Proud of my old school/workplace

I mention the old place quite often, but there is a special reason to do so today, thanks to the class of 2017:

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Chances are you have seen the story and the video, as it has gone viral. George Takei featured it on his Facebook page, for example, taking it from UK Channel Four News.

SBS reported thus:

A Sydney Boys High school student stands on the school’s grounds and looks into the camera.

“Feminism is important to me because a few months ago a guy decided for me that I wanted to have sex with him,” he says.

“I didn’t want to.”

For a moment the audience may wonder if he’s referring to his own experience.

Text appears across the screen: “We asked the women in our lives why feminism is important to them.

“This is what they said.”

The video, which students at Sydney Boys High School posted to Facebook for International Women’s Day, then cuts to another male student.

“Feminism is important to me because despite being a fully qualified vet, a woman recently told me I would not be able to go out to her farm and pull a calf because it would be too hard for me.

“I went out there and I pulled that calf.”

Another student says: “Feminism is important to me because when I give directions at work I get called a bitch rather than a leader, and bossy rather than assertive.”

And another: “Feminism is important to me because my Dad doesn’t think I can be an engineer and my Mum doesn’t think I can be an economist because that’s too hard for a girl.”…

Student leaders decided to produce the video to raise awareness about gender equality, deputy principal Rachel Powell told SBS News.

The boys were in a sport class at the time of publication and were not available for comment.

Ms Powell said it was disturbing that the boys were able to come up with such “shocking experiences of sexism so easily from talking to the women in their lives”.

The students have been taking part in ‘One Woman Gender, Inequality and Feminism’ workshops this week.

Sydney Boys High School will be fundraising for programs sponsored by UN Women by selling purple ribbons and holding a breakfast on Thursday.

Do also watch this video from the same school in 2011.

What was I up to in March 2012?

Five years on from the post before last.

The Cock House at Fellsgarth

Given this is Mardi Gras weekend you may well wonder, but in fact this is a school story by Talbot Baines Reed which I have just read as an eBook. More years ago than I care to admit to I read his The Fifth Form at St Dominic’s but had never encountered The Cock House before, so naturally I was curious. In brief it is tosh and rubbish, but not entirely a waste of time. Having been a teacher for so long I would have to fail Reed on mere educational grounds. The schools he describes would never cut it in NAPLAN! They really are quite awful places really, seriously…

I see there is a Facebook page for the COOK House at Felsgarth… Hmmm.

Much more worthwhile is Alec Waugh’s The Loom of Youth, which I am currently reading on Baby Toshiba.

My eBook collection of freebies now exceeds 500 titles!

Alas poor Baby Toshiba

My companion in hospital last year, and a faithful little servant in the tail end of my tuition in Chinatown, latterly to be seen in my company in clubs and pubs from Surry Hills to The Gong.

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Oh Baby Toshiba, why won’t you boot up any more? You just turn on and almost instantly turn off again…!

Only on the Internet: back to 1954

Had an email the other day from the son of my Year 6 teacher at Sutherland Boys Primary in 1954. He had found 09 — My Teachers in my Ninglun’s Specials archive.

Grade 6 1954

The second principle Andrew Metcalfe and Ann Game derive from their corpus of interviews is:

Good teaching recognises the unique potential of each student. This is not the same as an expectation or a prediction; it is seeing students in their wholeness, as they are now. The teacher’s responsibility is to nurture students and draw out their potential by opening them to new worlds. Thus teaching is inherently ethical, allowing students to find their place in and to contribute to the world.


I would like to name Mister O’Neil, my Year 6 teacher at Sutherland Public School (or Sutherland Boys Primary as it was then, now a “special” school) in 1954, the year of the Royal Visit. I still vividly remember (among other things) going with my maternal grandfather — another inspiring teacher — through the fence and beside the track to wait for the (then) sheer magic of seeing the Royal Train go through, and Mister O’Neil rehearsed us over and over to perform appropriate songs, including a late Vera Lynn called “She’s the Queen of Everyone’s Hearts”, at the Sutherland School of Arts, where my mother won an electric jug in a raffle.

World War II was after all less than ten years before; indeed I was enrolled at Sutherland in 1949. My father had been in the RAAF.

The thing about Mister O’Neil is that he had a class of fifty or so students, all in a portable class room that baked in summer. Hardly any of the boys had shoes. Cast-off bits of military uniform were fashionable; no such thing as a school uniform, or (I may add indelicately) underpants. There were a few quite talented kids in 6A; I was a bit up myself, I’m afraid, because even though I took every August off to have bronchitis, and also that year had mumps followed by orchitis (nasty) and pancreatitis, I still managed to top the class, despite my rather alarming (and continuing) innumeracy. He let us have our heads, really. We produced school newspapers, in which I wrote and illustrated serials that were rather like Biggles, and also devised crossword puzzles. Every Friday we “broadcast” our plays over the school’s PA system.

When I was selected to go to Sydney Boys High my parents were against it, mainly because of the travelling which, combined with my absent-mindedness that led to my once almost being run over at a pedestrian crossing, they felt would not suit me. I guess they were also worried about my health. My mother at that time, I might add, was invalided with a clot in the leg, so I was also cooking dinner every night, following instructions emanating from my mother’s bedroom. She used to say what I cooked for the dogs smelt more appetising than what I made for the family — chops and three veg usually. Can’t go too wrong with that. Well, Mister O’Neil I found one afternoon when I came in from playing with the Dawson boys down the road sitting by my Mum’s bed in earnest conversation. Result: I went to Sydney Boys High. Apparently I had the highest IQ ever recorded at Sutherland Primary to that point… That may not be saying too much, of course, and I certainly found myself a small fish in a big pond at SBHS the following year.

