Past and future–Surry Hills to The Gong


Sirdan on the move


Sirdan moved today, a fairly short distance south, and not far from Centennial Park. He will have more space for his amazing range of creative activities. – 14 October

M suffers racist attack

Gary Lo has experienced more racism within Sydney’s gay community than he has in the mainstream community.

When he went to gay venues people muttered things like “fucking nip”. He found it almost impossible to get served at bars, as the staff would look straight past him. And when he tried internet chat rooms, the minute the issue of race came up people would say they weren’t interested…

Lo, who was born in Hong Kong but has lived in Australia since he was two, said people in the gay community seemed to think they had “more leeway when it came to racism”.

“It seems like anything goes with the gay community when it comes to race,” he said.

“Maybe it’s because there’s a sexual hierarchy of desirability on the gay scene. And Asians rank pretty low on that. No one talks about it but it’s pretty well understood.”…

It would be nice to think Gary is a bit oversensitive or paranoid, but it is sadly not the case.

I was shocked to learn last night that a couple of weeks ago M was physically assaulted by a gay person in what seems to have been a racially-motivated attack. M required medical attention, and the police were called in. Beyond that I can’t say more, as I normally do not publicise M’s business here.

As I have said before, racism is NOT an acceptable world-view; it is utterly irrational, it is a psychological problem, a personality disorder, and a great social problem. Give it no tolerance.

Issues arising from cultural conflicts and varying degrees of acculturation in a migrant context in a culturally diverse society such as ours are another matter, and often require careful thought, but such issues, let it be noted, are not down to the unscientific concept we call “race”, and are best sorted calmly and carefully, with an eye to fairness and compassion and, let it be said, tolerance of difference. – 14 October


Little things that make blogging worthwhile

I have no delusions of grandeur when it comes to this blog. I really don’t think my rants, which are far from infallible anyway, will change the world, though I do believe that the blogosphere as a whole can have a great effect through the channels of communications it may open up. One instance of that is recounted on Jim Belshaw’s blog, and strangely it concerns me and a friend of mine. Through our blogs, Jim and I managed to bring together my friend the Aboriginal actor Kristina Nehm here in Surry Hills and the artist Stozo Da Klown in the USA.

Hi Jim!

I want to thank you for putting me in contact with Kristina, she wrote me and I am completely blown away how the internet works and world community is and just the mysteries of life timing etc. I have been surfing the net for years 20 to be exact well that was even before this internet thing etc. She was a dear lost friend and our connection was priceless for me…

mega thanks!!

I would love to refer you to Jim’s account of this, but at the moment Blogspot is producing, not for the first time:


But it is the comment Ahmad has just added here that prompted my thought this morning: see Meanwhile in a country far away… Thanks, Ahmad. – 17 October



M, meanwhile, emails: spent a few hours at copacabana beach. by chance there were gay pride party in front beach. joined the party and danced 4 hrs… Not his photo; it’s last year and from an article in the Washington Blade linked to the pic.

Surry Hills is much more exciting, of course, as you saw here earlier. And I didn’t even mention last weekend’s Surry Hills Festival, because I didn’t go, being in Chinatown most of that day. You may read about it on James O’Brien’s blog. Better than Rio, James? – 15 October


Redfern Visions 23: East Redfern 1 – nature 1

The pics in this and the next six or so Redfern Visions sets have all been taken today in the area bounded by Cleveland Street, Walker Street, South Dowling Street and Moore Park — in other words between here and M’s place, being deliberately vague about where he lives. They were all taken in morning light.

mon27 011

The jacarandas are thriving…


When West Wollongong can expect the NBN roll-out. But work has already commenced in Central Wollongong. See Crown St Mall to lead city’s switch to NBN.

How time has gone, is going!

And I see my blog is at the moment R-Rated – thanks to recent posts remembering the Bali bombing. Oh dear.  I just said another bad word! How about “b*mbing”?

Over and over and over….

Looking back over my blogs…

21 Sep 2001 Pray for

…the peace of the world

We’re in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious beliefs.
–George W Bush: to Congress 20 September 2001

That I definitely agree with. Nor for a moment would I not want to see the perpetrators of last week’s terror attacks in the United States brought to account.

But there are a number of worrying things about Bush’s speech. Take one:

Americans are asking "Why do they hate us?"

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.

These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life….

Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

OK, I agree–up to a point. But there are uncomfortable questions one must ask:

1. Are Christian extreme fundamentalists any more in favour of pluralism (one of the values Bush says we are defending) than their counterparts in other religions? (Admittedly most American fundamentalists are not and are not likely to be terrorists in any crude sense, but what about the likes of those who have said the bombings are God’s judgement on unrighteousness, specifically on tolerating homosexuals? What about those who enforce the teaching of "Creation Science"?)

2. How democratic and free is Saudi Arabia?

3. Why were the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon specifically targeted? Is there a clue there to the origin of the hatred? Is it the American political system that is so hated, or something else?

4. If you know the answer to 3, will terrorism (a crime against humanity) ever lose its attractiveness to some while what those targets represent to many in the Third World remains unreformed?

I only wish all nations in the world, including the United States, took things like the International Declaration on Human Rights very seriously. But they probably won’t. Not if it interferes with business.

It is a sorry world.

Sunday thoughts 18 Sep 2005


He prayed — it wasn’t my religion.
He ate — it wasn’t what I ate.
He spoke — it wasn’t my language.
He dressed — it wasn’t what I wore.
He took my hand — it wasn’t the color of mine.
But when he laughed — it was how I laughed,
and when he cried — it was how I cried.

– written by 16-year-old Amy Maddox of Bargersville, Indiana.

“Just as you have the instinctive natural desire to be happy and overcome suffering, so do all sentient beings; just as you have the right to fulfill this innate aspiration, so do all sentient beings. so on what grounds do you discriminate?”

