So October 2011 comes to an end…

What a month in the wider world as well as in Australia! Not much of it has been reflected here in this blog in this corner of Wollongong, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been noting. Increasingly, however, Facebook is the place I go to register (some of) the world’s greater doings, for good or ill – there and my Google Reader.

PA300201

The most amazing phenomenon in my blog world in the past month comes from one of my mothball fleet.

English/ESLThis Month's Visits and Page Views

Can you guess which was the day before the first HSC English paper? October 17 set a new record for English/ESL: 2,086 hits in one day according to WordPress! There were 1,034 on the 16th and 1,067 on the 18th, the day of the exam!

Here the top visits have been to the following posts, remembering that “showcase” is unique to the previous template and could be thought of as the same as “home”.

  1. Home page 771 visits
  2. Showcase 671
  3. Thanks, Tilly and Kate! 558
  4. Nostalgia and the globalising world — from Thomas Hardy to 2010 207
  5. Being Australian 16: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 9 – my tribes 106
  6. A very personal Australia Day 26 January – my family 87
  7. Jack Vidgen–Australia’s Got Talent last night 79
  8. Coming to you for the first time from the Yum Yum Cafe… 79
  9. Australia’s Got Talent 2011 Grand Final 72
  10. Oh Lordie, Lordie! I am posting from Carbon Central NSW and the sky… 66
  11. The Rainbow Warrior 61
  12. Facebook does it for me again… 55
  13. Niggling example of political short-sightedness: Maldon-Dombarton rail link 44
  14. Snapshot of a nation losing its faith 43
  15. About 42
  16. Has school bullying increased? 36
  17. Comment restrictions now apply to this blog 35
  18. This may well be the best Australian history book I have EVER read! 33
  19. Thoughts on Facebook 28
  20. Really thought-provoking — Adam Curtis on SBS last night 28
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Saturday miscellany

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right
Ah
ah, ah, ah, ah, ah…

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right
all right, all right, all right
all right, all right, all right

JOHN WATERS: Yeah, I mean, I’m all for capitalism, I own three homes plus I’m for the kids. I’m for the kids down there and they go for the same reason I went to riots in the ‘60s, they go to get a date, you know. They look cute, those kids. It’s good fashion. They’re having fun. BO is a problem down there cause they never can wash and stuff but I’m all for them. They’re having a good time. I went – it is like going to a rave.
TONY JONES: Scratch and sniff protestors.
JOHN WATERS: It’s like going to a rave, really. I understand it and I understand they should be angry. You’re 20 years old, you should be angry. When you’re 65 you’re a jerk if you’re angry.

JOHN WATERS: In my country it’s like Obama is basically – he is being criticised so much because he inherited the exact opposite of when he came into office and now everybody wants to say he’s not selling. He’s not selling. And my country right now, the next election is split right down the middle. The election could be won by one vote and they hate Obama as much as I hated Bush and it is like that and it’s really tough because nobody listens. They fan all this talk radio stuff of everybody screaming and yelling. No one listens. And liberals are fascists too because – I’m a bleeding heart Liberal, but all the Liberals I know, they never think someone’s in the room might not agree with them. You know, it’s really true.
TONY JONES: You don’t…
MULTIPLE SPEAKERS TALK AT ONCE
TONY JONES: You mean American liberals in the American seats rather than the conservative liberals that we have here.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Small L liberals.
JOHN WATERS: Well, but everybody thinks I mean I think in the circle that I’m in, in the arts, it usually is left wing but nobody ever imagines that someone might not agree with them, which I find hard too, even though – my assistant’s a Republican and, God knows, we don’t talk about it but she runs my filth empire, you know, and I’m sure it must be tough for her because I’m sure that she doesn’t totally agree with my politics.

And a trip down memory lane:

Eight months

In four hours from now by the Quitnet calculator it will be eight months since I came to my senses.

Right now it’s 241 days, 20 hours, 8 minutes and 42 seconds smoke free, 12092 cigarettes not smoked and $7,744.00 saved. So I guess that’s $7,750 by the time the four hours is done.

But if only I had stuck it out earlier….

