Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 61 — good sense is out there

One does despair at times — when for example seeing the abysmal level of live comments when NSW Health is updating us on the Covid situation. So it is nice to find on YouTube that sane people — even sane young people — do exist, and that indeed some are in America!

Poor things!

But how refreshing to have found this young man. I will share two of his reaction vlog items.

The first is about how workers are treated in America, compared to other countries. He does not mention Australia, but I would hope we will never follow the USA in this respect, as much as some in the government here and of course the bloody IPA want us to. The second is about health care. Enough said really. What an honest, clear-sighted and articulate young man this Jps is!

On Facebook when I shared the following video — the first of his I had watched — I said: Have a look at this nice young man — and what he is watching even more so! And take another look at ourselves too…. You may well conclude that trade unions really are necessary and that anything the IPA wants we shouldn’t do….

Now the second on medical care. On Facebook I said:

I am so glad that I live in Australia where (for example) next Wednesday [today!] I have an appointment at the Wollongong Medical Centre for some necessary podiatry. Cost charged to me? $0. Had my second Covid jab on 9th September. Cost to me? $0. Had some medications made up at the chemist. Cost to me? Around $6 each. And so on…

Even if you have a specialist consultation and are charged, say, $200, Medibank will normally refund around 75% of that.

The American Way? Keep it! Not interested! The killer for me in this video was the cost per arterial stent in the USA @$19,000! I had a stent put in at Wollongong Hospital in 2011, including 9 days in the cardiac ward. Cost of my stent? $0!

I had then — and have since maybe 6 times — needed an ambulance. Cost to me? $0!

There are many intelligent comments on that video — and an advocate of revolution. That always sounds attractive but why should it be necessary? However, here in OZ…

DEFEND what we have zealously, people, and vote in a government without those who really do want to white-ant it, even when they make the right noises because they know attacking Medicare in Oz is political suicide. As it should be!

“You can’t go to the hospital to get help, it’s too expensive.” In what civilised country in this modern world does that make sense? It’s about time for another revolution over there guys. The American people are being walked over by these big companies and all you are doing is whining about it… Hell, a lot of you aren’t even doing that! Just shrugging your shoulders and saying ‘It’s capitalism; what ya gonna do?” ISN’T GOING TO CHANGE ANYTHING! Land of the free my ass!

In the present febrile climate too I think it does not hurt to look seriously at these.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 49 — playing with photos

It really is all the fault of James O’Brien!

James O’Brien is not only a fellow blogger (whom I have also met in real life) and Surry Hills person, he is also on the wireless! Do tune in if you are in range. His blog is responsible for my current addiction to colourising (I am a conservative speller) old photos. The results have pleased many friends and relations on Facebook, so I thought I would share a few today and maybe on Monday and Tuesday. Yes, I have been busy….

And to find out how it’s done, visit James O’Brien’s blog.

That was in May last year, and especially on Facebook I have been indulging ever since. After running the photo through the free Colorize Photo app on I then modify it using a free photo editor, Photoscape, which I have been using for years now.

Here is the latest one, which really pleases me.

Farm, Bass Point Shellharbour NSW — 1946

The original, published by the Facebook group Shellharbour History in Photos, was captioned “1946. A local farmer tending his fields in the paddocks beside the old Blue Metal Works at Bass Point. MLnsw.” I said: “Yes, I was alive when these were taken, and almost certainly in Shellharbour at times — but I turned 3 that July! My Mum and Dad would have known whose farm this is.”

Now, without their originals, a couple more examples:

Crown Street Surry Hills, 1930s
George Street Sydney at the time of Australian Federation, 1901

Finally, in a gloriously politics-free post, some beautiful music:

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 40 — our town and some brilliant finds

Yes, the 40th in the series! OMG! Longer actually, as our lockdown began 26 June. So Day 61 in fact.