But hats off to Mr O’Neil. Not only was he just a fascinating teacher, but so dedicated. By his complexion I suspect he may have enjoyed the odd bevvie too… At a time when many schools, especially boys schools, were “houses of swinging bamboo”, I can’t recall seeing him actually cane anyone either. I remember him with gratitude. Mind you, I don’t think I ever have quite fulfilled that potential, and at going on 65 it may be a bit late…

You will see the use Michael O’Neil made of my reminiscence on his family site: Edgar Ronald O’Neill (1918-1994) & Sheila Hudson (1919-1948)

Eddie on playground

There he is: Eddie O’Neil, my Year 6 1954 teacher – in 1957

Gives you a good idea of what school in The Shire was like back then too…

Check the dunnies behind him… Yes, pans!

Only on the Internet, eh! What would the chances have been of making this sort of contact before the Net came along?

Back from Sydney

Sirdan came down from Gympie today, just for part of the day! He, P and I dined at a swank Italian place in the old GPO.

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Sirdan had to be on the 2.30 plane back to Queensland, and P to work I assume. I decided to revisit old haunts.

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Sydney Boys High this afternoon.

I have nothing against a good belly button…

omphalos

Don’t know them, but they are Aussies…

But this guy elevated the belly button to cosmic heights…

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Wikipedia: “Philip Henry Gosse (6 April 1810 – 23 August 1888) was an English naturalist and popularizer of natural science, virtually the inventor of the seawater aquarium, and a painstaking innovator in the study of marine biology. Gosse is perhaps best known today as the author of Omphalos, an attempt to reconcile the immense geological ages presupposed by Charles Lyell with the biblical account of creation.

After his death, Gosse was portrayed as a despotic and fanatically religious father in Father and Son (1907), the literary masterpiece of his son, poet and critic Edmund Gosse

The gist of the Omphalos theory is that just as Adam. though not “born”, would have had a false history stamped on him via his belly button – think about it – so the fossil record etc represents a false history preloaded, as we might say today, by God at the time of creation. Ingenious, except that there is nothing to say the false history began two seconds ago and this entry was preloaded by God….

At the moment I am reading Father and Son. Just how true it is people have disputed, but whatever the case the book is a real treasure. Thanks to Project Gutenberg and my Kobo.

Meanwhile, capable as I was of reading, I found my greatest pleasure in the pages of books. The range of these was limited, for story-books of every description were sternly excluded. No fiction of any kind, religious or secular, was admitted into the house. In this it was to my Mother, not to my Father, that the prohibition was due. She had a remarkable, I confess to me still somewhat unaccountable impression that to ‘tell a story’, that is, to compose fictitious narrative of any kind, was a sin. She carried this conviction to extreme lengths. My Father, in later years, gave me some interesting examples of her firmness. As a young man in America, he had been deeply impressed by ‘Salathiel’, a pious prose romance by that then popular writer, the Rev. George Croly. When he first met my Mother, he recommended it to her, but she would not consent to open it. Nor would she read the chivalrous tales in verse of Sir Walter Scott, obstinately alleging that they were not ‘true’. She would read none but lyrical and subjective poetry. Her secret diary reveals the history of this singular aversion to the fictitious, although it cannot be said to explain the cause of it. As a child, however, she had possessed a passion for making up stories, and so considerable a skill in it that she was constantly being begged to indulge others with its exercise. But I will, on so curious a point, leave her to speak for herself:

‘When I was a very little child, I used to amuse myself and my brothers with inventing stories, such as I read. Having, as I suppose, naturally a restless mind and busy imagination, this soon became the chief pleasure of my life. Unfortunately, my brothers were always fond of encouraging this propensity, and I found in Taylor, my maid, a still greater tempter. I had not known there was any harm in it, until Miss Shore [a Calvinist governess], finding it out, lectured me severely, and told me it was wicked. From that time forth I considered that to invent a story of any kind was a sin. But the desire to do so was too deeply rooted in my affections to be resisted in my own strength [she was at that time nine years of age], and unfortunately I knew neither my corruption nor my weakness, nor did I know where to gain strength. The longing to invent stories grew with violence; everything I heard or read became food for my distemper. The simplicity of truth was not sufficient for me; I must needs embroider imagination upon it, and the folly, vanity and wickedness which disgraced my heart are more than I am able to express. Even now [at the age of twenty-nine], tho’ watched, prayed and striven against, this is still the sin that most easily besets me. It has hindered my prayers and prevented my improvement, and therefore, has humbled me very much.’

This is, surely, a very painful instance of the repression of an instinct. There seems to have been, in this case, a vocation such as is rarely heard, and still less often wilfully disregarded and silenced. Was my Mother intended by nature to be a novelist? I have often thought so, and her talents and vigour of purpose, directed along the line which was ready to form ‘the chief pleasure of her life’, could hardly have failed to conduct her to great success. She was a little younger than Bulwer Lytton, a little older than Mrs. Gaskell—but these are vain and trivial speculations!

From my week’s reading: Edmund Gosse, “Father and Son” — 1907

Still relevant after all those years.

