More on part of the previous…

But starting with a photo from April 2012, if only to show I was a little skinnier 6 years ago. It was Anzac Day.


I see I have my Teachers Federation badge on too — it disappeared between then and now.

On my previous post KVD commented: “Be interested to know where, in Israeli law, the treatment of women or gays is anywhere near equivalent to that of Iran? ”

Or Saudi Arabia of course. Taking just the “gays” bit for now, I have posted before:

Love Is All

06 Feb 2006

Nice title, isn’t it? The blogger [on Blogspot, gone as of 2007] is a young gay man in Teheran, and I should warn you there are some pictures there which some might find offensive, sadly. He is 20 years old. The boy below is 18 and also lives in Iran. No, I don’t know either of them, except through seeing their sites.

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They don’t exactly fit your stereotypes, do they? And why not ask: who wants to see either one dead?…

It is hard enough for them as it is, living where they do. If they are gay, see this. More generally, see Global Voices: Iran.

Pray that all who deal in death and hatred will lose their grip on humanity, whether those antihuman forces are of the West or of the East.

On the situation in Iran see Intimate spaces: coming out in Iran.

I never thought I’d find a boyfriend in Iran. After all, homosexuality is technically illegal here.

Consensual sex between two adult males is punishable by death. Tafkhiz – defined as the rubbing together of thighs or buttocks – is punishable by 100 lashes.

If two men not related by blood are found “under one cover without necessity” they can be given 99 lashes (for some reason the same offence with two women is 100 lashes). Curiously, “lustful” kissing between two men is punishable by only 60 lashes.

Despite this draconian statutory prohibition, homosexuality is an open secret. My friends tell me that since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – who infamously denied the existence of gay people in Iran – left office, there has been a thaw in official policy towards LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people….

But then in Saudi Arabia, whose side US policy currently prefers in the Iran/Sunni rivalry:

Saudi Arabia is considered to have one of the worst LGBT rights records in the world. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal. LGBT rights are not recognized by the government of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi social mores and laws are heavily influenced by Arab tribal customs and ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islam. Homosexuality and transgenderism are widely seen as immoral and indecent activities, and the law punishes acts of homosexuality or cross-dressing with punishments ranging from fines, floggings, to life in prison, death, and torture.

And yes, Israel is the best in the region in this area, but:

Likewise, the challenges remain. Israel’s gay and lesbian community is shaped by the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab states. The central part of World Pride, a parade through Jerusalem, had to be postponed (to an unknown date as of this writing) for two years in a row–first because of Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, and then, because of the war that broke out on Israel’s northern border following Hezbollah’s provocations. But before the parade had to be cancelled because of regional tensions, it was shaping up as a struggle between Israel’s religious establishment and the gay and lesbian community.

The Jerusalem municipality and a veritable alliance of religious leaders united only in their opposition to homosexuality were determined to thwart the holding of the parade. An alliance of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders, both local and international, contended that such a parade would constitute an attack on the sacred character of the city. They claimed that homosexuality so contradicted the teachings of all three of the monotheistic faiths that a parade for acceptance and equality of the GLBT community would forever stain the holy city. Even many secular Israelis normally supportive of the Israeli GLBT community viewed holding an international gay pride parade in Jerusalem as an unnecessary provocation, showing just how successful Israel’s religious establishment has been in shaping a degree of obedience to its sensitivities.

Since the writing of this article, the World Pride parade was finally held in Jerusalem on November 10, 2006 without the violence that many feared. Israel also elected its first openly gay member of the Knesset, Nitzan Horowitz.

The main thrust of the first half of my previous post was what I thought a particularly intelligent response to Mr Netanyahu’s propaganda piece on Iran. All the above is more or less irrelevant to that, though undoubtedly important. Let me add more relevantly a pre-Trump article from The National Interest:

A majority of Americans, an even larger majority of Jewish Americans, the entirety of the United Nations Security Council, and a  long list of former U.S. national security leaders and diplomats endorse the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as the best possible option for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. But regardless of the merits of the negotiated agreement, some critics, like former Ambassador John Bolton, who explained why in a recent article, are unshaken in their belief that military force is the only way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This shortsighted and reckless approach would be counter-productive; as former director of the CIA Michael Hayden has explained…

We know where John Bolton sits now, don’t we? See below.