In accordance with NSW Health advice Saturday 26th June Collegians will be closing its venues from 4pm today. This includes:

Collegians Wollongong, Collegians Balgownie, Collegians Illawarra Leagues, Collegians Figtree & Collegians Port Kembla

At this stage we hope to re-open our doors on Saturday 10th July in accordance with the end of the lock down Midnight Friday 9th July. Pending further advice from NSW Health.

Thank you for your understanding. Stay safe and take care. Collegians Management

Well here we still are… As I have said City Diggers is taking advantage of the lockdown to do major renovations.

The coffee shop bar yesterday!

Talked to a club friend from early on in my return to The Gong, Steve Hitchens, about this yesterday on the phone. BIG changes. But as I said to him, I hope the Bistro menu is better than it was in the lead-up to lockdown — the reason I and Maurice and many others migrated to Illawarra Leagues. Be interested to see the changes though.

Speaking of The Gong, on Thursday I went to town to the chemist as I had to renew some medication. Waiting for the bus at this bus stop I had a conversation which I later reported on Facebook:

At the bus stop in The Gong this morning — a woman around my age was consulting the bus timetable as I scanned the intersection of Crown and Keira for a bus…

“Are they after you?” she suddenly said.

Apparently some kind of police or public order officers had just gone past. I hadn’t noticed…

She laughed and said, “You never know these days, do you?”

We chatted about how things were going. “It’s bad,” she said.

“Yes, but our parents lived through the War,” I replied. “This is not as bad.”

She agreed. “Yes, I was born just after and I remember…”

And told stories of shortages and rations.

“I was born during,” I replied. “And I think now we should be tapping into the spirit our parents had back then.”

“True,” she replied. And went on her way.My bus arrived. A 39. Good, Mount Keira Road service. And I was the only passenger.

Meanwhile the internet continues to deliver, especially through Facebook, some amazing things.

First a family history treasure from the Wollondilly Historical Page on Facebook. I have colourised the image.

John (Jack) Whitfield (1864-1956) joined the Police Force as a Probationary Constable on 28th October 1889. Previous to this he worked as a sawyer with his father W.J.J. Whitfield at his Bluegum Creek Sawmill near the Thirlmere Lakes.John Whitfield was the last constable with the Police Force at Appin. The Court House/Police Station was closed in 1933. Photograph from Whitfield family collection.

Uncle John deserves colour! I met him when I was a kid, but I hardly remember him I’m afraid. I better remember his brother Bill and indeed his other brother, my grandfather Tom. And his sister Annie, who attended the reception in Shellharbour in 1972 for my gold medal Olympian cousin Beverley.

Then on a completely different tack is this brilliant video from journalist George Monbiot on climate change.

So very true! I am ashamed to see that Aussie motormouths like Alan Jones PhD (not) are a significant part of the picture! Game, set and match George! He uses plain and sometimes Anglo-Saxon words at times — perfectly justified, in my view! But if you are a bit precious about such things. be warned if the letter F frightens you….

And yes — kind of contradictory of me, but I really love steam trains! This wonderful footage is of my favourite steamer of all time — the C38! Beautifully edited too. The ending is so apt, given this was the end of the era really. Enjoy! Sorry that you have to watch on YouTube instead of here, but it is very much worth it!

Yes, I know absolutely dreadful things have been happening in Afghanistan. On Facebook first thing yesterday I wrote:

I will not spend too much time on this but like everyone I will be following these events closely. Nothing but absolute revulsion can be our attitude, There is nothing good about ISIS, nothing worthy in their cause or their tactics. They appear to hate everyone except themselves.

Any here or in the USA who turns this into partisan politics of any kind is simply contemptible.

But soon after I did share an item from blogging and FB friend in California, Kanani Fong with this note:

Kanani Fong shared this saying “I thought of this photo this morning, when I heard the news about the Kabul airport. It was the last image I saw last night before tucking in. The Marines have always brought a dose of safety and clarity wherever they go. Much love to their family, friends, and fellow Marines.”

Her husband worked as a surgeon with the US military in Afghanistan. She was involved in that excellent documentary Restrepo.

