Great doco from 1969 — a world away now!

The Commonwealth Film Unit here in Oz has over the years made many documentaries, some awful, many really excellent, all of course propaganda either for home or overseas consumption, sometimes both. I have recently enjoyed a 1969 offering. available through the excellent National Sound and Film Archive.

The NFSA’s mission is to collect, preserve and share Australia’s vibrant and diverse audiovisual culture as embodied by our evolving collection – reflecting who we were, who we are, and who we want to be. 

Audiovisual technologies enable us to capture moments in time: moving image and sounds in their most vivid forms. At over 3 million items, the NFSA collection transforms these records into ‘living memories’ – the many facets of Australia’s peoples, cultures, ideas and beliefs, both over time and across the land.

The collection invites all Australians to connect, no matter their background and life experiences, and find common ground and a shared sense of community. All can access it to celebrate our cultures and learn from our history to build a better future. 

The particular item I saw is After Cook (1969):

Made by The Commonwealth Film Unit 1969. Directed by Donald Murray. Narrated by John Meillon. A survey of everyday life throughout Australia, emphasising the outdoor and rural element contrasted with modern, urban living and culture. A look at the Australian people, their character, attitudes and way of life. Every three years or so Film Australia made a general film on Australia. At its most basic the film would have a landscape sequence, then a farming sequence, then transport, then cities, then sport and night life. It would probably contain a mining explosion, a ballet class, Uluru (Ayers Rock) and kookaburras. After the first few films, the makers tried to find a new approach – to present its as a quiz show, or a computer report, or a film script conference. After Cook had as its working title ‘Fellow Countrymen’. Helped by the fact that it was made on 16mm with practicable synchronous sound, it is in its final version the warmest and one of the least predictable of all the general ‘Australia’ films.

Here are a few stills I captured:

A steelworker
Political demonstration in Sydney advocating — successfully — lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.
Shopping at Paddy’s Market, Sydney
Volunteer firefighters — bushfire in Sutherland Shire. Rather more sophisticated nowadays.
Family at a picnic playing cricket
CWA — Country Women’s Association — meeting
Country school-teacher
Ballet class

And so many more vignettes, so evocative for me — — some great footage of people going about their business in a very different Australia. This is the place I knew when in my first school appointment, Cronulla High, almost a lifetime away! In fact the Class of 1968, who have their own special private group on Facebook — I am a member! — are now like me septuagenarians! Can you believe it?

If you want to see it:

Wild weather

We have had more than a bit of that in the past few days. Partly it is the effect, most likely, of the La Nina phase we have now entered. US meteorologist Dan Satterfield posted a link to a Washington Post account of that: La Niña is back. Here’s what that means.

It’s one of many drivers in our atmosphere, but it is often among the most important given the extent to which it shuffles other atmospheric features key in determining how weather evolves over the Lower 48.

In brief, here are some of the key impacts La Niña could have in the coming months:

— Extending favorable conditions for Atlantic hurricane activity this fall.
— Worsening drought conditions in the Southwest through the winter and potentially elevating the fire risk through the fall.
— Raising the odds of a cold, stormy winter across the northern tier of the United States and a mild, dry winter across the South.
— Increasing tornado activity in the Plains and South during the spring.

La Niña is the opposite of El Niño, which often makes headlines for spurring powerful southern storms that can generate beneficial rains in California and track across the entire nation.

In Australia:

La Niña is characterized by increased rainfall and cloud cover, especially across the east and north; snow cover is increased. There are also cooler daytime temperatures south of the tropics and fewer extreme highs, and warmer overnight temperatures in the tropics. There is less risk of frost, but increased risk of widespread flooding, tropical cyclones, and the monsoon season starts earlier.

Recent Wollongong weather forecasts

And we have been getting a lot of these warnings, this one from Thursday afternoon.

Wollongong actually has been spared. Not so some other parts of the state, and I especially noted Armidale where Jim Belshaw now lives. There was a tornado there on Thursday night!

Jim himself says he is OK. When I asked he said: “Hi Neil. It was wild while it lasted, very noisy and the car has some hail marks, but the main storm was just to the north of us running along a west-east line. The closed UNE campus which suffered damage starts about 800 metres, away, but is a very big campus.”