Let me add another of my own posts: Tread warily in the graveyard called Palestine/Israel.

Last Sunday afternoon the Al Jazeera documentary Al Nakba (2008) was screened at South Sydney Uniting Church. It is in fact a four part TV series so it s rather long. I wasn’t there for the screening, but I did download the entire thing so I have now seen it.

Yes, we need to know about what really happened and we need to go beyond Zionist propaganda on these matters. Unfortunately, there are some disturbing features about the Al Nakba documentary. For a start, its history of Zionism had uncomfortable resonance with the conspiracy theories the Nazis made infamous but which circulated much more widely than that and still do in the Muslim world, and of course in the KKK and Stormfront. No-one mentioned the evil and fallacious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but I couldn’t help thinking they weren’t far away. The reference to Napoleon was both gratuitous and irrelevant. There was no Zionist movement in the age of Napoleon.

Again the account of Jewish immigration into Palestine in the 1930s didn’t actually mention what was happening in Europe at the same time. That is more than an unfortunate omission.

The account of Harry Truman and the foundation of the State of Israel forgot the same Harry Truman wrote things like this:

6:00 P. M. Monday July 21, 1947

Had ten minutes conversation with Henry Morgenthau about Jewish ship in Palistine [sic]. Told him I would talk to Gen[eral] Marshall about it.

He’d no business, whatever to call me. The Jews have no sense of proportion nor do they have any judgement on world affairs.

Henry brought a thousand Jews to New York on a supposedly temporary basis and they stayed. When the country went backward-and Republican in the election of 1946, this incident loomed large on the D[isplaced] P[ersons] program.

The Jews, I find are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the under dog. Put an underdog on top and it makes no difference whether his name is Russian, Jewish, Negro, Management, Labor, Mormon, Baptist he goes haywire. I’ve found very, very few who remember their past condition when prosperity comes.

Look at the Congress[ional] attitude on D[isplaced] P[ersons]-and they all come from D[isplaced] P[erson]s.

And this:

I received about 35,000 pieces of mail and propaganda from the Jews in this country while this matter was pending. I put it all in a pile and struck a match to it — I never looked at a single one of the letters because I felt the United Nations Committee was acting in a judicial capacity and should not be interfered with.

In my view the BBC documentary The Birth of Israel is much better….

Finally, there are Jewish voices none too fond of current policy directions:

John Bolton’s appointment as National Security Advisor has terrifying implications for the Middle East, the United States, and the world. Bolton is an extreme Islamophobe and an advocate of war with Iran. He has close relationships to anti-Muslim hate groups, played a key role in pushing for the war on Iraq in 2003, and repeatedly calls for bombing Iran and attacking North Korea.

Despite the fact that his appointment does not need Congressional approval, Bolton’s record should disqualify him from public service. His elevation to a key foreign policy position is dangerous and deeply alarming….

But surely we must all hope that wisdom eventually prevails.


Well, it appears wisdom has taken a back seat. I venture to add that Israel is no safer than it was before…. I refer you to just one response in Foreign Policy:

As long expected, Donald Trump has bowed to his ego, his petulant envy of Barack Obama, his hard-line donors, his new set of hawkish advisors, and above all his own ignorance and walked away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the international agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Together with his foolish decision to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this is likely to be his most consequential foreign-policy blunder yet.


Noted en passant…

You may have noticed I am tending to the visual lately, rather than adding my two cents worth on what excites the news watcher. Today an exception.

First: Israel, Iran, Trumpery and all. You may care to visit some of my older thoughts first: for example (2009) — Is objectivity about Israel and Palestine possible?

