Yesterday: reflecting on the Lycra Apocalypse and the return of fish and chips to City Diggers

It really is quite something I have to admit — and it officially kicks off tomorrow. I guess we have to admit the Lycra Apocalypse is pretty amazing — after all there are three really major world cycling events the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and this.

So yesterday I ventured into town.

Now about City Diggers — my club of choice — and fish and chips, and the serious business of Australia’s relations with the People’s Republic of China. A couple of years ago relations between City Diggers and the people of China were close as busloads of happy Chinese descended on the club to partake in one of its great dishes –fish and chips.

Me witnessing Chinese tourists getting stuck into our fish and chips….

But then came COVID and the strained relations between Australia and China, made worse by a take-over of the club by Wollongong Golf Club rendering fish and chips a sorry memory. Many of us took to Steelers or the Leagues Club to get our fix — but I suspect Xi Jinping heard of the great banishing of fish and chips from Diggers and took it to heart. Well, I hope someone in China sees this and lets him know: fish and chips are back!

Inflation (or a more realistic understanding of profit and loss) have led to the $12 + free drink offer not returning, but I hope our Chinese friends will not be deterred by that. I tested just one of the possibilities yesterday.

Mind you for true authenticity that paper should be a page from the Illawarra Mercury — but I think newspaper does not pass health regulations these days.

Yes I look forward to more from this new menu in the future, and also trust that many a visitor for the Lycra Apocalypse comes in as well. I am sure the Club hopes so.

So after that meal, a few glasses of Shiraz, and several chats — especially with Adam — I headed off home. Moving around town may be rather interesting next week….

Remarkable day on the blog, responses, footy tipping result, and seriously good posts on China

When I checked the blog’s stats this morning I had a surprise in store, See for yourself.

Two partial explanations. The first is an email I received from Paul Harapin, the President of the Sydney High Old Boys Union.

I am wondering if you taught at Sydney Boys High as Tony Hannon made mention of a blog tht no longer exists so am looking to a few and yours was first that came up

I replied as soon as I saw that affirming I was indeed a former colleague of Tony Hannon who used indeed to read my blog in the early 2000s when it was on Diary-X among other places. I referred him to the post last week about Tony on this blog.

The second reason is my long-term blog friend in Kalimantan, Tikno — a friend of Jim Belshaw as well. Lovely man. He responded at length by way of comment on one of the recent Russia/Ukraine posts — particularly making some points about the Western approach to NATO and the actions of Russia, drawing attention to the way China tends to be regarded these days. I rather prefer to keep those issues separate, but I get what Tikno is saying. Should you be reading this, Tikno, you may also be interested in this item: When words matter: Reviewing the Wong-Wang meeting. On the author: “Jocelyn Chey is Visiting Professor at the University of Sydney and Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and UTS. She formerly held diplomatic posts in China and Hong Kong. She is a member of the Order of Australia (AM) and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.”

When we look at the wording of the Embassy’s text in Chinese, we see that it was exactingly considered and carefully worked over. Unfortunately, the English translation, which appeared on Sunday, was less than perfect. For instance, anyone with more than a cursory level of ability in the Chinese language could tell you that one major difference between Chinese and English is the framing of requests and instructions. Let me give some comments by way of explanation.

English language speakers tend to soften requests, using “Could you please…” or “It might be better if you…” and similar circumlocutions. Chinese language is very lacking in these constructions and speakers tend to use simple verbs such as “Come”, “Sit” etc, whether they are speaking in Chinese or English. Those who have lived and worked in China soon learn to ignore this brusque language, realising that it is not impoliteness.

Another feature of Chinese language is its frequent use of phrases drawn from classical literature. These aphorisms are also often moralistic, referencing the widespread influence of Confucian culture. Their use can make life difficult for a foreign learner who has not studied classical Chinese.

The Chinese Embassy English language report on the meeting between Penny Wong and Wang Yi reveals the importance of these linguistic nuances. Failure to recognise them partly explains the misinterpretation of the meeting by Birtles and other journalists. Having read the report in both languages, let me highlight some critical passages.

