Mr. Yang admitted that in the 1980s and early ’90s, before emigrating to Australia and then moving to New Zealand to teach at a university, he studied and taught at two Chinese educational institutions run by the People’s Liberation Army, China’s armed forces.
Asked our correspondent Barcelona Jim in Sydney to sum up of what’s up down there. He writes:
Australasian Politics has had a dose of Trump style mix ups, send ups, controversies, ejections and elections and chaotic decisions in this last week.In a short period that involves New Zealand as much as it involves scandals, the new Prime Minister of NZ was told by the media she had won the election whilst painting her back fence in her track pants.
Ardern got straight to work, looking seeming bored when receiving a congratulatory call from President Trump, but had an enjoyable conversation with a journalist phoning her team to ask the correct pronunciation of “Ardern” – only to get straight through to the PM herself to have a genial chat.Meanwhile – Australia is in an uproar about a long forgotten amendment to our constitution, Article 22.This states that members of parliament cannot hold dual citizenship.Beginning with a right-wing party calling out a left-wing member the news achieved enough attention to call the deputy PM of Australia, Barnaby Joyce, along with several others into question.
In a decision handed out yesterday by the high court of Australia, Barnaby and four other senators are foisted out, leaving the opposing party with no longer a majority.Meanwhile the previously mentioned party organised a federal police raid on the opposing party’s Australian Worker’s Union, but was tipped off by media leading to a Federal Investigation and a resigning of at least one staffer and possibly a leading member.Many members, senators, leaders of parliament are in a current flutter of back-stabbing, investigations, constitutional rediscovery.If this sounds confusing… It is.Best of wishes to Mueller.
He said he had not named the Chinese military institutions on his application for New Zealand citizenship, and had instead listed “partner institutions” as his employers, because that was what the Chinese “system” had told him to do.
Mr. Yang conceded that he had taught English to spies, but said he had never been a spy himself, was no longer a member of the Communist Party, and had been contracted and paid only as a so-called civilian officer.
Mr. Yang has not been officially investigated in New Zealand or charged with espionage.
But Nicholas Eftimiades, a former officer with the Central Intelligence Agency with extensive experience on China matters, said the title of civilian officer was a fluid one in China.
Mr. Eftimiades, now a lecturer at Penn State Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, said officers moved seamlessly between military and civilian assignments to include Chinese army units and work in the defense industry, think tanks and universities.
Says the 2001 NYTimes obituary of painter Johnny Warangkua Tjupurrula:
He died a penniless alcoholic. In 1997 one of his paintings, ”Water Dreaming at Kalipinya,” which he had sold in 1972 for $75, changed hands at a Sotheby’s auction in Melbourne for $263,145, setting a record for any Aboriginal work of art. Mr. Tjupurrula’s request for 4 percent of the sale price was refused by both seller and buyer.
Not cool! From a 2010 Smithsonian article by Arthur Lubow:
The Wilkersons’ costliest board was the 1972 painting Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa, a dazzling patchwork of stippled, dotted and crosshatched shapes, bought in 2000 for some $220,000—more than twice the price it had been auctioned for only three years earlier. The painting was done by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, an original member of the Papunya cooperative and one of its most celebrated. Sadly, the artist himself had long been overlooked; in 1997, an Australian journalist found Warangkula, by then old and homeless, sleeping along with other Aboriginal people in a dry riverbed near Alice Springs. Though he reportedly received less than $150 for his best-known painting, the publicity surrounding the 1997 sale revived his career somewhat and he soon resumed painting. Warangkula died in a nursing home in 2001.
Here’s his 1972 painting Potato Dreaming:
Here are some takes and items for your Sunday enjoyment!
The coach on Netflix doc series Last Chance U:
The most compelling, complex character on “TV” right now
In an old folder of articles I found this one, about Peter Thiel’s Zero To One
Thiel and his ideas are interesting to me. I’m open to the Vali/OwenE take that he might just be a kinda smart guy who got lucky and thinks he’s a genius. He definitely should not be on the Supreme Court.