24 November 1999 4:15:30 PM

Day off today. No mail. Breakfasted at Cossies in Crown St, read paper and Bulletin which has revelations about East Timor militia and our government’s knowledge of this earlier than we thought at the time. Stopped smoking; some withdrawal but not too bad. No mail.

And then:

Monday, August 28 2000

Looking at the ergonomics of my setup here, and I will have to do something–experimenting moving stuff around. Partly this is some bad aches and pains in the neck and shoulder region. Maybe also the cold snap recently, or some flu-like thing. Who knows? The doctor seems almost as vague as I am about it. Get my neck x-rayed on Wednesday: maybe an old car accident? I had one or two.

Nothing like a few aches and pains to make one feel a bit of a relic, especially at my age. And the TV series Four Corners on ABC-TV (Australia. that is, still blessedly non-commercial and not to be confused with American ABC!) was on 21st century sweatshops known as "call centres": I must say it made me more sympathetic to the people I sometimes deal with after going through the "Press 1, Press 2, Press Star" routine. Here I am on a computer right now–but I’m still a technophobe or pre-hi-tech romantic dreamer at heart. Ah me!!!

Interesting line in the program from a Phil Ruthven: "It’s not our values we have to change; it’s our habits."

Most apt, as another aspect of my present health thing is my blood pressure was way up on its usual normality: so the ciggies must stop (again) and have today. God I stink! So does the apartment. If you don’t, guys and girls out there, DON’T SMOKE! Take it from me–nothing to recommend it, and a bastard to give up–for me anyway.

Promise to be more cheerful next time 🙂

And then, with a bonus:

27 Aug 2001

bgfiremini_e0

Snow near Sydney…and Ninglun videoed + questionnaire

It has been so cold in Sydney today–that means 12C maximum, but a cold wind blowing off very heavy snow up the Great Dividing Range and as far north as Tamworth. It is quite moving to see the Falun Gong demonstrators all rugged up continuing their 133 hour sit outside the Chinese Consulate. Whatever the actual merits of their practices, one can’t help but be impressed with their dignity, and some of them are quite old.

The UTS Research project began today and I was subjected to an hour interview which was videotaped, the interviewer being Dr Jenny Hammond from UTS. It took place in "The Cave" (my office, in a manner of speaking) which looks rather different from last year 🙂 It didn’t help that the Library mislaid the Cave key this morning; fortunately the General Assistant found a copy in a mysterious bunch of keys he held.

Yesterday’s entry, I should add, is more tentative than it may have looked; it is really part of a process of getting my own head around the contradictions and tensions that current Australian society presents. Much is good, it should be recalled. Every Saturday in Chinatown I see regularly couples or friendship groups that transcend all kinds of divisions, practical marriages of unity and diversity. That is the way I hope it goes.

Dare I mention I am giving up smoking again? Keep on at me! Wait and see…

Late addition

I received a rather intriguing questionnaire just now, so will fill out some of it (but not all!) here:

FULL NAME: not really Ninglun Wu
BIRTHDAY: 9 July 1943
HOME: Close to Central Station Sydney
EYES: green to blue
HAIR COLOUR: grey
WHAT IS YOUR ZODIAC SIGN: Cancer
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN LOVE?: four times–not always appropriately, but only one has ended in real sorrow.
A SONG THAT DESCRIBES YOUR LOVE LIFE: "to dream the impossible dream" 😉
SAY SOMETHING NICE ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU: I get all warm in your company 🙂
SOMETHING TO THOSE WHO REFUSE TO RESPOND TO THIS: It’s a free country.
THE FUTURE***
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 10 YEARS?: Woronora? 😉
FUTURE DAUGHTER’S NAME; FUTURE SONS NAME: not very likely
HAVE YOU EVER…***
BROKEN THE LAW: Yes, but not seriously. EVER CHEATED ON A TEST: no
HAD A MEDICAL EMERGENCY: quite a few
* DO U BELIEVE IN…***
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT: It happened once maybe about eleven years ago.
ALIENS: In theory, but it’s nothing I hypothesise about
GHOSTS: You never know.
HOROSCOPES: Only as entertainment.
WHICH IS BETTER?**
MUD WRESTLING OR JELLY WRESTLING? No wrestling.
WHITE OR CHOCOLATE MILK?: Iced coffee. Otherwise light and white–cholesterol!
BLONDES OR BRUNETTES? Darkish
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU**
CRIED? Not long before my mother’s death.
*WHAT…***
IS YOUR MOST PRIZED AND IMPORTANT POSSESSION: My sister’s photo. Bits and pieces of things my mother left me. A certain story.
WHAT IS THE ITEM YOU WORSHIP THE MOST? I try not to worship items.
IS THE WORST SONG YOU HAVE EVER HEARD? I’ve forgotten.
IS THE BEST SONG YOU HAVE EVER HEARD? Beethoven 9 Symphony is pretty good. Sentimentally I like "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
WHAT IS THE BEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU? The past ten years and the last one in some respects.
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK WHEN YOU WAKE UP?: It was cigarettes….
WHAT’S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? A mouse!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE NUMBER? Don’t have one. Be careful of 4 if you are Chinese–it means death!
WHAT IS ON THE WALLS IN YOUR ROOM: dirt
WHAT DO YOU WEAR TO BED: Nothing where possible, unless it frightens someone!
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST REGRET IN YOUR LIFE: Oh dear… Not being about 40 years younger? No, not really. Having more practical sense would have been good at times. Not having the guts to come out earlier? Really, I try not to regret too much.
*FAVOURITES:**
FAVOURITE RELATIVE: My mother’s cousin Irma, my brother, and my Uncle Roy as they all still speak to me!
FAVOURITE TV PROGRAM: The Bill–but I don’t watch TV that much now.
FAVE BAND: It was once Steeleye Span!
FRIENDS: Yes, I have some. PK despite all that people say. I especially like people who say I keep them balanced.
SHAMPOO: Using a Chinese one right now that’s pretty good.
FAVOURITE SOUND: the erhu well played.
FAVOURITE THING TO DO ON THE WEEKEND: Eating with friends: yum cha, lunch, dinner (esp. when someone is cooking) I ripped that off, but it sounds good to me.
FAVOURITE MOVIE: Don’t really have one.
*IF
YOU COULD HAVE ANY JOB YOU WANTED WHAT WOULD IT BE?: Anything that pays me to sit and read what I want.
YOU COULD HAVE A TATTOO, WHAT AND WHERE WOULD IT BE? I wouldn’t. (Also ripped off!)
WHAT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO GET FOR A PET? Dogs can be nice, but not practical here.
* DO YOU?**
GET MOTION SICKNESS?: sometimes
GET ALONG WITH YOUR PARENTS?: Mum more than Dad, as long as you put that in past tense.
LIKE TO DRIVE?: Certainly did.
SLEEP WITH A STUFFED ANIMAL? No, but he might say yes!
TYPE WITH FINGERS ON THE RIGHT KEYS? I’m the world’s second-best two finger typist!
SMOKE? It’s been known to happen, notwithstanding my sincere efforts to give up!
WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST CRUSH RIGHT NOW? Not telling.
WHO DO YOU HATE? Some may think John Howard, but it’s not true. Despise, maybe 😉 No individuals.
HAVE YOU GOT ANY NICKNAMES: Ninglun–obviously!
CONSIDER YOURSELF A GOOD LISTENER: I have been known to talk over people, but I’m a teacher! I try.
RATHER BE OVERLY HAPPY AND POOR OR OVERLY WEALTHY AND UNHAPPY?: Overly happy. I KNOW I don’t have what it takes to be rich.
DANCE?: See above re heart attacks!
LIKE TO TALK ON THE PHONE?: No.
ARE YOU TOO SHY TO ASK SOMEONE OUT: Sometimes. Perhaps I am afraid they might hit me!
GO ON A WALK OR WATCH TV?: I walk quite a lot.
YOUR DREAM HONEYMOON PLACE?: Well…
*FRIENDS**
FUNNIEST= Ian Smith
CUTEST= He knows who it is.
NICEST= Possible as above, and someone else on the right day! Simon H too.
QUIETEST= See cutest No 1.
LOUDEST= PK
TALKATIVE= PK
MODEST= If I say he might cease to be 😉
*MOST LIKELY TO**
GO TO JAIL: Hmmm…..but he should avoid it! And another one did; he only grows vegetables now.
GRADUATE HIGHEST= Only a few of my friends are in this group–so I would have to say Mitchie.
NOT GRADUATE= As above, but only in that the faculty he graduates from may or not be exactly the one he began in.
BE FAMOUS= Some of my best friends are already famous.
HAVE KIDS= Some of my friends have done this.
IF YOU WERE IN PRISON, WHAT WOULD YOU BE IN FOR? We avoided that
😉
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST IN LIFE? Acceptance.