– His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“The only good that can come out of these nail bombs is that they spur all of us, whatever race, age, creed or sexuality, to work harder to build the one-nation Britain that the decent majority want, and to bring our community closer together.”

– British Prime Minister Tony Blair, after the capture of the person who set off several bombs in the Soho area of London.

Good Muslim story 23 September 2006

Given all the heat generated on all sides lately, it is nice to read a good story on The Kashmiri Nomad, himself at times a hard-hitting defender of his faith. Entitled “The Criminal Offence Of ‘Traveling While Being Muslim’”, the entry recounts the Nomad’s recent plane travels, with a nice anecdote about a little old lady’s concern about a fellow-passenger wearing a burqa. The Nomad concludes:

Before I went on this trip I did not know how I would be treated as a Muslim trying to board a plane. I did not know how the people in the airport would react to me. Would there be any special type of procedure that I as a Muslim would have to go through? Would I be singled out for special treatment / consideration? Questions such as these were running through my mind before the car journey to the airport.

The security was tighter at the airport than at any other time that I can remember. Even having said that the staff and personal all treated me with the most respect and attentiveness.

Many say that there is a new criminal offence of “traveling while being a Muslim” having just recently come back from a trip abroad I can say that I in no way felt that. I am sure that there are some who feel that I should not have so easily been allowed to board a plane.

Glad to read of the proper treatment the Nomad encountered. Not everyone, it seems, has descended into total paranoia.

This leads me to a subversive thought. I am sure you have all read (or heard of) this:

…But the expert wanting to make himself look good asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with a story: A man was going down the mountain road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by a gang of robbers who stripped him of everything, beat him up, and ran off, leaving him half-dead. By chance a priest was going down that road. But when he saw the man, he went by on the other side. In the same way a temple official came along. When he saw the man , he also went by on the other side. Then a foreigner from Samaria traveling along that road happened upon the man, and when he saw him, he was filled with compassion and went to help. He treated his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. He put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.

That translation glosses “Samaritan” as “foreigner from Samaria”, and that does bring out one aspect of the story — an outsider showed more true charity than the patriot, or the representative of orthodoxy. But who were/are (they still exist) the Samaritans?

In discussions in Israel about the Samaritans, one question that often arises is whether they constitute an ethnic community within Judaism or a separate religion. The Samaritans are one of the most ancient and authentic ethnic groups that exist in Israel in our days. Today their number is 650. The community is small and is struggling to survive as a homogenous ethnic group. Although living under the same sovereignty, the Samaritans live in two separate communities, one in the city of Holon and the other in Kiryat Luza, a village in mount Gerizim by Nablus…

So this little group predates modern Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the state of Israel. Now what if Jesus were in the Galilee of today and told the story thus:

…”And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with a story: A man was going down the mountain road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by a gang of robbers who stripped him of everything, beat him up, and ran off, leaving him half-dead. By chance a Catholic priest was going down that road. But when he saw the man, he went by on the other side. In the same way a Rabbi came along. When he saw the man , he also went by on the other side. Then a Muslim traveling along that road happened upon the man…

Just a thought…

The march of folly and the guns of war 20 September 2007

NOTE 18 September 2012: the many links in this post may or may not still work, and they do not open in new windows.

Yes, I have appropriated and adapted two of Barbara Tuchman’s famous 20th century histories to create that title, because they are so sadly apt in the current world climate. First, let me get a disclaimer (or several) out of the way: I am opposed to suicide bombing especially when it targets innocent people going about their everyday lives — I call that murder, and a particularly vile kind of murder at that. Second, I do not for one moment believe that there is a war against Islam. That is a paranoid religious interpretation put with often unhelpful consequences on conflicts and tensions that arise for much more mundane reasons. Angry Muslims should have a bit more faith in God’s ability to look after himself. No-one is in the slightest bit interested in Muslim countries or Muslim minorities in other countries unless they happen to be sitting on or near a very large oil reserve. I will come back to that in a moment. Third, the state of Israel is the most destabilising factor in the Middle East, and I say that as, in general, a supporter of Israel. But it should never have been allowed to settle Gaza and the West Bank. Fourth, much of the talk of democracy in the Middle East is open to criticism on the grounds of hypocrisy, as democratic choices that go the “wrong” way are vigorously rejected: Gaza (in vile dehumanising Newspeak — resist this worst abuse of human language with every fibre of your being — now an“enemy entity” like a microbe or a cancer cell or It Came From Outer Space) and Iran are two cases in point. Finally, I am not a great admirer of the current Iranian regime.

I find myself more and more convinced that Blood and Oil by Michael Klare (Hamish Hamilton 2004) is really on the money.

Politically and morally, the price will be just as steep. To retain our access to oil and to secure permission to deploy our troops where we deem them necessary, in such oil-rich states as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, we will have to crawl into bed with some of the world’s most corrupt and despotic leaders — plying them with ever more arms, military training, technical assistance, diplomatic support, and White House access while ignoring their contempt for democracy and their egregious human rights violations. And the numerous victims of these regimes will come to view America not as a standard-bearer of democracy but as a greedy prop of dictatorship.

These are the circumstances that breed terrorism. While anger at American support for Israel is a central source of Arab and Muslim rage, it is, as Kenneth Pollack has explained, our backing of corrupt and authoritarian governments that supplies the major impetus to rebellion. “Terrorism and internal instability in the Persian Gulf are ultimately fueled by the political, economic, and social stagnation of the local Arab states,” he wrote in 2003. “Too many [ordinary people] feel powerless and humiliated by despotic governments that do less and less for them while preventing them from having any say in their own governance.” Militants direct their anger first at the regime in power, but, because they regard the United States — not unreasonably — as a major factor in the regime’s survival, they extend their fury, and their vengeance, to American forces.