For consideration — some matters concerning or from China

To plunge straight in:

Hot off the press….

Xinjiang A Locals Voice 2021

Xinjiang Chinese: 新疆 officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR), is an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), located in the northwest of the country close to Central Asia. Being the largest province-level division of China and the 8th-largest country subdivision in the world, Xinjiang spans over 1.6 million square kilometres (620,000 sq mi) and has about 25 million inhabitants. Xinjiang borders the countries of Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The rugged Karakoram, Kunlun and Tian Shan mountain ranges occupy much of Xinjiang’s borders, as well as its western and southern regions. The Aksai Chin region, administered by China, is claimed by India. Xinjiang also borders the Tibet Autonomous Region and the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai. The most well-known route of the historic Silk Road ran through the territory from the east to its northwestern border. It is home to a number of ethnic groups, including the Turkic Uyghur, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, the Han, Tibetans, Hui, Tajiks, Mongols, Russians and Sibe. More than a dozen autonomous prefectures and counties for minorities are in Xinjiang. Older English-language reference works often refer to the area as Chinese Turkestan, East Turkestan and East Turkistan. Xinjiang is divided into the Dzungarian Basin in the north and the Tarim Basin in the south by a mountain range. Only about 9.7% of Xinjiang’s land area is fit for human habitation.

Xinjiang A Locals Voice 2021 Aerial The video has never been released on any western Social Media Platform before.

And an argument here that appears at least cool and reasonable.

A resource I have mentioned before because it is in my opinion one of the least partisan, most reputable things on China, its politics and culture, on the internet: ANU — Australian Centre on China in the World. Among the publications is the series The China Story (also a blog) whose yearbooks are invaluable. I have five already on my computer and am looking forward to the eventual publication of the one covering 2020. It is edited by Linda Jaivin, who has appeared on this blog before. Her introduction is already available.

On Xinjiang she says in that introduction, which of course refers to articles yet to be published in the final 2020 Yearbook called Crisis:

Even Mulan, everyone’s favourite Chinese woman warrior had a terrible 2020. Cinemagoers in mainland China were unimpressed with Disney’s live-action remake of the popular animation, savaging the movie on the grounds of the wooden acting of its Chinese American star, Yifei Liu 刘亦菲, its clichéd martial arts scenes and many cultural howlers, including turning the philosophical and medical notion of vital essence, qi 氣, into something like ‘the Force’ in Star Wars. In the US and elsewhere, the backlash was political. A #boycottmulan movement had begun the previous year after Liu voiced her support for the actions of the Hong Kong police during their brutal suppression of the 2019 protests in that city. The push to boycott grew after it was revealed that the filmmakers not only shot scenes in Xinjiang but also, in the credits, thanked the Public Security Bureau of Turpan and other organisations that have been implicated in widely documented human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities there.

In September 2020, Australian researchers for the Xinjiang Data Project(1), using satellite imagery and other sources, updated their estimate of the number of active detention camps in the region to over 380 and released a report claiming, among other things, that one in three mosques in Xinjiang have been demolished since 2017.

Soon after the report of the Xinjiang Data Project was released, Xi Jinping 习近平 defended state actions in Xinjiang as ‘completely correct’. Claiming that happiness was on the rise in Xinjiang he summed up the CCP’s ongoing policy for the ‘New Age’ in the ‘autonomous region’ as ‘reliance on law to govern Xinjiang, unity to stabilise Xinjiang, culture to assimilate Xinjiang, the people’s prosperity to rejuvenate Xinjiang’ 依法治疆团结稳疆文化润疆富民兴疆. The character translated (somewhat inadequately here) as ‘assimilate’ and pronounced run, can mean, when used as a verb, ‘benefit’, ‘lubricate’, ‘moisten’ or ‘embellish’ — and indicates a push by the CCP to limit Uyghur cultural and religious expression and promote ‘ethnic unity’ more broadly.