My holidays, however, and all my personal relations with my Father were poisoned by this insistency. I was never at my ease in his company; I never knew when I might not be subjected to a series of searching questions which I should not be allowed to evade. Meanwhile, on every other stage of experience I was gaining the reliance upon self and the respect for the opinion of others which come naturally to a young man of sober habits who earns his own living and lives his own life. For this kind of independence my Father had no respect or consideration, when questions of religion were introduced, although he handsomely conceded it on other points. And now first there occurred to me the reflection, which in years to come I was to repeat over and over, with an ever sadder emphasis,—what a charming companion, what a delightful parent, what a courteous and engaging friend my Father would have been, and would pre-eminently have been to me, if it had not been for this stringent piety which ruined it all.

Let me speak plainly. After my long experience, after my patience and forbearance, I have surely the right to protest against the untruth (would that I could apply to it any other word!) that evangelical religion, or any religion in a violent form, is a wholesome or valuable or desirable adjunct to human life. It divides heart from heart. It sets up a vain, chimerical ideal, in the barren pursuit of which all the tender, indulgent affections, all the genial play of life, all the exquisite pleasures and soft resignations of the body, all that enlarges and calms the soul are exchanged for what is harsh and void and negative. It encourages a stern and ignorant spirit of condemnation; it throws altogether out of gear the healthy movement of the conscience; it invents virtues which are sterile and cruel; it invents sins which are no sins at all, but which darken the heaven of innocent joy with futile clouds of remorse. There is something horrible, if we will bring ourselves to face it, in the fanaticism that can do nothing with this pathetic and fugitive existence of ours but treat it as if it were the uncomfortable ante-chamber to a palace which no one has explored and of the plan of which we know absolutely nothing. My Father, it is true, believed that he was intimately acquainted with the form and furniture of this habitation, and he wished me to think of nothing else but of the advantages of an eternal residence in it.

Then came a moment when my self-sufficiency revolted against the police-inspection to which my ‘views’ were incessantly subjected. There was a morning, in the hot-house at home, among the gorgeous waxen orchids which reminded my Father of the tropics in his youth, when my forbearance or my timidity gave way. The enervated air, soaked with the intoxicating perfumes of all those voluptuous flowers, may have been partly responsible for my outburst. My Father had once more put to me the customary interrogatory. Was I ‘walking closely with God’? Was my sense of the efficacy of the Atonement clear and sound? Had the Holy Scriptures still their full authority with me? My replies on this occasion were violent and hysterical. I have no clear recollection what it was that I said,—I desire not to recall the whimpering sentences in which I begged to be let alone, in which I demanded the right to think for myself, in which I repudiated the idea that my Father was responsible to God for my secret thoughts and my most intimate convictions.

He made no answer; I broke from the odorous furnace of the conservatory, and buried my face in the cold grass upon the lawn. My visit to Devonshire, already near its close, was hurried to an end. …

“Gosse’s Father and Son is a superb and sometimes quite beautiful book…” — Brian A. Oard

Sunrise

What was I up to in February 2007?

A selection from Monthly Archives: February 2007. Strictly speaking the previous post should have been February 2002, but unfortunately that vanished long ago when Diary-X failed. These retro selections are meant to be at five year intervals, so the next will deal with 2012.

Why I have “banned” the term “political correctness”…

05 FEB 2007

Not that I have, but I am certainly taking pains to avoid it. It was one of my New Year Blog Resolutions. (Another was to write less… 😉 ) Why? Because I suspect the term conceals more than it reveals these days, and hinders discussion.

I just did a search on this and found an interesting post: “Political Correctness” and Privilege on Definition — A Feminist Weblog. [Links no longer available.]

…This is in no way an effort to force others to agree with me or conform with my worldview; in all honesty, some of the people I insist on showing respect to would not return the favor. I am not attempting to tell others what they can and cannot say; it would be nice if other people agreed with my priorities and sympathized with my opinions. I believe in absolute freedom of speech, but also that decent people should have a few limits on what they will allow themselves to say. And freedom of speech is not freedom from critical analysis, freedom from criticism, freedom from opposition.

Freedom of speech is also a responsibility. Since I have the power to say whatever I like, I also have the responsibility to say things that I think are well-reasoned and respectful. This does not mean that I will not argue, will not disagree, will not pass judgment. This does not mean that I will not express ideas which many people probably find offensive, radical, or objectionable. It simply means I will try to express these ideas while avoiding any unnecessary use of terms purposely designed to marginalize or misrepresent already oppressed people.

Anyone who is remotely interested in justice and human rights needs to adopt the same attitude. And those who claim not to care at least need to understand the horrific gravity of what they are saying.

I can live with that.

The way to defeat terrorism…

09 FEB

According to Meghnad Desai on Open Democracy, one of the excellent links there on the right, this is the way to go:

We need to say loudly that while Islam has one book and one God, it also has a rich diversity of manifestations around the world. We need to point out that Muslims around the world live in harmony with other people and share the common concerns about leading a happy prosperous life, caring for their children’s future and ensuring a safe and healthy old age for their elders.

Faith is a private concern; where it enters the public realm and creates dispute, the resulting problems are resolved more by negotiations and diplomacy around matters of disagreement than by violence or threats of violence.

The way to defeat terrorism conducted in the name of religious belief is to distinguish between religion and ideology. Then you fight the terrorist while leaving the devout alone to pursue her or his faith.

Read the article itself to see how he reaches this conclusion.

