One post has dominated the last quarter

Today is not only the end of the month but the end of the third quarter of 2012. Where does it all go?

Well, time for stats for the third quarter of 2012. I will look at the month of September tomorrow.

On this blog:

  1. Home page / Archives 3,977 views since 1 July 2012
  2. Sniffing out the swamp then looking up…. 1,397 –  is the star performer!
  3. A very personal Australia Day 26 January – my family 244
  4. Being Australian 16: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 9 – my tribes 234
  5. The Rainbow Warrior 166
  6. Defending The Shire: the place, not the trash TV… 147
  7. Nostalgia and the globalising world — from Thomas Hardy to 2010 144
  8. Niggling example of political short-sightedness: Maldon-Dombarton rail link 139
  9. Being Australian 11: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 4 137
  10. Aboriginal History and some recent art 125
  11. About 113
  12. This may well be the best Australian history book I have EVER read! 99
  13. Who to vote for on last night’s Australia’s Got Talent 87
  14. The Shire, The Shire! Again… And there’s more! 84
  15. Wollongong local history 83
  16. Second Final – Australia’s Got Talent 2012 83
  17. Jack Vidgen–Australia’s Got Talent last night 83
  18. Being Australian 3: Richard Tognetti, Wollongong, multiculturalism 77
  19. Family history and mystery–the Indigenous connection 70
  20. Being Australian 68

There is a bit of a pattern there, I think.

Top search engine terms:

  1. earth from mars 449
  2. nostalgia 69
  3. map ethnic aboriginal 55
  4. the shire 43
  5. is cosentino the illusionist gay 43
  6. earth seen from mars 41
  7. richard tognetti gay 29
  8. waleed aly 29
  9. jack vidgen 26
  10. dylan yeandle 23

Cosentino the illusionist

On the photo blog:

  1. Home page / Archives 1,697 views since 1 July 2012
  2. Shellharbour 2 – Beverley Whitfield Pool 60
  3. Old Illawarra: mystery scans from my family archives 47
  4. Corner of Goulburn and George Streets, Sydney 44
  5. Old haunt derelict now 42
  6. 2012 33
  7. Small Buddhist temple 3 30
  8. Paddy’s Market to Ultimo 2 – the markets 30
  9. St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, Wollongong — 3 26
  10. Old court house, Wollongong — 2 25
  11. The ultimate old photos post 24
  12. More best of 2008: 44 — “pencil sketch” 23
  13. Volcanic eruption in Australia ’3000 years overdue’! 23
  14. People watching: September theme day 21
  15. August Theme Day: numbers–Church Street Wollongong 20
  16. The amazing Surry Hills Library 1 20
  17. On Riley Street – summer Sunday 20
  18. Single Origin Coffee Surry Hills 19
  19. Kiama: the blow hole 19
  20. Talking dog 19

Beverley Whitfield Pool, Shellharbour NSW

Search engine terms:

  1. wollongong in 1950 – 16 since 1 July 2012
  2. old photos of wollongong 12
  3. old court house wollongong 11
  4. sydney redfern bourke street school  10
  5. beverley whitfield 10
  6. st francis xavier cathedral wollongong 9
  7. bondi beach winter 9
  8. eastern distributor 9
  9. gerringong volcanics 8
  10. prince alfred park sydney 8

Robert Hughes “Things I Didn’t Know”–an autobiography

I loved it, enjoyed it in fact more than I did The Fatal Shore. It is monumentally digressive, but I really didn’t mind those journeys – and they are relevant to the man/the voice that emerges so strongly. It seems there was to be a sequel, but that won’t be now, of course. And maybe it’s a generational thing – Hughes was born just five years before me – but I rather agree with what he has to say about the hippies and the 60s.


A wartime childhood.

This review is a really good starting point.

‘Of course I am completely an elitist, in the cultural but emphatically not the social sense’, asserts Hughes in characteristically combative style:

I prefer the good to the bad, the articulate to the mumbling, the aesthetically developed to the merely primitive, and full to partial consciousness.  I love the spectacle of skill … I don’t think stupid or ill-read people are as good to be with as wise and fully literate ones. … Consequently, most of the human race doesn’t matter much to me, outside the normal and necessary frame of courtesy and the obligation to respect human rights.  I see no reason to squirm around apologizing for this.  I am, after all, a cultural critic, and my main job is to distinguish the good from the second-rate, pretentious, sentimental, and boring stuff that saturates culture today.

So begins a memoir in which Hughes’ prime objective is to explore the extent to which his Australianness is the most important thing about him, or only one attribute in an evolving life.  He begins with his elite origins, the grandson of the first lord mayor of Sydney, and the son of a successful lawyer and war hero.  His older brother was a lawyer who went on to be Attorney-General. Growing up in the Sydney of the 1940s and 1950s the young Hughes did not ‘talk Australian’ and was singled out as a ‘pom’ by bullies at the tough Jesuit boarding school he attended. Coming to terms with the strict Catholicism and conservatism of his upbringing is another theme that recurs throughout the book…