I remembered one of my mother’s favourite stories from her childhood in Braefield — my mother and the 1921 tornado! My God, that’s 100 years ago! And note she calls Australia Day “Anniversary Day”, as people did back then.

More tales from my mother 3 — Braefield NSW 1916-1923

Braefield was a small place: three railway night officers’ cottages, a Post Office Store of sorts, and a brand new school building. The old one became the local hall where church services — every denomination — were held once a month, and it was also the scene of all local social activity. It was War time and a very energetic committee made up of farmers’ wives and families knitted for soldiers and every lad that left Braefield was farewelled in the old school hall and presented with a watch, and welcomed home — those that came home — being then given a medal by a now saddened committee….

In December 1920 we went to Sydney for the Christmas vacation, returning on Chaffey’s Mail, which left Central about 2 pm on Saturday and stopped all stations from Murrurundi to Tamworth where it terminated. We arrived home about 2.30 am.

The tornado

The following day, Monday, was Anniversary Day. Dad drove into Quirindi to get supplies; there were Chinese shops always open. Before his return we children had been watching the sky. At first we thought a dust storm was approaching across the Breeza Plains. The sky went from red to purple and then to deep indigo. Thank goodness Dad arrived home, and he said to Mother who was ironing in the kitchen, “There is a storm going to hit the back of the house, and we had better go into the bedrooms.” She refused as she wanted to finish her ironing. Within moments the verandah had gone and dad hustled us all into the dining room and under a heavy oak table. It became pitch dark. The storm only lasted for twenty minutes, but the dining room was all that was left of our home! If it had not been for a 10,000 gallon water tank which was luckily full and sheltered that room only, I would not be here today.

Kind neighbours took us in. The path of the storm could be traced back along the plains as large trees were chopped to match wood, and our place and the railway siding were in its direct path. Both were shattered. A kindly farmer lent us an unoccupied dwelling, scarcely a house, but shelter, and we were given bedding and necessary equipment so that we could survive. The iron roof of our place was found over a mile from the house! The other farmer had our home rebuilt as quickly as possible.

Poor Mother was pregnant again and a still-born child was born in June. Again it nearly cost our Mother’s life, and again, thank God for Dad’s wonderful mother who came and stayed through these very troublesome times.

Second day out of lockdown

And I stayed at home. It was rather damp and cold yesterday morning, but also perhaps I had just a little more Shiraz at Diggers than I should have the day before….

But I did not waste time too much, and I do have plenty of food here at home — except for bread which I must renew from the local shops today. One thing I accomplished was downloading my official vaccine status document form Medicare. This is the business end of it:

Me not having a smart phone, that only exists on my laptop. I have not yet printed a copy either as my printer really is useless as I have basically given up buying ink for it. I can no doubt contrive to get a printed copy later on. So for the moment any venue I try to enter must either 1) accept the Wollongong Medical Centre’s statement, which I carry with me at all times or 2) wait while I fire up the laptop. Not that it takes all that long.

Meanwhile quite a few have been marking the passing of a remarkable Australian, Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku who has died at age 101.

Inspiring.

So, yesterday… And now it’s Day 2 of opening up.

Ziggy’s House of Nomms — Wollongong’s wonderful Chinese tea-house — didn’t open yesterday, but just posted on FB:

And we are all cleaned and polished ready to take your bookings, phone only, no online bookings please.

Yesterday 106-7 days of lockdown came to an end in NSW. Those days were rather like this. Remember?

For some getting a haircut was the greatest priority. I saw such a queue outside the barber shop in West Wollongong, and the Illawarra Mercury captured the early morning queue at the Figtree Centre.

The Illawarra Steelers Club opened their doors right on the stroke of midnight. I wasn’t there but did decide to make it my first stop when I went to town yesterday morning.

Alas when I got there at 9.30am there was a note on the door saying they were reopening at 11. So I walked up to City Diggers which opened at 9.30.

My friend Colin rang soon after to say he would join me there, but didn’t show up! The explanation: they would not let him in because he had no proof he had been double vaccinated. He had been. I got in with the paper given to me by the Medical Centre recording each jab. No problem.

But at lunch another Diggers and Illawarra Leagues Club friend, Maurice from Peru, had some news:

The tyranny of the app and the smart phone? OK, I had no problem at City Diggers with my old-fashioned and absolutely authentic vaccine documentation from the Wollongong Medical Centre — on paper.