I am not, never have been, a fan of Mr Netanyahu. This is a sentiment I have shared over the years with a number of Jews and Israelis, so I am not alone. I found his propaganda Powerpont on Iran’s nukes sick-making, but not in the way he wanted. Rather, see in Foreign Policy (USA) Bibi’s Infomercial for the Iran Deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dog and pony show on Monday, in which he displayed a trove of documents from Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, had an audience of precisely one. It was part of a coordinated effort with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to kill the Iran nuclear deal. And, if you don’t know anything about Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, perhaps it was persuasive.

But if you do — if you happen to have a blog called Arms Control Wonk, for example — you will have heard it all before. There was nothing new in Netanyahu’s presentation, at least nothing that would change someone’s mind about the nuclear deal. In fact, Netanyahu’s presentation works as an advertisement for the pact he was trying to take down….

Unfortunately he probably scored big with his target audience. Do read that whole item. Not the first “dodgy dossier” we’ve seen, is it?

You might also like to read about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal.

And now for something completely different, and very pleasing: Encounter made me realise I was wrong to oppose Safe Schools! Catherine McGregor, bless you!

I believe in God. I am a deeply flawed Christian. Yet, as scripture tells us so are we all. Redemption came from an unlikely quarter last week.

I worked with two trans men on the show along with two gay actors. One young trans man told me how much he resented me for my stance on Safe Schools in 2016 and for my life as a soldier. He found me incomprehensible. A fascist at best. And a tool of the Australian Christian Lobby in its vile war on trans people at worst.

It could easily have escalated into the pointless dialogue of the deaf that dominates Twitter. Hate uncluttered by reason. But we hugged and chatted. We are now dear friends. His name is Charles O’Grady….

Even more to my chagrin, I failed to anticipate the ammunition I offered to those like Miranda Devine and Lyle Shelton who refuse outright to accept the reality and legitimacy of trans identity.

They purr reassuringly about not wanting kids to make irrevocable mistakes before puberty. Currently, they are providing a platform for a charlatan with no medical qualifications whose position is that all trans identity is “broken” and must be lovingly “reversed”. His qualifications are in “religious freedom” and “political science”….

Safe School supporters and protesters clash in Canberra in August 2017.

Again, I am proud to refer you to a post or three of my own, such as 2016’s Show some backbone, PM!

As Malcolm Turnbull yesterday caved into his party’s religious right and announced an investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition one thing became clear: we are in the midst of a culture war. And vulnerable children are being used as cannon fodder.In a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, February 23, Senator Cory Bernardi called for the program to be defunded, claiming it was being used to “indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism.”

Now I am such a Marxist, eh! Why only a couple of days ago on this blog I was commending Robert Service’s Comrades: A World History of Communism (2007) to my readers! A Marxist I really am not, but I do embrace diversity as a core aspect of the human condition and commend any society or program that does the same. Hence on Twitter I wrote yesterday: “I totally support #safeschools.” I also retweeted: “RT @JoshThomas87: .@TurnbullMalcolm You’re turning out to be a real shit bloke.” Among others.

First, a really really good idea is to read the actual stuff that Safe Schools offers….

Well, probably back to photos next time….


Cinema Asia

Yes, another free borrowing from Wollongong Library!

Cinema Asia (2007) is a five-part documentary series that takes the viewer into the most dynamic film scene on the planet.

Asia houses some of the world’s biggest film industries: India boasts that it is the Number One film producing country in the world, while China, at Number Three is nipping closely at Hollywood’s heels. Taiwan, Korea and Iran have film industries that are smaller, but no less vibrant. Punching far above their weight these national cinemas have taken their place on the international stage.

Long trapped within their own national boundaries, these national cinemas have in recent years burst onto international screens. They have even taken the charts Number One slot in the home of cinema itself – Hollywood.

Cinema Asia offers the viewer a rich mix of clips from some of the most important films produced in recent years. Interviews with their makers provide a unique window not only on the world of film-making, but on the cultures that have made them.

