Changes in clubland here in The Gong

I even amazed myself when I came back to The Gong just over ten years ago by joining some local clubs, not having really been the club type before — except for The Teachers Club in Surry Hills. So in fairly short order I joined Illawarra Steelers, City Diggers and The Hellenic Club (the nearest actually). Lately I have added The Illawarra Leagues Club which has now morphed into Collegians. Two reasons — the need for a social life and to meet (or in some cases meet again!) people, and to get good nourishing meals.

For some time the prize in the meals department went to The Hellenic Club. The lovely Sophia served up the most generous meals imaginable at ridiculous prices, and on Fridays there was a Greek as-much-as-you-can-eat buffet that was out of this world.

Here is the $8 roast lamb of August 2012:

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I had a few of those! The club unfortunately made very little profit as Sophia was perhaps over generous! These days, rather oddly, they have a Korean Barbecue!

Then at Steelers there was a succession of Asian restaurants, beginning with The Steel Wok (run by a Vietnamese but serving generic Chinese) — which was not bad. A typical meal ten years ago, Meal: $6.95 White wine: $2.30.

I see from my blog files that I joined Steelers in December 2010, and Diggers in January 2011. More on them shortly.

They did a pretty good pho too.

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Steelers in 2012 had a different Chinese restaurant, which was quite good. They tried yum cha, but it never really worked as the numbers were not there.

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That restaurant was called Long Quan, and by 2013 had been replaced by the Red Dragon whose chef was an expert in Sichuan food. It was possibly the best Chinese restaurant I have been to, as I was telling my nephew Warren on Facebook today. My friend Chris Turner, who is a chef, will back me up!

The last one, the Red Dragon, was wonderful — Sichuan food and one of the best Chinese restaurants I have ever been in. This was their beef hotpot. They also did a wonderful whole steamed fish, and something called Chairman Mao Pork, which apparently was his favourite.

An example of the steamed fish, in fact from Christmas Day 2013.

But (in my opinion, and that of Chris who has never been back to Steelers since) the Club pulled a rather dirty trick on our brilliant chef.

They kept the poor guy on serving cheap food while the kitchen and club had big renos, letting him think he would be back when all was done, but instead they installed a new couple from Canberra who are more the seafood and grill kind, some dishes quite up-market (like $52!) and that lot are still there. Their specials are good though and given I am pissed off with the changes at Diggers I will be eating there again, beginning tomorrow even! 

So probably by the time you read this I will have had at least one lunch at Steelers, and the specials are pretty good.

Now let’s look at a wonderful bargain of a Monday at City Diggers back in 2015 — the $10 lunch.

That’s two courses for $10. I could have had soup and roast beef, but opted for vegetarian lasagne and dessert.

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Diggers has lately merged with the Wollongong Golf Club, or as it now appears, has been taken over by them. The full extent of the change is only now becoming apparent, most recently the vanishing of the coffee shop which was for me the club’s most endearing feature.

Now just a memory!

There is also a new menu, which strives to be rather more upmarket than the ones we had been used to for ten years past — including those $12 fish-and-chips once so loved by hordes of Chinese tourists! Not being totally thrilled by bangers and mash at $6 a banger (admittedly home-made), nor entranced by falafels served with the merest smear of hummus — even in they were Egyptian falafels. And you can get much better falafels at Samaras in Wollongong for less — much better! In fact (as a former resident of Surry Hills Little Lebanon I speak) among the best felafels I have ever had.

I have now parted company with Diggers as a place to eat, thus far favouring Collegians/Illawarra Leagues where the seafood special last Friday at $7.95 (fish, calamari, chips, salad) was perfectly acceptable. There are plenty of other good dishes around the $15-20 mark as well.

Let me finish however with another memory of the Red Dragon! Chairman Mao Pork! Melt in the mouth! This is Adam Liaw’s version, and I venture to suggest the Red Dragon’s was even tastier. Even if when we asked the rather cheeky student Chinese waiter what it was, he simply said: “Fat!”

