Back to the beginning of my blogging…

I am still contemplating that post on cancel culture and statues, realising that I have covered a lot of it before — you’d find the posts by searching the blog for Macquarie or Cook. So will I do it? I have a video I want to post…. But I am torn now between recognising that there is a valid side to the arguments for, and another side where I am tempted to think it really has become the latest version of playing goodies and baddies…. Such a shame those old fossils were unfortunate enough to be born outside a privileged western country before, say, 1995!

So I turn away again and muse on how I got into this blogging thing. Thus:

So what happened near this day?

20 NOV 2005

While looking for evidence on my old diaries about scintillating scotoma (see previous entry) I decided to review what was happening in my life around this day since 1999! That’s a lot of diary, not all of it online. Below you can read what I found, the last two years being linked as they are still archived online.

22 November 1999: Went to city today for first time since the agoraphobia started. Unfortunately also smoked. Object of exercise Year 11/12 Study Day at Sydney Hilton– Robert Gray, et al. Two light beers at Flinders with Colin on way home. Survived the ordeal of city, but walking, not bus or train. Next challenge Erskineville next week. Noticed on Saturday Chinatown now pretty much OK. Reflect on fact M now been away six months. Nothing heard since letter to A dated one month ago from Kathmandu.

Monday, November 20 2000: in which Ninglun does not solve the world’s problems 😉 If we take a theme that has been emerging here in recent days, prompted by the end of the HSC and the conversations I’ve been having with eighteen-year-olds about being eighteen.

It is an interesting world that eighteen-year-olds have inherited, but a glance at history shows the world I inhabited (but largely ignored thanks to fundamentalist religion) was just as fraught: a month after my 18th birthday Britain applied to join the EEC; the Berlin Wall went up — there was a hit song at the time called “West of the Wall” the USSR tested a 30 megaton bomb; Eichmann was sentenced to death five months after my birthday; US troops entered Laos; and the day after I turned 19 the first satellite TV link between Europe and the US was made — another hit song was called Telstar

So now I think of globalisation and its impact, of the seeming triumph of a particularly rampant form of capitalism. I am still convinced that the marriage of morality and politics/economics leads straight to some form of democratic socialism; it is greed alone that prevents the rich and powerful from conceding that — and sadly the fact that socialism was brought into bad odour by its bastard child Marxism-Leninism.

How’s that for simplistic nostrums, boys and girls? But I’m a poor old thing who hasn’t been eighteen for a very long time 😉

November 21 2001: Havens…from the cold I have been working a little less lately — one day less in theory, since an HSC student I was shepherding has now successfully negotiated the year. So today I taught just one lesson, then went to the Library, then on to a particular coffee shop that has become a favourite in recent times.

Places acquire associations. It is not just that this is an extremely pleasant shop with a charming if dotty owner, but that going there makes me particularly happy, as I associate the place with being happy. I gather I am not alone, as I hear other customers go there perhaps for similar reasons; it can be a haven on cold wet days like today or yesterday, a place to read quietly, or to settle the nerves before some stress.

I should mention that last Sunday I called in there and saw the proprietor’s youngest son, who is red-headed as well as cute, though that is for me an aesthetic and academic judgment I hasten to add.

I am reading two books, as it happens, and will tell you about each in more detail later on. The first is very rich indeed; it won the Booker Prize last year: Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin. The second is angry in places, but also very honest and in places just right: Paul Monette, Becoming a Man (1992), a gay autobiography. Lined up are a number of others, including in my leisure reading field of crime fiction/thriller The Bannerman Affair (1997) by Australian writer Gareth Harvey. Another reason for choosing that last one is that (my God!) thirty years ago I taught Gareth Harvey in Wollongong!

Well, tomorrow is a total work-free day, so I look forward to the coffee shop again 🙂

Wednesday, November 20, 2002: Yes, a Shakespeare play I had never read before — King John — which we, The Rabbit and I, finished reading today, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Perhaps this line appeals more:

There is so hot a summer in my bosom,
That all my bowels crumble up to dust:
I am a scribbled form, drawn with a pen
Upon a parchment, and against this fire
Do I shrink up.

Which is what you say when a monk has just poisoned you. I was disappointed though that Robin Hood did not appear in the play once, but there was a Bastard, and (at least as I understood him) a rather camp assassin named Hubert.

Sunday, November 23, 2003: Diary-X Ninglun pulls it off, avec Agneau du Printemps de Nouvelle-Zeland!

