Blog time travel back 20 years to August 2002 — because I can

Here is an apt musical intro:

Thanks to the Wayback Machine here are posts from August 2002.

This is a funny time personally. Last night I slept rather badly, unusual for me. I woke around 4 am, though I did get off to sleep again for a while after 5, but broken sleep is never the same, is it? Subconsciously, I think, I must have been listening for the time M would usually return from work. He was just here a short time ago and tells me he is finding the new place will take some getting used to, and he also had not slept well. “It’s so quiet here,” he said. He liked my rearrangements and had a few suggestions too.

Twelve years is a long time in both our lives. Almost a third of his!

–1 August 2002

Any of you remember Doogie Howser on TV, the cute young teen genius MD who finished each episode writing up his computer diary? Intrigued me and seemed unlikely at the time. Well, here I am an online journal junkie (read them too) but not half so cute as Doogie was. Wonder what he is doing now?

Yesterday was just terrific, beginning with Yum Cha and ending with a steamboat that I cooked myself; I think M would have been proud of me. Actually it is dead easy–boiling water, the right ingredients, and just the right company–and I had all of them. Magic. And it provided tonight’s dinner as well…

Going to a play soon too, it appears. It should be a contrast to The Importance of Being Earnest, even if the production we saw was a touch, well, postmodern–a lot of gender bending and transgression of time periods, but it worked. More after I have seen the play, including its name, which I hold in reserve.

I prepared for the Department of Education the annual census of students from Language Backgrounds Other than English (LBOTE), the new jargon that quite rightly has replaced NESB, which always had a connotation of NOT doing something, as if they should bloody well have been brought up speaking English, so there (seeing as God does, and George W Bush almost does.) In 1997 our school had 571 such students out of about 1000; today it is 879. One in three students (at least) are from Chinese-speaking backgrounds. Quite a social change, though it is amazing how the same playground games go on, and the same classroom ones when the students get a slack moment–noughts and crosses, hangman, table-top soccer, and so on. One does however see more students engaged in games of Chinese Chess. In fact one sees them; I don’t think we did in 1997.

From The Record 2002

Social change (partly related to such phenomena as those I have just described) is the concern of much in this month’s Quadrant, which I have bought for a change, attracted perhaps by its delightfully mauve cover. There are some promising things: the poetry and short stories are always worth a look, even if they are not always the most exciting stuff around; there is an interesting-looking article by Sophie Masson (who had some comtact with us at Neos back in 1984-5) on M. le Pen; there could be more too. The bulk though struck me as being a sunshine home for the embittered intelligentsia. Really. I mean, in twenty years I may qualify to write for them myself! It is good to see people whose work I saw forty years ago still on the job, I guess. Harry Gelber, for example, seems to think we can understand 21st century Australia by reading the poems of Banjo Paterson and gazing at the paintings of Sir Arthur Streeton–just as one might understand modern Britain by reading Kipling (who wrote rather better than Paterson perhaps, but in a similar style) and gazing at the paintings of Landseer. Sad.

Ultra-conservatives find themselves doing contortions to make the world fit their preferred reality almost as much as Marxists used to. Their crustiness has a certain nostalgic appeal though, and I must repeat there are some articles of interest in this Quadrant, such as the exchange on religion between poet Alan Gould and that surprisingly common oddity, a Bible-believing scientist.

–5 August 2002

When your heart is in something there is not much you can do about it. How can you prove it to another? You can’t. You take it on trust. Or not. I don’t usually say things I don’t mean, or use important words loosely.

Intellectualising about it will do no good at all.

Even more concerning is the pain that the other person must have been feeling. Was I too imperceptive earlier in the day? That’s probably what I really should be thinking about.

Can’t report on the play–didn’t make it.

Sunday 11 August 2002: not a good day

3 am: Not a time I am usually up, but I woke a short time ago, not surprising really, and have some clarity on yesterday’s events and their context. Some of what I wrote yesterday was unnecessarily self-centred, I now feel, so I have edited it a little now that events are gaining some perspective.

I do not choose to elaborate; it would be inappropriate, but if the message that I understand pretty much what happened, disturbing as it was, gets through this way that cannot be a bad thing.

Quite a few things add up really. It is not a problem that is down to me to solve, though genuine understanding and real friendship and a degree of objectivity, which I am capable of since I don’t have a hidden agenda in this regard, may, I certainly hope, be of use. Only experience can solve the problem, and in that area are clear limits which I generally would not transgress, and certainly would not in this instance.

At 3 am with no company but my own and my conscience, and a very strong sense of what I think is right and important, I am not about to write crap here: every word thus far is as trustworthy as human language can be.