In an age of incessant and irresistible globalization these programmes show how national cinemas fight against the Hollywoodization of global cinema.

A delightful snippet from Part 1: China. And what a wonderful expressive face! When you think of all she must have lived through. (I think of M’s mother in Shanghai, born in 1935 – as was my brother, but what different worlds, and yet in a way they meet in this 21st century!)





China is now the world’s third-largest producer of cinema films. Since the Ground Zero of the Cultural Revolution, when film-making virtually ceased in China, the Chinese cinema industry has come storming back.

Cinema Asia: China reveals that the Chinese renaissance began humbly. Emerging from the darkness of the Cultural Revolution, art-house films such as YELLOW EARTH and RED SORGHUM introduced the world to a new kind of cinema.

Realizing the box office potential of Chinese exotica, films such as RAISE THE RED LANTERN and FAREWELL, MY CONCUBINE, established that Chinese films could work in the mainstream as well. And recent Chinese blockbusters like HERO and HOUSE OF THE FLYING DAGGERS beat Hollywood at its own game and fill cinemas around the world.

Today a new generation of Chinese filmmakers is making a new kind of film. Frequently banned in China, these filmmakers dodge the censors to get at the true heart of China.


See Review: Cinema Asia (2007):

For some unfathomable reason — I usually keep an eye out for these things — I missed SBS’s broadcast of the five Cinema Asia documentaries when they were shown earlier this year. So I was more than chuffed when Madman kindly sent along a review copy of their DVD release, which packs all five on to two discs.

Cinema Asia is a series covering some of the history and the state today (well, in 2007 when it was made) of five cinema industries in Asia: China, Taiwan, South Korea, India and Iran. Each episode takes a look at the the background of each national cinema, the things that make it unique, and cuts together interviews with actors, critics and prominent directors.

Episode one, China, focuses on post-Cultural Revolution cinema, particularly those films made by the so-called Fifth and Sixth Generation directors, as well as China’s relatively recent emergence as a domestic audience to reckon with. Particular attention is paid to Zhang Yimou’s Hero, which made enough money domestically to focus filmmakers’ minds on big-budget movies for the domestic market. In contrast to these are smaller films made by younger filmmakers; these generally don’t make it into cinemas, and are often sent directly to film festivals overseas (sometimes at the director’s peril) or distributed locally through other channels…

Asian Cinema Cafe looks well worth visiting. See also The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society in Transformation from the Harvard Film Archive and Full Translation of Jia Zhangke’s Essay on Sixth Generation Cinema Now Available.  From the latter:

Jia_Zhangke-300x300I still remember vividly one passage from the newspaper that I bought. It was said that for his film The Days, Wang Xiaoshuai climbed up onto a freight train bound for Baoding in Hebei province to buy cheap black-and-white film stock. I have always imagined it in my head that in those days, the young man must have looked nothing like the puffed old man now; he must have been robust and exuberant. Amongst the numerous howling trains that traversed the bustling Hebei plain was one that once carried a young man with the dream to make films.

Wouldn’t you say that this is also a dream about freedom?

At the time, majority of Chinese were not aware of their agency and did not think much about using film for self-expression. There were 16 state-run studios. Only they had sufficient financial support and grants to make films. All the other film productions were considered “illegal.”

Like the group of people who left state enterprises to do private businesses, many of the independent filmmakers who turned their backs to institutionalized practices became acutely aware of their right for self-expression. Their works testified the credos of the independent film movement by introducing new angles of speech-making that necessarily expanded the freedom for expression and the freedom that people had in society in general. Therefore, I have always regarded the independent film movement as my first lesson on democracy.

I was a 21-year old young man from Shanxi at the time. I had read a few novels, I had a not-so-solid foundation in art, I was a follower of “the Sixth Generation,” and I regarded them as my teachers. I knew that they formed the oppositional force against the authorities, and they were doing everything they could to fight for the freedom for self-expression. Many years later, when I heard others referring to them as an unfathomable community, quixotic Don Quixotes, and ill-timed and deviant monsters, I laughed.