Ultimately, the cost of oil will be measured in blood: the blood of American soldiers who die in combat, and the blood of the many other casualties of oil-related violence, including the victims of terrorism… (p. 183)

Witness the drumbeats to which folly marches:

TONY JONES: Alexander Downer, let me just quickly go to your own portfolio area where otherwise we would have started. Last night John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN, told us it would be absolutely right for the United States to attack Iranian nuclear facilities with limited air strikes to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Do you agree with him?
ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I wouldn’t put it that way. No, I think what the situation is, is this – that the United States will never rule in or rule out the use of force. They simply don’t do that and I think that’s entirely understandable. And I think the Iranians need to understand, and the French foreign minister made a very fiery statement about this just the other day, the Iranians need to understand that the international community is truly looking and feels very strongly about this, is truly looking to them to fulfil all of their obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions. I noticed the French foreign minister, by the way, saying that he and the Germans were of the view that further sanctions would be needed if Iran didn’t adhere to current security council resolutions, which could be sanctions over and above the sanctions that the United Nations itself has put in place. So, the Iranians in any case need to understand they are under a lot of pressure from the international community.
TONY JONES: A final quick question, because what also came out of that interview was his strong belief, John Bolton’s strong belief, that the Israelis had struck at a significant target inside Syria, very likely a nuclear facility, and he suggested it was also extremely likely that the North Koreans had been assisting the Syrians to build or to do something related to nuclear weapons.
ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, first of all, I haven’t got any confirmation of any of that and I simply have to admit that I don’t know. But what I do know is that there have been quite a number of reports to that effect. And if that is true, and remember, a lot of people have been reporting this, if that is true, then that constitutes a very, very serious threat to Israel and a revelation of proliferation from North Korea that we haven’t previously been aware of, and that in itself is an extremely serious matter. But by the way, I can’t give you any confirmation of that, it is just, there have been a number of reports about it to that effect, but not yet confirmed.

How to completely ruin the United States, among other things: have a war against Iran. Foreign Policy: Think Again: Iran is a post in my Archive from 2005. It is still true. The source is the US magazine Foreign Policy.

This one is available if you sign up for free registration. I urge you to do so. In summary, the article argues these points:

1. “If Iran Gets a Nuclear Bomb, Iran Will Use It” — Very unlikely.
2. “Iran Has No Use for Nuclear Power” — False.
3. “The Iranian People Support Their Leaders’ Nuclear Program” — Not really.
4. “Only the Threat of Force Can Dissuade Iran from Advancing with Its Nuclear Plans” — Doubtful.
5. “U.S. Military Action Would Embolden Dissidents to Topple the Islamic Republic” — Wrong.
6. “Criticizing the Islamic Republic Helps Dissidents Inside Iran” — No.
7. “If Iraq Becomes a Democracy, so Will Iran” — Wishful thinking.
8. “Iran Cannot Be Reformed from Within” — Wrong again.

Such a shame the regime in America ignores the best opinions from its own people, isn’t it?

Still true, as is Don’t Blitz Iran — Brian Cloughley (April 18, 2006). But they won’t take any notice of me, will they?

See also: Inside Iran (August 27, 2007); Iran, Hilaly, The Heathlander, and trying to keep some perspective… (April 10, 2007); Visiting Israeli fascist’s advice spurned? (February 17, 2007); Dissenting Jews on Israel (February 6, 2007); They would have to be mad of course… (February 3, 2007); Eteraz on Iran (December 16, 2006); Building peace on a foundation of lies? (December 14, 2006); Robert Scheer tells it like it is… (August 3, 2006); From The Poet: How We Miss Yitzhak Rabin (July 31, 2006); Three from Truthout (July 26, 2006); The new war in the Middle East — Sojourners (July 22, 2006); Strong stuff from the grumpy old man from Burgundy (June 3, 2006); CounterPunch: always provocative, sometimes enlightening (May 15, 2006); Raed Jarrar is hard to rebut on Iran (May 13, 2006); The Backlash Against Democracy Promotion (April 28, 2006); Zbigniew Brzezinski: Been there, done that (April 24, 2006); Yet more from The Poet (April 13, 2006). So I really have had a bit to say, or I have added thoughts to this“commonplace book” of my blog, on quite a few occasions. I just don’t see much point to banging on about it every day.

But let me reprise that last one from April last year:

Too many to record them all from the last couple of days, but here are three:

1) Newspeak and the Corruption of Politics by Ernest Partridge. The descent of the term “liberal” into a term of abuse, especially but not only in US Right circles, is one of the more regrettable phenomena of recent years. Only those who have lost their hold on the history of ideas and of democracy could go along with it. “Liberalism – the program and the ideology – is distinctly and inalienably American. It is in our founding documents. It is validated by our history of emancipation, of scientific and technological advancement, of the improvement of the workplace, of the emergence of the middle class, of the advancement of civil rights, and of the emergence of the environmental movement.”

2) Robert Scheer: Now Powell Tells Us . “On Monday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell told me that he and his department’s top experts never believed that Iraq posed an imminent nuclear threat, but that the president followed the misleading advice of Vice President Dick Cheney and the CIA in making the claim. Now he tells us.”

3) William Rivers Pitt on Iran. “Things have come to a pretty pass in the United States of America when the first question you have to ask yourself on matters of war and death is, “Just how crazy are these people?” Every cogent estimate sees Iran’s nuclear capabilities not becoming any kind of reality for another ten years, leaving open a dozen diplomatic and economic options for dealing with the situation. There is no good reason for attacking that country, but there are a few bad reasons to be found.”

Mind you, former weapons inspector and rather unsuccessful Tasmanian Governor Richard Butler did make a good point on SBS News last night: the real issue is that NO-ONE should have nuclear weapons, starting with the USA itself.

Crazy world, but I wouldn’t give up on “human nature”. Humanity manifests compassion and co-operativeness just as much as it reveals the Beast of Lord of the Flies. One could argue, and people have so argued, that the ability to empathise and co-operate just as much “explains” human evolution as those characteristics some pessimists choose to highlight.