One thing I noticed at SBHS today, where I did some work, is that the Islamic Students Society is thriving. I guess a point is that as so many rhetorical bombs are thrown at Muslims in the media and so on the more they feel constrained to identify and stand up for themselves. Human nature, when you come to think about it.

Cricket, rain, the Irish pub, Lord Malcolm

11 FEB

Bringing my shopping home from Woolies just now I thought, “They’ll be lucky!” I mean lucky to get the final one-dayer between England and Australia played, and the live scorecard now sits thus: Rain Delay: England lead by 59 runs with 9 wickets in hand. England have been doing rather well lately, as you probably know, having won three in a row. Australia must win this one.

building02.jpgI’d been to the Porterhouse Irish Pub in “Sydney’s fashionable Surry Hills” for one of their very generous $11 roast beef lunches. Sirdan (and Lord Malcolm) and I used to go there quite often at one time, but Sirdan and I hadn’t been there for maybe two years, so we were happy to go there today. We were unable to eat all the roast lunch! And for anyone out there who knows the place: they have learned how to serve the beer chilled! It’s a very pleasant pub, and there were some very pleasant English Cricket fans at the next table too.

I remember once telling the barman at the Porterhouse that my ancestors came from County Cavan. He looked at me as if I had just said my ancestors tended to have two heads… 😉

Sirdan went on to visit Lord Malcolm at St Vincents Hospital; I went shopping, and plan to go to the hospital tomorrow. There’s a fair chance Lord Malcolm may be sent home on Tuesday, but partly because there isn’t much the hospital can do for him now. They probably would have returned him to the hospice, but he has argued for being at home in his own bed. A lot of support has had to be organised. In fact, Lord Malcolm got the “green light” last Wednesday. I was there at the the time.

Jim Belshaw has replied to my Silencing Dissent entry: see The Howard Government, Dissent and the Pattern of Change in Australia. We agree and disagree. Jim’s perspective is interesting and well-informed, while I am quite passionate about what I regard as total intellectual and social havoc wrought by the Howardites. The discussion should be worthwhile.

On Silencing Dissent: you may purchase it from The Australia Institute, and may also see some of the ideas canvassed by Clive Hamilton in Quarterly Essay 21: What’s Left? – The death of social democracy (2006) which I have read.

Later

And the rain has held off enough, it seems. Australia is on the chase as I write. Oh dear, 1/25…

On the Smell of an Oily Rag: speaking English, thinking Chinese and living Australian

13 FEB

That is such a good title!

It is Ouyang Yu’s latest book, forthcoming with Wakefield Press in South Australia, 2007. Back in June 2006 I discussed his The Eastern Slope Chronicle, you may recall. Marcel still has my copy. 😉

Sunday there is a Chinese New Year Party at M’s. Sirdan, Simon H and David Humphries are going too — well, that is the understanding at the moment. I wish I could tell you more about it, but M likes his privacy. What I can tell you is that the party will be a total demonstration of what multiculturalism can actually mean. M has done amazingly well since arriving from China hardly able to speak English and with just one suitcase in late 1989.

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Guan Wei: Ned Kelly encounters the troopers in the mystic mountains

Guan Wei (the picture links to his site) was born in Beijing in 1957. He now lives and works in Sydney. By coincidence, he received his Australian citizenship at the same ceremony as M.

Clash of intolerant minorities

19 FEB

That rather than a “clash of civilisations” is what most Australians believe we are witnessing at the moment, according to a BBC-Sydney Morning Herald survey, details of which were published today.

IT IS bad news for radio shock jocks and clash of civilisation theorists. A poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries has found most believe political and economic interests – not religious and cultural diversity – are the underlying cause of violent conflict in the world today.

In the joint BBC World Service- Sydney Morning Herald poll, 52 per cent said conflicting interests were the primary reason for tensions between Islam and the West, compared with 29 per cent who thought religion and culture were to blame.

A global majority, according to the poll, rejects the idea, popularised by the American academic Samuel P. Huntington, of an inevitable clash of civilisations based on religion and culture.

A poll-topping 68 per cent of Australians blamed “intolerant minorities on both sides” of the Islam/West divide for stirring up tensions. Only one in 10 Australians surveyed blamed intolerant Muslims exclusively.

“Two out of three people in Australia understand that there are those on all sides of this question who just love to stir,” said Paul Korbel, of Market Focus International, the pollster that conducted the survey here.

Of all people surveyed, twice as many (56 per cent) believe “common ground can be found” as those who see violent conflict between Islam and the West as inevitable (28 per cent).

The worried minority are still a worry though.

“If a quarter of the Australian population believes violent conflict is inevitable, and over a third think religious and cultural difference is the reason, then that’s cause for concern,” Mr Korbel said. “Perhaps education programs aimed at the intolerant minority should be boosted.”

But it is worse elsewhere. In Indonesia, most (51 per cent) see violent conflict between Islam and the West as inevitable. People in Egypt (43 per cent) and Germany (39 per cent) agreed.

Bridge builders still have plenty of work to do. In the case of Indonesia, see The Wahid Institute for one example of bridge building.

I loved the photo accompanying the article today. It was taken on Harmony Day last year. I call that positive appropriation…

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Celebration of an amazing man

22  FEB

procession.jpgI arrived at St James Church an hour before Phil Day’s funeral only to find the church already filling up. What an amazing talent the man had for sustaining circles of friendship over decades, and how deeply was he appreciated by generations of students! St James seats 1,000 or more and it was packed, with hundreds standing in the side aisles. Australian of the Year Tim Flannery read the Old Testament Lesson (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-9). The readings and hymns had been chosen by Phil himself, I was told. I saw so many young men who used to be kids I (and Phil) taught… Young men of many ethnicities and faiths whose lives he had touched. Many bore witness to that, such as that anonymous reviewer on RateMyTeachers.com: “5 5 5 Best teacher. Ever.”