Here’s a poem by the Syrian poet Adonis:

The sea does not have time to chat with the sand,

It is always busy with producing waves.

Adonis is an open-minded poet and is worth applying to “the Sixth Generation.” However, I still want to ask, have we forgotten everything?

If you get a chance, do watch all episodes of Cinema Asia. And think how much more has happened in the six years since its first release!

Well, what do you know?

This appeared in my WordPress Notifications.

Happy Anniversary!


You registered on 7 years ago!

Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging!

I had been blogging for a while on Blogspot and before that on Diary-X, Geocities, Angelfire and Talk City, back to 2000 in fact. I took to WordPress after more than a degree of dissatisfaction with Blogspot and have found WP reliable and definitely always improving. Also tried Journalspace for a while.


06 APR 2006

One of the delights of reading Ruth Park’s autobiographies is the insight they offer into her novels. The rat, for instance, that in Fishing in the Styx (1993) sits on a window-sill, ‘a composed leisurely rat . . . murderous as Set, a kitten-eater’, the sneering and frightening but not otherwise harming rat we’ve already met in The Harp in the South [1948] nibbling a baby. It is ferociously murdered by the child’s mother, the young and once more pregnant Roie, but not before it has run up under her skirt and needed to be beaten off. When Roie dies in childbirth shortly afterwards the reader remembers the rat and lives the horror of it all over again.

I can assure Marion Halligan that the descendants of that rat are alive and well and have been causing havoc on my front balcony and in the garden fronting Belvoir Street.

Perhaps building work at the Belvoir Theatre has made them move down the road a piece?

Anyway, I have taken to leaving nasty surprises for them. Last night two packets were taken. I await results

Don’t Blitz Iran — Brian Cloughley

18 APR 2006

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe Poet has been taking some very good non-erotic photos. The one on the right is called Bellarine Rainbow, and shows the part of the world where he now lives. It is a nice counterpoint to the following.

The Poet has also sent quite a few news items in the past few days. This one he says is a must. I agree. Brian Cloughley was deputy head of the UN mission in Kashmir (1980-1982), Staff Officer 1 (Force Structure) in Australian Army HQ (during which time he was appointed to the Order of Australia, or AM), Director of Protocol for the Australian Defence Force, and Australian defence attache in Islamabad (December 1988 – July 1994). He now lives in New Zealand.

…Even if Cheney and Bush are not lunatic enough to send their cruise missiles and bombers to attack Iran they might manage to have harsh economic sanctions imposed, additional to the unilateral ones in place by the US for years. They usually ignore warning signals, so doubtless they dismissed the unmistakable threat in September 2005 that Iran could endure a self-inflicted cut in oil exports in the national interest of combating what it would consider rabidly hostile action. It is estimated that cutting exports would raise the price of oil to $80-100 a barrel. This wouldn’t matter to the rich in America, who are all that Cheney and Bush care about. But it would matter to the average man and woman who are even now struggling to make ends meet as a result of the rich-supportive tax policy of the present Administration.

There is no point in putting the moral position against attacking Iran. The Cheney-Bush administration has shown itself impervious to argument, and presenting a case against killing thousands of innocent people cuts no ice with blinkered zealots. The planned blitzkrieg of divine strikes will probably take place. It will alter the entire world and create hatred of America that will never be eradicated. And there is nothing we can do about it. At this Easter time (and Thai New Year), God help us all.

By the way, I have cut back on the rants I put up about the state of the world, compared with a couple of years back on the late Diary-X. What is the point? There is little I can add from where I sit. However, people who do have worthwhile things to say may be found in the links on the right.

I do share with The Poet a clear conviction that the patients have taken over the asylum so far this century.