My third blogging Leap Year


Although later on I added some offline entries back to late 1999, my “blog” – then called a diary – actually began with this entry:

29 April, 2000: 6:07AM

"M offered to pay for private hospital! My life changed absolutely when he came into it. I hope the delay hearing about his citizenship application does not indicate a problem. It shouldn’t. But there will undoubtedly be more about M as this journal grows." QUOTE FROM MY JOURNAL Christmas Eve  1996.
* * *
M finally got his Australian citizenship in 1997. The process had begun in 1991. I had my hernia operation around Anzac Day 1997 at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (an excellent public hospital) after a six month wait as it was elective surgery; hence M’s offer 4-5 months earlier. I had meantime found another use for bicycle shorts, though I don’t recommend them as underwear in a Sydney summer. I saw Mardi Gras 1997 on TV in emergency at Prince Alfred where I was waiting to have the hernia pushed back into place, having for once failed to do so myself, only to be told by a cheerful nurse after the deed was done that it was just as well she’d succeeded as they couldn’t have admitted me anyway because they had no beds.
* * *
I don’t usually perform lucubrations on my Brother at this hour. There, that will have them running for their dictionaries; and I’m only using my Brother because it saves powering up the PC; I just have to keep my eye out for the sticky "w"– the w key on the Brother is a bit erratic.
And I’m only performing lucubrations because I’ve just finished Hell Week (as the Quitnetters call it), having made a determination that this cigarette quit will hold. I did run from July 1998 to just on New Year 1999 almost ciggieless, and for a couple of extended periods in 1999 and 2000. I suppose I have in total smoked over the last year half of what I would have. However, I now know I cannot be a moderate smoker, so it has to stop. My advice to anyone out there: if you don’t, don’t start! It’s an evil drug really. I, poor fool, started in my 30s, as an alternative, I think, to strangling children: teachers may know what I mean.
Anyway, Hell Week is when your sleep patterns are disturbed and you are likely to have vivid dreams. I woke at 5.00 am after a rather well-produced and well-scripted dream involving my late grandfather, Betsy B. and her children (an in-joke: sorry), a gas bath heater (which exploded), and a house called Ninglun’s Home. It’s only when I give up smoking that I learn what a weird imagination I have!
* * *
So yes, I am thinking of M. Right now he would be thinking of whether the Karakoram Highway will open when it should in two days time so he can proceed back to Shanghai via Xinjiang.
A word about our relationship, because quite frankly it will be interesting (to say the least) when he comes back after 12 months travel. Don’t get the impression he is my exclusive "property": he isn’t, nor should he be. After all, he didn’t leave Mainland China for some other form of servitude! It did take me a while to get my head around this.
In the first year (1990-1991) we were pretty passionate (well, for me anyway!). Meantime the odd person thought (or on some occasions said) I was being used. "He’s just after your money" was not right, as I didn’t have any. Indeed on one embarrassing occasion in 1990 I had to borrow from him to help pay for a meal we had–as he never ceases to remember, casting it back up at me among other of my faults when the occasion arises. "He’ll get his permanent residence and you’ll never see him again" said a woman who had actually lived in China and seemed to have learned only to dislike the Chinese. Well, that didn’t turn out to be true. He got his permanent residence in 1995; he paid for my postgrad course in 1998.
* * *
The rules we are conditioned to (which are essentially heterosexual) don’t entirely apply to gay relationships. This can be liberating, but can also lead to deep existential anxieties. "If it feels good, do it" is on the other hand far too shallow. Too many gay men (especially young ones?) fall victim to mindless hedonism, and it can be (not always, though) dehumanising. As I write this I am painfully aware of how hard it is to generalise, and how presumptuous it is even to try! Yet I hate predatory relationships with a passion. Life is too short, and other lives are too precious, for that. I hasten to add that there are plenty of heterosexual predatory relationships, many of them called "marriages".
* * *
I’m thinking on these lines too because I recently had occasion to have a heart-to-heart with someone just setting out. We all have to learn for ourselves, of course, and we all make mistakes and have painful experiences. In some ways I don’t envy the young. But on the other hand there is just as much chance that experience will prove joyous and fulfilling, and the young by definition have a longer time-span to look forward to. (DO stay safe! Too many young have died young. Don’t believe that crap about living hard, dying young, and leaving a beautiful corpse. ‘The grave’s a fine and private place/ But none I think do there embrace.’ A somewhat ironic allusion to Marvell, really!)
How to avoid a predator? Never do anything you’re not comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to be assertive about what you are comfortable with. If the other person does not respond sympathetically they’re probably not worth knowing (even if they are rich!). Walk away. No-one should force you or cajole you to do anything. A good relationship, friendship, or whatever, is not conditional.
On the other hand, one of the joys I have found since coming out is being able to relate across ages and cultures much more freely than would otherwise have been the case. I have learned so much from people from all sorts of backgrounds, and I hope have sometimes given something in return. And, not to appear too solemn, had some good times!
So if you are young, be open, learn what you can, but don’t allow yourself to lose yourself–if you know what I mean.
WOW: What a lucubration– and now the sun is well up and it’s time to put on my new patch.

Yes, that was the record for non-smoking until the past year!


The nearest I can get is my Sydney Boys High Communities Column for Fortnight ending March 6, 2004: Term One, Weeks 5 and 6.

bugs0aFebruary 22: The first day of the first month of the Islamic year 4124 CE. February 25: Ash Wednesday. This day marks the beginning of Lent. Ash symbolizes sorrow for wrong doings and foreheads of churchgoers are marked with the shape of the cross with ashes as a sign of penitence. March 6: Holi — This festival of colour celebrates Spring, where people play with liquid and powdered colours, light bonfires and blow horns. (Hindu and Sikh) March 7: Purim — Purim is known as the Feast of Lots, which celebrates the deliverance of Jews in Persia from the machinations of Haman. Jews dress in costume and give gifts of food to each other. Learn more with this PDF file Multicultural Calendar from the Australian Department of Immigration.

 bugs0a Before long I should have some facts and figures about Sydney Boys High 2004. With a handful of exceptions, Year Seven have been surveyed and tested. I have spoken, I think, to all the relevant new students in Year Eleven, and just have a few more in other years to find out about. It would appear Year Seven is about the same in terms of languages backgrounds other than English as Year Seven 2003: about 80%. Two classes are 100% LBOTE, or near enough to. (I am allowing for a small number of absent students in hedging that.) The mix, however, is a little different. Please remember that "language background other than English" extends to anyone in the family (including grandparents) who speak in a language other than English. On the other hand, we do have a sizeable group who have been in Australia for less than three years: I think "a few weeks" is the upper limit! Some of those have come from countries where they spoke English, such as New Zealand or various African countries, even though their parents may have been born in a non-English-speaking country.