I loved Zero To One, but Thiel’s support for Trump makes him seem like a much darker and more troubling figure than I felt he was when I was reading it.
Two interesting points in the article that had new meaning in light of Thiel being a Trump guy:
Is that something like what Trump did (old grouchy white men? white American nationalists? you’d think they’d be served by a lot of political competitors but maybe there was a hole in the market)? What about this?:
Unfortunately, Trump is good at sales and Hillary Clinton is kind of bad at sales.
Sometimes this campaign we get a reminder of how good at sales Bill Clinton is. Here is Bill talking about the Clinton Foundation. This clip is used by GOP and conservative sites as I guess kind of scummy because Clinton compares himself to Robin Hood:
Maybe comparing yourself to Robin Hood is a little much, but when I hear Bill explain the Clinton Foundation as asking for money from people who have a lot of it and giving it to people who don’t have any, it makes it sound a lot better.
Does anyone effectively refute the claim that almost 10 million more people in more than 70 countries have access to life-saving medicines through the Clinton Health Access Initiative?
Silence Of The Lambs
Not topical or relevant at all but for forever I’ve had in my phone a bunch of screenshots of this movie, one of the most gripping movies ever. Saw it on TV some months ago and was struck by how much of it is just a closeup of a person’s face. How unsettling/compelling!
This jumped out at me
In a not otherwise “sexy” article about English literary critic William Empson’s book The Face Of The Buddha:
Enjoyed the caption on this one, from National Geographic’s Instagram:
Thomas Frank, profiled in the Politico 50 list:
Frank went to University of Kansas, University of Virginia, and University of Chicago. Can he be trusted?
Doing some reading about AquAdvantage salmon, a genetically modified animal
A growth hormone-regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon, with a promoter from an ocean pout, was added to the Atlantic salmon’s 40,000 genes. This gene enables it to grow year-round instead of only during spring and summer. The purpose of the modifications is to increase the speed at which the fish grows without affecting its ultimate size or other qualities. The fish grows to market size in 16 to 18 months rather than three years.
Asked Anonymous Investor to take a look at the financials of the AquaBounty company.
I haven’t looked into the science, but if their salmon is all that they claim, AquaBounty should have a big pricing advantage. Because their fish grow so much faster than a normal salmon, they should be much cheaper to produce, and sell — undercutting their competitors.
This reminds of the tiny speculative biotech companies I invest in. There’s no money coming in, only money being burned. But you’re hoping someday for a big FDA approval that will open sluices of torrential cash. In this case, the FDA approval has come But the primary problem (they have a few) is that major buyers like Kroger and Target vowed not to carry the product. My guess is the company will eventually make inroads, just as Monsanto, Syngenta, etc, have in the past. But it might take a long time. Big money usually wins in the end. And the hippies, as always, will go whining back to their yurts.
AquaBounty is selling for around 64 million dollars. Not a bad price for a what looks like a pretty decent lottery ticket.
Not sure why AquaBounty only trades in London. The volume is extremely thin. This is a stock not on many people’s radar.
I do know that AquaBounty is controlled by Intrexon (the same company trying to battle Zika via their patented breed of mosquitos). They own over 50% of AquaBounty. Intrexon trades here under the ticker XON. It’s a 3 billion dollar company. (A year ago it was worth more than 6 billion). Intrexon does a lot of interesting Monsanto-type things, and the stock is sort of a darling of Wall Street. But lately doubt has crept into the story. Intrexon has been slow in providing evidence for many of it’s scientific claims. The company says they don’t want to divulge their trade secrets by releasing too much data. Skeptics speculate that they’re not disclosing much, because, they believe, much of the science probably doesn’t work.
Interesting. Here’s what Intrexon (NYSE: XON) has been up to:
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the birth of these adorable kittens,” noted Blake Russell, President of ViaGen Pets. “As the largest global provider of genetic preservation services for companion animals, we look forward to expanding the life-enriching connections that people form with their pets. Our goal is to bring this opportunity to all pet owners and their families.”