More of my recent reading, some of it controversial

I am currently reading V S Naipaul’s Beyond Belief (1998). According to the London Review of Books (September 1998), linked to the title:

Beyond Belief is the narrative of Naipaul’s five-month journey to India, Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia – a return to the countries he visited, and often the people he interviewed, almost two decades earlier. The book begins by making two major claims. The first is that it is a work of pure transmission through transparent writing: ‘This is a book about people. It is not a book of opinion. It is a book of stories.’ Let the speaks fact for themselves, an impeccable sentiment to be sure. Naipaul, so he tells us, is just a ‘manager of narrative’. All the writer has to do is ‘listen very carefully and with a clear heart to what people say to him’.

‘Is that so?’ the reader mutters, head cocked sceptically at the conjuror’s artless artfulness. The voices will address us directly, in stories without opinion, unsullied by anything save translation and ‘management’? (I recall Christian priests and Muslim ulema in Egypt assuring me with equal fervour that all the other side had to do was to study the Bible/Quran with a sincere heart and conversion would naturally follow. A sigh, with thirteen hundred years of pious disappointment, and polemic, behind it. The trouble is . . .) And isn’t a man who proclaims his own clarity of heart, like the would-be saint who advertises his own deeds as miracles, inviting the irreverent to have a go at him, just to see?

The second claim, a ringing denial of the first, is that the inhabitants of the countries on his itinerary are convert peoples who have adopted the ‘imperial’ religion of Islam. And Muslim converts, even if the conversions took place hundreds of years ago, are fundamentally (and in multiple registers) dislocated – externally, because the holy places are in Arabia and the sacred language is Arabic; internally, because the convert ‘rejects his own’ and lives in fantasies about who and what he is. (Not only the convert, the reader mutters.) He – the convert is nearly always a he – is trapped in an endless repetition of turning and turning away from self and place. Such countries ‘can be easily set on the boil’. This is shallow stuff, which seems to imply that only some autochthonous group which has never converted can have ‘their own’ faith.

The convert, in Beyond Belief, is doomed by this monolithic, ahistorical Islam to neurosis and nihilism, rather than to the rage and resentment of Among the Believers. Either way, it’s a puzzle that Asian Muslims bother with religion at all. Quite apart from the intellectual emptiness of Naipaul’s writing, you wonder at the wilful censoring it takes to pass over in silence the history of different forms of imperial and eagerly conversionist Christianity in Africa, the Americas and Asia – an unfinished history, and as aggressively competitive as any mullah’s dreams of a paradise for a sect. Moreover, Naipaul’s sheer ignorance, or ignoring, of all the different varieties of thought, symbol and practice in which often eclectic forms of Islam have been enmeshed in Asia leaves only strident assertions in place of an argument. His is an Islam which turned the radiance of the Indian sub-continent ‘into the light of a dead star’ and, because of its devotees’ fantasies and confusions, bears all responsibility for the horrors of Partition. The violent and dangerous activities of Hindu nationalists go unremarked….

Needless to say the book has stirred up controversy,  most recently in 2012. See Excerpts: Girish Karnad takes on V.S. Naipaul: Noted playwright claims Naipaul has consistently mischaracterised Indian history. See also Gothic Horror and Muslim Madness in V. S. Naipaul’s Beyond Belief: ‘Orientalist’ Excursions among the Converted People and V S Naipaul and Indian Muslims.

Naipaul says, “Islam is in its origin an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands.” It is true that Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, was revealed in Arab. The seed of this faith, like any other faith, traveled to different parts of the world from that epicentre. However, it is a misnomer to label it as an Arab religion. This term gives the impression that it (Islam) was meant only for the Arabs. A Priori, it may also imply that those non-Arabs who converted to this faith were somehow illegitimate or inferior in doing so. However, it was Islam, which preached the message that no one—Arab, non-Arab, white, black, tall, short—is superior or inferior to any one else, except in terms of piety. Naipaul’s second assertion is historically unsound. The fact is, even the first generation Muslims who became Muslims on the call of prophet Mohammad were converts—converts from their pagan faiths. Not even the prophet was a born Muslim. After he got enlightenment, only then did he become the messenger of God. Taking the logic further, can we ask if we can call the Europeans converted Christians or the American Jews as converts?