Perhaps some of these students have a bit more insight into the HSC Area Study "Journeys" than the rest of us. Mind you, I guess we all are on some kind of journey or another, and as an English teacher I have been making Imaginative Journeys all my life!


On the actual 29 February I posted Here is some truth about Obama’s religious position and More on the Blogger Meetup. That referred to this – and it is incredible that this is four years ago!

After coaching tonight I caught the slow bus from Chinatown to arrive on a cold and wet Sydney night at Newtown’s rather wonderful Courthouse Hotel for the blogger meetup. That’s not our group in the picture on the right. I was late, so I missed Marcellous.

Even before I had settled into the group for an hour I met of all people someone I had taught English with at Dapto back in 1970, one of the Spender sisters, Dale and Lynn, the former a rather well-known feminist writer, the other no slouch either. It was Lynn I saw, though initially I thought it was Dale. We both contemplated the years that had flown since then with some amazement, though I have to say I am a minnow compared with what those two have done with that time. (See also When I was a twenty-something conservative in transition…)

Back to the blogger meet: it was great to put a face to Panther at last. James O’Brien I knew instantly, though I had never met him before, and I discovered why The Other Andrew is so called.

Someone whose travels eclipse M’s trips in duration, if not quite in exotic destinations but he comes very close, is this person:


I’m an Aussie who has just spent 2 1/2yrs roaming around Europe with my dog, a very large Alaskan Malamute by the name of Bondi. Our adventure began in May 2005. So far we’ve travelled around much of UK, including a week-long walk across Scotland; spent 2 months each in Spain & Paris, plus a 5 week circuit of Ireland; done a load of family-tree research; a coast-to-coast crossing of England on foot along Hadrian’s Wall path, and a side-trip to dive wrecks in the northern part of the Red Sea. Most recently we completed a 20,000km 20-country tour of Europe by car, and 3 months in Scotland.

I also discovered what the wonderful header on Dancing About Architecture is all about.

Check here to learn more about what this meet was and who was there. I imagine a relevant post might appear before long too. Topics as various as knitting, historical reenactments, and Number 96 — that site was especially referred to — were being talked about as I, noticing that it was getting dark out, decided I had to set off home, which I did via an excellent Chinese noodle shop in King Street.

Newtown at night is, I have to say, far more interesting and far more pleasant these days than Oxford Street.

And in the previous decade I…

… laughed at this.


Sunday, February 16, 2003 on Diary-X:

Two of the new interests I developed in my twenties were travel (or rather, driving) and photography, both of them you will note a touch solitary, but they gave me a lot of pleasure.
Between 1968 and 1978 I had a number of cars, partly because I was operating on the assumption (encouraged by the car dealer I am sure) that it was a good idea to change one’s car every two years or so. I wonder if I can recall them correctly?

  • 1. Mazda 1500
  • 2. Mazda 1200 2-door — run into at an intersection in Unanderra leading to a court case for negligent driving (the other guy was guilty) and my mother breaking her leg
  • 3. Mazda 1300
  • 4. Mazda RX-2 — red, with a Wankel engine that accelerated like crazy and led to comments like: "How many cylinders?" A: "None." and "Red. Oh, I see…" It once took me up Mount Ousley, one of the two major passes out of Wollongong, in top gear all the way — quite an achievement. Ended its days being driven through a double brick fence after an encounter with a little old lady in a Volkswagen.
  • 5. Subaru front-wheel drive; one of the earlier Subarus, rather famous for head gasket trouble. A sedate white.
  • 6. The last one — and my last car — Volkswagen L series Beetle 1500.
  • Ironically, given Populist crud Abbott’s unworkable asylum seeker policy yesterday, I see that the previous year I had written:

    22 Jan 2002
    This one really covers a lot of ground 🙂

    Watched the Golden Globe Awards last night, a splendid opportunity to feel patriotic as an Australian 😉 What do Mr Rabbit, Russell Crowe and I have in common? I will give a clue to the knowing: the colours brown and blue are relevant.
    Robin (United Kingdom) on the OUT site messaged me that he had just read my Diary — and I think he meant allof it; he complained that he was about to become impoverished as he now had to visit his book shop! Meanwhile the Empress has been furnishing her embassy on OUT and was visited by a Rabbit recently. OUT seems to be very good for Rabbits; I may have to start identifying which Rabbit I am talking about by adding some further identifier to the name… I must also thank Lord Byron (despite the name not a dead poet but a very living young English person) for accepting my somewhat forward compliments on his picture (which really is one of the cutest on OUT) with such good grace…

    On the other hand, the Immigration Minister, while impressing some with his toughness, is driving me to fresh waves of nausea each time I see him. (There is an article by Professor David Flint in the latest Quadrant where Howard and Ruddock are ably defended, and yet Flint does not convince me. More perhaps later.) I reproduce one letter from today’s Sydney Morning Herald without joy, but believing it to be a profoundly important letter:

    Ruddock’s concentration camps for kids

    If children were in the care of a parent who left them exposed to violence and did not provide adequate education or a place for safe play and development, we would remove those children and consider prosecuting the guardian. This is the condition of children in the Woomera Detention Centre.