Very wise. My friend and former colleague Russell Darnley who has long and intimate knowledge of Indonesia and South-East Asia generally referred to another article on the same site: Misconstruing China’s ‘demands’, Australian media beat the drums of war. The author: “Wanning Sun FAHA is Professor of Media and Communication Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UTS.” On Twitter Russell wrote:

@SenatorWong Hoping that the expression of Australian foreign policy continues to be fine tuned, particularly in relation to the #PRC. I’m more comfortable with the nuanced approach you’ve demonstrated & certainly not the current #MSM or #ASPI rhetoric

Plenty of good meat in all that! I suggested to Tikno that he search China Policy on my blog. Now you can too! For example you will find a 2019 post that is still relevant: China, M&M, Hastie. Quite a bit of history in that post, personal and otherwise.

Thanks, Tikno, for your thoughtful responses.

And now we come to Round 18’s Footy Tips!

Could have been worse!

Quick note on yesterday, and video that relates…

Michael Xu and I at last got together at Taste of Xian in Wollongong yesterday. He did all the ordering in Mandarin of course, though he noted and afterwards endorsed my choice, the lamb broth.

Today’s lunch was leftovers, as Michael wanted to sample as much as possible! The result was quite a substantial take-out! Mostly it is fried Xian-style liang-pi noodles, with quite a bit of spicy Chinese sausage.

Afterwards we went for drinks at Illawarra Leagues which Michael had not hitherto been to. It has the advantage of having dark beer on tap, but unfortunately one of the staff made Michael feel uncomfortable — a shame.

Now two videos to enjoy:

Moments in my eBook Library — 9 — Black Gold (ANU Press) and miniseries New Gold Mountain (2021)

Only after the last post had me looking back through the free offerings from ANU Press in Canberra did I encounter Fred Cahir, Black Gold: Aboriginal People on the Goldfields of Victoria, 1850-1870 (2012) which I added to my eBook Library. I am looking forward to reading it.

Fred Cahir tells the story about the magnitude of Aboriginal involvement on the Victorian goldfields in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The first history of Aboriginal–white interaction on the Victorian goldfields, Black Gold offers new insights on one of the great epochs in Australian and world history—the gold story.

In vivid detail it describes how Aboriginal people often figured significantly in the search for gold and documents the devastating social impact of gold mining on Victorian Aboriginal communities. It reveals the complexity of their involvement from passive presence, to active discovery, to shunning the goldfields.

This detailed examination of Aboriginal people on the goldfields of Victoria provides striking evidence which demonstrates that Aboriginal people participated in gold mining and interacted with non-Aboriginal people in a range of hitherto neglected ways.

Running through this book are themes of Aboriginal empowerment, identity, integration, resistance, social disruption and communication.

Last year SBS showed an excellent miniseries — in October 2021 I see I shared about it on Facebook thirteen times! — called New Gold Mountain.

See an excellent essay on The Conversation by Professor of History & Director Future Regions Research Centre, Federation University Australia Keir Reeves.

You can imagine how startled recent arrivals from the bustling South China trading ports of Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau must have been on disembarkation. The flora and fauna – literally everything – was so different to home.

[Director Corrie] Chen explores this shock in a moment of brief magical realism with Wei Shing’s encounters with a kangaroo. It seems the bush sees all. The Chinese miners and their Indigenous and European counterparts were all coming to terms with a landscape broken by mining and colonised by a disparate society coming to terms with its own experiences and opportunities. New Gold Mountain evocatively captures this moment.

I wondered about the portrayal of First Australians and their place on the goldfields in New Gold Mountain but really had not read much history on that specific theme. In all that I read or was taught in the past about the gold rush period the Indigenous element had virtually disappeared, while the Chinese element (though usually distorted) was strongly present. So as I said, looking forward to this book.

‘Australia – news from home’, Baxter, George, (ca 1853), lithograph, ink on paper. Collection of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Image 00008756.
Visitors to the goldfields were often struck by the multi-cultural nature of the population on the Victorian goldfields. The exotic attraction of each other was often portrayed by goldfield artists. — Fred Cahir


By the time that gold was officially discovered in Victoria in 1851 the Port Phillip Aboriginal Protectorate (1838-1850) had been disbanded, Aboriginal people had been dispossessed of their land by squatters and sheep, and they were now facing a second invasion – gold seekers from across the globe. When, by the mid 1850s, it became clear that gold was literally strewn across Victoria, the rush to the diggings by a mass of humanity began.