And yet – and so far I am still on the first section on Indonesia – the book is really very informative. This reviewer, not entirely unjustly, characterises Naipaul’s method thus:

It is possible, going by the ethics of Beyond Belief to visit a country, select men and women at random, interview them and gather enough material to create a book that supports your pre-formed hypothesis. Though Mr. Naipaul cautions his readers not to arrive at any conclusions based on his work,—how is that possible?—it is easier to jump than to think.

But in Indonesia the “random” men and women included Abdurrahman Wahid, to be President of Indonesia from 1999 to 2001, B J Habibie, President 1998-99 but not at the time of Naipaul’s visit, and influential intellectual Imaduddin. The result is rather better than random and well worth reading in the light of what has happened in Indonesia since c1995.

The book also has major sections on Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia.

A light-hearted comic adventure/crime fiction/thriller set in Korea is among my recent eBooks: Bagged in Korea (2013) by Brent Meske. “Brent is a husband, father, teacher, writer, and sometimes artist living in Seoul Korea, originally from Detroit, Michigan.”  I have not been to Korea but have in the past 25 years had much to do with Koreans.

There am I, third from the left, with a Japanese Christian and Mr Kim from Korea on my right, a couple of Indonesian Muslims, Rui from Tianjin China, two more Indonesians, a Korean, and another Indonesian on my left. It’s a long time ago now, and I have always been better with faces than names. This is just one group from the hundreds of students I came to know in 1990 to early 1991 when I ventured into the overseas student world. Most were those Chinese who had left their country in the wake of Tiananmen. Rui, for example, was a scientist.

Some of them did experience racism or at least xenophobia, often of the petty kind: finding people would not sit next to them in the train, for example. (On the other hand, I read of a black American in Korea who found an entire swimming pool suddenly empty of people when he dived in.) Some of them, like the thirteen Nepalese mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald today, found themselves conned or ripped off, though the perpetrators were quite often of the same ethnicity as the fleeced. Some overseas student agencies were ethical and indeed excellent, as is still the case, but some were shysters. Some private colleges were shonky, very shonky, and some were not. Some were owned by Indonesians or Chinese, some were not.

One Korean student reported racism to me once: taxis would not stop for him. I investigated by asking him what he did to hail a cab. He demonstrated with a hand movement which would work in Korea, but in Sydney would be interpreted as “I don’t want a cab.” Correct hand movement taught, the problem was solved.

June 2009

A sample from Bagged in Korea:

Simon’s become my lifeline, and that makes him my best friend. Instead, I pull out a green man won bill and hand it to him, then gesture inside.

He looks like I have just resuscitated his puppy. Am I Santa Claus? Am I God? Should he bow before me and pay tribute by chopping off a finger? I can’t help but chuckle at the blind adoration on Simon’s face. Kids here, apparently, don’t go roaming around with lots of cash.

Simon comes back out a minute later with a packet of ramyun and a bottle of Amino Up. These are two Korean favorites. The first is just like ordinary ramen noodles, only my kids like to eat them as snacks. The second is essentially Pocari Sweat with a sensible name.

“Hey Simon…”

“Yes teacher?” He’s so prompt, so clipped and quick.

“When do you usually go to bed?” Because when I was twelve or thirteen, I headed to hit the hay around ten or ten thirty. We’re well past that.

“Twelve maybe?” he sort of asks.

“You mean you don’t know?”

He shrugs. “I do homework first. Finish, and sleep.”17

Those footnotes, gathered at the end of the novel, are a treat in themselves.

17: This means homework every day. Homework for his elementary school, his piano school, math school, science school, English school, and any other academies he might have.

A custom replicated by Koreans in Sydney – and see my On welfare issues with Korean-Australian students (2007).

Another footnote from the novel:

I didn’t know this before, but there are about 28,000 [US] troops stationed in Korea. There are bases all up and down the country, from up in Uijeongbu near the DMZ, down to Pohang and back. Around a hundred and eighty American military bases spot the South Korean landscape.