Sure. Anonymous Investor adds:
In the salmon world, AquAdvantage salmon are considered “ugly”. In a test 95% of salmon chose to mate with wild salmon over AquaBounty salmon.
American Dad co-showrunner Brian Boyle has a very fine set of glasses with the AD characters on them.
One fan’s opinion? the show should do more with Reginald.
The Flemish Giant
Somebody at work mentioned that the biggest kind of rabbit is called a Flemish giant.
Well worth the image search.
A good, clear discussion of an often misunderstood issue from this classic
On the subject of Boston:
In Australia this kind of coconut frosted cake is known as Boston bun. Everyone was baffled when I told them I’d never heard of it.
A Boston bun is a large spiced bun with a thick layer of coconut icing, prevalent in Australia and New Zealand. Traditionally the bun contained sieved potato, and modern versions sometimes contain raisins. It is often served sliced, to accompany a cup of tea. The origin of the name is unknown.
In New Zealand they’re often called a Sally Lunn, especially in the North Island
from good times in Australia. A bizarro version of the United States, upside down and weirdly (to a USA observer) developed in all kinds of ways. For instance, Australia people talk about “the deep north” as like a joke on the way we talk about the “deep south.”
Important to remember that on the other side of the equator, you have to flip countries upside down to think about them. Their south is our north. If you think about that pointy part of Queensland as Florida, the Northern Territory as Texas, Tasmania as Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, Melbourne as Boston and Sydney as New York, you’re still way off but getting somewhere.
Huge thanks to the many people of New Zealand and Australia who helped me out. Puts me in mind of this week’s scripture, Matthew 25:35.
Bummed to miss
Had to come back to the USA before the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, so I missed Lionel Shriver of We Need To Talk About Kevin fame apparently light it up with a wild speech about cultural appropriation (attacking what seems to me to be a ridiculous straw man?)
I can’t find a photo of her wearing a sombrero, as she is alleged to have done. Did she really refer to herself as a “renowned iconoclast”?
Which Australian state library is the best?
I enjoy Melbourne’s State Library of Victoria so much:
I mean how can you not admire that they have Ned Kelly’s armor on display?:
Some great illustrations on Ned’s wiki page:
Let’s take a virtual look at Australia’s other state libraries:
Would a better state library be a step towards helping Tasmania’s insane illiteracy rate?
New South Wales:
Impressive. Classic if slightly dull exterior, solid interior, I rate it a 9 (out of 11).
A big swing on the exterior, the interior kind of interesting but also kind of a like a weird mall. I’ll give it a 7.
No independent library building, it’s housed in the Parliament House which is kind of cool. DNQ for the rating system.
Trash exterior, interior so weird as to be kind of interesting. 8.
The old version, once housed in Hackett Hall, appears to have been pretty cool:
Aw yeah! 11/11.
Australia/New Zealand publishing is so good at short books. I read a bunch of short books while traveling.
This one began as speech Flanagan gave, focusing on his disgust for the abuses, catastrophes, and inhumanity at Australia’s offshore detention centers for asylum seekers, but also about a general disappointment in political and cultural life:
Conformists par excellence, capable of only agreeing with power however or wherever it manifests itself, they are the ones least capable of dealing with the many new challenges we face precisely because those challenges demand the very qualities the new class lacks: courage, independence of thought and a belief in something larger than its own future.
The new class, understanding only self-interest, believing only in the possibilities of its own cynicism, committed to nothing more than its own perpetuation, seeks to ride the tiger by agreeing with all the tiger’s desires, believing it and not the tiger will endure, until the tiger decides it’s time to feed, as the mining corporations did with Kevin Rudd, as News Limited is now with Julia Gillard.
He goes on about the alternative:
If I may make a crude summary Flanagan’s argument could be he wishes Australia remembered Matthew 25:35 a little more.
Flanagan and I once shared a publisher, and I’m told his books are masterpieces, especially Narrow Road To The Deep North.