Adam Liaw says: “Red-braised pork could well be the national dish of China. For a cuisine as diverse as China’s, the provinces can’t even agree on a staple grain – to generalise, in the south it’s rice; in the north, wheat, millet or barley – let alone a style of cooking. The one constant seems to be red-braised pork. It exists in dozens of regional cuisines, and Chairman Mao loved the dish so much that in his birthplace of Hunan province it even took his name.”

From my blog — January 2011 — ten years on

So relevant still to recent concerns!

Being Australian 13: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 6

Posted on  by Neil

Like Jim Belshaw I watched Faces of America (or part thereof) before seeing Immigration Nation on SBS last night. I will give my thoughts on both tomorrow.

In this post I continue exploring the scary monster of multiculturalism.

Amazing how nominalisation can convert a word into a scary monster. I suspect the -ism makes multicultural much scarier than it was before, just as adding an -ism to a rather positive word, cosmopolitan, would cause anxiety too. Try on cosmopolitanism for size!

My view is that what has evolved here, which I shamelessly and fondly think of as inclusive multiculturalism, is actually quite a conservative and pragmatic affair, hardly a monster at all. In fact purist multiculturalismists often criticise it as window dressing, as a cunning way to manage migrants. There’s some truth in that, and I say — what a good thing! In some ways inclusive multiculturalism has been quite utilitarian, aiming for the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

So too another word that favours -ion rather than -ism, though I suppose you could have assimilationism. Oh dear, I see we already have!

as·simi·la·tion·ism (-iz′əm) noun: the policy of completely absorbing minority cultural groups into the main cultural body, esp. by intermarriage

To observant Jews assimilationism has long been a very scary monster. Only by consciously resisting full assimilation were diaspora Jews able to preserve their culture.

There can be no doubt that once we in Australia embarked post-1945 on mass immigration assimilationism was the favoured method for achieving the dream of cultural homogeneity. Only there was a problem. When it did work it wasn’t entirely a good thing. Losses occurred. In many cases it just didn’t work. Some wogs just wouldn’t give up aspects of themselves and of their cultures which they saw not only as keys to their self-respect but also superior to what Australia offered them. Often they were right, and educated the rest of us accordingly, thus improving their adopted country.

On loss, consider William Yang. William I know and have even been photographed by. He’s also the same age I am, and I can’t blame his parents for their decision to make sure William Young, as he once was, growing up in rural Queensland was as assimilated as possible. The result may have been thirty years of anguish for William, but that wasn’t the intention. After all, when William and I were growing up people like William were still being deported.

Those extracts are from a talk William Yang gave in the early 1990s. M and I were in the audience. I subsequently published it in my book From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt (Longmans 1995).

Here is how William achieved personal integration, undoing the impact of assimilation.

Is he any less Australian now that he has embraced his forgotten culture? Of course not. Inclusive multiculturalism facilitated and justified his journey.

Or take Professor Martin Krygier. This is from his 1997 Boyer Lectures: Between Fear and Hope.

…There’s no way ultimately to resolve conflicts over values, but that doesn’t mean that anything goes. There are ways of arguing about values, and some ways and some values are more defensible than others. Some, indeed, are indefensible, as I will seek to show. Others, mine as it happens, are solid as rocks. Or so I want to believe. If I were a philosopher, I would simply rely on the power of my argument to convince you to share my values. But I’m not, so I will say something about their sources and character to try to convey why I find them attractive and why they matter so to me. Of course, I would not be disappointed if you found them attractive as well. I’m an Australian. I was born, brought up and educated here. I have spent the bulk of my life here. I watch cricket for days without being bored. I expect Christmas to be hot. These facts are central to my make-up. Were they otherwise, so would I be. And yet they’re not the only pieces that make me up. For, like so many Australians, I’m the lucky beneficiary of other people’s tragedies, most immediately those of my parents. That, too, is relevant to who I am and what I think about.