But at Diggers an old Diggers and lately Collegians/Illawarra Leagues friend told me that Collegians was only accepting app and smartphone vaccine documentation. If so, this is absolutely deplorable! What are they? Sales agents for tech and smartphone interests?

If they try that on me then they will lose a member!

There have been big changes at Diggers, good changes. But not the bistro menu. You may recall it has never impressed me — in fact it was a prime reason why I (and Maurice and others) took to going the to Leagues instead. So lunch was one of the more edible specials, grilled fish, chips, and something rather laughingly called a salad.

And the Illawarra Leagues?

COLLEGIANS ILLAWARRA LEAGUES IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED.

Unfortunately as we transition into re-opening our clubs Collegians Illawarra Leagues will remain closed.

We hope we can open our doors in the near future and will communicate an open date as soon as we possibly can.

At this time Collegians Wollongong & Collegians Balgownie open from today Monday 11th October.

But all things considered it was great to be back yesterday! I summed it up just before lunch on FB:

Just said HI to Philip from Croatia — a Diggers regular. So nice to talk to actual people face to face after all this time. Sadly my friend Col MacDonald was supposed to have a drink with me this morning but — despite being one of the most tech-savvie people I know — he had no proof of vaccination, so Diggers would not let him in!

On the other hand my old-fashioned paper statement from the Wollongong Medical Centre was accepted, no problem!

Great to chat with some random people too!

And comparatively good news when our Local Health Area’s Covid stats came through:

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) confirms 38 local residents have tested positive to COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night. Of the new cases:– 17 are from the Wollongong Local Government Area (LGA) – 8 are linked to known cases Postcodes – 2500 (2 case), 2502 (4), 2505 (1), 2506 (1), 2515 (2), 2518 (1), 2525 (1), 2530 (5)

— 11 are from the Shellharbour LGA – 3 are linked to a known case Postcodes – 2527 (6), 2528 (3), 2529 (2)

— 10 are from the Shoalhaven LGA – 1 is linked to a known case Postcodes – 2540 (1), 2541 (9)

— There are no new cases from the Kiama LGA

Oh yes — also had a good phone chat with Sirdan in New Zealand.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 74 — five years ago…

They say this weekend will be the last in lockdown here in The Gong. But we have a new Premier whose right-wing zeal exceeds by far his common sense or respect for medical advice, so he has been fiddling with the rules governing the timetable for opening up. Not everyone is impressed.

Cathy Wilcox, Sydney Morning Herald

I do wonder if this will be the Premier’s Ruby Princess moment! Of course I hope not, but it may be “interesting” to review the Covid-19 stats for NSW in 5-7 days!

Now to five years ago — just a couple of entries from October 2016.

Crossing the Bar: Tennyson

Posted on  by Neil

This was a favourite of my mother.

Sunset and evening star,
         And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
         When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
         Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
         Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
         And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
         When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
         The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
         When I have crossed the bar.

I quote it today as yesterday at Diggers I learned that an ex-student from The Illawarra Grammar School, Peter D (Class of 1974), has passed away. He had been very ill for a long time. I used to see him and his wife at Steelers and, until recently, at Diggers. He was 59.

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Body language, cross-cultural communication, Trump etc…

Posted on  by Neil

I see Tony Abbott has gone into bat for The Donald. That figures…

Mr Abbott defended Mr Trump’s policies, which include building a wall between Mexico and the United States to repel migrants, as reasonable.

“Many of the Trump positions are reasonable enough,” he said.

Mind you, I don’t entirely disagree with what Tony Abbott says there about T’s supporters. It is worth reading David A Hill Jr, I Listened to a Trump Supporter.

She was a family friend, a good person. In rural Ohio, everything was tight. Money, jobs. If you really needed quick cash, she’d put you to work doing landscaping. She’d pay fairly and reliably for the area.

She’s voting for Donald Trump. I disagree with her choice, but I understand why she rejects Clinton so fiercely, and why she’s been swept up in Donald Trump’s particular brand of right-wing populism. I feel that on the left, it’s increasingly easy to ignore these people, to disregard them, to write them off as racists, bigots, or uneducated. I think that’s a loss for everyone involved, and that sometimes listening can help you to at least understand why a person is making the choices they make, so you can work on the root causes.

Hat tip to Alex Au in Singapore for that article.

