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Monday, December 31, 2012

Chinese twist to the Monkey tale (0)

The other day, I was wearing my Monkey t-shirt. It's a bit faded now, but he has survived well over the years. 

   I know it's weird, but never has a t-shirt I owned attracted so much comment, ever. People have stopped me in the street to remark on it, invariably with affection for the character.
I loved Monkey!
Where did you get it?
I never missed an episode.
That sure brings back memories....
    This started a discussion about the story of Monkey (not Maurice the monkey, though he has his flair as well), and I said I had written a whole lecture on the subject in the early 1980s, adding that I probably still had some sort of copy somewhere.

    I went looking for it, and after some hours and almost giving up, I located it. Why did I have so much trouble? I can find files going back more than twenty years through my cataloguing program.

    You have absolutely no interest in the reason, but I'm telling you anyway, because... it's my blog. This is what happened. 

Hemisphere Annual edition
    I had written articles on Sufism and Taoism for an Australian Government financed coffee-table Asian-Australian journal called Hemisphere. Issues of this journal were placed on the magazine tables in Australian embassies around the world, so that people waiting for visas or who'd lost their passports or were otherwise disrupting the normal functioning of a diplomatic mission by needing help had something pretty to read while waiting. 

    Hemisphere was edited by Keith Henderson, who roundly dressed me down on the phone for misspelling "odyssey" in the final draft of this article that I'd sent for publication. (I still can't spell it. It's one of those words that I get wrong no matter what I do to remember it correctly, and even now, the spell-checker picked up my hundredth time for getting it wrong.)

    The thing about Hemisphere was that the articles in it were often written in entertaining style on entertaining pet subjects by high quality academics freed of the restrictions of scholarly journal writing, which has to be as boring as possible to be taken seriously. This means that what they wrote in Hemisphere was read by thousands more people than ever read one of their convoluted articles in peer-reviewed academic tomes.

    So why didn't my article on Monkey that Keith was going to publish in Hemisphere ever see the light of day? I had checked the galley-proofs of the pages with their pretty pictures of Monkey and his pals.

   The presses in Canberra were ready to roll, when the Government of the day announced a swag of sudden austerity measures. Hemisphere was amongst them and Mr Henderson was ordered to cease publication forthwith.

    This was a bit stupid (but when did Government decisions always make sense?) because the authors had been paid, the production work finished, the colour separations for illustrations all completed and the Government Printer had no more to do than press the button.

    But it didn't happen and that's why I'm publishing it here – sadly, without the fine illustrations I'd seen in the galley proofs.

    And all that is to explain why I couldn't find a copy in digital form – one produced long after the original typewritten version had disappeared. You see, to give it a more high-falutin' title, I'd named it Buddhism through Chinese Eyes, and changed the focus a bit away from Monkey and his pals to how it fitted into the Chinese tradition.

    That's why looking for ages through my disk catalogue for anything mentioning Monkey turned up a blank. But Low-And-Be-Old, once I looked for the lofty title, there it was.

    This iteration is dated 16 April 1998. There's more to the story of its evolution to my blog than I've told you here but I'll stop while not too far behind. I've broken it into five short segments for easy reading.

    It's coming. Like the version for Hemisphere that never graced the mag tables of embassies worldwide, it's ready to roll, and come hell or high water, that's what you're getting over the next wee while.




  1. Oh! Oh! Oh! I am so excited, Denis!
    On Christmas day, I was listening to a repeat of an ABC Radio National program - and as a result, tweeted thus to my eldest son:

    "An extra Xmas present for @hart_ben; Did you know that Miriam Margolyes did all the female voices for the English dubbing of #MonkeyMagic?"

    I'm glued to this blog for the next exciting episodes.

    1. Ros: I hope you enjoy it. As I write this the second part is up, and maybe a third by the time you read it. They are very short.

      So now I understand why the Dragon Princess was so seductive sounding as well as looking. Miriam Margolyes was, as everyone knows, the narrator of Sexy Sonia: Leaves from my Schoolgirl Notebook.

  2. The son who as a child was nuts about Monkey Magic...

    Sadly never a part of my life.

    1. It's OK, Dave. I've found that it is widely available on DVD if you ever had the desire to share his adventures! Somehow though I suspect it's more of a nostalgia thing these days….

  3. My son was a devotee. He would sit glued to the show and know it all by heart.
    He insisted in year 6 learning Japanese. He loved all things Japanese.
    Finally went to the ANU to do Asian Studies (Japanese) and moved to ...KOREA.
    He has been there for 10 years and is now engaged to a gorgeous Korean woman.
    He talks ( way over my head) of things Buddhist/Taoist and cosmic...
    You writing all about this ( I have read three parts now) bring it all back that it may have indeed, been Monkey Magic that took my son on his journey to Asian language, Asian living and Asian loving.
    He came home for Xmas and we talked long into the night/morning. He is now much better at speaking Korean ( he has understood it for years) and says a little time in Japan and it all comes flooding back.

    Thank you for the memories of my little boy being intelligent enough to know where his future may lie.

    1. Alison: my sister Jan will smile if she reads this. Your son is following almost the same path as hers! Her son is now Professor of Linguistics in Tokyo, married to a gorgeous Korean lady [Hello, Esther!], and in between earthquakes he teaches the Japanese about their own language. He of course speaks Korean – and Chinese too.

      I don't think it was the Monkey series that motivated him though. I suspect it was the language itself and having to absorb the culture to go with it. Jan sat with him daily when he went to high school and they did the vocab together, because rote learning is necessary at that level, no matter what the education 'experts' might say.

      All the best to you and to him, and thanks for your contribution. I hope you enjoy the remaining segments.

  4. Oh god I feel inadequate. I did none of the 'sitting with him to do the vocab'. But I did encourage, encourage, encourage. I did sit with him to listen to him practise his clarinet. I, being inadequate, in all fields..he did get enough AMEB marks to help him into ANU.
    Oh god I feel inadequate. I knew/know nothing...just knew/know to love enough to support and encourage.

    Thank you so much for this segment. I love you for it.
    Because it is too too painful and deep and meaningful for me to explain. So trust me, thank you. x

    1. Alison: there is no reason to feel inadequate. None at all. You encouraged and supported him, and he achieved his goal. And he knew that he had this support. It looks like admirable parenting to me.

      The thing that children really need is love and security. You gave that. In his case, it was perfect.


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