My parents arrived here during the Second World War, Polish-Jewish refugees from Nazism. Their lives, families, friendships and country were ripped apart. Both my mother’s parents and her brother were murdered by the Nazis; other relatives spent years fighting or being imprisoned by them, and what was left of the family was dispersed. My parents left Poland from necessity, arrived in Australia by accident, and stayed because, after the Communist take-over of Poland, they couldn’t go home. They came to love this country and to participate actively in its affairs, but that was later. I mention these far from exceptional facts not to claim some exotic authority for my views, nor – in accordance with a budding Australian tradition – to launch a prizewinning novel but because they inform the way I think about things, what I think about and – above all – what I think matters. Combined with my birthplace, they have made me what I am: a congenital cultural hybrid, a hybrid from birth. If you prefer, a mongrel. My parents were already hybrids in Poland, since they were culturally both Polish and Jewish. So, their lives were already complicated. They became Australian hybrids differently, however, over time. What they came to learn and expect, and grew to be, in Australia interacted with their already formed personalities and cultural identities. Their hybrid condition was acquired, as is that of most, if not all adult migrants: they become different from what they once were while remaining different from those among whom they now are. Since over 20 per cent of Australians were born overseas, and 40 per cent were either so born or their parents were, there are a lot of us about.

There is also a third sort of hybrid, and I’m one of them too. I study the societies of post-communist Europe, and their fate matters a lot to me. So I’m also a vocational hybrid: coming from one world, and preoccupied with another. That also has consequences. When I’m there I think of here; when here, of there. That makes comparisons ever-present and unavoidable. All hybrids are affected, some afflicted, by overlapping cultural residues within them. They often discover to their surprise, rather than as a matter of deliberate choice, aspects of their personality – their sense of identity, belonging, sometimes longing – which define them and have moulded them, whether they like it or not…

Hybridism rather than assimilation. This is what so often happened, often for the better as far as the whole country was concerned.

Third, consider the poet Peter Skrzynecki.

Australian poet Peter Skrzynecki writes about his experiences teaching in NSW, his migrant upbringing in suburban Sydney and his attempts to assimilate, ‘fit in’ and overcome the challenges of a new life in a new land.

Of Polish Ukrainian descent, Peter was born in Germany in 1945. Escaping a world in turmoil, his family emigrated to Australia in 1949. Peter’s earliest memories of this time is the month long sea journey to Sydney on the “General Blatchford” and his time living in a migrant camp in Bathurst before moving on to the Parkes Migrant Centre. To Peter this camp was his first Australian home.

The family later moved to 10 Mary Street in the working class suburb of Regents Park in Sydney It was their castle. Peter’s father, Feliks, of whom he often writes, worked long as a labourer for the Water Board, while his mother, Kornelia spent her days working as a domestic for families in Strathfield. They grew their own vegetables and had a magnificent flower garden. Within four years number 10 Mary Street had been paid off. While his parents worked, Peter attended the local Catholic primary school and later St Patrick’s College Strathfield. Thanks to an English teacher, Brian Couch, Peter’s love of literature was fostered and his writing flourished…

His first book, There, Behind the Lids was published in 1970 followed by Headwaters in 1972 and Immigrant Chronicle in 1975. In the first two Peter wrote mainly of his experiences teaching in the country, reflecting on the natural world, the people, flora and fauna. In the third Peter wrote about his European background, his experiences as a migrant in Australia, the problems associated with being an exile, with his parents’ dispossession and the difficulties, such as racism, bigotry and resettlement, encountered by them and other immigrants in trying to assimilate to a new life in a new land.

His anthology Joseph’s coat (1985) identifies the themes and issues of Australia’s multicultural society.

Often his work is about understanding and counting the cost of assimilation.

You may find here an essay I wrote on his work. It also brings together some of the thoughts we have had so far in this series.

— And another thing: lunch at Illawarra Steelers Australia Day 2011 — Meal: $6.95 White wine: $2.30.