Also good, and more lighthearted if at times equally scorching:
Here’s a taste, where Pieper is digressing about a dog he adopted:
Took a page out of Vali’s book and wrote Mr. Pieper a short and simple fan letter complimenting him on his book. He wrote a gracious note back. Gotta do this more often.
I can’t write to the great New Zealand short story writer Katherine Mansfield because she’s dead:
If I could, I would compliment her on “The Garden Party.” This story starts out so boring and stodgy and Victorian I really thought I was in for it. But it pays off. Spoiler alert this is the last page:
What life was she couldn’t explain. No matter. He quite understood.
‘Isn’t it, darling?’ said Laurie.
This scene, on Brisbane’s Southbank, really reminded me of this one, in Paris a hundredsome years ago:
Impressed by this massive painting at the Milani Gallery in Brisbane by Australian indigenous artist Richard Bell.
(The price in Australian dollars is 55,000.)
Bell caused controversy in April 2011 after revealing that he selected the winner of the prestigious Sir John Sulman Prize through the toss of a coin.
Traveling across the South Island of New Zealand by train, I was trying to work out for myself how big exactly the country is.
With the help of OverlapMaps, here’s a comparison of New Zealand to California:
The total land area of New Zealand, says Google, is 103,483 mi²
In US state terms, that makes it just smaller than Colorado, at 104,185 mi².
Colorado has about 1 million more people.
Colorado: 5.356 million (2014)
New Zealand: 4.5 million
Pop wise New Zealand is about the size of Kentucky or Louisiana.
The folks at Brilliant Maps do fantastic work in this field. Here are some of my favorites:
US in China by population:
And The Circle:
Here’s one more for you, from OverlandMaps:
Australia’s population is 23.13 million or so, so it’s about three million people bigger than Florida (20.2 mill) and smaller than Texas (27.46 mill). Whole lotta room down there. About as many people as Illinois and Pennsylvania put together, in a land area (2.97 million square miles) that’s about as big as 51 Illinoises.
Let’s see if I can make an absolutely definitive list:
20) The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
This book is like nine hundred pages long and it sounds sexy, there were worn paperback copies at every library book sale of my youth so it must’ve hit home. Haven’t read it, but I think it’s an achievement, it makes the cut.
19) True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
I myself didn’t finish it but it definitely seemed like an achievement.
18) The movie Oscar and Lucinda.
This movie is weird and great. Ralph Fiennes can’t stop gambling. A real achievement.
17) The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes.
Enormous, ambitious, compelling, tremendous work of historical storytelling. Some excerpts give a sense of the style:
“At the lower end [of poor London circa 1788] were occupations now not only lost but barely recorded: that of the “Pure-finders,” for instance, old women who collected dog-turds which they sold to tanneries for a few pence a bucket.”
of the first night the convicts were allowed on land in Australia: “as the couples rutted between the rocks, guts burning form the harsh Brazilian aguardiente, their clothes slimy with red clay, the sexual history of colonial Australia may fairly be said to have begun.”
“Davey marked his arrival in Hobart Town in February of 1813 by lurching to the ship’s gangway, casting an owlish look at his new domain and emptying a bottle of port over his wife’s hat.”
16) The song “Waltzing Matilda”
Give it up, this is catchy song.
15) Flinders Street Station
Australian architecture has to be represented. You can’t give it to the Sydney Opera House though, designed by a Dane. The Royal Melbourne Exhibition Hall gets a lot of attention, but I think Flinders Street Station is the more unique and impressive building and thus the greater achievement.
14) Wandjina Rock Art of the Kimberly.
Spooky, mesmerizing, and 4000 years later (judging by pictures, never seen it, would love to) it still holds up.
13) The Bee Gees, To Love Somebody
Not sure if the BeeGees should be included, they weren’t born in Australia, but feel like they make the cut. Corny? Maybe, but sometimes putting it all out there heart-wise is the way to go. Don’t agree? Take it up with with Beyoncé:
The Bee Gees were an early inspiration for me, Kelly Rowland and Michelle. We loved their songwriting and beautiful harmonies.