Well, back to sleep. There is a lot to do tomorrow even if it is a day off.

* * *

…and later still!

M came and collected a few things just now; the new place is working out OK.

At the newsagent I collected the June/July issue of Philosophy Now which promised some relevant reading. A rather conservative article by Gerald Lang makes a defence of a limited moral relativism (see “Moral Relativism & Cultural Chauvinism”). I too am unhappy with a complete moral relativism, yet on the other hand the moral systems we have inherited are often based in religious and cultural practices of dubious currency, and lead to an arbitrary practice that is often quite sinister and dangerous. Witness the crimes and oppressions too countless to repeat here in their names. Yet NO morality is not possible. Nor is cynicism the answer. Lang has not solved anything but nor have I.

I have on reflection not always acted in life even my own principles, though I try to; if I lapse I either (if that is all that is to be done) walk away and learn from it, I hope, or (better) acknowledge it and attempt to redeem it. Sometimes the questionable act is the product of a mixture of motives, not all of them bad; one can sift through the motives and rectify them, or one can act from better motives from the point of error onwards. Exploitation of others for one’s own purposes is always immoral; to me relativism does not apply to that one, although it is still not as simple a concept in practice as that form of words suggests. Support of another’s self-esteem and human potential is, conversely, always good, though even there one can err in the way it is done.

Nothing is really simple, is it? Honest if fallible is all I can claim, and like any person moving through the changes of life, able to take account of circumstances and sensitive to them. I suspect recently I have fallen down in that last part, though I can say absolutely not in the first.

There is also a movie review of some interest, the upshot of which is to affirm how peculiar the 70s were in some respects; at that point I think the case of Mardi Gras is relevant. Aspects of it were a product of those times, and its relevance now is questionable. Perhaps that is really what happened to it. On the other hand, the movie apparently explores very sensitively the cost in human misery of an unreflective heterosexism, something this otherwise quite conservative reviewer endorses. Oh the movie? Together, directed by Swedish director Lukas Moodysson. Hey, now there’s a name!

12 August 2002

It’s quite early again, but nothing as early as yesterday morning, that I find myself at the computer; in fact I have slept fairly well.

Here is part of a meditation I just found on Interlude, a site I find a comfort quite often when the world seems a bit awry. Here is an extract:

“The willingness to harm or hurt comes ultimately out of fear. Non-harming requires that you see your own fears and that you understand them and own them. Owning them means taking responsibility for them. Taking responsibility means not letting fear completely dictate your vision or your view. Only mindfulness of our own clinging and rejecting and a willingness to grapple with these mind states, however painful the encounter, can free us from this circle of suffering.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Which is a bit Buddhist, but that’s OK.

Things are a bit tough right now.

* * *

To follow on from yesterday for a bit.

Morality obviously includes far more than sex; there is a range of interpersonal issues, and indeed recent corporate scandals, not to mention war and so on, raise yet more issues. At the interpersonal level my own bottom line is that each of us is entitled to his/her integrity, freedom of choice, self-respect and personal safety. Families at best are meant to foster that bottom line. In sexual morality one enters a minefield; the hard Church teaching that sex is somehow evil (and gloss it as they may that is what they have taught) and that the only legitimate sex is in marriage for procreation rather than pleasure is unsustainable, and even the Church itself very often backs off from that. That leaves a lot up to individual choices.

My own choice is very conservative. There are practices that some, gay and straight I might add, consider highly pleasurable, but I don’t. I have been rebuked sometimes and called boring, but it is what I am comfortable with and that is where I must stand. I have had delightful times of intimacy with those I have been in relationships with where sex is part of the program. At the same time I have had delightful moments of intimacy (but not sex) with some where sex is NOT part of the program. I like human contact, it can’t be denied. But love, friendship, affection and all that are the most important things, and we all need to experience these without feeling got at somehow. I think so, anyway. What do the rest of you feel?

* * *

Marcia [the Head Teacher English at SBHS] says I look tired, which is to be expected. Work is climaxing with the Trial this week, and a few other issues such as having to speak to the Parents and Citizens Association on multicultural matters next week, and some students who have pressing problems to be dealt with. But in its own way this is rewarding–assuming I survive of course.

Colleagues 2002

It is particularly galling to know that I am being misjudged in another quarter, perhaps, which explains my tendency lately to argue so much on various issues (that we all have).

I now have more socks than you can poke a stick at, thanks to M. The soup is good. And I just had a phone call from Marcel Proust, who seems a decent guy.

