Ninth Wollongong Christmas!

Not all of them in Wollongong though — but yes, by Christmas 2010 I was installed in West Wollongong.

Looking back ten years to Christmas 2008:

Christmas Day in Surry Hills and East Redfern

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I refrained from taking photos of the little gathering at M’s place – just G, M, Sirdan, A (a Japanese friend of M) and I. It was however a very pleasant day. Sirdan stayed on longer and had, he tells me, a lovely time, while I left a little earlier to accompany G to Central Station.

I did take some pics of M’s garden balcony.

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And on the way back home from Central took one of Elizabeth Street Surry Hills, which you could call “the Christmas Day effect”.

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Only on Christmas Day are the streets of Surry Hills so free of traffic!

Redfern Park: Christmas Day 2008

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Don’t ask! It was just there. Seemed somehow appropriate…

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Weather-related hiatus

Today in The Gong is so far very warm, fine, and very very humid! The past few days there have been so many storms, though the worst of them were to the north, west and south rather then directly targeting Wollongong. Even so, I have been staying home until today — hence no blogging, as I only do internet from freebies like Diggers or the library.

Here is a pic from ABC of one of the storms over Sydney.

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And the 2008 HSC?

Just to complete the set from the previous post: in 2008 I was tutoring some HSC candidates and others in Chinatown. Here is a sample:

My coachee was unfamiliar with the expression “can’t see the wood for the trees”, so I explained that it means losing sight of the whole pattern because details grow and grow at an alarming rate. This is a state many HSC students find themselves in. So how to guard against it?

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Photo by Neil Whitfield 2008: artificial forest at the Sydney Chinese Garden

Make sure you read and understand the course description. My coachee and I are working on the Frankenstein and Blade Runner pair. The first thing to note is that the module is called TEXTS IN TIME: TEXTS AND CONTEXTS. That is the wood.

This module requires students to COMPARE TEXTS in order to EXPLORE THEM IN RELATION TO THEIR CONTEXTS. It develops students’ understanding of THE EFFECTS OF CONTEXT and QUESTIONS OF VALUE…

Students examine ways in which social, cultural and historical context influences aspects of texts, or the ways in which changes of context lead to changed values being reflected in texts. This includes study and use of the language of texts, consideration of purposes and audiences, and analysis of the content values and attitudes being conveyed…

OK, that means:

1. You need to know what issues or themes of interest each text embodies. In our two, for example, one can think of: the moral/ethical issues in science and technology; the need for companionship or love; what it is to be human; what is “natural”… And so on. It does not greatly matter what the issues are, so long as they are important ones and are major issues in both Frankenstein and Blade Runner. Your teacher and your class will no doubt determine perhaps two or three big ideas to hang your readings on.

2. You need to appreciate what was being thought, said and done around the time each text was composed: 1818 in one case, and 1982 in the other. Consider also where each text was composed. How does what you discover about this explain why each text may have been composed? Be careful here. It can be tempting to write history or philosophy and forget about the actual texts. Not a good idea.

3. Having found an issue, explore where and how it is presented in each text. Don’t forget to be specific rather than general. Find key passages or scenes. Look closely at the techniques used in their making. Then ask “Why is this passage/scene like this?” What in the context may have shaped the way it has been done? What in the context made this issue of sufficient interest to the composer and his/her readers and viewers? Where does the composer stand on it? What does the composer regard as important, or troubling, or worth arguing for or against on this issue? Now you will be exploring values and attitudes.

4. There are also genre issues to think about: The Gothic, science fiction, dystopias, film noir… Why have these genres thrived at various points in history? Why have they persisted? What is the relation of our two texts to these genres?

It really is hard to coordinate all this thinking. Anyone who tells you the HSC has been dumbed down is just plain dumb! I know that I never had to do anything half as difficult in my final year of high school in 1959! The good thing is that the issues raised in these texts really are interesting – and important!

So, good luck. Also, any suggestions about how to organise the material in an exam-friendly way will no doubt be appreciated by others. You may use the comment space here for that, if you care to.

The truth is out there

Yes, you are also lucky. There is so much good material to explore, some of it suggested on my previous post on this….

How many HSCs is that now?

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald two once-familiar faces illustrating They topped the HSC over the past 40 years – what are they doing now?

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Jason Hui (left) who topped the state in the 1988 HSC, is now a gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Sydney. 

I remember them both but not from Year 12 as 1988 I was at Masada College in St Ives.

Actually I have gone through 50 years of HSC, though out of the fray for the last eight. Some tutoring in Sydney’s Chinatown in 2010 was my last hurrah.

Now as for FIFTY years ago see Shire: Jannali, Cronulla, family.

1966 I began teaching at Cronulla High School, now in Scott Morrison’s electorate. My second HSC class there — and the second HSC ever! — have a reunion planned. I have been invited, but am not sure I can make it. Night-time events in Sydney are an issue for me these days, but I will surely be there in spirit.

Class of 1968 member Paul Weirick has also sent a list of those attending. Brought back lots of memories.  Fortunately, I had been able to attend a couple of events around the 50th anniversary of the school itself — so I haven’t totally missed out.

