Interesting story — but don’t get carried away!

Just some reflections on last night’s Who Do You Think You Are? on SBS. It was an interesting episode, concerning television journalist Jennifer Byrne.

The TV show’s film crew follow her as she visits England to discover a series of royal connections – before ultimately finding out that her 12 times great-grandfather was Sir Edward Neville, a courtier in King Henry VIII’s court.

She then follows her mother’s bloodline back even further and incredibly discovers that her 15 times great-grandmother was the granddaughter of King Edward III – officially making her a royal.

Well, don’t get too carried away!  They went down quite a few female lines to reach Edward III — and, after all, “Mathematical models imply that virtually every English person is a descendant of the Norman and Plantagenêt kings, including those who ruled 500 years after Alfred the Great.”  So Edward was back before the 15th great-grandparents of Jennifer Byrne. So one out of… a sizeable village or town!

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I mean no disrespect here. And it was worth seeing the Nevilles’ modest castle, not to mention learning about the intriguing Katherine Swynford.

The program turned to the Chinese background of Jennifer Byrne’s father, whose father was interned by the Japanese in Shanghai’s Lunghua Camp, made famous in J G Ballard’s novel and the movie Empire of the Sun, one of my favourites. Ballard was interned there as a child. Here is Christian Bale as Jim in the movie:

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I was surprised that the program did not mention that connection; it even appears that it didn’t occur to Jennifer Byrne, which surprises me rather. Sadly, Byrne’s paternal grandfather died soon after being interned.

From the South China Morning Post — ‘Empire of the Sun’ internment camp forgotten in Shanghai.

Former internee Betty Barr entered the Lunghwa camp in 1943 at the age of 10 with her Scottish missionary father, American mother and older brother.

Her most vivid memories are blistering summers, freezing winters, and an obsession with food.

“I was old enough to know what was happening. I didn’t think it was a picnic,” said Barr, 80, during a return visit.

She still guiltily recalls taking a sip of milk produced by the camp’s only cow from a mug she was taking to her brother in the hospital.

“My father rose to be the manager of the kitchen, though he could not boil an egg, because he could be trusted not to steal vegetables,” she said.

Betty Barr appeared in last night’s episode.

Concerning Jennifer Byrne’s paternal grandfather the program makers produced an embarrassing historical clanger. The old man was rewarded for his sterling efforts during the Revolution of 1911. Here is Shanghai during that revolution:

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The Chinese historians interviewed in the program didn’t make the clanger, nor did Jennifer Byrne — though I was again surprised by her apparent lack of knowledge about this key event in 20th century Chinese history. No, it was whoever produced what we saw because they seemed to confuse the 1911 revolution, which saw the end of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, with the 1949 beginning of the People’s Republic of China! Still, what’s 38 years!

Happens I have had a longtime interest in the subject: My Asian Century. But even if all you had to go on was the movie The Last Emperor — which I think Jennifer Byrne probably saw — you’d have some idea of the significance of 1911-1912 in China! Who Do You Think You Are should be more careful about its history!

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And my footy tipping went well…

Yes, only one wrong and I got the margin score correct! So well placed so far…

I also predicted the NSW Election correctly. I honestly don’t mind Gladys. Here in The Gong Labor won hands down: 70+% two-party preferred. And in first choices look who no-one supported!

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Tonight’s must-watch: Waleed Aly interviewing Jacinda Ardern on The Project, Channel 10/WIN.

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Waleed’s interview/confrontation with Scott Morrison was broadcast ad-free in prime time last Thursday night — most unusual.  And unusual it was! Scott Morrison scored some, but also, I think, showed his critical weaknesses. I propose to watch it all again and may then comment further, but meanwhile I commend young Michael Koziol’s analysis. (He is I gather a twenty-something.)