So many a quit before my heart and Wollongong Hospital precipitated the one that still holds now at eight months! But what a waste of health, time and money before, eh!

Really thought-provoking — Adam Curtis on SBS last night

In my post Facebook does it for me again… I wrote:

…tonight I will be intrigued and/or annoyed by All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace on SBS1 at 8.30. There’s some good discussion on the comment thread there.

And I have been more intrigued than annoyed, but I am still processing how much of what Curtis suggests I really accept. Quite a bit eventually, I suspect. Certainly that first episode made very clear, simply by showing the person herself quite extensively, that Ayn Rand was barking mad.


Last night’s episode challenged quite a few things I (and possibly you) take for granted, and on many of these things was very convincing. For example, why did hippydom and all those communes fail, which they did, and achieve very little in the long run?


Another blogger has reflected on last night’s episode, having also seen it last night on SBS: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (Episode 2: The Uses and Abuses of Vegetational Concepts): plausible premise founders on lack of definitions and historical perspective.

Adam Curtis’s “The Uses and Abuses of Vegetational Concepts” looks at how rival theories dreamt up by a botanist / socialist and a military man in South Africa in the 1920s came to influence concepts of the self-organising system in systems engineering, environmental studies and studies of human behaviour which fed into popular culture. The idea of self-organising systems posits that individuals are equal players in a system where they co-operate to achieve equilibrium and balance and that this balance is a good thing. There are no hierarchies or notions of coalitions and alliances that compete for power. The idea became popular in new fields of science such as cybernetics and migrated to studies of nature where biologists and ecologists alike believed that natural systems “strove” for stability and after disasters or other disturbances could restore themselves to their original balance. The idea also became popular among hippie counter-cultures in the West in the 1960s and many young people established communes in which they all expected to live as equals in harmony.

Curtis’s documentary shows that the concept of the self-organising system, rooted in idealistic socialist concepts of British botanist Arthur Tansley on the one hand and in Field Marshal Jan Smuts’s fantasy of a steady-state British empire in which everyone and everything knows its place in a stable hierarchy on the other, will ultimately fail in real situations. In the 1970s, biologists and ecologists discovered that natural ecosystems don’t have an in-built stability. Human societies that try to abolish hierarchies and alliances  and which sweep away old political and social institutions can become authoritarian and bullying, as students of the English Civil War in the 1640s, the French Revolution in the 1790s and the Russian Revolution in 1917 and their respective aftermaths will know. Yet the fantasy of spontaneous, self-directed reform movements erupting from youth remains attractive…

What Curtis missed out here too which I consider important is that the concept of self-organising systems where everyone is an individual separate from and equal to others has encouraged the development of atomistic societies where everyone is not only a separate and equal individual but an isolated one as well. Informal networks that arise in such societies are often fragile and break down easily if they lack support from governments. People lose the ability to work co-operatively, to bargain and negotiate with others, and the sense of community may be missing. In such societies, people are no longer fully rounded individuals but are merely consumers or ciphers: they have become machines.

I am still thinking but am so pleased this is being shown.


Interview with Adam Curtis.

See also Cybernetic utopianism and political failure, Marx and Machines of Loving Grace – thoughts on Adam Curtis’ film, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace – by Adam Curtis.

The title comes from Richard Brautigan: first published in 1967, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, a collection of thirty two poems, was Brautigan’s third collection of poetry; his fifth poetry book publication.

San Francisco

This poem was found written on a paper bag by Richard Brautigan in a laundromat in San Francisco. The author is unknown.

By accident, you put
Your money in my
Machine (#4)
By accident, I put
My money in another
Machine (#6)
On purpose, I put
Your clothes in the
Empty machine full
Of water and no
Clothes
It was lonely.

Note: I have replaced the first YouTube as the one I had there earlier alters the Curtis documentary.