    The Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, is the guardian of about 50 unaccompanied children there. The remaining 240 children in Woomera who have a parent with them are little better off.

    Mr Ruddock’s policies make adequate parenting in immigration detention impossible. The harsh, dehumanising environment and the prolonged time in limbo undermines even the most resourceful. Asylum-seekers are already vulnerable and traumatised. Does any other country lock children and families behind walls of razor wire in the desert?

    We recently visited children and families in Woomera and Villawood Detention Centres and saw their conditions of detention and the effects of these on children first-hand. At Woomera, people were introduced to us by number rather than their name. There was evidence of violence and despair in the filthy and blood-stained toilets the detainees use. There was not shade or a blade of grass in the compound, except the administration building. Younger children asked us why there are no flowers in Australia. Keeping children in conditions akin to concentration camps is medically and morally wrong.

    Dr Michael Dudley, Chair, Suicide Prevention Australia,
    Dr Sarah Mares, Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, RANZCP,
    Dr Fran Gale,

    Sydney, January 20.

    Robin was one of the first overseas readers of what I then called “diaries” as I didn’t yet know what a blog was! He is a retired scientist from Cambridge University and a former member of the British Antarctic scientific research team. He kindly reviewed my “diary” on 22 January 2002.

    Reflections on first reading Ninglun’s diary.

    Step back far enough from both, allow for the different age and technology, and there’s a striking similarity to Kilvert’s diary. The same observations on daily doings and happenings, on people, friends and colleagues, interspersed with flashes of lust, passion and romance. Except that Kilvert’s were (I hope!) mostly fantasies. [From the little I have just gleaned about Kilvert’s diary, previously unknown to me, I hope they were too! Certainly I would separate myself from some of Kilvert’s apparent claim to fame.– Ninglun] Maybe this is simply true of most diaries, most people’s lives, but a useful simile and reference point anyway.

    Specific events/subjects that strike a chord (order insignificant):

    – Ninglun’s "embarassing moment". Different circumstances, different ages (hmm, for what it’s worth seems I predated him by a couple of years in time, but he more than made up for that later!). Same powerful emotions, and a super descriptive phrase – "spontaneous outflow of powerful feeling". Must remember that. [22 October 2001]
    – The sailor in the Albury. cf. Kilvert. Delightful human moment. [7 June 2000]
    – "Bring Me a Rainbow". Great stuff. Maybe I’ve not done so badly after all. Retirement and complete break from my life-long passion, big change in lifestyle (hope it continues as it’s started), and at last, another glimpse of the real me. They must be worth a colour, two even, how about it Lara? [9 August 2001]
    – Thoughts on 11/9/01. Reflect many of mine, complete with a parenthetical reference to Chile*. And on Bush’s speech. The utter disbelief when he proceeded to display all the characteristics that might motivate someone to do such dreadful things. Ninglun’s take is rather different, looking at/analysing what he said, rather then the way he said it maybe. NB. is there a transcript on the web somewhere? [Ninglun: I am sure there is; at the time it was available on CNN.][11 September 2001 and after]
    – On spirituality. Many of the same conclusions as Ninglun. Changed OUT profile from "Atheist" to "have a faith" – why did that phrase seem threatening first time around? [29 October 2000, 7 August 2001, 23 September 2001, 27 September 2001, 9 October 2001, 14 October 2001, **24-25 October 2001, 4 December 2001, 12 December 2001, 21 December 2001]
    – On listening. A good list of faults. Guilty on all counts. [22 October 2000]
    – On smoking. Hey ho, I know. [25 November 2001, 7 December 2001–and passim]
    * I visited Chile several times in the late 60’s/early 70’s, mostly as a tourist, and was fascinated by the society and the experiment with communism under Allende. Later, a post doc. from University of Concepcion ("A") came to work with me for a while in the UK, and stayed in my flat for a couple of months while he found somewhere to live. I’ll never forget the morning I came down to find him in tears at the breakfast table over the newspaper reports and pictures of Pinochet’s (/CIA’s) revolution. We both took a "sickie" that day.

    RK 22/1/02.

    Then in January 2001 I wrote:

    January 21: Laid-back day

    There was a mid-month Yum Cha today, but I didn’t make it. I met the Dowager Empress and PK in Paddy’s Market about 11 am. (They were the only ones who did make it!) Chinatown was buzzing for Chinese New Year: a street market, music, crowds. The Empress bought a pair of rather remarkable door knockers and a good fortune thing with lots of twirly bits–very garish. This afternoon Simon H and K., the actress, both came over–and a great afternoon it was. Consequently, one way or another, it looks as if I am off to the Wharf Theatre tomorrow night; I shall report on that later. Simon read Mitchell’s short story for the first time and really appreciated it. I hope that story sees the light of day sometime, and another I read; may more follow in time 🙂

    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.

    2011 retrospective – 12 — November

    A very family month and another Shire rediscovery month too.

    2 November I began but soon abandoned another blog in an attempt to replace the public version of my Google Reader. 4 November was a most pleasant day.

    Posted that wonderful open letter by Tom Keneally as well.

    On 5 November I was thinking rather than writing….  I see Anonymous was going to shut down Facebook that day. Headed for Sydney on 6 November and also posted this: one of them is my grand-nephew David.

    The book I told you about on 7 November really has proven a total treasure: On being in Surry Hills yesterday and finding Nick Jose’s anthology remaindered.

    Began a series with Surry Hills revisited–people — 1.

    All the angst about the carbon tax got to me in Sick of hysterics on 9 November.

    11/11/11 deserved a special post and some nice photos of jacarandas. That day I also observed the Morphs in Crown Street Mall.

    We seem to have had summer on 14 November: 93F at 8 pm. My main post was I watched Rageh Omaar on Abraham last night (SBS) ….

    See also On being in Surry Hills yesterday and finding Nick Jose’s anthology remaindered  for last week’s episode.