Well I have dinner to get, and two essays to mark. There may be more lurking in my email!

13 August 2002

Heartfelt

My heart goes out to this student involved in the overambitious HSC English Extension course on postmodernism; email arrived yesterday and issue talked through in class today:

Sir,

I was hoping to see you today (Tuesday) but due to my devotion to doing well in school I was unable to attend class. Nevertheless I was hoping to see you tomorrow after our lesson Period 4. I’m aware that you have other commitments and this may not be possible. If you could email me a reply tonight (if you get it tonight that is) it would be greatly appreciated.

Now to the heart of problem (n.b. this does not have to be dealt with asap), I’m having trouble with essay writing, not the actual writing cause I’m good at that, but grappling with ideas of postmodernism. I am not totally convinced by post modernism (as are many) but I understand enough (I have done extensive theoretical reading) to be completely unsure of what it really is. So when I am writing an essay describing postmodern elements (like pastiche and parody in the last task) I feel very inclined to keep making the point that this is a postmodern device. This is because I don’t believe that these are postmodern devices and although they are open to any interpretation by responders the postmodern descriptions don’t sit well with me. This amounts to an essay that does not flow well, as I can’t really get comfortable with the pretense that the text is postmodern. I find myself justifying, every time I make a statement in an essay, that the text is truly a postmodern text. Do I need to do this? or do assume that the marker is believing that the text is postmodern?

I need help in pinning down what the markers are looking for. Do you need to show that you know the texts are postmodern and these…blah blah… are the reasons why? (what I’ve previously been doing, without believing they are postmodern) Or do you show the various elements that are used by the composer and say that these are believed to be postmodern and then voice some kind of opinion on the issue? If I went through and identified all the aspects of the texts that tied in with (say) pastiche and gave textual reference in the way of quotes and compared it to my supplementary texts; does this answer the question (getting me full marks). Or do I make a commentary on the nature of these elements (which is what I naturally feel inclined to do) and get weighed down in the complex theory of postmodern philosophers.

I realise that postmodernism can be taken seriously or lightly and that authors don’t feel the same passion towards destroying the grand narratives that philosophers do, but I need to know what level I need to analyse at? Who do I look at when talking generally about postmodernism? do I talk generally about postmodernism? what questions would I not talk generally about postmodernism?

I understand that there is no definite answer to these questions (God I’m sounding postmodern already) but if you could throw me a line and show me the general direction it would help immensely. I’m sorry I lumped all this on you at one time, don’t feel pressured to answer it straight away, I’ll probably make it through the Trial all right if you need a long time. If you could answer even one of these queries then I would be very grateful.

It turns out his mother has a Ph. D. in Philosophy!

Refers to this class and this online class material, originally on Diary-X

Other

Since I am here, I do have to say I like Dimitri at the local coffee shop, where I felt I wanted to go so that normality might to some extent be restored. He is a very calm person.

Madam and Dimitri — Cafe Max Surry Hills

Patrick Cook has good fun with the ALP this week in The Bulletin, almost as funny as his treatment of the Democrats last week, but not quite. I passed my time at the coffee shop reading that.

Yes, I know… but there are still things to be said

I have over the last few years said a lot about coming out, and the pain of my own life (as well as the positives) over the years up to that. When I finally did, I repeat (yes, I know, a sign of age) it was in my own terms. All I was recognising was an aspect of myself–my close relations would be with men. Not because I chose that, but because that was the way it is. I did make choices though. Some were prudential, but happened also to suit my sense of myself–such as avoiding sexual excess and exchanges of bodily fluids. I still think that I could not base a life around sex. It is too transient.

I am not a seeker of new bodies and new sensations. I have never had sex in a bathhouse, a park, a toilet, or any of the places some men find, well, congenial. I reject the necessity (what necessity?) of engaging in certain practices which others engage in. In at least one case this cuts me off from what someone I know wants from me, for although I am very fond of him, he and I would be sexually incompatible, as his tastes are quite different to mine. We continue to be friends however, as he is a mature person who realises what I have just said. (I hope! He sometimes reads this diary, and I do hope he is not hurt by this.)

I (and you) have a right to our choices, and a right to our bodies, and a right to our individual senses of self. I much prefer friendship anyway to passion; it was friendship not passion that sustained my recent long-term relationship after the passion had faded (as it does); essentially it continues, though circumstances have recently changed.

I have probably turned off a whole army of potential suitors now 😉 but it is interesting that since expressing such thoughts on my OUT profile (but more concisely) I have scored a few ticks. Apparently we are not all hedonists or sensualists after all.