Being bi- or multilingual — not one of my accomplishments, sadly!

Given the last 30 years, personally and professionally — living with a Chinese person for some years, being around many Chinese people, teaching ESL — I find this fascinating, and embarrassing, because I am really monolingual, even though I did French and Latin at school.

In the video which follows, the young man’s trilingualism is amazing!

Mind you, Michael Xu is also trilingual (at least) with Shanghainese as a first language and Mandarin as his language of education and his national language. Oh, and English now, of course.

Quite a few of the boys I taught at SBHS were similarly blessed, and not all of them Chinese — speakers of Tamil, for example. Multilingualism is a really good thing — and in general we don’t value it enough in Australia.Insisting all Australians should speak only English is really stupid and short-sighted.

The vlogger is touting a language app, Babbel, which may well be good, or maybe not — thought I would mention it as he does do a commercial for it…

No major political axes to grind that I could see. And he is in New York.It is just interesting!

I am not surprised to see that I have posted on this topic during my ESL days:

Being bilingual – language and thought

08 December 2006

Sunetra Gupta – Language and thinking (full transcript from a Radio National Saturday Breakfast broadcast 16 July 2005). Sadly not available in 2020!

I hope teachers and parents find these reflections on being multilingual informative, and her extrapolation from her experience to the workings of language and thought is certainly interesting.

The talk could double as a text for Year 12 on Journeys. “The complex times we live in need a language that will help us understand them. Language affects how we think, how we experience life and how we understand our experiences. Sunetra Gupta spoke on this at the 12th International Conference on Thinking — she is a reader in the epidemiology of infectious disease — and she publishes complex, interesting novels, which draw on her rich cultural background.”

My exposure to a second language occurred at a very early age – almost as I was learning to speak — for I was just over a year old when my parents moved to Ethiopia from Calcutta — which is where I was born, and still, in most senses, belong to. The Ethiopians were, and I am sure still are, a very proud people, and foreigners had no option but to learn their language Amharic (which has the same roots as Hebrew) if they were to survive there. This my parents did most willingly, as it was their interest in other cultures and languages that had brought them there in the first place. I, of course, acquired it naturally and spoke it alongside my mother tongue with ease — as most bilingual children clearly do. Thus, language was never a monolithic construct for me, and I was sensitized to the distance between a word and its referrent almost as I became conscious.

I am not aware that being exposed this early to two languages had any particular consequences for my personal development, and Amharic is now completely lost to me, or if not lurks so deep in the recesses of my mind that it may as well not be there. In some ways, I was not even conscious of navigating between two languages, and so did not learn one of the most valuable lessons from the process of unglueing word from object — which to my mind is tolerance.

Indeed, when we moved to Zambia when I was four, and I was suddenly surrounded by English speaking children, I reacted with anger rather than bewilderment – how dare they speak in a language I do not understand! — I remember thinking. Soon of course I was speaking English fluently myself, and it has occupied a prominent position in my life ever since, although I still refuse to grant it — quite irrationally of course — the same seat in my heart as my mother tongue.

So, just to summarise where I have got to so far in terms of the relationship between language and thought by indulging in my own early experiences — the demolition of a one to one correspondence between word and object is the simplest useful byproduct of learning more than one language — and in my view this is a critical step towards truly internalising the concept of tolerance, the acceptance of different styles and faiths. And although an early exposure to more than one language may have benefits with regard to fluency in both tongues, I think that too early an exposure actually detracts from the perception of the relationship between word and object as not being fixed and absolute…

2020: I have not examined this in detail but Macquarie University has a Multilingualism Research Centre.

Multilingualism is key to Australia’s multicultural future. Located in Australia’s most multilingual city, with one of Australia’s largest concentrations of language and education researchers, Macquarie University is ideally placed to take the lead in multilingualism research. The Multilingualism Research Centre aims to:

  • foster interdisciplinary research on multilingualism across Macquarie University,
  • build research collaborations with multilingualism researchers in Australia and overseas,
  • build partnerships with community organizations in New South Wales to provide research-based support on multilingual policies and practices.