    I wasn’t disappointed, even if I was left wanting to know more. And let me preface by saying I admired the way he ended with those wonderful souls in Israel/Palestine who are genuinely for peace and reconciliation – for example:

    Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel builds peace, coexistence and equality through a network of integrated, bilingual schools for Jewish and Arab children. Founded in 1997, Hand in Hand’s success and longevity demonstrate that children, families and entire communities of Jews and Arabs can live and work together with mutual respect and friendship.

    On the other hand how tragic that this land and its living people are so cursed by origin myths that just refuse to die. How sad were the images of Hebron. In Omaar’s own words:

    Following Abraham’s story takes you from one war zone to another; from Iraq to Israel and the Occupied West Bank, where there are more Abrahamic echoes in the current conflict. The best known and most shocking part of Abraham’s story is the attempted sacrifice of his son. In the Jewish and Christian Bible, it’s Isaac he tries to sacrifice. In the Koran, it’s Ishmael. Yet all three faiths share an admiration for Abraham’s willingness to go through with the sacrifice, only to be stopped at the last minute by divine intervention. Is not sacrifice one of the key elements in the Middle East conflict, the idea that future generations must be willing to sacrifice themselves for the land? There have been so many times in my career, when I have interviewed political leaders, militants, settlers and soldiers, where I have written down the word “sacrifice” alongside the words “future generations”.

    Even Abraham’s reputed resting place is one of ugly, primal prejudice and violence. Hebron, in the West Bank, is one of the most uncomfortable places I have ever reported from. It oozes barely suppressed violence and raw hatred…

    In The sad decline of key terms of abuse I praised the word “urger” as being still very relevant. I wondered then: Is the Christmas Bush early this year? Then we had the Royal visit…. Which is actually about Obama.

    Shire Day on 18 November: Off to The Shire today, Back from The Shire, More on yesterday’s Shire excursion and Last fruits from Friday in The Shire:

    The Classes of 68 and 69 may be found here.Flies_away


    prefects1968aprefects1968bDr Colin Glendinning

    Left: Paul Kelly, T Griffiths, Paul Weirick, R Priddy

    Centre – Colin Glendinning 1968

    Right – Colin Glendinning 2011

    Sunday 20 November was the very impressive i98FM’s Camp Quality Convoy. This produced my most popular YouTube — 527 views so far.

    In The conservative as fool I looked at the third episode of the History of the Bible series. There were more reviews in Serious, seriously good, seriously stupid and maybe not so serious after all…. “Seriously good is a book I have been working through for about a month: Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland by Carmen Callil…”

    But  Sad news from The Shire coloured the rest of the month. I did wonder, however, about the #Occupy movement on 24 November: On occupying, fairyland and/or 21st century pretentiousness?

    25 November: my father would have turned 100, so Mainly family takes up that and the recent death in Sutherland of my Uncle Roy Christison. There are lots of revelations in the comments about my great-grandfather John  Hampton Christison, with family historians Ray Christison and Bill Niven really adding value to the post. Best comment thread ever! Smile Wetness, colourful ancestors, Facebook and rellos the next day continues, but especially focuses on Facebook’s role in renewing family links. This month has been a classic example.

    28 November was Roy’s funeral in Sutherland: Roy Hampton Christison 1927 – 2011. See also:

    And speaking of The Shire, here are some good-looking people who live there:


    That’s David, Lauren and Nathan – grand-niece and grand-nephews. The occasion: Lauren’s Year 12 Formal. And the last post in November.

    2011 retrospective – 11 — October

    How did it end? See 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…

    But that came to an end too a day later! At least the shareable version did. I now post some of it on Facebook and below the posts here are numerous feeds, most of them the sources of that Reader. On 29 October in Saturday miscellany I posted more indicators of my blog’s and my changing direction. You can trace back to 6 October’s Farewell to punditry and other changes here.

    28 October: Congenial. See also Lovely afternoon in The Gong.

    27 October:  Things I see around the neighbourhood…

    I think it is becoming clear what my priorities now are!

    Perhaps it all really followed from the previous three entries, all good ones: Funny isn’t always nice, is it?, First taste of summer and bitter taste of tabloid “journalism”, Really thought-provoking — Adam Curtis on SBS last night.

    Last night Media Watch excelled itself unmasking yet another example of the strident, cynical, and utterly harmful vomit or two minute hate that passes for journalism whenever Today Tonight touches on a serious political issue. You think I overuse  the abusive terms there? Well go to TT’s false facts fuel fear and weep – or better yet flood Channel Seven with complaints as they were up to the same kind of hysterical shit AGAIN the very same night Media Watch went to air!

    Today Tonight’s entire report was aimed at fuelling the myth that refugees are given extraordinary treatment.

    Margaret Thomas: Well what have they contributed to our country? Nothing. And they’re giving them more money than we get.
    — Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

    And where did Margaret Thomas get that idea? Well, she says, from Today Tonight. She told us that the reporter had …

    …showed me on his phone the video of that bloke saying he got $400 a week. Now that just got me very angry. …
    I didn’t know he was getting $400 a fortnight. I think that’s very sad and Channel 7 should not do that…I would have preferred to have been told the truth
    — Margaret Thomas, 15th October, 2011

    Gee, so would we.

    Here’s the truth. Asylum-seekers in detention get no cash benefits. Once given visas, refugees, whether or not they arrived by boat, get the same Centrelink benefits as everyone else.
    Is it surprising that so many people are concerned about boat people, when they’re fed inflammatory nonsense like this by one of the most popular programs in Australia?

    Irresponsible of Today Tonight, wouldn’t you say? But it isn’t about TRUTH is it?

    The changes I mention at Sirdan–changes coming are still in train. This will be our last Christmas get-together in Sydney. See earlier Sirdan–looking back.

    The Royal Tour occupied me in It’s them again! on 22 October, and the Illawarra Mercury did a funny…

    20 and 21 October led to a suspension of unmoderated comment here, though that is now relaxed again. But I also shared So many good reads! and tiredly and resignedly tried yet again to penetrate the fog surrounding that idiots’ playground Climate Change Denial: Reality check on climate change. See earlier Oh Lordie, Lordie! I am posting from Carbon Central NSW and the sky….