I do feel I have taken perhaps too much emotional comfort from a source where giving such was more appropriate; at least I did also give (very much) — that is something, and did not merely take. My expression of my feeling may not always have been appropriate either. People do need to feel safe together though, don’t they? Even if they are safe, we should be sure they feel safe.

Such issues need to be thought of, and one’s own synthesis found; not necessarily a condemnation of those who think and act differently, so long as their actions do not encroach on the welfare of others. It does take all sorts, as they say.

14 August 2002

I am, I have to say, more than a little happy tonight.

I suspect my sleeping problems are behind me, and have also come to realise that one can be mistaken about mistakes. 🙂

Good chat with Sirdan at the Irish Pub to round off the day, followed by a phone call only outranked in its uplift by one I had last night.

15 August 2002

Later

Yum Cha earlier today; the food was good as ever, especially the mango pudding. One determined certain limits through the experience today, ensuring a priority I had announced the day before. Reading King Lear this afternoon, a shared experience, enacted the reconciliation the play dramatises, and made the catharsis of last Sunday into something of a prelude to better times, confirming where my life is best spent right now. I am well pleased.

Sunday 18 August 2002

Two things today.

First, last night I had to speak to the school’s Parents and Citizens Association on the subject of multiculturalism, a task I looked forward to with some foreboding, as controversies over the “imbalance” of the school have been raging (as you would know if you are a regular here) for most of this year. We have been a ridiculously frequent subject on the front pages of the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, editorial columns, letters pages, talk-back radio (which I just correctly typoed as “talk-cack radio”!) and even TV current affairs shows. We even get a column in this week’s Bulletin courtesy of Catherine Lumby, who is actually quite right in the trend of her analysis of the power structures involved, though some may bridle at her mode of expression.

Usually there are between ten and twenty people at these meetings; last night there were forty, including, I am pleased to say, a greater than usual representation of our Chinese parents. Also present (at my invitation) were two consultants in multiculturalism from the Department of Education, one male and one female, and Tony Hannon, the 1st Grade Rugby Coach, whose coda to my speech endorsing the current school situation as something he loved carried some weight. I gave a dispassionate account of government policy, then pulled all stops out in my account of why there are so many students from backgrounds other than English, especially Chinese ones. Afterwards, one of the consultants hugged and kissed me (the female one) and declared herself a fan! The audience were won over; not one nasty remark or provocative question.

Thoughts had been sent my way at 7.30 and I am sure they arrived 🙂

My Anne Wilson Schaff Meditations for Living in Balance for yesterday was on, would you believe, “Expanding Our Horizons” by learning from other cultures! Serendipidous indeed.

Speaking of living in balance, I come to the second thing. I was fascinated to read Queer Scribe’s well-written but often very raunchy diary yesterday. Here is a very bright man, twenty years younger than I, whose libido is somewhat more active, shall we say, than mine tends to be:

Writing about insecurities and fears here always make me feel vulnerable, but it seems those are the entries folks most respond to. I have had several emails from readers—many of them gay men around my age—and it would appear I’ve struck a chord. (Or a nerve?) That makes me feel good, not only that I am not the only one going through (putting myself through?) this shit, but also that others out there might feel less alone too….

But more than that, there’s a terrific opportunity here. Because I have been depending too much on my body, my—for a thirty-six year old—youthful good looks. Although this is less true than it was, say, three or four years ago, still much of the sex I look for and sometimes find is a way of hiding, of keeping myself small, safe, apart. It’s time, again, to look at what might be underneath all that, at what, exactly, it is I’m hiding, or hiding from.

I suspect that what I’m hiding—and hiding from—is love. Big surprise eh?

22 August 2002

It’s a while since I had a “sickie”, but I decided I needed one today. So here I am at home. I work part time anyway and can adjust my days to suit, up to a point. Mid-term is a time when the need for a “mental health day” strikes many a teacher, and the past few weeks have had their share of stresses. And triumphs, I hasten to add; but the only way I will break the back of the Trial HSC marking and cope with a few other things down the track is to take a little time out.

The stressors? Well, adapting to new circumstances at home–and that is going well really, and M has been terrific. Also, the pressure of taking over that Year 12 class had a cost, though well worth it. Some other dramas also occurred, but again the outcome has really been good. It all takes energy though, and that sometimes needs replenishing. I am aware too that I am not getting any younger.

Yesterday evening, I hasten to add, was one of life’s more wonderful offerings. I look forward to more of them. My Chinese cooking is improving.

Things are looking up for Sirdan too, who has a nice new place to live. He particularly complimented me on Sunday’s diary entry.

27 August 2002

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