Interdisciplinary collaboration and community engagement lie at the heart of our approach to research that aims to enhance the quality of life in a multilingual world.

The Centre is hosted by the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences (FMHHS), and sponsored by the Linguistics Department in FMHHS and the School of Education in the Faculty of Arts.

My no-comment comment — and identity

Note: I have rendered the name of the commenter on the now deleted comment thread anonymous.

Poor Jim Belshaw probably doesn’t quite know what hit him.

After a quiet run of blog entries attracting few if any comments (same here — I think blogging in general is down in this area, almost certainly because social media attract more attention) his (I think) excellent post China’s apparently expanding Great Wall against Australia has now reached 24 comments. Mind you, they are all Marcellous, X—-, myself or Jim. They do tend to wander off Jim’s main points — and I am as guilty as any on that. Marcellous (who I thought had been disrespectfully treated by X—-) returned with some detailed amplification, X—- held out an olive branch to me (which I accepted) and then responded to Marcellous’s latest.

Which was kind of interesting. Marcellous had said: “Are you saying today’s Chinese in Australia just need to toughen up?” X—- replied:

marcellous, I wouldn’t simply dismiss their concerns with a throwaway such as “they just need to toughen up” – but it is close to truth that successive waves of mostly successful immigrants have at first been looked down upon as a group, then gradually respected for who they are as individuals, while discarding the basically monolithic identity they arrived with.

From the Jewish and other middle Europeans before and during WW2, through the 10 pound poms, and Italians, and Greeks, Vietnamese, etc. they’ve each and all had to “fit in”, rather than maintain a separation of group identity. “Today’s Chinese” are no different.

“They’re A Weird Mob” is one of the best commentaries upon 50s Australia ever written, and that’s now old history, but its lesson is still relevant imo.

“toughen up” is not the right term, but the attitude, individually, would help.

To be fair, X—- hedges what he says there. But he is expressing a view I have often heard. I replied with a no-comment comment, and some incidental bitching about Blogger. Since I am not on Blogger now, I have done some corrections and a slight edit.

For consideration, not in any way to be taken as dogma. Glad to see Marcellous amplifying his remarks. I can tell you that my … friend Michael Xu from Shanghai, who also has warm regard for the Taiwanese — indeed finding their version of Chinese culture in some respects superior to the Mainland — and yes, he has spent time in Taiwan not long ago — reacts to the more (shall we say?) Fierravanti-Wells/Abetz characterisations of China with greater rather than less desire to stick up for what the motherland has accomplished, to be more rather than less China-patriotic in reaction to what he sees as ignorance, hypocrisy or even racism. I can well understand his position and am sure it is not uncommon among Chinese-born Australians. As he puts it, Australia is my father and China is my mother.

That is a rather more profound expression of the way people really feel than sentimental memories of “They’re a Weird Mob” which is both outdated and actually quite patronising and embarrassing now. Actually, it was both of those even at the time.

(A side matter for a second: the comment thingie on Blogger is also outdated and sucks — you cannot for example add a video, which I want to do, nor can you revise a comment once sent. It is still as crappy as when I gave up Blogger over ten years ago.)

Now back to my next point. There is a brilliant 12-year-old Chinese Australian violinist called Christian Li.The only way I can show you how good he is is to refer you at the end to one of my posts — but he understands what being Chinese in Australia really means in 2020, not 1950. If you go to my post at the end — and it is pure enjoyment, not politics — you must watch “Fisherman’s Harvest Song.” It is lovely. He says of it “I chose this piece because it connects me to my Chinese heritage through music. The beautiful melody in the opening expresses the fisherman’s strong emotion as he returns to his village after being at sea. I love being able to express this heartfelt song through the singing quality of the violin.”