Today was a total reminder of what some teachers are and what they give. It is not often one sees this so spectacularly demonstrated as it was today.

Phil was a person of faith too and St James was his church.

And what a historical site that church is, designed by convict architect Francis Greenaway, facing his Hyde Park Convict Barracks across Queen’s Square. I found myself seated by the wall plaque for explorer Edmund Kennedy (1818 – 1848).

I had to leave before the service was over — it was a full High Church Requiem Eucharist — as coaching in Chinatown had to go on.

There was some Cheney-related trouble in the city today, but I managed to avoid it.

There were four eulogies yesterday…

23 FEB

At Phil Day’s Anglo-Catholic Requiem Eucharist four people spoke of him: one who had known him all his life, one who had known him from university, a colleague from Sydney High (Con Barris) and Subdeacon Graeme Bailey who spoke of Phil as a churchman. The first two had us laughing. Con’s speech was heartfelt and very moving. Graeme Bailey told me more of this side of Phil than I had known before, as Phil was someone who, as Subdeacon Bailey said, did not shout his faith from the mountain top though neither did he hide it under a bushel. I felt these were a right and proper part of a thanksgiving service.

Such a shame then to read Cardinal Pell today, not that he has anything directly to do with St James Church yet. See Bell tolls on saucy detail in eulogies.

Sydney Liturgy Office director, Father Timothy Deeter, blames increasing secularisation and unfamiliarity with church rituals for the creeping practice of turning the Catholic funeral Mass into an extended eulogy.

“We have to remind people funerals are to worship God and we are asking God’s blessing and help for those who have passed away,” Father Deeter said.

“There is a current trend to focus on the life of the deceased and celebrate the past, to look back, but in the Mass we have to look forward to the eternal life and put God back into the funeral like we keep God in Christmas.”

I doubt Jesus would be cheering that one.

Speaking of being unnecessarily po-faced, I (almost) feel sorry for the SMS-ing Liberal candidate in Wyong. See Sex text sinks the loveless Lib. Hardly comparable with Labor’s woes in certain Central Coast constituencies, is it?

What was I up to in January 2001?

These entries via the Web Archive (my old Angelfire site). Some names may be edited to conform with my later practice.

Here are January’s entries in order so you can read them as a continuous narrative.

January 3 2001

This is yesterday’s entry, put here as a test. If I (and you) like this new diary option, the rest of 2001 will appear here. This is a specialist Diary facility called diary-x.com. Let’s give it a try; I can always return to the old Talk City one 🙂

NOTE 2017:

Diary-X (commonly abbreviated dx) was the name of an online journaling service which allowed Internet users to create and maintain a journal or diary. It was launched in 2000, and between half and three-quarters of its users were between 14 and 19 years old. Basic use was free, though for a small fee users could email their entries. The creator and webmaster was Stephen Deken.

In early 2006, the server’s hard drive failed. Since there was no backup, the entire website and all of the users’ diaries were lost irretrievably.

I have checked my facts. The first Australian passports were in 1949, and were classed as “British Passport: Australia”. It was not until 1984 that the Australian Citizenship Act repealed provisions for British Subjects in their entirety, and Australian passports since then just have “Australia” on them. Meanwhile the British Government had in 1981 passed the British Nationality Act, doing away with the concept of overseas British Subject, replacing it with “Commonwealth Citizen”, a fairly meaningless category as anyone who has travelled to Britain knows.

Sitting outside this morning I was surprised to see a really cute guy go by–not that this is unusual, but this particular event was. Nice. 🙂

January 4 :Giving Up–again!

Some of you may laugh. especially if you’ve followed this diary for some time, but I have so far gone all day without a cigarette. And hope thus to continue. I simply cannot afford to smoke, in any sense of the word “afford”–and that has been the case for some time, yet since October (the last time I gave up) I have continued to do so.

In the newspaper recently someone claimed it was easier for some people to kill their best friend than to give up smoking. Non-smokers (or non-addicts) may find that rather over-the-top, but to me at the moment it makes perfect sense: so watch out!

I have been reading John Marsden (ed), This I Believe (Random House Australia 1996). When I first saw this book I have to say I was not attracted; 100 Australians of various ages and degrees of fame write about 600 words each articulating something of their beliefs. Now, I must say, I am impressed. It is a good book to dip into, or to read through. The best approach is to ignore to some extent WHO it is writing, though that becomes of interest and sometimes even surprise. Instead, let each piece be a kind of meditation. Then agree or disagree if necessary, but not too quickly. A quotation from William Yang’s contribution now heads my Home Page.

January 5: Think about these… and Amnesia:-)

From This I Believe ed. John Marsden, referred to yesterday, here are some selected gems:

“…the loneliness of the human soul is unendurable; nothing can penetrate it except the highest intensity of love… Whatever does not spring from this love is harmful, or at best useless…” — Bertrand Russell, quoted by writer Elizabeth Jolley.

“I believe we need to take time to listen to others’ stories. We have to listen to what others are telling us–to listen without judgement, without always imposing our beliefs and views–just to listen…” — Sarah Vickers-Willis, 24-year old management consultant.