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1978 I was on secondment to teacher training at the University of Sydney, but knew the Class of 78 at Wollongong High.

1988 is already covered. 1998 I was at Sydney Boys High again. Also finishing my Grad Cert TESOL at UTS.

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Students at Sydney Boys High School sit their HSC English exam on October 25, 1981.

Photo from Essential Kids.

More on Jason Hui — found online.

HSC stars 10 years on  (Edited Extract From “Sunday Life” January ’99)

Jason Hui, 27, of Sydney Boys’ High, came first in the state in 1988 with 496. He studied 4U maths, 2U English, 2U physics, 2U chemistry and 2U economics and is a doctor.

When he arrived in Australia at 13, Hui’s English skills were poor. He started year 9 and could barely understand the teacher.

His parents had sent him and his older brother out from Hong Kong to study. They boarded with an Australian family throughout high school and their parents visited when they could. “If you come from overseas with the aim of studying and going to university, you tend to be very focused and less distracted by other things. As the HSC drew closer I just studied whenever there was time. But I loved maths, physics and chemistry so it wasn’t a burden.

“Working hard was the norm in my school. It was a fantastic year with a lot of very bright people—there were two 4-Unit maths classes. I think we all pushed each other along and there was a lot of competition. I’m sure I wouldn’t have done as well at another school.”

At the time, Hui was tossing up between medicine and engineering and says he probably chose medicine “because there were a lot of engineers in my family and I wanted to do something different.” Looking back, it was the right choice. I can’t imagine myself in anything different.

“The amazing thing about medicine is you never stop learning. At each stage you encounter new situations and you have new and difficult decisions to make. That’s what makes it so interesting.”

Hui did six years at Sydney University, sharing the University Medal with Mark Gorbatov (88)—a former Sydney Boys’ classmate who came second in the HSC in the same year with 495.

“When I did the HSC, people said it was the hardest exam you ever did. At Uni, you quickly realise that is totally untrue. Exams get harder as you become more advanced and studying and working at the same time is much harder. To work 9-10 hours a day and then get home, have dinner and spend three or four more hours studying is very difficult.”

And that sparks my memory! I recall — and this was before my getting expertise in teaching English as a second language — seeing in 1985-6 that Jason had a problem. I referred him to a then neighbour of mine in Chippendale — unfortunately I can’t recall his name: a delightful young man who was then doing Linguistics at Sydney University under the famous Professor Michael Halliday and Dr Jim Martin. The neighbour gave Jason some help with his English.

“…history doesn’t happen in the past tense.”

That line is key to Kim Sherwood, Testament (2018), which I recently read courtesy of Wollongong Library. I also read a fitting companion.

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Consider the stories I retold in my previous post, especially of my 1959 classmates Herbert Huppert and Peter Deli. How little I really understood of their stories, and so many others in that class of 1959. Eric, for example, who unaccountably had relatives in the Dominican Republic.

Fact is, as I played with my teddy-bear Sookle (yes, I know!) in Sutherland in the 1940s there were things going on elsewhere in the world which we still haven’t fully recovered from, things which affected those classmates-to-be far more directly.

And quite frightening is where we find ourselves now, as Kim Sherwood writes:

I tell Silk now, I am Jewish historically, but history doesn’t happen in the past tense. The pain you inflicted on those you loved hurts me now. The pain you felt hurts me now,,,

But I am your granddaughter always… My grief is a private grief, but here are the demands of stones and poems and ribbons left at altars, of mass graves without names. I will go to Prague. I will buy a museum ticket and walk the silent streets of Theresienstadt, past tired men selling army surplus from barracks with smashed windows, to the cellar painted red with the Star of David, where I will pray… My small film will gain attention as security at Jewish institutions is at high alert, as shootings in Paris wake us up, as refugees are made to plea at barred ports, as the Mediterranean swallows lives, as a ‘Beware Jews” sign goes up in north London. as tickets to the Blue Room sell out, as the UK closes its doors to Europe, as neo-Nazis attack our leaders and our citizens, as protesters take to the streets of Budapest in their thousands….

The other novel, The Last of Our Kind by Adélaïde de Clermont-Tonnerre was the winner of both the Académie Francaise Grand Prix du Roman and the 2016 inaugural Filigranes prize, awarded to the book with the widest general appeal.

Werner Zilch was adopted as an infant, and knows nothing of his biological family. But when, in 1970s New York, he meets the family of Rebecca, the woman he has fallen in love with, a mysterious link means he must uncover the truth of his past, or run the risk of losing her.

Spanning 1945 Dresden, the Bavarian Alps and uncovering Operation Paperclip, this is a riveting novel of family and love that seamlessly blends fact with fiction.

Werner von Braun plays a key role in the plot. On Operation Paperclip.

The Last of Our Kind is a fascinating journey through much key 20th century history, though perhaps at times too clever! And I have one pedantic note: characters at one point in 1948 play 45 rpm records, one year before that format was released! But do read this novel. The author’s background story is also most interesting.