In June, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a Beijing-sponsored resolution by a vote of twenty-three to sixteen, with eight abstentions, that would fundamentally alter long-established conventions on human rights, removing the obligation of states to protect the rights of individuals, labelling rights as negotiable, and describing the expression of international concern about human rights abuses as interference in a country’s internal affairs.

(1) My note: It should be mentioned that the Xinjiang Data Project was initially funded by the US State Department under Donald Trump’s presidency and when Mike Pompeo (who I believe very rarely) was Secretary of State. That should make you suspicious. How do I know? The Project admits it! “The initial phase of this research project is supported by the US government’s State Department….” Do notice though that Linda Jaivin is just reporting what the Project said, not saying it is true. Indeed the wording “claiming, among other things” suggests she is not convinced.

That is published as material for discussion, and will no doubt be further fleshed out by other contributors later on. Linda Jaivin is a not an unfriendly or ill-informed commentator on matters Chinese.

One she does regard as often ill-informed and decidedly unfriendly and prone to sensationalism is the pundit Clive Hamilton. Concerning his very popular book she wrote on Goodreads:

This is a very frustrating book. Clive Hamilton discusses some very serious issues about China’s relationship with Australia, issues that need to be discussed and addressed. But he undercuts his argument with rather tiresome name-calling (anyone who would take a different view to him is a member of the “China lobby”, a “dupe”, an “apologist” and so on) and other tropes that reek of the harangue, including the unsourced ascription of motivation to people who do or say things with which he disagrees. He also makes the occasional but telling error of fact, judgement or interpretation due to his reliance on interpreters and informants for understanding aspects of Chinese culture, society and politics.

His interpretation of the song ‘Descendants of the Dragon’ (also called ‘Heirs of the Dragon’) by Hou Dejian is a perfect example of this; my book The Monkey and the Dragon, about Hou Dejian, tells the fascinating and complex story of this song, which is far from the ethno-nationalistic propaganda Hamilton assumes it to be, although it has certainly been used that way; he is seemingly unaware that it was sung on Tiananmen Square in 1989 by students and by Hou, who changed the line that Hamilton quotes, and banned for years. Is this important? It’s a small detail, but it’s one that illustrates the flaws in the book, which tends to trample on nuance in its rush to hammer home its argument.

On the China Story blog David Brophy writes in his entry For anti-racism and international solidarity (April 2021):

Clive Hamilton is again posing as a lonely truth-teller on the left, railing against cowards and apologists. His hit-piece fingers Gerald Roche and me as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dupes who “side with the persecutors” and use “race-reductionism” to brand critics of Beijing as racist.

Characteristically, his case is light on evidence. In fact, he hasn’t cited a single thing that I have written…..

A rise in anti-Chinese racism has now come to pass, and Hamilton wants to duck any accountability for his role. As he sees it, this has been “triggered largely by COVID-19”.

That will be news to Asian Australians who face relentless accusations of spying for Beijing when they enter public life. But even to say that racism has been “triggered” by COVID-19 is evasive. Can this “triggering” really be so easily divorced from the hunt for CCP “links” that Hamilton has long engaged in, or dubious theories like the Wuhan “lab-leak” that he has indulged on Sky News?

I urge you to read that entry very carefully, and to always remember that Sky News, especially after dark, is a breeding ground for some of the most inane propaganda that Australia has ever seen.

Finally, I reprise a song that speaks to all our hearts, and puts us all in our place, in perspective. I posted it again on Facebook last night after a discussion I had been having with my friend of 30+ years, Michael Xu. FaceBook then came up with a beautiful photo that somehow fit the song, so I will share it here too. It comes from the ABC’s Landline program.

The song is called Ordinary Road, and I have posted it here before.

Pu Shu, the singer, was born and raised in China and became a singer in the 90s. After taking a break from the music scene for over a decade, “The Ordinary Road” was his first song in 11 years. It is the theme song for the Chinese road trip comedy movie “The Continent”.  It has a neo-folk style, a laid back beat, and deeply thought-provoking lyrics describing the emptiness of fame/fortune and the importance of, as the title states, “walking the ordinary road.” — Source.