“You will start to understand that everything you learned was based in fear…” — Gabrielle Lord, writer.

“In this view of the human condition, my suburban neighbour may be further back in the evolutionary journey than a distant tribesman in Afghanistan. It depends; everything is relative, even compassion.

“The question I often ask myself about human nature is why it is that one man can rip off another man’s fingernail with pliers, while another spends his life selflessly helping the sick…

“As we strive and stumble towards compassion and tolerance as individuals, it is reassuring to know that we are in evolutionary step with our entire species, however halting, faltering and hesitant that step is.” — Andrew Urban, “Front Up” documentaries SBS-TV.

“Optimists are born, pessimists learn their craft.” — Christopher Rodley, Sydney High class of 1995, winner STC Young Playwrights Award 1993.

And this one, it seems to me, says something profoundly important about love. I offer it particularly to someone very dear to me. 🙂

“Finally, I believe that learning to tolerate not knowing and ambiguity forms the basis of compassionate relationships with each other. In maintaining a position of not knowing I will, hopefully, not impose my view of the world on you and instead we will meet in the space of uncertainty that lies between us… Space between, in which we can hear the other and what they feel and believe, is akin to a sacred place, a locus consecratus, the place in which connection is formed and the possibility of love developed.” — Peter O’Connor, psychotherapist.

You may have to think about that last one, but it rang some bells for me. BTW: I corrected his Latin!

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Me with another Chinese friend who was once in the Chinese Air Force. Taken about seven years ago.”

From my 2001 Ninglun’s Gallery Nearer to twenty years ago now!

This next section you could call Against Amnesia.

If given the chance I would earnestly recommend that students study History. The study of History has declined over the past few decades, squeezed out perhaps by more “practical” considerations. Yet here on the Internet are many marvellous resources for the historian–archives and documents I would have given my eye teeth to access when a student myself. Why study History? Because in our age there are so many ideologues/politicians/leaders for whom falsification, distortion, and induced amnesia are stock-in-trade. “Lest we forget” is a good watchword. (Read Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting or George Orwell’sNineteen Eighty Four, just to name two.)

While I am no longer Eurocentric, having been thoroughly influenced by such as Edward Said (Orientalism) and Ranajit Guha and G C Spivak (Selected Subaltern Studies), not to mention the so-called “black armband” (as distinct from “Three Wise Monkeys”) school of Australian historians, I think any Australian, or anyone with a modicum of interest in the contemporary world, should know something of English History, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Yes, of course study America, Asia, Africa–indeed the whole world–but what happened in England, and of course Europe, in the years of the American, French and Industrial Revolutions reverberates to this day. To forget these things and focus on neo-classical economics, on a bottom-line, market forces view of the world, is to lose touch with the very powerful reasons for a working-class movement, for trades unions (inspired at first very often by Evangelical Christians as well as later by socialists and Marxists), and the whole social balance we have now lost, or are in danger of losing. Through amnesia.

I reflect on this as I read a book tragically thrown out by my school library, The Age of Paradox: A Biography of England 1841-1851 by an American, John W Dodds (London, Victor Gollancz, 1953). It is a marvellous book, full of nitty-gritty detail, spanning all classes, covering the range of politics, human activity, technology, art and literature. It should be a classic. It should be reprinted!

Consider unfettered capitalism in the 1840s, and those who sought to control it, such as the great Evangelical Lord Ashley. Who knows of him today? His opponents, such as Lord Brougham, railed against his ideas as “a travesty of personal liberty. Women and young persons are capable of making their own bargains, without interference by government. The sponsors of factory legislation are victims of a mistaken and perverted humanity.” The “tough-minded” have not changed much, have they?

What Ashley was dealing with was a factory system that led to disease, early death, insanity, and all in the interests of maximising profit. To quote Dodds: “Women who worked in the mills were accustomed to leave their infants in charge of women or very young children, and the administration of opium ‘pacifiers’ was notoriously general.” The hours of work were “commonly twelve, frequently extending, however, to fifteen, sixteen, or even eighteen hours consecutively…” Ashley and others were fighting, in the 1840s, for ten hour days, and for consideration of what we would now call occupational health and safety. They had much success over the next decades, but not without a fight, and it was not until the emergence of powerful trades unions that some degree of humanity became the norm in industrial relations and conditions–in England and in due course in other “developed” nations. In the colonies and dominions things were not always done as in England, however, and we still live in a world where 1840s conditions are the norm in many countries, if not worse than the 1840s.

I can’t go on longer here, except to repeat: study history, “lest we forget”. It is all sadly too relevant. Sadly, too, the study of History at school often degenerates into trivia about Vikings or Ancient Egyptians, a kind of Readers Digest or commercial television window on the past. Not good enough; the past matters too much.

How’s that for passion?

January 6: second thoughts and a confession

Passion, yes, I did have that yesterday; but I was carried away a little, wasn’t I? I should defend my History colleagues by saying that trivia (whoever they are about) do make History interesting, and may be a means to develop skills such as locating information, evaluating sources, making comparisons, developing empathy and so on–all worth doing. My main point remains, however: we do need to recover a historical dimension in our understanding of social practices and politico-economic institutions. And it is true in this country that the study of History, especially at the Senior High School level, has dropped off alarmingly. Current HSC changes are not helping either.