This book dispels four common misconceptions surrounding Aboriginal people on the goldfields of Victoria during the nineteenth century: that most Aboriginal people were attached to sheep stations rather than townships; that those few at mining settlements were on the periphery; that those on the periphery were bewildered spectators; and finally, that Aboriginal experiences on the goldfields were primarily negative. This book reveals that Victorian Aboriginal people demonstrated a great degree of agency, exhibited entrepreneurial spirit and eagerness to participate in gold-mining or related activities and, at times, figured significantly in the gold epoch. Their experiences, like those of non-Indigenous people, were multi-dimensional, from passive presence, active discovery, to shunning the goldfields. There is striking and consistent evidence that Aboriginal people, especially those whose lands were in rich alluvial gold bearing regions, remained in the gold areas, participated in gold mining and interacted with non-Indigenous people in a whole range of hitherto neglected ways, whilst maintaining many of their traditional customs. There is also evidence that Aboriginal people from Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia were present on the Victorian goldfields…

…Without downplaying the extent of violent conflict that continued to occur between Aboriginal people and the newcomers, without denying the high degree of racial vilification and oppression that Aboriginal people continued to suffer, this book nevertheless documents a significant level of cooperative endeavour that suggests that life on the goldfields may have offered a rare moment of respite from the rigours of colonialism for Aboriginal people.

Moments in my eBook Library — 4 — Arthur Waley and Chinese Art/Poetry

Poetry and visual art go hand in hand in Chinese culture

One scholar who did much in the early 20th century to bring the poetry and literature of China to the English-speaking world was Arthur Waley.

Arthur David Waley CH CBE (born Arthur David Schloss, 19 August 1889 – 27 June 1966) was an English orientalist and sinologist who achieved both popular and scholarly acclaim for his translations of Chinese and Japanese poetry. Among his honours were the CBE in 1952, the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1953, and he was invested as a Companion of Honour in 1956. — Wikipedia

I have several of his books in my eBook Library.

Using the Wade-Giles transliteration there — today the Pinyin Li Bai is more usual.
A poem by Li Bai

So many to choose from!

XXIII. 10. Drinking together in the Mountains

Two men drinking together where mountain flowers grow:
One cup, one cup, and again one cup.
“Now I am drunk and would like to sleep: so please go away.
Come back to-morrow, if you feel inclined, and bring your harp with you.”

— Li Bai


Sent as a present from Annam—
A red cockatoo.
Coloured like the peach-tree blossom,
Speaking with the speech of men.
And they did to it what is always done
To the learned and eloquent.
They took a cage with stout bars
And shut it up inside.

— Li Bai

Have I whetted your appetite? I hope so….

Incidentally, as I follow my friend Matthew da Silva’s latest artistic venture into a genre he has called “paramontage” I thought of this Chinese marriage of art, calligraphy and poetry. Not saying it is the same, but an interesting reflection nonetheless.

[When Li Po came to the capital and showed this poem to Ho Chih-ch’ang, Chih-ch’ang raised his eyebrows and said: “Sir, you are not a man of this world. You must indeed be the genius of the star T’ai-po” (xxxiv. 36).]

III. 15. Fighting
Last year we were fighting at the source of the San-kan;
This year we are fighting at the Onion River road.
We have washed our swords in the surf of Indian seas;

We have pastured our horses among the snows of T’ien Shan.
Three armies have grown gray and old,
Fighting ten thousand leagues away from home.
The Huns have no trade but battle and carnage;
They have no pastures or ploughlands,
But only wastes where white bones lie among yellow sands.
Where the house of Ch’in built the great wall that was to keep away the Tartars,
There, in its turn, the house of Han lit beacons of war.
The beacons are always alight; fighting and marching never stop.
Men die in the field, slashing sword to sword;
The horses of the conquered neigh piteously to Heaven.
Crows and hawks peck for human guts,
Carry them in their beaks and hang them on the branches of withered trees.

Captains and soldiers are smeared on the bushes and grass;
The General schemed in vain.
Know therefore that the sword is a cursèd thing
Which the wise man uses only if he must.

Li Bai