On Facebook last night I said: A lovely and very sensible song that I have posted before. It has English subtitles, admittedly occasionally a bit odd to a native English speaker, but the point comes through. Love this song. A rather wise comment: “When you first listen you don’t understand the song. When you listen again, you are already the person in the song.” It is a song we all could learn from.

Lyrics in Colloquial English

To those who are wandering on the road, are you going to go? To those who are fragile, to those who are proud, I was once like you. To those who are boiling mad, to those who are uneasy, where are you going? To those who are secretive and silent, are you listening to the story?

I’ve crossed mountains and seas, passed through giant crowds. I once had everything, but it disappeared like smoke in the blink of an eye. I’ve been disappointed, despairing, and lost my direction, until I saw that the answer lay in the ordinary.

While you are fantasizing about tomorrow, wondering if it will be better or worse than today, to me, it’s just another day.

In the past I have destroyed everything, wanting to leave forever. I fell into a deep, dark pit, couldn’t extricate myself. I’ve been like you, like him, like all those random people. I’ve been hopeless, yet longing for something–I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve been ordinary.

Just keep walking, like this, even if you are given something. Just keep walking forward like this, even if something has been taken away from you. Just keep going, even if you miss something. Just keep on going, even if you…

I’ve crossed mountains and seas, passed through giant crowds. I once went around the whole world asking my questions, but never got an answer. I’m just like you, like him, like all those random people/things, and in the darkness I realized this is the only road I have to take.

Time does not speak, tomorrow is coming, the road is long and far. As for your story…where were we?

See also my earlier post (July 2020) China on our minds.

So it is ten years ago almost exactly that I first read Grace Karskens. Here is what I said, and one more…

From my archives.

This may well be the best Australian history book I have EVER read!

Posted on  by Neil


It deservedly won the PM’s  Prize in 2010. “Grace Karskens’ The Colony: A History of Early Sydney (Allen & Unwin, 2009) has won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for nonfiction.  The Colony provides a rich new interpretation of the early life of Sydney.  Supported by a fertile diversity of sources, it is a rich history of a dynamic colony and a rounded account of the lives of the people who lived there.” I have been savouring it from February – it went to hospital with me — until right now, thanks to Wollongong Library’s generous loan periods.

The first great thing to note is that it does not see early Sydney as consisting merely of Macquarie Street and Circular Quay with a few afterthoughts – and Parramatta of course. This ranges the Cumberland Plain, as it should, because I find on reflecting on my own family history that seems to be how they experienced the colony. My family arrived just at the end of the period this book chronicles – 1822.


Second is that stereotypes and half-truths come tumbling down right and left as you read on, but all done in the most polite and professional manner – and done most convincingly. Thus we learn there probably was no orgy during the thunder storm soon after the First Fleet arrived. This is first heard of in Manning Clark’s Short History of Australia in 1963 and has been embellished ever since. It makes an appearance in Ashley Hay’s brilliant new novel The Body in the Clouds (2010) – more on that in another entry. The lurid version of our past popularised so successfully in Robert Hughes The Fatal Shore (1987) is left resembling historical fantasy rather than sober reality. The reality turns out to be far more believable and far more interesting.

Karskens also restores the First Australians to their rightful place in the story, but this is no tub-thump on the lines of Pilger’s Secret Country. Again the reality proves more interesting and far more complex. I was fascinated to learn that the body of a victim of the 18th century smallpox catastrophe was found in recent years in Gymea in Sutherland Shire. That whole event, as so much else in this book, is handled judiciously and brilliantly.

I was pleased to see my nephew gets a mention too in the discussion of Bungaree.

It turns out the fate of the Cumberland Plain Aboriginal groups is much more complex than we may have believed in the past. That much survived is a fact not acknowledge so often in the past.

Another book which shows continuities which the old people – two generations or more before me – knew about but shut up about is Rivers and Resilience: Aboriginal People on Sydney’s Georges River by Heather Goodall and Alison Cadzow (UNSW 2009). What is revealed there again resonates with so much else half-remembered about my own family.

