes out to his family.

When you love someone you focus on loving them. When that is clear all round, then the fact one may disagree, even have very different perspectives, can possibly be fruitful–after all it is boring to agree all the time 😉 Indeed there are times when such varying points of view can enrich both parties. Even when the disagreement is as profound as finding someone (other than his wife and mother) actually likes Tony Abbott 😉

RELATED: What was I up to in December 2000?