Meanwhile The Donald himself lately does seem to be verging on the barking mad:

Florida: Donald Trump has denied a slew of new allegations of sexually predatory behaviour in an angry diatribe of speech in Florida, accusing the women who made them of fabrication and the media outlets that published them as being party to a conspiracy against him…

Mr Trump claimed a variety of forces including the Clintons and the media were seeking to rig the US election.

“Their agenda is to elect crooked Hillary Clinton at any cost, at any price, no matter how many lives they destroy. For them, it’s a war. And for them, nothing at all is out of bounds,” he said.

“This is a struggle for the survival of our nation. Believe me. And this will be our last chance to save it on November 8. Remember that.”

Sorry. Did I really say “verging on” then?

OK, back to that second debate. I found myself riveted all through – yes I watched the whole show – by the body language, especially The Donald’s. What a study in proxemics!

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Pure monstering. The stills barely capture the effect that the pacing and scowling communicated. Not a nice man.

All that had me thinking again of what I learned from the 1990s on in my ESL studies and practice about cross-cultural communication, and the topic in fact came up earlier this week in conversation at Diggers with someone who spent considerable time in PNG and S-E Asia. A summary directed at business people is Different Cultural Communication Styles.

Factoring in personal space expectations between cultures enhances communication in any social or business setting. While Northern Europeans and European Americans feel most comfortable at an arm’s length away in a social interaction, Hispanics would consider that distance unfriendly. Knowing what is expected is helpful. Eye contact and touch etiquette also vary dramatically in different cultures. Asian cultures do not believe in touching in public settings, and they don’t favor direct eye contact. Like the Asian culture, Hispanics also view direct eye contact as a lack of respect. One significant difference between these two cultures is the way touching in public is perceived. Hispanics are a “high touch” society. Before meeting with a different culture, it is best to learn about these etiquette considerations.

That’s just one aspect. Oriented to schools is Communicating Across Cultures from the Victorian Education Department.

Interpretations of verbal communication can be culturally based. Misunderstandings can easily arise. For example in some cultures:

  • It is impolite to speak without being specifically asked by a superior, thus some students will not say hello, will not volunteer answers and will not answer generally directed questions.
  • It is not appropriate to refuse a request, thus saying ‘yes’ may mean ‘I am listening’, or ‘maybe’, or ‘no’. Avoidance behaviour rather than contradiction is used i.e. not doing what is requested is the polite response, as opposed to saying directly ‘no’.
  • Direct confrontation is to be avoided. It is more important to maintain the relationship, then to find an answer to an immediate disputed issue or problem. This contrasts with the anglo-Australian approach of trying to resolve issues by frank and open discussion of the disputed issue, clearly stating personal needs and preferences and direct bargaining tactics focusing on an immediate solution.
  • Asking questions when you already know the answer, which is a common teaching technique in Australia, can indicate a lack of intelligence in some cultures.

Then at the levels prom personal to international relations see the course Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts, particularly Michelle Le Baron, Cross-Cultural Communication.

The challenge is that even with all the good will in the world, miscommunication is likely to happen, especially when there are significant cultural differences between communicators. Miscommunication may lead to conflict, or aggravate conflict that already exists. We make — whether it is clear to us or not — quite different meaning of the world, our places in it, and our relationships with others. In this module, cross-cultural communication will be outlined and demonstrated by examples of ideas, attitudes, and behaviors involving four variables:

  • Time and Space
  • Fate and Personal Responsibility
  • Face and Face-Saving
  • Nonverbal Communication

As our familiarity with these different starting points increases, we are cultivating cultural fluency — awareness of the ways cultures operate in communication and conflict, and the ability to respond effectively to these differences.

In a multicultural society in an even more multicultural world these are areas we all need familiarity with. Back to proxemics:

The difficulty with space preferences is not that they exist, but the judgments that get attached to them. If someone is accustomed to standing or sitting very close when they are talking with another, they may see the other’s attempt to create more space as evidence of coldness, condescension, or a lack of interest. Those who are accustomed to more personal space may view attempts to get closer as pushy, disrespectful, or aggressive. Neither is correct — they are simply different.

Mind you, Trump was being “pushy, disrespectful, or aggressive”!

Related: My 1998 UTS Grad Cert TESOL assignment A Japanese Backpacker’s year in Australia may even amuse you.