Sincerity can be a real struggle for Morrison, partly because of his marketing background, and partly because of his own choices as Prime Minister that have sacrificed substance for political expediency (moving the embassy to Jerusalem, anyone?). So if he faces a credibility gap on this issue, perhaps he only has himself – and his party – to blame….

Not really a 21st century guy!

Or so I think every time on Sunday at 1pm when I make a point of watching the repeats of Andrew Urban‘s wonderful Aussie time capsule, Front Up, on SBS Viceland. Currently they’re in 1998. Is it just me, or does the discourse it presents seem kinder than 2018-19?

What they said about Andrew’s Front Up:

For so many reasons, Front Up is powerfully gripping – SMH

I admire the way Andrew draws people out and gets them answering the most personal questions. I also admire the way he is completely non-judgmental about peoples’ comments, behaviour etc. Keep up the wonderful work. – Cynthia Smith (viewer)

Every time I watch I get shivers up my spine waiting for someone to publicly disembowel themselves. How do you do it? Aagh – don’t tell me. It’s amazing to watch. I thank god that between me and you is my telly, and you can’t jump into the living room for just a little chat…- Andrew Maloney (viewer)

It’s amazing how even the seemingly unremarkable of lives can become nothing short of riveting television – Ballarat Courier

You may check it out on SBS On Demand.

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Now this blog: 2018 has been a modest year. Some stats:

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War and Peace

SBS is about to screen the 2016 BBC adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

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I’m looking forward to it. In preparation I am rereading the novel, which I last read some twenty years ago. I am really enjoying it, more so I think than last time.

Happens I am reading the Project Gutenberg e-book version on my laptop, using Calibre. Something I have noticed before: long works seem less daunting this way, and I seem to read them faster!  I am about half-way through.

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My Beautiful Laundrette after 30+ years!

I was supposed to be going to yumcha with M in Sydney yesterday, but he rang the day before to postpone until next week, the weather here and in Sydney being so bad. So I got to see My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) on SBS Viceland.

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Gordon Warnecke and Daniel Day-Lewis

Fantastic particularly was Saeed Jaffrey (1929-2015) as The Gordon Warnecke character’s uncle. The movie scores 97% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.

I first saw My Beautiful Laundrette in 1986 (I think!) at The Dendy, then in Martin Place, which closed in 2003.

It opened in 1981 with Chris Noonan’s Stepping Out and had early success with other documentaries, including the anti-nuclear film Backs to the Blast and the Aboriginal music film Wrong Side of the Road.

“It was a real leftie cinema,” said Sarfaty, who added that the MLC Centre above the venue and the underground railway below made addition of more screens impossible.

The cinema’s heyday was the mid-1980s to the early 1990s when audiences queued down the street for Zentropa, Truly Madly Deeply, Like Water for Chocolate and My Beautiful Laundrette.

I can’t believe that over thirty years have passed since I saw the movie there! I recall the woman sitting in front of me walked out in disgust long before the scene pictured above. At that time I was revelling in that top class I had for HSC English at SBHS, living in Chippendale, and a regular at Beau’s Britannia Hotel. All of those are documented in my various blogs.

For example:

And on Sydney High, especially 1986, I have posted a lot. Just a few examples: Class of 1986 please note: you’re getting old! (2011), More “Neil’s Decades” –8: 1956 — 1, and Expedition to Surry Hills – 3 – Sydney Boys High.

See More “Neil’s Decades” — 1: 1986 – thirty years on since the Class of 1986! See I return to teaching — 1985.

I have mentioned the class of 1986 several times – for example Philip Larkin 1922-1985.

Indirectly, as often happens, I found myself passing from a rather good blog post by J R Benjamin — What Kipling’s “Recessional” Means for Todayto the poems of Philip Larkin. I had not looked at Larkin’s work all that often since memorably teaching it to the Class of 1986 at Sydney Boys High – memorably for me as well as for them. Hence the cryptic remarks on the card accompanying the bottle of Veuve Clicquot that wonderful class gave me at the end of 1986.

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