…a chapter on London in the sixties which is both entertaining for Hughes’ usually disparaging  thumbnail portraits of leading lights of the underground (Timothy Leary was ‘a coarse, middle-aged Irish whiskey priest’; Jerry Rubin ‘a semi-educated liar with invincible self-esteem, the attention span of a flea, and a disgustingly inflated ego to match’) and disturbing for his account of the disaster of his first marriage to a woman he portrays as emotionally out of control and self-obsessed, who apparently slept with just about every counterculture icon in London at the time.  She was so promiscuous that Hughes believes that Eldridge Cleaver was one of the ‘few male radical celebs with whom, in 1968 and ’69, she had not had sex’.  The role call included Jimi Hendrix,  from whom as a consequence Hughes acquired a case of the clap. ‘I was a cuckold going cuckoo’, he laments, describing at one point how he comforted his wife after her return to their home and young child from one of her regular debauches.  Stroking her hair, he encountered ‘a crusty patch of some stranger’s dried semen’…

Following reviewers through Google I came upon this:

… his first wife, Danne, a hippy dingbat to whom he injudiciously hooked himself during the Sixties. She was, he announces, a ‘white witch’ and living with her was like cohabiting with ‘a deranged alley cat’. Luckily, Danne cannot sue: having converted to lesbianism, she died – grossly overweight, as Hughes ungallantly notes – in 2003. Their only child, a son called Danton, had ‘gassed himself with carbon monoxide from his car in his far older lover’s house’ the year before.

That is all Hughes says about this particular loss, which must have been tragic and tormenting, and the obliquity reveals a blind spot in his character and in his book. He is confessional, having been trained to blurt out his squalid carnal misdemeanours to a priest, but he is rarely confidential. After he has vented his grievance against ingrate Australia, his memoir becomes frustratingly impersonal. He snarls at poseurs like Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons, whom he has often lambasted before; he fills reams of paper with essays on Leonardo da Vinci and Piero della Francesca that read like extracts salvaged from books he never wrote; he doggedly retraverses his early Italian travels and limply describes Porto Ercole as ‘a huge living postcard’.

A memoir, however, should be more than an anthology of anecdotes or a digest of rankling grudges. ‘Know thyself’, the command of the Delphic oracle, is the autobiographer’s injunction. That self may be one of the very few things that the polymathic, uproariously eloquent Hughes does not know.


Much to be preferred is Christopher Hitchens:

…And this is why I stress Hughes’s addiction to understatement. He describes the utter boredom and pointlessness of much of the crash-pad-and-hash life into which he plunged, and it is only his attempt to make light of the experience that shoves it into a piercingly sharp relief. Many people had narrow escapes from the Sixties, when relationships could be dropped and picked up as quickly as callow opinions or tabs of acid, but it was Hughes’s bad luck to form a kind of matrimony with a true drifter and dilettante (and evident sack-artist) who once gave him the very pox that she had caught from Jimi Hendrix. That could be a funny story at some remove: What makes it unfunny is her preference for hard drugs and needles over their only son, Danton Vidal Hughes. This boy later committed suicide. Hughes mentions the death almost as gruffly–and as briefly–as did Kipling in noting the passing of "my boy Jack" in Something of Myself.


See also: Geoff Dyer, Aussie Brawler (NY TImes); Craig Sherborne, Some Things We Don’t Yet Know: Robert Hughes’s "Things I Didn’t Know"; Peter Craven, Time’s Arrow: An interview with Robert Hughes; Tim Flannery, The Naked Critic: Memories of Robert Hughes; and Fatal Shore author Robert Hughes dies at 74.


Now I am going to look for Barcelona (2001), Goya (2004) and Rome: A Cultural, Visual and Personal History (2011) in Wollongong Library!

21 years on– a sad but also brilliant episode

Lost Gay Sydney on Facebook threw up another set of memories yesterday, cuttings that in the peak years from 1989 through 1993 were only too familiar, but for me one name stood out.



Phil Ainsworth, English teacher at Sydney High School.


That’s him on the right in 1989 in his role as trainer of the 1st Grade Rugby team. The skinniness is starting to show there. As it became more obvious he was up front about what was happening with his students, and I remember Phil telling me how difficult this was, but also that he received messages of support and thanks for his honesty from the parents of many of those students.

sydney-boys-high-great-hallI in fact worked with Phil 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.

Phil was greatly respected, even loved, by staff and students alike, and greatly admired for his honesty and courage. The school officially attended his funeral at Christ Church St Laurence in 1991, students from Sydney High carrying his coffin. I was there. Later, both M and I attended the wake in Pitt Street, Redfern, not far from where M – whom I had met in 1990 – and I were then living.

A prize for a senior student showing courage in difficulties was endowed in Phil’s name at Sydney High and is awarded to this day.

Awful as the whole thing was – Phil after all never made 40 – I also remember it along with much else from the early 1990s as a shining time of acceptance and hope. The way the school totally embraced Phil in his last journey is the shining example – and kudos to all my colleagues then, from the then boss Bob Outterside to Tony H (also in that picture above), to Con, to Marcia, to Tess… The lot of them! And in late 1989 through 1990 I had occasion to experience that acceptance myself as they embraced me – especially my English/History colleagues and even a few senior students who knew what was happening – over Rob’s suicide, even accepting quite strange visits in working hours from Rob’s grieving boyfriend Mark.




I fear at times that the intervening Howard years have led us to fall away in some respects from where we were around, say, 1990-1991.  Do you think we have? Is this a less kindly time?

Footnote from Justin on Lost Gay Sydney:

I went to school with Phil Ainsworth, he was in the year ahead a me. He was an amazing bloke and a legend at the school – captain of the footy team, dux of the school, school captain – he excelled at whatever he put his hand to.

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