    One of the best novels of 2011 and one of the best novels I have ever read not only failed to win The Booker this year but was not even listed. A novel by the same author has won The Booker (2004), but this one is actually better than that one.


    I refer to The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst. smiley-happy005smiley-happy005[5]smiley-happy005[7]smiley-happy005[9]smiley-happy005[11]smiley-happy005[11]

    There’s an axe-grinding review by Anglo/Kashmiri novelist Hari Kunzru in The Observer. Such reviews often strike me as chastising the author for not writing the book the reviewer would have written. Damn it, I totally wallowed in the nostalgia! Leave me alone! See also my post Nostalgia and the globalising world — from Thomas Hardy to 2010.

    In fact considering that review further I just added another smiley! I must check young Mister Kunzru’s books to see if he can write even half as well as Hollinghurst. Check Alan Hollinghurst: The Stranger’s Child on the ABC Book Show.

    I see David Leavitt, “The Indian Clerk” (Bloomsbury 2007) among my best reads of 2009.  Brilliant also. And while we’re at it you can check my best reads of 2010, 2007, 2006 and 2005.

    Then there is Scandinavian Crime, Noir and Horror.  I note I was onto this in my 2008 best reads….

    On 18 October in Facebook does it for me again… I recount an example of a phenomenon that continued in November as Facebook found more “lost” relatives and friends. See also Thoughts on Facebook and The relatives I didn’t know–thanks, Facebook!

    Can you see the resemblances?


    That’s me on the right, and on the left one grand-niece, one grand-nephew, and one great-grand-nephew twice! Two live in Queensland, one in London but comes from North Queensland. I have not actually met any of them, though the grand-niece and I have exchanged messages increasingly on Facebook.

    Julia Gillard visited The Gong. I visited Sydney. See also Sunday–in the Trinity Bar with Sirdan.

    Note my 15 October post: “Took a break from the internet for the past day and a half. Partly I was busy doing other things, partly I was reading. Reading went well, but there are future posts on that… Meantime the same jerks are in the news. Who cares? Really!”

    I was quite engaged by the TV adaptation of The Slap and ideas in nostalgia and creativity: Suppose you lived in a golden age. Would you know it? and Footnote on “The Slap” and social change…. See earlier:  Idiot box? Only if you want it to be… Part 2 and Idiot box? Only if you want it to be… Part 1.

    Nostalgia time on 9 October after I watched The High and the Mighty on ABC2: Meanwhile in Sutherland in 1954…. More nostalgia in 1973–in The Gong teaching:

    I began the month talking about trackwork  and subjecting you to multiple images of myself.

    The photo blog image of October:

    2011 retrospective – 9 — September

    But first see how the sun has come out this morning!


    Over the road from The Bates Motel looking south

    You may recall September departing with sound and fury. And there I reminded you that September had begun thus:

    September began fairly dramatically for the Oz Government and its serial messing up of refugee policy: The High Court has struck down the Gillard Government’s refugee swap with Malaysia. As it should have. And did. “New Dawn” is over-egging though… records the outcome of our local government elections.

    I took you for a walk 0n 5 September in Come for a walk–with Henry Kendall too and then I took you on my morning walk. Here’s the afternoon for you….

    Lovely Chinese music on that one.

    If you look at 6 September you will see a series of archive explorations. I think I found some lovely stuff. Smile

    I have found my “blog” for September 2001.

    05 Sep 2001

    poetry..challenge and consolation

    Poetry has been a passion and a sustenance in my often impractical and prodigal life, in dark phases and in times of joy. I wish I could write it better. Here’s someone who could; but is the title true? In some ways, maybe…

    W.B. Yeats (1865–1939). from The Wild Swans at Coole. 1919.

    Men improve with the Years
    I AM worn out with dreams;
    A weather-worn, marble triton
    Among the streams;
    And all day long I look
    Upon this lady’s beauty
    As though I had found in book
    A pictured beauty,
    Pleased to have filled the eyes
    Or the discerning ears,
    Delighted to be but wise,
    For men improve with the years;
    And yet and yet
    Is this my dream, or the truth?
    O would that we had met
    When I had my burning youth;
    But I grow old among dreams,
    A weather-worn, marble triton
    Among the streams.
    Offered for your pleasure.

    Next day: That’s all there is! and I went for the first time in a while to The Swell Cafe in Wollongong. Nice.

    Nostalgic and visual in September, eh! And occasionally cryptic.

    This one attracted some comments: Is that all there is? And how to remember 9/11 constructively…

    If you read That’s all there is! yesterday you may be wondering if I would still endorse this:

    I am now utterly convinced (and this from a one-time Evangelical Christian) that all sacred texts are of human origin and one of the world’s most dangerous delusions is the belief in inerrant verbal revelations from the Divine…

    Do I still feel the same way? Sure do… You may be interested to read Jews, Christians and Judaeo-Christians by Geza Vermes (December 2011).

    Family in Returnee! on 9 September. My grand-nephew Nathan visiting (unwittingly as it happened) his Whitfield ancestry in Ireland.

    Then of course there was the tenth anniversary of 11 September: On the day, May this day not be marred by more hate or violence and Quiet post: West Wollongong evening and morning.

    Nostalgic again, thanks to Facebook, in Class of 1986 please note: you’re getting old!  15 September was R U OK? Day and also a time to review Alas, poor Julia–or why I ENJOY “At Home with Julia”.

    In the last half of the month The Shire exerted a strong pull on this blog and on me.

    And then we had Jack Vidgen in The Gong.

    This did lead me to wonder about YOUNG ADOLESCENT MALE TORCH SINGERS – there seem to be a lot of them.

    And politics? Well one post will suffice from the rest of September: Such hideous and absurd things have happened in this world, my friends!