And I smoked my head off yesterday; so did the Dowager Empress, who has also resolved to give up. 😦

January 9: Dinner with Kristina

The conversation between myself and K last night was long and wide-ranging. Much of it was also disquieting. As an indigenous Australian who moves in very wide circles indeed, K is in a good position to observe, and she has observed many instances of subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination, of quite august employers taking advantage of their employees in the climate of weak unionism and “enterprise bargaining”. One leading hotel has its chiefly Non-English-Speaking-Background cleaning staff sign returns of hours worked as six hours, when in fact the cleaners have worked for far more. One Islamic worker during Ramadan (fasting all day) was asked to work extra hours under such conditions, hours that she had not been forewarned of and which conflicted with her religious obligations as well as depriving her of the chance to eat for the first time that day; when she objected she lost her job.

With caution I mention that I learned a lot about Jonathan Shier, the current ABC head, and why he of all people got the job. I also learned much more about the “personality tests” ALL potential ABC employees must undergo, and something of their content. It is all very suss. Surely only a very naive person, or an ideologue, would have faith in such a “measure”. The test also originates, I am told, in England–and reflects this strongly. Possible cultural bias is surely a factor?

My cooking passed muster, and the Chinese music I selected K found most interesting, especially in the light of her having watched the documentary on SBS on the making of The Peony Pavilion with considerable interest.

January 22: Ninglun goes to the theatre

I’m just back from seeing Stones in his Pockets by Marie Jones in a Sydney Theatre Company production directed by Garry McDonald, previously better known as a fine comic actor on stage and television. His first effort at direction, and very well done I must say. The play concerns a village in County Kerry where an American/Irish film is being shot with the locals acting as extras. There is plenty of opportunity for comedy, but the play has a serious core in that the suicide of a young villager casts a pall over things and awakens the central characters to the need to tell their story in their own way without grovelling to Hollywood. Actually it is not a first-rate play; it is all a touch obvious. However, the cast (two of them!) play all the villagers, the film crew and the female Hollywood star! It was a brilliant display of acting.

I scored the tickets yesterday through Simon H. Kris, the actress, was meant to go with me but was unable to–a shame, as one ticket went begging. I know who I ached to share it with, but that was not possible–maybe some day 🙂

A number of cute young things, and outrageous young things too, in the audience, but mostly blue-rinse. A student was there–we teachers never escape!

It was something of a triumph for me too, as (some know if they know me or have been following this diary) I do suffer from agoraphobia, but tonight worked. It is also great to think I could walk back through the city at night without fear–Sydney is a pretty peaceful place comparatively. From the city centre I caught a bus home. BTW–does anyone else think McDonalds buns have got thinner? They are certainly half the thickness of the ones on the posters–not to mention the exaggerated filling that graces the posters as well. Could that be misleading advertising? Hmmm.

January 26: Australia Day/Invasion Day/Indian Republic Day

A conversation last night, as well as I can remember it. PLACE: a sacred site–the unofficial throne room of the Dowager Empress on Oxford Street. PARTICIPANTS: Ninglun, and Y, a twenty-something Korean who once displayed a surprising interest in Ninglun’s body and continues in touchy-feely mode during this conversation. He is, I should add, not totally ugly. Several others were present, including *, hereinafter (at his request) known as Sirdan. Please remember Ninglun is really a Caucasian.

Y: New Year yesterday.
N: Chinese New Year?
Y: No, Korean New Year. Why do people always call it Chinese New Year?
N: There’s more of them. And yes, I know–there was a late phone call to Shanghai last night.
Y: Was it noisy? Chinese are so noisy, and rude. You walk through Chinatown and they push you.
N: No, not noisy. Isn’t that a bit racist?
Y: Australians are racist.
N: Really? Am I racist? You’ve experienced racism?
Y: Oh yes.
N: But Koreans are racist.
Y: That’s true. We don’t like Chinese, or Japanese…
N: Well I can understand the history behind that one…
Y:..or blacks. Koreans really hate blacks…
N: Well yes, I did read on the net about a black American teaching in Korea. He went to the swimming pool and everyone else got out. He couldn’t believe it… Everyone’s racist really. Chinese can be racist, and Japanese definitely…
Y: Koreans don’t really like anyone, but Caucasians are OK…
Sirdan: Why did you leave Korea?
Y: Too competitive, too stressed, too polluted…

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Ah, multicultural Australia: what an interesting place you have become!

Reading at the moment a book whose title got to me, not that this is a problem that besets me too frequently: Gaby Hauptmann, In Search of an Impotent Man(Germany 1995; Virago 1998). It is quite fun so far, but with real issues to raise (no pun meant!) about sexual demands and relationships. A successful thirty-ish woman tires of relationships that come down to constant humping, so she advertises in a newspaper for an impotent man. The novel is about what happens as a result. There is a nice bit of moralising I shall now quote; from my perspective it is delightfully offensive and very relevant to gay men:

She opens the envelope. It contains another four letters. Among the names of the senders is that of a woman… It’s a very Christian lady who wants to explain the meaning of life. Christ’s bequest to mankind is not that he should indulge in deviancy; rather that the duties of man and woman lie, as decreed by His representative on earth, the Pope, in ensuring that they create descendents. And this calling could not be fulfilled with an impotent man and would therefore be blasphemy. Carmen puts the letter down, her fingers twitching to phone the woman immediately and ask her various questions. About the Third World, for example, about children in dustbins, about children as living organ donors, about the female babies left to die in India…. She’ll show the letter to Elvira (an elderly neighbour who lived a long time in Africa). Elvira doesn’t have children either, so she’s living in sin too. What would Gerda H. have said if Elvira had obeyed her duty as a woman and given birth to a mixed-race child? Receive him into God’s mercy? Or put him in a home?