I would also strongly recommend searching out anything by French writer Amin Maalouf. “On Identity” is a key book. Search because crap Blogger does not really allow for hypertext.

I also very strongly recommend that you do not reply to this post, X— — and I say that respectfully. I am not setting up arguments here, just doing what I would hope to do if we were face to face: show you some things and leave you to take or leave them. I am definitely not being contentious, but rather speaking of what I know.

Here you will find Christian Li. Simply enjoy it. Do not bother arguing with it or me. This is a very different kind of comment. I do not look for a response. What you make of it is up to you.

And of course I want you to enjoy Christian Li again.

On Facebook I did a version of the no-comment comment.

Given all the argy-bargy about China-Australian relations, and the neo-McCarthyism of such as Fierravanti-Wells and Abetz, this then 12 year old (now 13) says something quite profound about identity — which that pair of migrant-sourced senators really should understand but apparently do not: “I chose this piece because it connects me to my Chinese heritage through music. The beautiful melody in the opening expresses the fisherman’s strong emotion as he returns to his village after being at sea. I love being able to express this heartfelt song through the singing quality of the violin.”

Or as my friend Michael Xu has said: “Australia is my father; China is my mother.”

Or as Amin Maalouf wrote: “To those who ask, I explain with patience that I was born in Lebanon, lived there until the age of 27, that Arabic is my first language and I discovered Dickens, Dumas and “Gulliver’s Travels” in the Arabic translation, and I felt happy for the first time as a child in my village in the mountains, the village of my ancestors where I heard some of the stories that would help me later write my novels. How could I forget all of this? How could I untie myself from it? But on another side, I have lived on the French soil for 22 years, I drink its water and wine, my hands caress its old stones everyday, I write my books in French and France could never again be a foreign country.

“Half French and half Lebanese, then? Not at all! The identity cannot be compartmentalized; it cannot be split in halves or thirds, nor have any clearly defined set of boundaries. I do not have several identities, I only have one, made of all the elements that have shaped its unique proportions….”

First, let me say that They’re a Weird Mob is bloody funny, and still is. I am not pulling a “cancel culture” trick on it. I am generally speaking opposed to cancel culture. But both the book and the movie are dated, and certainly do not address the complexity of the reality of cultural and personal identity. While it on the one hand did much to address prejudice — the book especially — against what at the time were often called “wogs” or “reffos”, its message basically was the official policy of the time — assimilation, which unfortunately tended to involve the elimination of the culture, customs and language of the home country in favour of those of the new.

This policy was basically unrealistic and sometimes destructive. In the 1970s we heard of “multiculturalism”, a term much misunderstood and mistaken for encouragement of ghettos. In reality it is a policy of enrichment, of integration into Australian society but also of recognition that this works both ways — that what we know as “Australia” grows with the addition of other ways of life and thought.

Love it still! Very nostalgic, and some great actors there….

Consider this meditation on the subject, published in 2008:

Every family has a claim to fame and ours is this: we’re related to Nino Culotta. That counted for a lot as a child of the ’70s and surpassed all other family feats, past and present, including a grandfather with a dozen published books and a great-grandfather (his father) who became a barrister in his 50s after being forced off the land due to drought with eight children and a piano.

It’s 50 years since Nino Culotta published his rollicking bestseller They’re A Weird Mob, about arriving from Italy on a ship and finding work as a brickies’ labourer in Punchbowl, where he struggled to comprehend and eventually master the Aussie vernacular and ingratiate himself by bellowing, in a near perfect Aussie accent, “Howyergoinmateorright?”

But what I have never understood is how he got away with it. How did John O’Grady write a book pretending to be Nino Culotta when he was actually someone else entirely and still be warmly embraced, revered even, by the nation? Helen Darville was hammered 35 years later for wearing peasant blouses and feigning Ukrainian ancestry for her award-winning novel. James Frey was rebuked on Oprah for fabricating large parts of his memoir. And Norma Khouri was pilloried for not being a Jordanian woman who had witnessed honour killings, as she claimed in Forbidden Love.