It was fascinating too to have shared my hospital time with a direct descendant of James Ruse, “Australia’s first farmer”. What I could glean in the short time I spent with Rocky – the descendant – revealed yet again the complex web of interactions between colonists and colonised over the past 200+ years.

Further reading

Holistic history of early Sydney

The Colony: A History Of Early Sydney

‘The Colony’ by Grace Karskens

…Karskens nails her colours to the mast: she is writing as an historian, and participating in a historical conversation with other historians:

This book has its roots deep in a great mountain of existing research, thinking and histories.  Historians work collectively, within a wider community of scholars.  So history writing is less an individualist pursuit than a collective quest, and an ongoing process.  This is one reason references are so important: they rightly acknowledge the work of past scholars, as well as guiding future readers and scholars into the literature.  In the notes and bibliography of this book you will find, besides original manuscripts and archival records, maps and pictures, an extraordinary and diverse body of scholarship about early Sydney, works mainly by historians, but also archaeologists, economists, anthropologists, art and architectual historians, ecologists, geologists, museuologists, geographers, biographers and local and community historians.  (p. xii)

She is true to her word.  There’s a heavy debt to Inga Clendinnen here, not only in content but in writing style, and likewise to Alan Atkinson– two historians I deeply admire whose writing turns an event around and looks at it from different angles, giving us the gift of coming to the familiar with new eyes.   There’s also a connection with James Boyce whose recent book Van Diemen’s Land is almost a pigeon-pair with this book in its re-visioning of the penal colony as a new environment with new opportunities.  Unlike Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore, this book joins other histories- John Hirst’s work springs to mind-  written with  a determination to look beyond Hughes’ gulag and horror: it looks to the agency, optimismism and opportunism of ordinary people in a new environment instead of just the dregs of the old world.

The history itself is a thing of beauty too.  It breaks free of many straitjackets: more than perhaps any other history of Australia that I have read it interweaves Aboriginal history, archaeology, women and environmental history throughout the book.  Not content with the almost obligatory “before” chapter dealing and then dispensing with “the aborigines”, she asserts that Sydney remained an Eora town- that Eora people continued to live within Sydney on their own terms, with their own geography and in resistance to christianizing impulses, into the 1830s and 40s. Indeed, they have never left…

To watch

Dr Grace Karskens: The heritage of Aboriginal Sydney: Placing lost histories:

US Historian Erik Wright commented on this post: “Thank you for this review. As a professional historian now taking on Australian history I am striving to learn all I can. I also noticed your shirt and must say I am a bit jealous…the Bounty story is one of my favorites in all of history!”

And a second post, unrelated except that I posted it the next day, but let me first add in another lovely return to that magical year 1975 and an aspect of Australian life that does endure….

Living in the Seventies

Posted on  by Neil

Oh yes! With apologies to my cousin Pat and her husband Les that’s when we dressed up in flares and body shirts!


And that’s the conservative look.

I started a [school] magazine in 1972. so spent quite a bit of time with printers and such and became smitten with the whole process, especially given that was the tail end of hot metal presses and REAL fonts and typesetting!

Mind you the Illawarra Grammar School magazine was no Cleo, though like Cleo it may well still be going.

I shared Jim Belshaw’s delight with the two-parter just shown on ABC: Paper Giants : The Birth of Cleo | Sunday, 17 April and Monday, 18 April at 8.30pm, ABC1.

My problem is that I still find it hard to regard the 70s as capital-H History! Surely not. I’m not OLD am I?

Well, consider:


There I am in 2000 at SBHS looking uncomfortably like Billy McMahon. (Oh noes!) 

Next to me is the person also known as Mister Rabbit, who was born ten years after Cleo started but is now an English teacher here in Wollongong and the same age, give or take a year, that I was when Ita was hatching her revolution. Oh my!

Jim will be pleased to know I had a New England visa in those days…


The picture is Armidale.