January 31: Back to the salt mine

Yes, the second day back at work, and the first that students were there. I was expecting a base two days a week ESL (you could say I am a free-lance) which is barely enough, but today it blew out to 3.5 days which is much healthier.

Two of last year’s students, Boris and Stasi, turned up today. Stasi had been to Greece for the first time in his life, with his father who had not been back for over twenty years. What he had to say about his feelings was very interesting; it was a real sense of homecoming, although he had never been there.

Among the items that occurred yesterday was a session updating our understanding of the child protection laws. There was a video reporting research on what environments were best and worst for a young person to grow up in, and it struck me that it has application to relationships and friendships too. Apparently the worst possible environment is one which has low warmth and high criticism the best, as one might expect, offers high warmth and low criticism. This is not to say “anything goes”, but in such an environment conflict causes less psychological and emotional damage and advice is best received.

Clearly such a difference of environment can be critical when a gay person comes out to his family.

When you love someone you focus on loving them. When that is clear all round, then the fact one may disagree, even have very different perspectives, can possibly be fruitful–after all it is boring to agree all the time 😉 Indeed there are times when such varying points of view can enrich both parties. Even when the disagreement is as profound as finding someone (other than his wife and mother) actually likes Tony Abbott 😉

RELATED: What was I up to in December 2000?

My 1997: Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills

Thus the 90s:

24. 1988-1990 Rose Terrace, PADDINGTON
25. 1990 Gipps Street, PADDINGTON (chez PK)
26. 1990-1991 George Street, REDFERN (M, Philip & Michael)
27. 1991-1992 Little Eveleigh Street, REDFERN (just M)
28. 1992- 2010: Elizabeth Street, SURRY HILLS— THE RECORD!

Mostly at Sydney Boys High, but a most interesting diversion in 1990. See Random Friday memory 16 – among the Chinese.

Twenty-five years is a very long time, though as many septuagenarians would understand, quarter-centuries aren’t as long as they used to be. 1965- 1990 took, well, 25 years, but 1990-2015 has gone by in a matter of minutes!

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That was taken in winter 1990 on an excursion to Wollongong with my class of overseas adult students. The couple on the right are from Korea, as I think is the woman with the red bag – or is she Chinese? Blue umbrella is Zhang Rui from Tianjin in China (a scientist) and next to him another Chinese, Ding. The taller slightly older man is Bill Zhang from Guangzhou. Lovely man.

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Bill and I in Hyde Park 1990. He had been photographing the grass so his wife in China could see this wonder: apparently at that time great dollops of lawn were in his eyes quite an exotic spectacle.

Why these students? As I noted in another post where there is indeed another story too:

I in fact worked with Phil [Ainsworth] rather briefly, as in 1988 to early 1989 I was teaching in St Ives, in 1989 dealing with a range of personal matters and sometimes not quite with it, and in 1990 to early 1991 at Wessex College of English. I did work at High in Term 4 1989, and again from 1991. I saw a fair amount of Phil nonetheless and was there in the final stages when, sadly, AIDS-related dementia also showed itself at times.

This was Wessex College in Wentworth Avenue Sydney in 1990. It was just upstairs from the job centre at the time, and that’s how I ended up there.

I am finding it hard getting my head round the fact that 1997 is now TWENTY YEARS AGO! I couldn’t locate 1997 pics on the SBHS site, but here is the staff photo for 1996. I seem to have avoided this one.

1996

In fact some of that year I was working at Sydney Girls High, as Tess Kenway (now a Facebook friend) may remember. I do recall very well the 1996 SBHS Debating Team:

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That’s Dick Stratford in the middle, my fellow Dip Ed student in 1965, and Principal in 1996. All the debaters in that photo are now among my Facebook friends.

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And that’s Craig Wing from the Class of 1997, who went on to quite a Rugby career in Australia and Japan. Union and League.

But the personal high point of 1997 has to be this:

Did you see My Place (2009-2011)? Very good children’s TV. There is a teacher companion site.

On this website you will find rich educational material to support primary and lower-secondary teachers using the My Place TV series in the classroom. Explore background information, aligned with the My Place stories, on events and people significant to Australia’s history. Download clips and stills from the TV series, as well as teaching activities and student activity sheets that relate to current themes. Go behind the scenes with production information and interviews, or chat with other teachers and share stories in the teacher’s forum.

Imagine my surprise when I found my friend M, the one I mentioned in the Linda Jaivin post a few days ago, is in there!

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See Celebrating citizenship, Sydney, 1997. A great William Yang photo – and I was of course at that party.

This asset reflects the enthusiasm with which many migrants embraced Australia, seeing it as their new land of opportunity – Australian citizenship was created on 26 January 1949 by the ‘Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948’ (later renamed the ‘Australian Citizenship Act 1948’); since 1949 more than 3 million migrants have become Australian citizens, with over 70,000 joining them every year; the granting of Australian citizenship to an individual requires certain commitments both from Australia and from the citizen and gives the person rights and responsibilities; not all migrants become citizens, with more than 900,000 opting instead to remain as ‘permanent residents’; ‘Citizenship Ceremonies’ are held across Australia, often hosted by local government councils in a town hall or another building of significance.

See also Linda Jaivin on Hou Dejian and NAPLAN craplan… And on M’s anniversary.

Now some glimpses of life on Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills. I lived in this building.