And this: Frank Bongiorno, Island stories –Negotiating identity between different Italies.

Many of my own generation of Australian-­born Aeolian Australians became quite detached from the cultures of their parents and grandparents, even as they also experienced fragments of these cultures in their daily lives – through food, snatches of the Aeolian dialect and barely articulated habits of mind – such as the instinctive turn to extended family when you needed or wanted something, and the desire to touch government only with a very long pair of tongs. Some, like me, entering their twenties, donned backpacks and used the financial rewards of professional jobs of which their grandparents would not have dared dream to visit their ancestral homelands. Now, as we get older, we travel there in more comfort. Relatives on my father’s side of the family assemble on Salina every few years for a family reunion.

Their Australian story has been the familiar one of migrant success, as celebrated in From Volcanoes We Sailed: Connecting Aeolian Generations, an exhibition at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum in 2016. Curated by my cousin, Cristina Neri, the Aeolian-­Australian experience was seen to be embodied in business and professional success, cultural continuity and a thriving family life. There was a great deal of nostalgia about food and families, and a sense that modernity and the passing of the migrant generation threaten both. When Russo wrote about the Melbourne Aeolian Club in 1986, she thought its future ‘precarious’, since the migrant generations were getting old, the community was well integrated and the young seemed little interested in maintaining these connections.

They’re A Weird Mob is one of the best commentaries upon 50s Australia ever written, and that’s now old history, but its lesson is still relevant imo.” Yes it is still bloody funny! But no, it is not at all adequate if you are trying to understand how identity works in 21st century Australia. Michael Xu is much more informative when he says “Australia is my father; China is my mother.”

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This August 2019 post visits some of the same issues, and also shows how different in many ways 2020 has become — thanks to COVID-19.

The post covers much more that is relevant to China policy than the following personal story — but that story encapsulates how so many Chinese people must see their country’s progress and how they most likely feel about it. It also has the advantage of being relatable and easy to understand.

What M knows from personal experience — and he was last in China just this year — is that the lives of his family in Shanghai and of the people around are immeasurably better than they were, materially and also spiritually, in that however much the government tries to control them travel and access to foreign ideas, including democratic ones, are far more possible now than they were at any time in M’s first 25 years. He can remember the final phase of the Cultural Revolution, and famine (in part man-made of course) when there was nothing to eat but cabbage. As a child M recalls enviously watching his neighbours eat.

On the William Yang retrospective

There is an excellent interview just published in The Sydney Sentinel.

The septuagenarian’s portfolio is being exhibited in a retrospective at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) from March to August, 2021. Seeing and Being Seen will include a substantial selection of Yang’s art, from very early photographs through to a completely new work. 

“It’s a pretty good chunk of my work. It covers my themes, there’s growing up in North Queensland, my Chinese identity … visits to China. Then, there’s also the gay scene. I do kind of show a bit of a preference to cultural diversity.

“And then there’s a huge section which is just pictures of people socially engaging.”

Yang has photographed many incredibly famous people, including the Queen, Kylie Minogue, Patrick White, Mel Gibson, Cate Blanchett and the Dalai Lama, to name a few. Yet, he’s modest to the point of disinterest when it comes to discussing celebrities – he is much more interested in discovering and immortalising people hidden in the crevices of society…

And he has photographed me, and to much more effect, Michael Xu. On that last see my 2009 post Memorabilia 20: M and William Yang.

M’s memorabilia, not mine. This was taken by internationally famous Australian photographer William Yang at the party M held for M’s being granted Australian citizenship in 1997. I was at the party.

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The photo was used as the cover shot in one of William’s exhibitions.

In 2013 I posted William Yang on ABC tonight. In that post is a video.

There are in that post links to photos from Michael’s 2009 Chinese New Year Party, where I took this photo of William.

Finally, there is an excellent video from 2009 by the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art.