12) The song “Tomorrow” by Silverchair
Just a slam dunk of ’90s rock. These guys were 18 when they recorded this.
11) Paintings of Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri
Wild, original, great. Previously covered here.
10) The movie The Proposition
Intense, gripping, cool. The soundtrack alone almost got its own entry.
9) Heath Ledger’s performance in Brokeback Mountain / Russell Crowe’s performance in The Insider (tie)
Wasn’t sure how to place individual acting achievements in non-Australian movies, but felt like they should be represented. Heath Ledger is so good in this movie, he walks such a dangerous line, it’s tense all the way through. Crowe in The Insider is, imo, his best and most human performance in an incredible career.
8) AC/DC’s song “You Shook Me All Night Long”
Indisputable party rock classic. It’s true, maybe “Highway To Hell” or another AC/DC tune could go here, but I think “Shook” is the more dramatic achievement, standing out from the crowd of AC/DC songs.
7) The movie Gallipoli
Young Mel Gibson, deeply moving movie about running, buds, war. What an intense journey this film takes you on.
6) Tame Impala’s album Currents
Why are some songs on this list and some whole albums? Because it’s my list, I can do what I want.
Kevin Parker of Tame Impala has said that listening to the Bee Gees after taking mushrooms inspired him to change the sound of the music he was making in his latest album Currents.
5) The movie Walkabout
Why are Australians so good at making dreamy movies? Great kid performances. One of Warburton’s top seven!
4) Cait Blanchett in I’m Not There
What a masterful performance. Amazing achievement.
3) The movie Picnic At Hanging Rock
Is there another movie with such a special combo of creepy, trippy, mysterious? Peter Weir crushing it.
2) The Mad Max epic.
Ride chrome into Valhalla. When you put all three movies together, it’s a wonder this didn’t come in first.
1) The Avalanches album Since I Left You
Number one by a mile. Name a better album by Mozart. You can’t.
- This painting of a platypus by John Lewin
- Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn“
- Summer Heights High (respect, I just never got too into it)
- Rebel Wilson’s performance in Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect
- One of Patrick White works (“The Ham Funeral”?). Dude won the Nobel Prize, but I have not read them and can’t include them here.
- Priscilla Queen Of The Desert (seems admirable)
- Kath & Kim
- The Slap TV drama
- Nicole Kidman’s performance in Moulin Rouge
you might’ve thought Nicole Kidman would’ve made it into the top 20 but the fact is she didn’t!
- INXS, “The Devil Inside”
a strong case can be made for INXS – my countercase is why didn’t I remember them until Boyle suggested them when I told him about this list?
- Joseph Reed’s interior for the State Library of Victoria
- Brett Whiteley’s Summer at Carcour:
I welcome your arguments in the comments.
Trying to learn a bit more about the history of Australia, a frequent topic here. Barcelona Jim directed me to:
This book is fantastic, just what the doctor ordered, highly readable, interesting on every page. It’s so hard to get good condensed history but Prof. Blainey just crushes it. Some highlights:
How about the Aranda nighttime divisions?
The last convicts:
t eventually became the best selling mystery novel of the Victorian era, author John Sutherland terming it the “most sensationally popular crime and detective novel of the century”. This novel inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write A Study in Scarlet, which introduced the character Sherlock Holmes. Doyle remarked, “Hansom Cab was a slight tale, mostly sold by ‘puffing’.”
Shearing as serious sports:
Looks like a nice place to chill. How about the Flying Pieman?:
Brushing up on my Australian history and culture in advance of a trip there to promote my book. Australia’s premier literary prize is the Miles Franklin Award. Miles Franklin, seen above, nailed it with her titles alone:
- My Brilliant Career
- All That Swagger
- Old Blastus of Bandicoot
- Bring The Monkey
- My Career Goes Bung
If you are in that part of the world, I’ll be at the
WORD Festival in Christchurch, NZ on Aug. 26-27
Avid Reader bookshop in Brisbane on Aug 30
and the Melbourne Writers Festival Sept. 2-4.
Come on out!