I refer, of course, to my amazingly accurate prediction yesterday, though I had no money riding on it. Yes, the Rugby World Cup, won deservedly by England in a last-minute field goal. Sirdan, Malcolm, Kevin and I watched it at Sirdan’s place and found ourselves thoroughly enjoying it; the Empress was also there but tended to fall asleep a bit.

I’ll tell you what, Sirdan knows a thing or two about lamb. All those years in New Zealand, I suppose. The New Zealand lamb leg he baked last night was, we all agreed, probably the best lamb we have ever had, real melt-in-the-mouth stuff. The 1999 McLaren Vale Shiraz didn’t go too badly either.

20 November 2004: Diary-X Another hot one in Sydney yesterday, chilling afterwards at The Shakespeare again but this time with Sirdan who has, wait for it, been invited to THE Sydney Christmas Party – Saatchi and Saatchi. He’s going too. Last year it was reported thus in the Sydney Morning Herald: “…access to last night’s invitation-only Saatchi & Saatchi end-of-year party – a highlight of the social calendar – was strictly limited so that select staff and guests could ‘relax and enjoy’ themselves…” A somewhat different aspect is reported on Interview with the Cleaner:

“I will never forget the Xmas party at Saatchi & Saatchi, Sydney (us media chicks used to get Snatchi & Snatchi) when some pissed idiot took a steaming dump in the lift thinking it would be funny. It was.”

Will Thorpie be there???

Still, despite this elevation to the ranks of The Invited, Sirdan is still available to give advice on pickling and brewing, among other things… Such as growing pumpkins on an inner-city balcony…

So there you go! What a geek I have become!

 

Music relief

Well, having now finished my 2010s re-runs, and pausing while I formulate what will I hope be a sensible post about the current statues thing and cancel culture, for which meanwhile visit Jim Belshaw, I think some music is appropriate. Enjoy.

The first one reminds us, as an American said on YouTube just three days ago: “Perhaps next year, when we have a president again, we all can enjoy an evening like this again.”

The Hu — that Mongolian rock band! This was uploaded to YouTube just yesterday and already has had over 9,000 views!

How about a bit of Edith Piaf as a contrast to that?

This one all I could say was WOW!

Blogging the 2010s — 123 — December 2018

Yes, I know. Out of sequence …  But it does pretty much wrap up these posts selecting from the 2010s!

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.

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….

Sixty years on

Yes, next year will mark sixty years since my final year as a student at Sydney Boys High. They had trams still then — I wonder if the troubled new ones will be running next year?

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See also 1959 revisited and The year my voice broke…, which refers to 1958.

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Recently I downloaded the latest Flying Higher — an excellent new publication. And look, my Maths teacher 1958-59 is still with us! He was my boss too from late 1985-1987, and then 1989 through the early 90s. He claimed, probably correctly, that I owed him a Maths assignment from 1958…

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Blogging the 2010s — 122 — December 2019

Yes, I know: what have I done with 2018? Well, I just thought this a better follow-up to the previous post here. And six months on we were dealing with COVID-19!

Now it’s the TWO million plus hectare fire!

Referring to my post of 13 November —  see my tag bushfires.  The immediate area around Wollongong has so far escaped, though there are fires not too far away. But there are months to go as summer is just six days old!

Most of the smoke that blankets Wollongong this morning is probably from the fires to the south, which were horrendous the past few days. This photo is from the Illawarra Mercury.

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Peeping out my door this morning:

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On top of old smokey…

Here, thanks to the Illawarra Mercury, is a glimpse of what yesterday looked like just south of where I live.  From my perch in Mount Keira Road there were times I couldn’t see this part of the world, or Mount Keira even…

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ABC has a good explainer:

Leaving Beijing for a new life in Sydney, Gloria Zhou never thought she’d need smog protection again.

But a decade after settling into her new home, Gloria is once again reaching for a face mask.

The haze produced by a month of unprecedented bushfires around Sydney has left her feeling nauseated.

“We know this is not normal for Sydney,” the 30-year-old IT consultant said.

And the Herald:

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Can’t avoid the fires!

Do look at The Gospers Mountain ‘Monster’ — and that is just ONE of the firegrounds in NSW at the moment, beyond which we have South Australia and Victoria. Gospers Mountain is now more than SEVEN times the size of Singapore!