Finally another eBook that is hot (in several ways) and deals very directly with the issue of adolescent homosexuality: Richard Campbell, The Natural Couple (2004).

Set in London in the nineteen seventies, the story concerns fifteen year old Martin Jackson, the product of a broken home who lives with his career oriented and domineering mother. In spite of his talent he is a diffident boy, and struggling to come to terms with himself and his sexual orientation. When he meets Jimmy, three years older than he is, his life takes on a new meaning. Jimmy eventually comes to love him, encourages his writing, appoints himself as his protector and is determined to remove him from his mother’s oppressive influence.

The book contains explicit gay sex scenes. If you would be upset or offended by them, please do not download it.

The title itself is a provocation.

“I would like to ask you just one question James,” she began.

          Jimmy who was seldom called by his full name stared at her and looked impossibly insolent.  She decided to plunge straight in instead of building up to her point gradually as she’d planned.

          “Did you know when you indulged in those,practices, that they were wrong, and that you were both breaking the law?” she snapped.

          If she had hoped to intimidate him, she missed her mark.

          “I didn’t believe that they were wrong then, and I don’t believe they were wrong now,” he replied, then went on before she could speak.  “As for your second question,” there was a titter from the public gallery which inflamed her further, making her flush slightly.  “As for your second question,” he repeated, enjoying it, “It’s the law that’s wrong.  Not what Jon and I did.”

          Martha noted the judge’s reaction to this out of the corner of her eye and determined to pin him down.  “Will you repeat that please?”

          “I said that it’s the law that’s wrong, ” Jimmy said in a clear, carrying voice.

“Have you studied law?” she asked in a cold voice.

          “No, of course I haven’t.  But I don’t have to have to be a lawyer like you to know hypocrites when I see them.”

Yes, the sex, when it occurs,  is very explicit, so  be warned – and yet I would hesitate to call it pornographic. The book is in fact very well written and raises some very serious issues. I did find aspects of the plot stretched credibility a little. The protagonists may perhaps be just too aware, at times.


  “Thank you My Lord.  Now Jimmy, please tell us why you feel the law is wrong.”

          “It discriminates against me because I’m a boy.  I’m sixteen and I was sixteen when I fell in love with Jon.  If I was a girl, I could have an affair with anyone I liked and no-one could say anything about it, or do anything about it.  And if I had sex with a girl, provided she was sixteen too, it would be the same.  But because I’m a boy, I have to wait five years before I can have sex with who I want to.  It is unfair, and it is hypocritical, and it is notright, and it is not just! I don’t think that any other group of people is discriminated against like this because of the way they are born.  People like me don’t choose to be the way we are, it just happens.  And for people to be persecuted for the way they are born is the sort of thing that happened hundreds of years ago.  I think it’s time it was stopped.  That’s why I think the law is wrong.”

          “Is there anything else you would like to add?”

          “Just one thing, sir,” he said ignoring the judge’s irritated movement.  “I was doing a project on the second world war at school last term and I found out that boys just a year older than me were called up to fight and I realised that if we had a war again, I could be sent to fight and probably killed in a few months time when I turned seventeen.  The government that makes the laws can send boys to fight knowing that lots of them will die while they sit safely in parliament, not doing any of the fighting and not taking any chances themselves.   I would be old enough to be killed according to the law, but I would not be old enough to choose what sort of sex I can have.  I can vote when I’m eighteen, but I can’t choose what sort of sex I have.  I’m responsible enough to drive a car when I’m seventeen which can kill lots of innocent people if I’m not careful, but I can’t choose to go to bed with a boy or a man.  A type of sex that does no harm to anyone, is more important than dying for my country or killing people on the roads! If that isn’t wrong and if that isn’t hypocritical, I don’t know what is.”

          There was silence for a minute when he finished.  He was panting slightly and a lock of his dark blonde hair had fallen over his forehead.  Jonathan felt his heart turn over with love, and marvelled at how much he had grown up in the months that they had known each other.