Nearer home we have Green Wattle Creek. Of part of that our Premier said:

There is “not much left” of the township of Balmoral following Saturday’s devastating firestorm through the hamlet south west of Sydney, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.  “We have got the devastating news that there’s not much left in fact [in the] town of Balmoral.”

Here is a map showing that the Green Wattle Creek fire is between 30 and 40 kilometres away from me here in West Wollongong. Now that may seem a long way, but “There’s no questioning the facts. During a fire, embers can travel up to 40 kilometres ahead of the fire front and fire speeds can reach over 25 kilometres per hour.”

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And here is what we have seen out towards Lithgow beyond the Blue Mountains north-west of Sydney; this is a tiny place called Dargan:

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And here is my cousin Ray Christison in Lithgow itself. He writes: “Big day for an old bloke. Thanks for everyone’s thoughts and support. I just want to clarify something. I’m not in the RFS and was working yesterday as a museum volunteer. I have considered joining the RFS over the years but know I would be allocated to a communications role.”

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I simply refuse right now to join in the political argey-bargey, though I will say that it was a bad Robo-Scomo moment when he doubled down on the government’s rather tawdry record on climate change — unlike the Premier of South Australia this morning, to name but one. Clearly we need to think long and hard as a country about this — but equally we need to avoid slogans and oversimplifications.

It really is complex, but my bottom line is there is no longer any reason at all for a sane person to doubt that global heating, in large measure human-induced, has provided the context in which this unprecedented set of conditions (including the fires) are playing out now.

For example, whatever happened to the North Australian monsoon? That it hasn’t yet materialised is one major cause of the monstrous heatwaves that have been experienced across the country in recent weeks, themselves in turn a major factor in the fires we now experience.

Robo-Scomo, right as he is about the need to be kind to one another — and I don’t regard that as hypocrisy, does need to go back to the drawing board on climate policy, and he does need to squash the baying asses in his own ranks — and one of them is not all that far north of Wollongong — who still think climate change is a heap of shite!

Addendum

Just found this on ABC Illawarra, who, incidentally, broadcast the fire alerts for all NSW through Saturday morning. Wow!

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Six months more of 2020? What could possibly go wrong?

So here we are at 1 July 2020.  Back in January 2020 this was the scene:

Wollongong rides its luck again!

Yesterday’s day from hell passed relatively quietly, but that was not true of so many places near here and further away. Fancy Penrith, west of Sydney, being the hottest place on earth at almost 49C!  Luckily West Wollongong reached just 35C.

Today I just want to illustrate some of the scope of these fires simply by sharing from my own relatives! I avoid full names for privacy reasons, and have also eschewed link addresses.  NOTE: if any of you want a photo or reference removed, please let me know.

First, my sister-in-law and a niece in Milton/Ulladulla NSW.  Here is a view from my sister-in-law’s home a few days ago:

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The most recent post on Facebook: “M***** and her mum have been evacuated to mollymook beach, it got bad in uladulla, she is trying to reserve her battery on her phone.”

Now a cousin who, interestingly, I have only just become aware of through the internet, though we are the same age. James lives in Tahmoor. This photo — and he is an excellent photographer — was taken at little place called Balmoral which was virtually wiped out just before Christmas.

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Finally, two cousins — sisters — L and H, who live at Bundanoon. A few days ago L posted: “What does a tired RFS Deputy Captain do when he finally has some off truck time? Well if it is Tim ******** he drives down to the Southern Highlands and spends four exhausting hours in the heat on the roof of his aunts’ house clearing gutters and cutting back overhanging branches to make us safer as fires move closer. You are a legend Tim and we love you heaps. xx”

Sadly, just in the last day Bundanoon has been hit. Eleven hours ago H posted: “My little town of Bundanoon is on fire, houses are being lost right now. We are safe at mums with our animals but our hearts are breaking. Simply devastated.”

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I am planning to go to Sydney for lunch tomorrow, to Surry Hills in fact. I will have in my backpack — as indeed I do now — this computer, its charger, my phone charger, and all my medication. Why? Wollongong has been lucky. We all know very well that Wollongong has been cut off from Sydney by fire before today!

See my post of August 16 2019, at the very beginning of this long bushfire season.  Complacency is not an option….

And since then…. Well, you all know about that!

As far as the blog is concerned, May was the “hottest” month.

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That was the month I posted at least twice a day colourised photos from my family archives. Like this from WW2:

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In the six months to date the most viewed posts have been:

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